Quebec Election – Am I too Busy or Distracted to find it Interesting?

That title pretty much sums up how I feel about the upcoming Quebec election; I keep thinking that something I’m doing is responsible for the lack of salient news I am receiving on the subject. Am I missing something? Could it be that I am not tuned to the proper channels on my TV or Radio? Did one of the stations I don’t normally watch buy all the rights to broadcast anything of real interest to voters? Should I be watching RDS or TSN and listening to CKOI for top-notch political news? And could it also be that my usual sources for printed news are all presently suffering a shortage of qualified political journalists and are relying on gossip columnists to cover the electoral campaign?

I was relieved, then perplexed, to learn that the answer to all of the above questions is ‘no’! So then what’s happening? Why does this particular election seem so blah on the political front yet, on the personal front, offers all of the elements of a good sit-com? I can understand why Quebecers - just a few months after both our $300 million let’s-do-all-this-for-nothing Federal election and the fireworks display at the White House - are saturated with politics and are relatively detached from this campaign and the idea of going to the polls on Dec. 8, but the impression I get is that the candidates themselves aren’t wholeheartedly into it.

We can’t blame Jean Charest for taking on a relaxed attitude, after all, he’s in a cushy position right now, and though many have called him an opportunist for calling this election, perhaps ‘shrewd’ is an equally valid label; he saw a chance to secure a majority government, and he took it. After all, who could have possibly predicted that the man often identified as the “worst premier in Quebec’s history” during his first term would now enjoy a comfortable lead that almost guarantees him a third mandate – he will be the first to serve three terms since Maurice Duplessis.

What about Mario Dumont and Pauline Marois? Is it perhaps that the delay afforded to them is insufficient to properly frame their plans and objectives and, pressed to act rather than strategize, they have opted for partisan rhetoric, banter, and negative tactics.

Or could it be that the results of the recent federal election unconsciously acts as presage to this election and so barely anyone is truly paying attention to what the PQ and ADQ leaders have to say? Or is it because we feel we’ve already heard all they have to say? Charest and Dumont are going head to head for the third time and Marois, well…

This may be Pauline Marois’ first election as party leader but her condescension is certainly well known to us, having been the subject of countless (negative) headlines that have followed her career through the ranks of the PQ. And so, still facing the legacy left by her previous involvements in the education and health ministries (amongst others), why should we heed her criticisms of the Liberal government and their lack of progress vis-à-vis certain promises, especially within a minority government? This, combined with a history of back-stabbing and in-fighting which has continually plagued the party she heads, not to mention that their obsession with separation is becoming an evermore unrealistic and unnecessary subject - especially with Charest’s focus on ‘Cultural sovereignty – that they themselves are trying to avoid, actually leads me to question why anyone would even pay attention to the PQ today (perhaps I’m too Anglophone to understand, as I’ve been told…)? But didn’t history teach us anything?! Did we forget the 100 billion dollar deficit they tried to hide and which popped into light when they finally lost power to Liberals? Are we forgetting that the PQ (and Marois) is one of the major reasons why Quebecers are the highest taxed in Canada?

As for Mario Dumont… I honestly believe that we’d be all ears if his party had more money and stronger support. Times are tough and Canadians, even Quebecers, are reluctant to embrace change – it’s just part of who we are. A visionary like Dumont forces us to face our own insecurities since his leadership would no doubt take us in un-chartered territories; this is not something we seem ready to accept, especially with all the instability and turmoil currently present in the world. His passion and ever increasing desperation to strike at the hearts of voters can often be misinterpreted as totalitarian mania, and this can definitely be off-putting to a populace whose primary motto is: reject everything today, but don’t do anything about tomorrow. Yet ironically, a party like the ADQ would never have been able to see the light of day in a province other than Quebec… Quebecers seem content to drop the issue of separation once and for all, yet we are not ready to be considered ‘Canadians.’ It seems to me that the ADQ is that voice, encompassing Tory ‘corporativism’, Liberal 'conventionality' and PQ 'fanaticism' whilst trying to move beyond those parties’ failings in Quebec, empowering us to take control of tomorrow in a responsible, economically feasible manner. We may not like the direction Dumont is suggesting, but if we examine trends and world events, many of those changes will be unavoidable; why not take those steps today! Hasn’t the PQ proven to us time and time again, absolute idealism is insufficient to govern?

Despite the hubbub, and Quebecers being Quebecers, I can’t say that I’m anticipating that tonight’s debate will produce any major shifts at the polls. We know what can be expected; the two trailing leaders will attempt to destabilize Charest by any means possible. What I’m looking forward to seeing is whether or not Marois will be able to keep her snobby attitude in check and whether or not Dumont still has a few cards up his sleeves.

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© 2008, Pascal-Denis Lussier

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