Saturday, August 4, 2012

Deja Vu Quebec Style

Watching the coverage of the summer election campaign in Quebec has, of course, spawned nightmares.  Of more corruption or of more separatism.  It reminds me of two recent elections: the 2007 provincial one and the more recent Montreal municipal election:

In 2007, three parties ran for election for the Quebec National Assembly (the state legislature to my American audience): the federalist Liberals who were the incumbents; the Parti Quebecois who were trying to run a less ethnic campaign, trying to get votes from recent immigrants; and the Action Democratique du Quebec, which was a center-right party that had formed to offer an economic alternative but focused in this election on xenophobia---anti-immigration. The party came in second, stealing more votes from the PQ than from the Liberals, but both more established parties realized that being pro-immigration was a vote loser but being xenophobic was cool.  And what is the best evidence of this?  The head of the PQ, Pauline Marois said this when taking over:
“Let’s stop being afraid. … Afraid to seem intolerant. … Afraid to speak of memory, of history, of people, of identity, of culture.”

In other words, xenophobia is hip.  Indeed, their platform reads as a "hey, if you were not alienated before by our insistence on French, you will be now" manifesto.  It would impose the language rules that currently exist for K-11 (no 12th grade) onto provincially subsidized day care and the CEGEPs (the free colleges that combine junior college with vocational stuff and serve to replace 12th grade and the first year of university).  They might even insist on Quebec citizenship with language fluency in order to do basic civil stuff.  Just awful, awful, awful.

So, I see visions of 2007 dancing in my head.  But I also see the 2009 Montreal municipal election as a good harbinger.  Or bad harbinger.  Why?  Three parties, none directly affiliated with the provincial ones (sort of).  One was led by the mayor, Gerald Tremblay, who had presided over a heap of corruption scandals.  Another was led by Louise Harel, whose number two had to drop out due to ties to corruption.  Harel had previously been a big cheese in the PQ and had launched the merger policy that had upset much of Montreal.  The PQ tends to run against Montreal since the voters are elsewhere, so having someone with a basically anti-Montreal record run for Mayor was kind of entertaining.  Anyhow, the third party was led by someone who was seen as a bit unstable.  So, a three-sided race, which led to the Mayor slipping back into power by getting 1/3 of the votes--such an overwhelming mandate, eh? 

So, the current election is really a four party race: the Liberals, who chose this time frame to avoid the corruption investigation in the fall; the PQ, who are returning to their bread and butter of xenophobia and separatism but also trying to capitalize on the student protests (even though the students are not too popular); the CAQ, a new party that replaced the ADQ as the standard bearer for arguing ambiguously about pushing the separatism can down the road while focusing on improving the economy; and Quebec Solidaire, a party that claims to be more faithfully left wing and separatist than the PQ.  Which could make it quite likely that either the PQ or the Liberals form a minority government.  Which might not be a bad outcome since the PQ could not really push forward a referendum with the CAQ and Liberals having enough votes to resist that.  And the Liberals, if they are returned to power with just a plurality of seats, well, then they can stumble along for a while.

H/T to

Anyhow, 2012 will probably be a mix of 2007 and 2009.  Except for one thing--I am no longer in Quebec.  So, I can be more entertained than upset, although I realize that Quebec has a great ability to export its dysfunctionality.  If the PQ win, they plan to demand a series of things that they cannot get, hoping to mobilize the Quebec population.  This may work even though everyone knows that this is a deliberate strategy, but it may not work because people are sick of the separatism.  

Good times.  Well, good times for my friends at McGill who can analyze this stuff.  And good times for my family, now happily ensconsced in Ottawa where the tunnels do not collapse and where the frisbee fields are not far, far away across fragile bridges.

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