Getting it Right, Quebec 2007
Quebec went to the polls on Tuesday for its provincial elections and voted in the second minority government in that province's significant span of our national history. The last minority government in Quebec was formed 130 years ago. The Liberals won by the narrowest of margins with 48 seats with the province's right wing party Action Démocratique du Québec (ADQ) winning 41 seats and the separatist Parti Québécois winning 36. The two provincial mainstays, The Liberals and the PQ, lost a lot of ground to the ADQ, prompting ADG leader - 36 year old Mario Dumont - to attribute this to a shift to the Right in Quebec politics.
I think M. Dumont is astute enough to realise that his party's gains have little to do with an ideological shift within Quebec. If not, then M. Dumont should do himself and the electorate a favour by spending a little more time working in the real world before going back into the political world. The ADQ made significant gains because Stephan Harper hasn't been able to act like a Ralph Klien, Mike Harris or even a Gordon Campbell while at the head of his own minority government. Harper has been behaving like a Liberal of late and has been good at spinning out certain things that Canadians want to hear. Back in 2002 it looked at though the ADQ might win a seat in a bielection. The press released stories about Dumont meeting with Right Wing Anglophones in the Harper camp and the ADQ lost all the ground it seemed to have been gaining.
Harper has been pretty mild overall and spending money - and he's been pretty chummy with Quebec, which is a surprise given his rhetoric in the past. Of course, minority leaders have to be mild and likable, it is when they have majorities like Jean Chretien's that they can lord around like policy monsters. If the Stephan Harper with a minority is Bruce Banner, I am quite positive that the Stephan Harper with a majority will be quite like the Hulk. And Hulk like to smash things good.
With Harper's monster firmly in the box, Dumont gets an easier ride. Of course the larger reason for Dumont's success is that the people of Quebec are just tired of the Liberals and the PQ. Jean Charest (Liberal Premier, former cabinet minister and leader for the old Progressive Conservative Party) has never been entirely popular with Quebec voters and support for him could always have been seen to be lacklustre at best. Charest is also suffering from the backlash against the Federal Liberal Party scandals that took place during Jean Chretien's terms as Prime Minister and came to light while Paul Martin held the reigns.
The Parti Québécois, aside from electing André Boisclair as its leader and his les yeux bridés gaff, shot itself in the foot by calling for another referendum on sovereignty. One young sovereigntist I met in Quebec called it the "neverendum" and I heard similar complaints from other young sovereigntists. It wasn't that they had given up on their dreams of sovereignty, they just wanted a changing of the guard - a fresh approach not tainted by the likes of Landry and Parizeau. However, for these people, voting for the Liberals would be more like a betrayal rather than a protest - and I have no doubt that what propelled the ADQ forward so strongly was a sense of protest rather than a change in political conviction. Now that is something all Canadians can identify with.