So was this Québec’s “everybody wins” election?
Charest is out and free to face the Charbonneau Commission.
Pauline Marois has become premier, a job she arguably deserves if for no other reason than her tenacity at retaining her seat and knowing her support base. Québec’s first female premier, a mere sixty-eight years after women gained suffrage in the province. I have sincere reservations about Ms. Marois, but she is now premier, and what got her to power may be very different from what gets her over the many coming hurdles. Among others, the Spring budget. As it stands, the PQ will not be able to pass a budget by itself. It will have to reach out to the Liberals and/or Caquistes for support. No easy task, but if she is as devoted to the prosperity and progress of this province as she says she is, she will gladly reach out to ideological opponents and govern by consensus. If not, we’ll be reminded of why there were so many defections but a few months ago, and in seven months will be right back where we started, another election.
Francois Legault holds the balance of power and performed admirably for his first effort leading his own party. He was gracious in defeat and a class act all the way. It’s not impossible to make the breakthrough he did, but rare, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the CAQ comes together in the National Assembly.
The students have an elected representative in Leo Bureau-Blouin.
Amir Khadir and Francoise David have united two neighbouring ridings and will stand together in the National Assembly.
And lastly, the QLP did not implode, and retains the respect of official opposition. A good number of former cabinet ministers will keep their seats and the rump party has held a good portion of its territory and big name candidates. For Québec’s centrist-federalist middle-class, I can imagine this will be quite a relief.
As of the time of this writing, the typically firebrand Jean-Francois Lisée is dodging direct questions about if and when a referendum question will be called. He explains that the PQ will not impose a referendum. For the province’s federalists, perennially trying to explain the merits of Canada and cultural integration to people convinced they’ve been robbed of Shangri-La, there is comfort in knowing the party is stronger than its leader, and can survive without populism.
Charest will either choose to stay on to fight again, or retire in ignominy. Who knows what his fate is at this point. But after what he’s had to deal with in the last two years, and the last few months in particular, he may very well likely wash his hands of what can only be described as the least describable job in the world. Few Québec premiers get the chance to go out in any other way than ignominiously.
The biggest obstacle to moving forward has been removed without leaving a cataclysm in his wake. The first test will be how Pauline Marois deals with the inevitable – the difficulties of adequately funding our massive public post-secondary education system, not to mention striking a balance with all student groups. The election of Bureau-Blouin can be a major tactical advantage, and a successful resolution could be an easy quick win for the PQ. I’m not so optimistic however, as I believe she may in fact have to retract on several promises. We’ll have to see.
The early word is a participation rate in excess of 70%, not great, but not dreadful as in the case of most recent federal elections.
In broad terms we had a managed shake-up. All the necessary changes occurred, the autocracy of populism & majority government momentarily undone while retaining stability and all the necessary checks and balances. There’s no reason for any kind economic panic, as we all know this may be very short lived.
Prime Minister Harper acted quickly and congratulated Ms. Marois’ victory while reminding the Québecois now’s not the time to get into a constitutional mess. Sometimes I wonder how he opens a chess match…
Independence was polling at the bottom of the charts despite the apparent PQ victory but a few days ago and from the talk of the party’s big mouths, restraint seems to be the order of the day.
The next seven months will doubtless be very interesting.
And tomorrow we can all go back to enjoying life and ignoring politics…