High Hopes

Credit to Canadian Press
Credit to Canadian Press

Last night Quebec won. All of Quebec, all of us.

We won because the party that promised another doubtlessly fruitless referendum and an unbearably regressive plot to institutionalize discriminatory hiring practices in the civil service lost, and lost big. Twenty-four seats in the National Assembly lost, including that of current party leader Pauline Marois.

Ms. Marois has so far indicated she will resign as leader of the Parti Québécois, as is the custom of Canadian political party leaders upon such a staggering defeat.

And to think we thought the race was ever close…

The problem from day one was that the PQ was so fully focused on the charter and a referendum they became blind to the actual wants and needs of the people of Quebec. They are precisely the kinds of issues that generate a lot of talk but won’t necessarily translate into actual gains. Sure, they mobilized people, but they mobilized the base, the die-hards. Neither of these issues could possibly attract more voters, especially not in the province’s two major cities. In the end it was all bark and no bite.

The PQ failed to realize aggressively campaigning on these issues would backfire as they would invariably open the party up not only to harsh criticism but perhaps more damagingly it would end up exposing the PQ’s weak flank – their ideologues. The dogmatists of the party have a bad habit of propagating hate-speech, slander, fictions great and small and even conspiracy theories to advance their cause, and as the ideas sank in popularity the hysterical rhetoric of the PQ’s backbench came to the fore.

Suffice it to say it’s a good argument in favour of tight message control.

Marois, Lisée and to a lesser extent Drainville spent much of the campaign clarifying and re-clarifying two focal points of the campaign that were specifically vague to begin with – it was generally understood the PQ had no plan in place to kickstart constitutional negotiations, nor any idea of what kind of judicial trouble Bill 60 would get them in to.

And so there was no time left to speak of real, concrete plans to improve life in this province, opening the door to Philippe Couillard to define his own message as one that appealed to all the critics and Doubting Thomas’ of our province vis-a-vis independence and the charter, and all of us who’re most concerned about the economic wellbeing of our home province.

As the campaign entered the mud-slinging phase of the last week and a bit, all he had to do was pretty much the same as when he started and it was a sure bet he’d end up on top. The only good response to hysterical attempts at character assassination is not to acknowledge them. That’s strength, real power. It is literally rising above the fray and it conveys a powerful image.

So now that he’s Premier-Designate (because, of course, all Premiers are idiotically not elected directly by the people, but are rather appointed by the lieutenant-governor based on election results), we can all take a breather. A neurosurgeon for a federalist premier, one who acknowledges our primary position within Confederation, our influence on national affairs since before Canada was even a country, and the fact that knowledge of more than one language is both beneficial to the individual and in no way threatens the knowledge of the mother tongue. This is the man who will govern us for the next four and a half years.

I wonder how many of us secretly breathed a sigh of relief last night. I’m not fond of the Quebec Liberal Party though I did vote for a Liberal candidate I’m proud to say won her seat in the National Assembly. I breathed a sigh of relief not because I have any particular trust or faith in Philippe Couillard, but because I know he’s smart enough not to campaign on the politics of division and fear. I’m relieved because I trust people who have worked serious, professional, high-stakes jobs over career politicians.

Unfortunately, history is not on the side of the Quebec Liberals – most former Liberal premiers have started strong but wound up finishing wallowing in the mire. Coincidentally, so have most Montreal Mayors and Canadian Prime Ministers too. Perhaps the problem has more to do with the extant political system and how parties work than they do with the leadership.

So far Mr. Couillard has promised to create the most transparent government in Quebec history, to focus on job creation, and has pledged to work with the other provinces so that Quebec can take a more prominent role in national affairs. He will seek to develop new bonds with neighbouring provinces, and has also promised to cooperate with Quebec’s ‘big-city’ mayors to ensure metropolitan status carries a greater share of local responsibility and operational autonomy.

Denis Coderre, ever the shrewd politician, welcomed ‘the stability of a majority government’ without directly endorsing Couillard or the Quebec Liberals.

Mr. Couillard has also indicated former Premier Daniel Johnson will oversee a transition process, that he will work with all parties to develop programs and policies that address a wide spectrum of concerns, and that he will go ahead with the PQ’s proposed dying with dignity bill.

So far so good, especially on that last point. More than gesture to the PQ, it acknowledges a fundamentally good idea – inasmuch as human beings can control the creation of life, so too should they have control over their own deaths. It is a fundamentally humanist and progressive concept, and as you can imagine I’m all for it.

As to the rest of Mr. Couillard’s promises, I’m hopeful he’ll win me over and carry on with the work he laid out for himself. Concerning his key promise to improve the economy, apparently the Canadian Dollar rose modestly upon the news of the decisive Liberal victory.

I’m sure our local real estate market is also feeling rather bullish.

And now that this mess is all over with, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming.

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