Once touted as “Force Quebec”, former Parti-Quebecois MNA, education and health minister and 2005 leadership hopeful, finally launched his ”centre-right” movement-manifesto yesterday, along with business man, Charles Sirois. They call themselves “Coalition pour l’Avenir du Quebec”–Coalition for the Future of Quebec. Here is the home page of their site, translated to English by google translate. Here is the entire manifesto, sorry, not available in English. In fact, in order to not scare off to many Quebecers, it isn’t being sold as “centre-right”, but as an “efficient left”. In fact, apparently, according to critics, Legault appears to have watered down many of his ideas. One example I can give off hand was, they were talking of hiking Hydro Quebec rates to pay for Government services and more specifically, raising teachers’ salaries. In the manifesto launched yesterday, there is no mention of Hydro rate increases. Of course not. Most Quebecers balk anytime either Hydro or the Quebec Government (no matter what party is governing) even speaks of hiking the rates.
Well, they’re getting it from all sides: Here are a few from the Montreal Gazette this morning.
Some blasted Legault for apparently watering down some of his more radical ideas to challenge the province’s sacred cows, and others wondered where he plans to get the money to pay for his idea of boosting salaries for teachers in a bid to improve the quality of the education system.
There is no word bashing the unions, a Quebec sacred cow. Nothing about the environment, one way or the other. Nothing about tax increases. He does speak of ‘decentralization’ of a lot of government services, including health care, something that should bring Quebecers to attention.
Indeed, this manifesto-’movement’ does sound a lot tamer than the Reseau Liberte Quebecois– The Quebec Freedom Network. Like Legault’s “Coalition for the Future of Quebec”, the Quebec Freedom Network doesn’t really have any big names other than perhaps Eric Duhaime, and he’s not nearly as known amongst Francophone circles as Legault. Yet, they seemed to have attracted a modest turn out at their inaugural hootenanny and far more media attention than it deserved. Also, there is no typical tea-baggish talk of ‘smaller government’ like you would hear from the Quebec Freedom Network.
Of course, the Parti-Quebecois puts in their two cents:
But by far the harshest words came from Legault’s former party, the PQ, because Legault has stated the sovereignty option is going nowhere. And for that matter, neither is renewed federalism. The whole debate, the coalition says, should be iced.
“I think it’s just wrong of him to put aside what was the fight of his life,” PQ MNA Bernard Drainville said in an interview with The Gazette last night. “For me, that’s the opposite of being courageous.
“When the going gets rough, you see what people are really made of. Yes, we are facing strong headwinds, but that is not a reason to give up.”
Drainville said it is just not possible to put aside the Quebec question because it affects so many aspects of life here.
Ah yes! That age old problem of federalism v sovereignty. One thing Legault and Duhaime and the RLQ have in common–they both wish to shelve that debate. Interesting. Except I seem to remember Eric Duhaime on CJAD with Beryl Wajsman awhile back, while he was emphasizing shelving the debate, approximately more than half the callers wanted to discuss sovereignty v federalism, or at the very least, sought to ask him where he stood on the French language. There was basically no getting away from it. I expect Legault won’t get away from it so easily neither–in fact, it may be much harder, his business man partner, Charles Sirois, is a staunch federalist.
Gerard Deltell, leader of the third place, right winged, Action Democratique (ADQ) chimed in as well:
“On one side, you have a movement and on the other, a party,” Deltell said. “We are the party of a modern Quebec. We are the party of a realistic and responsible Quebec.
Well, I guess he had to say something. His party remains stubbornly in third place and a distant third at that. So much for the idea of Quebecers wanting to go right winged tea-baggy. Why, not long ago, Deltell decided to center the party a tad in hopes of improving their fortunes. Eat your heart out, Eric!
That movement of Francois Legault many were so looking forward to seems to be very much ado about not a whole helluvalot–on the surface. It is tepid. Nothing radically wingnutty like the Reseau Liberte Quebecois. No, it certainly isn’t left winged–’efficient’ or otherwise. It is watered down considerably from what was originally talked about. This leads me to one conclusion–Francois Legault has every intention of turning his Coalition for the Future of Quebec (CAQ??) into a new political party. The RLQ can afford to be tea-bagger wingnuts as they have no intention of being a political party–they don’t have supporters to chase after. Legault and his Coalition would, especially as a potential fledgling party, those first years could prove to be difficult, especially if Jean Charest’s new party fundraising laws come to life.
If this coalition of Legault’s (I’ll call them CAQ for short) are going to steadfastly shelve the federalism v sovereignty debate, and they become a political provincial party, they’re going to run into some problems. For starters, let’s not forget that when Mario Dumont’s ADQ came to light, he insisted they were neither a federalist, nor a separatist party–his stand on the debate while leading the party was ambiguous at best. Many knew that was actively campaigning for the ‘yes’ side in the 1995 referendum on sovereignty. I had heard Trude the Prude on CJAD’s “Gang of Four” say that she couldn’t vote for the ADQ because she didn’t trust that they were federalist or separatist. I suspect Dumont’s ambiguity on the question was in part what hurt the party in 2008. I suspect this could hurt his group, as a political party as well. Not only would it hurt him with the voters, but it could cause internal troubles, as Charles Sirois, as I’ve mentioned above, is a staunch federalist. I’m not sure about the break down of the others involved.
Either way, I’ve said this before on any given issue–wishing something away won’t make it go away. Reality is that the federalist v sovereignty debate is long from over, and it won’t be until the question is settled once and for all. We’re not sovereign, yet we’re not signed on to the constitution. If Legault and his CAQ were ever elected with a clear majority to National Assembly, would he raise the debate again? Would he attempt to bring on a referendum on sovereignty? No wonder Pauline Marois would panic.
Right now, the CAQ is nothing but a movement, but as a mythical party, it would win about 30% of the vote, while the Liberals and the PQ would each win 24%. However, that all stands to change following Pauline Marois’s leadership vote come April 15 where she must obtain 76% of the vote. She’s not likely to get it. As pointed out before, Gilles Duceppe may well step down as leader of the Bloc Quebecois to throw his hat into the PQ leadership ring. He would definitely be a far more formidable opponent to Francois Legault. Two other names of potential PQ leadership potentials would be MNAs, ex-RadCan personality and MNA for Marie-Victorin, Bernard Drainville and the more language wingnutty (the ‘Habs are too federalist fame’) and former actor, Pierre Curzi. Watch for things to get even more interesting following a PQ leadership convention (assuming, of course, Marois loses her leadership review).
For the time being though, I would say that it’s not a good sign for Legault when he’s had false starts, delays, couldn’t find big names he wanted to recruit like Philippe Couillard and Lucien Bouchard (who now is heading up Quebec’s oil and gas lobby group) and Joseph Facal deserting the movement before it got started. However, if his CAQ became a party, like the ADQ in 2007, he has one advantage, they would be a novelty act, but the trouble with novelty acts, like the ADQ, also tend to fizzle out as quickly as they came. I can only say, for now, let’s wait and see. We’ll also have to see exactly how motivated Legault will be following Marois’s leadership vote; how motivated will he be with a new leader of the Parti-Quebecois at the helm?