Ontario voters should have no problem understanding the quandary faced by Quebec voters. Nobody in Quebec seems to know where that province is headed. The election takes place on September 4 and there is no point in trusting any of the public opinion polls. Nobody can guess at this one. It is an election with too many imponderables.
Liberal Premier Jean Charest chose to have the election just as disgruntled students are headed back to try to rescue what they can of an interrupted school year. Those young people are voters and they are angry with Charest. His draconian response to their protests failed to contain them and caused their parents and others to join in the protests.
But if the student movement is the rock, then the construction industry inquiry is the hard place and Charest is caught between them. He could hardly delay the election until the construction inquiry reopens in September with daily exposure of corruption.
Pauline Marois, leader of the Parti Québécois joined the students, beating a pot for them, but is seen as a weak leader and with little new in the péquistes’ political arsenal. Charest sees her as his main opposition and constantly hammers at her for not being clear on a new separatist referendum.
The real opportunity for Marois’ péquistes is their credibility as social democrats. With the wide acceptance of the federal New Democrats in Quebec in the last federal election it opened the door for the Parti Québécois.
Nobody can really read François Legault, leader of the new Coalition Avenir Québec. He is obviously just as right-wing as Jean Charest but he seems to lack the political sensibilities. When he said the other day that Quebec student protesters needed to stop chasing the good life and learn from hard-working Asian students, he stepped in it.
While Legault was a Parti Québécois cabinet minister, he and his party are trying to stay ambiguous on the question of sovereignty. Where he is going to find voters who are neutral on the separatism issue is a good question.
And yet one of these three leaders is very likely going to end up trying to manage a minority government in the National Assembly in Quebec City after the election. Neither Legault nor Marois could hold together a minority in those circumstances for more than six months.
Those of us watching from the peanut gallery will just have to be philosophical about whatever happens. We have reason to be concerned with Stephen Harper driving the truck in Ottawa. He carries no brief for our Quebec. It is an integral part of our country and Quebec’s leadership should note our concern.
Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry
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