Friday, April 06, 2007


First up, Quebec's recent elections. Held on Monday March 26, the provincial elections were viewed with a fair amount of dread by Quebec's ever-shrinking Anglo population, and with good reason.

The Liberals, who have only held office in Quebec since April 2003 after nearly a decade of the sovereigntist Parti Quebecois (PQ), are at an all-time low in terms of popularity in Quebec for a variety of reasons. Chief among them is, of course, the fallout from the federal sponsorship scandal, but voters were also disenchanted with the Liberals' seemingly laissez-faire attitude toward Quebec politics - after a brief period of being vocal about local issues like One Island One City, once they had been voted in, the Quebec Liberals seemed to all but disappear behind their desks. Oh, and let's not forget the small fact that their leader, Jean Charest, is actually a Tory in disguise.

Add all this to the fact that the federal-level Liberal Party lost to the Conservatives in Canada's general elections in Janaury 2006, and things were looking pretty dire for the Libs in La Belle Province. Except, of course, that a Liberal loss in Quebec would have one serious side-effect that a federal-level loss would not: a win for the PQ.

With the tide of public opinion moving against the Liberals, and the advent of a charismatic young (and it has to be said, hot) new leader for the PQ in the shape of Andre Boisclair, things were looking better for the PQ than they had in years. This newfound confidence had allowed Boisclair to abandon his predecessor's policy of building up the economy and "listening to Quebecers' needs" before aiming for independence at a later date; the new PQ leadership said that as soon as the party was in power, they would immediately hold a new referendum on Quebec sovereignty. Given that they lost the last one by just over a percentage point, it wasn't unthinkable that they could actually win this time around.

Except they didn't. March 26 came and went, and while everbody expected the winner to only have a minority government, nobody predicted the surprise success of the ADQ. The Liberals remain in power with 48 elected National Assembly members, but the ADQ - Quebec's "third party", only in existence since the mid 90s - managed to trump the PQ by winning 41 seats in the National Assembly to become the official opposition. Meanwhile, the PQ limped home with just 36 seats. How the hell did that happen?

Simple, really. It seems that for all the media hysterics (anglo media, no doubt) saying that everything was going to come crashing down and that the sovereignty movement was going to bring about yet more economic uncertainty, most Quebecers still realise that the best deal they are going to get is through a stable, united Canada. Particularly one that now officially recognises Quebec nationhood. Do Quebecers still hate the Liberals? Of course they do, which is why they decided to give them a fright through an ADQ protest vote. The ADQ, by the way, is a sort of right-wing PQ-lite; a nationalist party that originally campaigned on a sovereignty platform but is now content to put that goal on the back-burner indefinitely while it pushes conservative economic policies.

A vote for the Quebec Libs in their present form is often done out of necessity (even my own mother, stalwart anti-pequiste that she is, says she would gladly vote for the PQ were it not for the whole sovereignty issue, as they are the closest thing to a democratic socialist party there is in Quebec). Still, enough people have voted them in to ensure another few years of relative stability stability in Quebec, or as much stability as there can be with such a weak minority government. Come the next provincial election, however, the whole sorry affair will start up again. One thing that could, I think, help to reduce such uncertainty is for the Liberals to get a new leader. Charest has been leader of the Quebec Liberals since 1998, but before that, he headed up the then Progressive Conservatives at the federal level in Ottawa. He was drafted in to lead the Liberals in Quebec simply because there was a dearth of other candidates. Nearly ten years on, it seems that this is still the case. Can there really be no one in the province who is impassioned and experienced enough to take on the job?


At April 07, 2007 11:15 am, Blogger Graeme said...

I find it troubling that the ADQ did so well--perhaps I was being naive, but I thought that of all provinces in Canada, Quebec would be the only one that wouldn't shift to the right. There seems to be a worrying trend in politics where people are just tired of the ruling party and so they "vote for change" without perhaps thinking of the consequences of who they're voting for. At least that's my take on the ADQ as I can't really fathom people actually supporting a party that supports the private sector as they do. Then again, the Liberals are quite shit and it seems that most people don't care enough about sovereignty to vote for the PQ.

An aside:

There's a hilarious bit in the ADQ program that reads:

"Canada is the only country besides Cuba and North Korea that has created a state monopoly in the health care sector"

At April 09, 2007 2:40 pm, Blogger JF said...

I am also very concerned that the ADQ made such a huge break in last month's elections. The reason for their success in my mind is mostly because of the ADQ leader, Mario Dumont, who also managed to capitalize on the Quebecer's frustrations (the disastrous elementary school reform, the health care system in difficulty, globalization etc)

There is no doubt that the public opinion in Quebec is not right-wing, people did not voted for the ADQ for its ill-conceived template but as a protestation against the PQ and the Liberals for not doing more to bring the province forward.

At April 10, 2007 10:26 pm, Blogger Lady M said...

Not having been in Quebec during the run-up to the elections, I also find it difficult to explain the ADQ's sudden surge in popularity, although a protest vote does seem to be the most obvious explanation. Voting blindly for change isn't the smartest thing to do, but it's human and happens all the time. Witness the 2000 US presidential elections. I also believe that there's a global shift toward more centre-right politics going on at the moment anyway, at least among Western democracies (I'm just waiting for someone to mention Hugo Chavez now, but I meant northern hemisphere ok?).

I agree with JF, though, that Mario Dumont does have a certain pull in Quebec. Like anywhere else, voters in Quebec are susceptible to personality politics, and Dumont does have a certain charisma which he has had a decade to cultivate in the public sphere - unlike the PQ's relative newcomer Andre Boisclair.

I may be wrong on this, but I believe that the ADQ's full name actually stretches to include "le parti Mario Dumont" - the Mario Dumont Party... Personality cult, anyone?

Graeme, where did you see that thing comparing the Canadian healthcare system to Cuba and North Korea? I can't seem to find it in the English-language version of their "program" on their website...

At April 11, 2007 3:20 am, Blogger Graeme said...

The Cuba/North Korea thing is near the bottom of page 10 on the English language version of the program or is one of the points along the side on page 12 in the French version. I've only skimmed the rest of the document but that stood out as being especially vacuous--as if a state monopoly on healthcare means that you're a totalitarian.

I've been out of Quebec for some time now and so I don't have the best grasp of the situation. I didn't even know there was an election until after it happened. That notwithstanding, what if it's not just a protest vote? I tend to agree with JF that Mario Dumont capitalised on well-founded frustrations, but I'm concerned that there might be something more to it. Take Gordon Campbell's Liberals in BC. They were elected largely because of frustrations with the NDP, but once in power they virtually turned the province into a kleptocracy. They come up for reelection and what happens? They win again. A similar story with Mike Harris and Ontario. Of course these situations are different because the ADQ isn't in power, but it still bothers me.

You're right about the shift to centre-right politics, but why is this? And more importantly, what can we do about it?


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