The Ball is in ROC’s Court

Pretty much everyone agrees that last Monday’s election was one of the most meaningful in Quebec’s recent history. But not everyone agrees on what that meaning was. Some observers rightly noted that the Parti Québécois’ campaign was shockingly, and surprisingly, incompetent. From the moment Pierre Karl Péladeau raised the issue of Québec’s independence, the PQ seemed to slip into improvisational mode. But unlike good improvisational practice, party officials and operatives were not playing with each other, but against each other. This was at no point more evident than when three péquistes dealt with the question of whether the PQ’s secularism charter might lead to state employees being dismissed in three radically different ways on the same day. A second-rank candidate stated that they very well might. Cabinet Minister Jean-François Lisée opined that they most certainly would not. And Premier Pauline Marois, in what must surely rank as one of the most fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, make-it-up-as-you-go-along moments in recent campaign history, offered that the government might help find employment in the private sector for those public employees laid off because of their refusal to shed their religious apparel.… Continue reading

The Party’s Over

When I was growing up, the cool kids were pretty much all péquistes. Even among the anglos and allos, the political movement launched by René Lévesque, Gérald Godin, and others, had undeniable youthful allure. Think about it: on the one hand, you had a hard-drinking, hard-smoking ex-journalist and his merry band of poets, academics, and all purpose dreamers. On the other, you had…, well, you had Robert Bourassa and his drab-but-sensible technocrats. If you were a 17 year-old aspiring leftie who thought that politics was about the hope for a better, more just world, then the PQ was your go-to party. Now, granted, you don’t have much of an idea about what it might mean for the world to be better and more just when you’re 17, but surely, having a poet in a Cabinet position had to be part of it.

I never ended up voting for the PQ, I should add.… Continue reading

Whither the Left in Quebec?

            I live in a Montreal riding that has been voting Liberal since time immemorial. Deciding who to vote for is therefore for me something of a theoretical exercise. Whatever happens in the province more broadly, you can be sure that Kathleen Weil, who served as Minister of Justice in the Charest government, will be returned to power with a hefty majority. Weil is a credible candidate, but I won’t be voting for her. Like many Quebeckers, I worry about the degree to which Philippe Couillard has managed to rid the party of the stench of corruption in the few months that he has been leader. Like many people on the Left, I don’t see him as having in any significant way arrested the rightward drift that Jean Charest imprinted upon the Liberals. And as a civil libertarian, I am not ready to forgive the Liberals (and Mme. Weil) for having enacted repressive legislation aimed at stemming the protests that gripped the province in the Spring and Summer of 2012.… Continue reading

What if the PQ loses?

Two and a half weeks into the campaign in Quebec, and panic seems to be setting in among PQ strategists. Polls are showing a clear trend toward the provincial Liberals. Worse, the upstart Québec Solidaire, whose leader, Françoise David, performed admirably during the first leader’s debate, is nipping at the heels of the PQ in several urban ridings on the island of Montreal.

The PQ has tried everything, yet nothing seems to be working. Pierre Karl Péladeau has failed to ignite any significant interest on the part of the business community that was supposed to be drawn into the PQ fold by his candidacy. The specter of a referendum has clearly cost the PQ in the polls, to the point where Pauline Marois has rather pathetically been repeatedly seeking to distance herself from what should after all be her party’s most central commitment. The Charter of Values, which was trundled out again toward the middle of the week, seems to have exhausted its electoral potential.… Continue reading

The Péladeau effect

A week and a half into the election campaign, and things are not exactly going according to the script. A couple of weeks ago, it seemed as if the governing Parti Québécois would easily saunter into majority status. The Liberal Party had a terrible time of it in the run-up to the election. Its untested leader, Philippe Couillard, seemed weak and indecisive in dealing with Fatima Houda-Pépin, the Liberal MNA who took exception with what she saw as her Party’s excessively lax stand on religious accommodation issues. She managed to steal the headlines from her boss for weeks, before ultimately slamming the door on him in a very public way. (She will be running in her old riding as an independent, and the PQ has made it plain that they would not run a candidate against her). The PQ on the other hand seemed unable to take a wrong step. The “Charter of Values” provided them with an inroad into the key swing suburban ridings around Montreal and Quebec City.… Continue reading

Québec at a crossroads

So Quebeckers will be going to the polls on April 7th.  At issue is whether my fellow citizens will follow the Parti Québécois’ hard right turn on identity issues. The centerpiece of that turn is the so-called “charter of values” which would, among other things, alter the province’s own Charter of Rights and Freedoms so as to allow the government to prohibit anyone drawing a salary from the public coffers from wearing “conspicuous” religious symbols.

What’s going on here? To begin to answer that question, one has to realize that many strategists within the governing Parti Québécois have come to the conclusion that unless a winning referendum can be held during the PQ’s present turn in power, the dream of an independent Quebec can pretty much be kissed goodbye forever. Were they to leave power without getting a “yes” on a sovereignty referendum, they would next be coming to power after 7 or 8 more years of Liberal rule.… Continue reading