Plastics companies in Quebec are having a tough time lately as a large number of people in that province push to separate it from Canada. The international business community's disapproval has stifled investment.
Companies in Quebec try to allay outsiders' fears while they adopt a low political profile to avoid backlash in their own back yard.
Many outsiders have a hard time grasping why separation is even an issue. They see that under the status quo Quebecers have a high standard of living and can conduct all their business in the province in French.
French-Canadian culture in Quebec is vibrant and its citizens shouldn't fear its extinction in largely English-speaking North America. The province even has substantial control over foreign immigration.
Many might ask, When the business world is going global, why is there a faction in a modern, industrial nation trying to go tribal?
History provides clues. French settlers and explorers pioneered northeastern North America long before England conquered what is now Quebec in 1759. Quebec's French and English have lived uneasily together since then. The dream of Quebec nationalism has surfaced repeatedly over the many years and last month it nearly became reality.
Quebec nationalism contains a spectrum of beliefs that address control over political, economic and social destiny.
Hard-core nationalists want their own country at all costs, even if it means a lower standard of living. More moderate types want national powers but continued association with Canada, to enjoy the benefits of a common dollar, trade relations and other securities.
Most of Quebec's plastics industry wants the province to stay within Canada. Many executives would favor stronger provincial powers but few want a wrenching divorce from Canada and all the economic pain that would entail.
Sadly, few plastics executives feel free to voice these opinions.
Whatever outsiders think of Quebec nationalism, they shouldn't punish its potential victims. Quebec industry is innovative, efficient, and wants to trade around the world.
Quebec government officials say they consider plastics an important part of the province's industrial base. They predict the industry will grow as fast or faster than the plastics sector overall in Canada.
Quebec's processors and resin producers increased exports by 38 percent to the United States last year, according to one Industry Ministry official.
``We are receptive to new projects from around the world and are open for business as usual,'' he said a week after the Oct. 30 referendum.
When Quebecers resolve this painful affair of the heart, cooler minds will prevail to revitalize its business environment. Until then, good corporate citizens should show patience and restraint.