Quebec Election – Initial Reactions

Quite an evening last night, watching the QC election results. Apart from the famous Peladeau raised fist for independence miscalculation, this election hopefully marks the end of divisive identity politics as exemplified in the QC Charter of Values. The gambit clearly did not work in combination with the referendum uncertainty and even Premier Marois’ overall gracious concession speech still played to les Québécois de souche, rather than the more inclusive messages of Couillard and Legault.

Clearly, the PQ needs a period of serious internal reflection and introspection. The leading candidates to replace former Premier Marois will need to get over their Kubler-Ross denial phase quickly (Drainville, Lisée and Peladeau were awful last night preaching to the shrunken PQ base) and it will be interesting to see the how the relative positions of the PQ and the CAQ evolved over the next few years.

I would not go so far as Andrew Coyne or Chantal Hébert as saying the PQ’s raison d’être of independence is completely dead, but it certainly would appear to be on life support.

From Le Devoir, a few articles on the magnitude of the PQ defeat:

À son premier test électoral, le chef libéral a fait des gains dans presque toutes les régions du Québec. Il a peint en rouge toute la ville de Laval et a arraché deux circonscriptions au PQ sur l’île de Montréal, en plus de remporter des sièges dans le Centre-du-Québec et dans la région de Québec, notamment. Le Dr Gaétan Barrette, candidat vedette parachuté contre l’indépendante Fatima Houda-Pepin, a facilement remporté la circonscription de La Pinière, sur la Rive-Sud.

Philippe Couillard met le PQ K.-O.

Avant même que ne commence le dévoilement des votes dans les circonscriptions, plusieurs membres du personnel péquiste concédaient la victoire au Parti libéral. Un consensus se dégageait : la campagne menée par Pauline Marois avait été désastreuse et on se promettait un bilan aussi exhaustif que sévère. Une majorité d’entre eux espéraient à tout le moins une défaite honorable, mais jamais les stratèges, appuyés par des sondages quotidiens faits selon les règles de l’art, n’avaient prévu pareille dégelée.

Catastrophe au Parti québécois

More commentary on the significance of the elections will come in the next few days but for some of the initial commentary:

Au Parti québécois, cette défaite provoquera de douloureux questionnements. La formation fondée par René Lévesque devra remettre en question le virage identitaire pris au cours des dernières années, virage qui, pour des raisons strictement partisanes, a fait un tort considérable au Québec.

Encore plus difficile sera la réflexion sur la raison d’être du PQ, l’indépendance. Quel que soit l’aboutissement de cette introspection, les résultats d’hier devraient inciter les péquistes à abandonner la stratégie de l’équivoque au profit de celle de la clarté.

Les Québécois ont dit NON (André Pratte, La Presse)

And finally, who leads this decimated party? Because the knives are already out. Drainville, Lisée and Péladeau prefixed Marois’s farewell speech with what amounted to stump speeches. This pack of restless egos all come with their own baggage: Péladeau is a capitalist boogeyman who derailed the whole campaign by declaring his sovereignist credentials. Drainville designed and executed the whole charter gambit, then thoroughly bellyflopped. Lisée went along with both, because he thought Péladeau and the charter was the one-two punch that, to paraphrase the title of his own book, would deliver a K.O. to the opposition.

Macleans. (Martin Patriquin)

It is impossible to overstate what a watershed this is. For thirty years after the Quiet Revolution, Quebecers were told the choice before them was either special status, under whatever name, or separation. At times the two were so blurred in definition that each could be made out to be the other. But what was clear was that they weren’t the status quo. They were better, in all sorts of fantastic ways….

But in the years since then, and in particular since the Secession Reference and the Clarity Act, it has slowly been dawning on Quebecers: neither of these choices is actually available. The choice is the status quo or the status quo. The rest of Canada is simply unwilling to make any more constitutional concessions, and wouldn’t be able to deliver them if it did, so tied up in knots has the constitutional amending formula become. Ditto separation: even if the rest of Canada tried to be helpful, the negotiations would go nowhere.

And as that realization has begun to sunk in, another, equally startling, has begun to take hold: The status quo is not so bad. We are not oppressed. We are not impoverished. We are not miserable. As Mr. Couillard said during the campaign, “we are happy in Canada.” What a revelation!

Quebecers have not only just said no to separation, but yes to the 1982 Constitution (Andrew Coyne)

Over the past month, that self-imposed tone-deafness has led to a campaign of false notes, from the second-coming atmosphere that attended the recruitment of media mogul Pierre Karl Péladeau as a star candidate, to Marois’s end-of-campaign mea culpa that she spent too much time entertaining the twin notions of sovereignty and a winning referendum.

One of the PQ’s worst fears has long been that it would turn out to be the party of a single generation.

Over their short time in office, Marois and her team have done much to turn that fear into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It has long been apparent that the so-called secularism charter that has been the signature initiative of the outgoing government repelled more young Quebecers than it attracted to the secessionist cause.

For the first time in its history, the PQ is more popular among older voters aged 55 and over than among any other age group.

Parti Québécois could be party of a single generation:  Chantal Hébert

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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