Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Quebec Elections 2012

I have been living in Quebec for a few weeks and happened to move here in the middle of the election campaign.  I won't be voting - can't, without six months residence, but I have followed this political campaign as I follow most - with a lively interest and an informed skepticism.

Jean Charest is a spent force.  He knows it and everyone in this province knows it.  You can feel it. Come on - Gunning for a fourth victory, at 54, when you've already been premier three times, a federal cabinet minister, a referendum champion, and wrote your own autobiography 14 years ago?  You would have to be living in another country or another era to hope for that kind of shelf life.  Him and his fellow Liberal premier to the West, Dalton McGuinty, don't seem to realize that their personalities are wearing painfully thin after ten years, and ten years of accumulated gaffes, scandals, mismanagement, corruption, and fraud resonate more than their paternalistic orders to opt for their "experience" and "stability".  Their egos are so massive they didn't even think to prepare their parties for some kind of succession plan that would at least give their formations some longevity.

It's hard to look at public finances, infrastructure, social and cultural cohesion, economics, or the environment/resource balance sheet in Ontario or Quebec today without asking yourself what the hell makes these two guys think they're so damn special.  Why ask for yet another majority mandate when you could retire on your millions from a lifetime in the provincial (and in Charest's case, federal) legislature?

Speculating about the unlimited options of prosperous middle-aged career politicians is not an urgent matter, however.  The future of the democracy of Quebec province is.  And that is the real reason JJ Charest is going down.  Years and years of the reports of the mafia's kickbacks and control with the construction industry, members of his government using mafia yachts and credit cards, a revolving door between the Charest cabinet, Hydro Quebec, and lucrative resource contacts on Anticosti island...type these words into google and you'll quickly realize that you'd have to brain dead to vote for these guys.  This stuff makes the ORNGE scandal in Ontario look like a Mr. Clean ad.

So odious are these revelations, and so pathetic was the judgement exercised by members of this government, that the desperation of the Liberal electoral campaign is now painfully clear to be just that: desperation.

In the past, the Liberal party had the asset of being the only "federalist" "mainstream" party that protected the rights of "anglophones and allophones".  Now they are shamelessly grovelling to these people (22% of the population) for votes, saying they can't afford the instability and chaos of all the other unapologetically francophone and nationalist parties.  Well M. Charest, your government's record is unfortunately available in English, not that most English people here can't see and understand the daily lambasting of your government in the French media for themselves.  Now you just look like a cynical, entitled politician taking entire demographic swaths of the population for granted to be your passive vote bank.  There was another party called the Liberals that did that once, and look where it got them.  As for your Stephen Harper-tested, broken record "economy" strategy (also used by Dalton last October), my hope is that this bullshit and substanceless tactic is soon revealed to do more harm than good to a politicians prospects of winning.  If I have to hear one more gasbag repeat day after day that he is "focussed on the economy"...

But where will the disgusted former Liberal votes go? Here's where it gets interesting.  The Parti Québécois is the most "mainstream" opposition, but Pauline Marois is a cagey and bristly woman.  They would win this in an absolute walk, even with her (the least popular leader in party history) leading, except that there has been a lot of splintering the last few years in the Quebec political universe.  Ex Air Transat CEO and PQ minister François Legault started the CAQ (Coalition pour l'avenir Québec or cack)  last fall but his wishes for economic growth and hard work values are restrained in their appeal to a limited minority of francophone voters.  Québec Solidaire has admirable, articulate, refreshing perspective and ideas in Amir Khadir and Françoise David but also comes with a hard left, hard separatist bent that I see having very limited appeal outside of the central, gentrified, uber-hipster Montreal neighbourhoods I have been hanging out in and riding my bike around the last few weeks.  Oh, and there is anoher new francophone, nationalist party called the Option Nationale.

The goods are, in determining the outcome, is if any combination of francophone federalists, anglophones and canada-first immigrants, and the pro-business crowd abandon the Liberals and go CAQ on September 4, who already have the French right vote.  Although Legault has been accused of being a sell-out, a panderer, and a substance-less opportunist, it wouldn't be the worst thing that could happen.  He's a smart guy and he does care about this place; if he was a ruthless capitalist and heartless free-marketer, he would have left here long ago.  And the Liberals desperate ploy to take him down because he was a separatist is just sad, as he has been very open about how this was something he was for but it isn't logical right now.

And it's not.  It's disheartening to see the terrible relationship and misunderstanding between English and French Canada.  I think it would do the Québécois' collective self esteem a lot of good to stop being called lazy, entitled, backward, racist, corrupt losers by the English Canadians they are forced to share a country with.  The best is when people who don't even speak french claim that real french is not spoken here (equivalent to me saying real English is not spoken in Britain)  It's too complicated to get into but I think an amicable divorce would be a good thing.  Having said that, there is the whole public debt and transfer payment system that needs to worked out.  And what would be the point of splitting up money, passports, borders, and army at this point?  Can't we have a trade and commerce union?

The electoral result will determine the speed and nature with which these questions will be answered.  Who would I vote for?  I have no idea.  My prediction is a PQ minority with CAQ conditional support to govern.  That would place the Quebec Liberal Party in the same place as the Federal Party, where they belong - in third place, with a gargantuan hill to climb - thanks to years of corruption and entitlement.