Sorry folks, to chime in here so late. I was busy on a major project and figured you folks were still debating the changes to bankruptcy laws.
Some points from a left-wing nut, bleeding-heart, "small 'l' liberal" (as we say up here, as opposed to someone who supports the Liberal Party of Canada; I need to make my political leanings clear because a lot of Canadians are slightly to the right of Shapley and would disagree vociferously, but politely): Bringing down the government
This is much easier to do in Canada than it is in the US, and doesn't have the same connotation of blood running in the streets, although as OT suggested, table manners may be compromised.
If a government loses a vote in Parliament on ANY major bill (a budget is typical) or a vote of non-confidence (which can be moved at any time), an election must be called.
There is a budget before Parliament right now, and our last election was a squeaker so we have a minority government -- that is, the party in power, the Liberal Party, has more seats than any other single party, but not the majority of seats. If the other parties gang up on the Liberals, the Liberals will lose the vote on the budget, and the government will fall. Adscam
The threat of Quebec separation is at least a couple of generations old. It was present before De Gaulle's visit, but was certainly ramped up. The French/English duality is a deep part of Canada and has been since even before Confederation in 1867.
Quebec sees herself as one of two: Canada made up of English and French peoples, with Quebec representing the French people -- a distinct society
. (We had a true consitutional crisis over that phrase, by the way, just in case you missed it.) Many, probably most, other Canadians see Quebec as one of 10 provinces, special, unique, but no more so than the other provinces are special and unique. This is a vast oversimplification and ignores 200 years of historical grievances, but I think is the core of the separatist issue.
In 1995 there was a referendum in Quebec about whether to pursue sovereignty for the province (and there is some debate as to how sovereign a state Quebec wants to be). The federalist side (wanting to keep Quebec in Canada) won by the very slimmest of margins over the separatist side.
The federal government -- Liberal as it happens -- felt it needed to do something to "win the hearts and minds" of Quebecers, so it poured a ton of federal money into a marketing campaign in Quebec. Remember, politicans made this decision, so no wonder they came up with something as stupid and insulting as thinking they could "brand" Canada.
Surprise, surprise, most of that money was wasted (this whole thing broke out because our federal Auditor-General found some inexplciable accounting in the program and reported it to Parliament). It seems a good deal of it made its way to the Liberal Party (the party itself, not the government) through what amounted to shady laundering schemes.
This is all coming out in a public inquiry headed up by Mr. Justice John H. Gomery. The Gomery Inquiry is expected to table its final report in November/December of this year. Criminal proceedings are already underway against two key individuals (our Moutines got their men!). Current Crisis
The opposition parties want to bring down the government because they want to be in power, naturally. There's lots of media sound bites about the Liberal Party having lost the moral authority to govern. The Liberals have said they should stay in power because there's lots of good stuff in the budget (the bill that, if defeated, would bring down the government), and the Prime Minister has said he will call an election 30 days after the Gomery report is tabled so that he and his party can be judged on the findings of the report. The opposition doesn't want to wait. What if Quebec separates?
Separatist feeling is running high in Quebec again because they feel insulted by the marketing campaign from 1995. This assumes Quebec could go it alone. That's not a certainty. Quebec has many natural resources, but is a net recipient of federal transfer payments (Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario are the only net payers of transfer payments).
Would BC and Alberta join the US? Frankly, I don't think so. I think Americans underestimate the differences between our countries. BC is the most leftist of any province. Anti-American sentiment is fairly high right now across the country because of the current US administration's policies and attitudes, but would be most noticeable in BC.
Alberta has the most in common with the US but the current trade disputes have eroded much goodwill towards the US. Besides, we have water, oil, and good farmland -- the Alberta impulse would be for sovereignty, not federation with the US.
The Atlantic provinces are desperately poor. I can't imagine a federal US government being nearly as generous with them as the Canadian government is. In less than a decade they would go from having decent education and health care to being Arkansas. The Atlantic provinces have been historically suspicious of their Yankee (and I use the term as it was meant originally) neighbours and I think that is still the case.
Ontario has the resources to go it alone.
The American assessment above also misses two very large provinces, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. They're net receivers of transfer payments but they are the socialist hotbed of Canada (socialized medicine was born in Saskatchewan). They would have no interest in joining the US but would go with either Alberta or Ontario -- probably Alberta.
I've got more to say, but must get to a meeting. Canadian civics class dismissed for the moment!