Political junkies’ eyes on Québec this weekend

The Gazette, predictably, has endorsed the Liberals in Monday’s provincial elections in Québec. However, the rival Parti Québecois and Action Démocratique could not have dreamed that the CanWest paper, the province’s only English-language daily (the Monday-to-Friday Sherbrooke Record notwithstanding), would give the incumbent a more milquetoast pat on the back.

“Lacklustre Liberals are our best choice” – hardly an editorial headline to inspire!

The Gazette would even have voters outsmart the polls and return a majority Charest government. Clearly wishing André Boisclair and the Parti Québecois would just crawl under a rock and die (the Gazette is nothing if not consistent on that) it suggests “the ADQ as a conservative opposition party could well prod the Liberals to reinstall the backbone they abandoned after the 2003 vote.”

Great. Just what Québec needs – a strong conservative party! While it might have been reasonable to expect it to be socially progressive the ADQ’s Mario Dumont, like the other party leaders (to be fair), has had a few renegade candidates with foot-in-mouth disease. Remember, too, that provincial politics takes on different hues than we see on the federal scene. Lucien Bouchard, once a Brian Mulroney federal Conservative, launched the separatist Bloc Québecois, and then had a successful run as Parti Québecois Premier of his home province. (I’d suggest “successful” as an adjective to, at least, go with his political ambitions.)

Let me add my voice to those who decry the cynicism in Jean Charest turning his province’s longstanding beef, about federal underfunding of mandated programs, into a giant tax cut on the eve of the election when Ottawa suddenly opened up the vault. That ought to really help hospitals and repair bridges, Jean!

An interesting wild card Monday night, though ‘wild’ may be too strong a descriptive, is the new Bouchard-backed Québec Solidaire. Its leadership model, alone, is intriguing. The party rules by consensus and has no leader but, rather, two spokespeople – a woman and a man – Françoise David and Amir Khadir. They are serious, and certainly earnest, as they mount a province-wide campaign to articulate this ‘consensus’ of 25 commitments.

This, however, has progressive, leftist vote-splitting written all over it – a dreamy scenario for Jean Charest to, at the very least, hang on as a minority Premier (and something tells me he would not need the Gazette’s prodding to work with the ADQ rather than the Péquistes).

As for me, sitting in southern Ontario, some six hundred or so kilometers from the Québec town of my upbringing, I would like to see André Boisclair emerging with nothing less than the balance-of-power reins. Maybe that’s easy for me to say, given my geographical separation. Call me naive but I am not one who, as Mike Duffy’s sombre editorializing yesterday so clearly demonstrated, believes that a resurgent PQ is a major threat to Canada. To make things even more interesting, from the federal politics perspective, an underdog victory – leading to a Premier Boisclair – would bring misery to Stephen Harper, something for which I would not be sorry!

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