Skip to comments.Quebec results good for Canada
Posted on 04/02/2007 10:25:37 AM PDT by GMMAC
Quebec results good for Canada
Shift in power may lead to interesting political times across the nation
Lorne Gunter, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Sunday, April 01, 2007
Friday afternoon, the co-hosts of a weekly political digest show on a Montreal radio station called to ask me what Albertans thought of the results of Monday's Quebec election.
I couldn't say what Albertans' reaction was, but this Albertan's thought was: It's too early to tell, but things look interesting and positive.
The National Assembly is now split roughly into thirds. The Liberals have 48 seats, a loss of 28 from 2003. The ADQ (which stands for Action democratique du Quebec) have 41, up from four last time. And the Parti Quebecois have 36, down 9.
The popular vote is even more closely split: 33 per cent for the Liberals, 31 per cent for the ADQ and 28 per cent for the PQ. Since no party has clear control, and there are no natural alliances between any two parties, it will take months for the dynamics of power to short themselves out.
Jean Charest, the Liberal leader and premier, is said to be unlikely to stick around until the next vote, even if, as is customary in minority legislatures, that vote comes in less than two years.
For a number of reasons, I doubt these rumours. Just six months ago, Charest and the Liberals were completely written off. They had trailed the PQ in every poll taken in the previous four years. Yet they managed to retain power, albeit in a minority.
As a result, Charest exceeded expectations, which is good for a politician's career, even in defeat.
Yes, there was a time six weeks ago when Charest's Liberals looked as if they might eke out a majority, and that lead evaporated. By that standard, the premier failed. But that will not be held against him as much as he will be given credit for avoiding an anticipated annihilation.
But the biggest reason I suspect Charest will stay is that he has nowhere else to go. Except for four years after graduation from university -- during which time he was an articling student and lawyer -- Charest has been a politician all his grown life. Like Joe Clark, he knows how to do nothing else. He will be reluctant to retire and will resist being expelled.
Thus, he will probably be given the chance to lead his party into a third election if he wants to, although without the enthusiastic support of much of his membership. Let's face it, Jean Charest may be the dullest, most risk-averse politician in Canada today.
Andre Boisclair, the separatists' boss, is already under intense pressure from his party to leave, although for the moment he is fighting these moves.
Unlike Charest, who can claim some consolation in Monday's results, Boisclair failed spectacularly.
In just 17 short months since being selected to lead his party, Boisclair managed to fritter away a lead of more than 20 points in the polls. He was seen by voters as indecisive, frivolous, indolent and intellectually outmatched.
At least until the Liberals and PQ settle their leadership questions, just what is going on in Quebec will remain unclear.
Yet having said that, there are some trends that can already be divined from Monday's results.
Separatism, while not dead, is ailing. The PQ's 28 per cent of the vote is nearly its lowest support since the early 1970s, before Rene Levesque came to power for the first time.
Boisclair's musings since Monday that the PQ may have to drop its commitment to hold a third referendum on independence if it ever hopes to return to power is another indication of the state of separatist desperation. Without a referendum as its central plank, the PQ loses its raison d'etre and becomes just another social democratic party.
The combined showing of the Liberals and ADQ would seem to indicate that Quebec is also more pro-business and pro-Canada than at any time in the past three decades. Charest is not as big a fan of big government as previous Liberal leaders, such as Robert Bourassa. And Mario Dumont, the ADQ leader, is right-of-centre, at least by Quebec standards. (Even Boisclair has a masters of public administration from Harvard, and can hardly be called a flaming lefty.)
To say Quebec is more pro-Canada, though, is not to say it is exactly federalist. Dumont is a fervent believer in provincial rights and Quebec autonomy. He is not a separatist but (and this is good news for Albertans) neither is he a centralist.
A protege of Jean Allaire, Dumont, a former president of the Quebec Young Liberals, was very pleased with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's declaration that the Quebecois should be considered a nation within a united Canada, since that is very close to Dumont's own ideal. Provinces, Quebec among them, should remain in Confederation for economic and political ends, but should be free otherwise to choose their own paths and laws.
Dumont also picked up votes from Quebecers tired of the multicultural excesses of recent years in which the Quebec mainstream had been told to defer its traditions to those of new minorities.
Although Monday's election was inconclusive, it could presage some interesting times for Quebec and Canada.
© The Edmonton Journal 2007
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Quebecers going right wing, this is wonderful. They are staunch Catholics, so I can't see how many of the other parties fall into their ideological hemisphere.
I’m looking forwards to seeing what goes on in Quebec in the next few years. The ADQ looks promising from a conservative standpoint.