I always knew this would happen eventually. Perhaps not over that ridiculous proposed hockey amphitheatre of Regis Labeaume’s in Quebec City for the non-existent resurrection of the Quebec Nordiques, but I knew that despite Pauline Marois’s whopping 93% approval vote at her leadership review last April, that the knives would still be continuing to circle around her. In fact, I never understood why she even survived that leadership review, given how unpopular a leader she is. Perhaps because Gilles Duceppe was in the middle of a federal election campaign, and there was no other viable candidate? No, I had heard that MNA Pierre Curzi for Borduas and Bernard Drainville, MNA for Marie-Victorin would’ve also been viable candidates. No matter, the ink wasn’t even dry on her leadership review when the knives came back circling.
Yesterday, three PQ MNAs resigned from PQ caucus to go sit as sovereigntist independent MNAs over a private members bill, sponsored by Agnes Maltais, PQ MNA for the Downtown Quebec City riding of Taschereau, Bill 204. Bill 204 would basically seal a deal, already negotiated awhile ago between Quebec City and Pierre-Karl Peladeau/Quebecor, to manage the arena for twenty-five years and naming rights, even though it circumvented a public tender process. Pierre-Karl Peladeau, in this deal would essentially, pledge 63 million dollars if an NHL franchise signs on to Quebec City; 33 million if none signed on, plus 3.15 million annually in management for management rights. Without going to public tender, this, of course, goes against Quebec’s Cities and Towns’ Act. Even more stupid on the part of Mme Maltais’s Bill 204, she, herself admits, the bill, if passed, wouldn’t necessarily protect Quebec City from any potential legal action, even though that was the goal of this bill. So, if the bill passes, there is no guarantee that someone won’t sue the city and of course, Gary Bettman has basically said to ‘not build a brand new arena on his account’ as he will not guarantee an NHL team to Quebec City on a few occasions; arena or no arena, so why bother? Why go to all this trouble? It seems that, according to Mme Maltais that Pierre-Karl Peladeau, being the egomaniacal show-off that he is, has basically promised to buy an NHL team and move it to Quebec City.
“And in that contract, there is the possibility of the arrival of that team,” said Maltais.
Ah, so! Plus, it seems that Quebec City mayor, Regis Labeaume had been playing a little game of hardball.
They [the departing MNAs] watched as their party ran with the demand by Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume to enact a special law to protect from lawsuits a management agreement that was forged confidentially and without public tender.
Labeaume has said without the special law there will be no arena. No arena, he insists, means no NHL team coming back to the city.
It appears that Labeaume, like his nemesis, Stevie Spiteful, also practices the fine art of secrecy and unaccountability. City councillor, Yvon Bussiere, is of the belief that Molson and Bell might have teamed up with a bid of their own, but Labeaume is keeping mum about this.
Former city manager and former PQ minister, Denis de Belleval, is already launching a legal challenge to nullify the agreement, calling Bill 204, a “Berlusconi law”. I have no doubt that others will join M. de Belleval. I, for one, sure hope so.
Better still. I hope that whole project gets scrapped!! If, as Labeaume threatened, no Peladeau Jr. and Quebecor–no arena, I’d be perfectly ok with that. In Montreal, the Bell Center, back when it was first opened as the Molson Center was funded entirely on private money as it should. While health care, pensions, education and our infrastructure are suffering, the last thing we need is a publicly funded arena for hockey players and their handlers who make more money than Gawd.
Divisions in the PQ and opposition to Pauline Marois’s leadership had been mounting for sometime now, but Bill 204 appears to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. La Marois has decided to whip her caucus into voting along party lines to support this bill. This, in addition to the fact that this bill was tabled without the caucus being consulted. Three MNAs have decided to follow their conscience and resign from PQ caucus yesterday, as mentioned above. Not just any caucus MNAs, three heavyweights: Rosemont MNA, Louise Beaudoin who was a cabinet minister in the 70s under Rene Levesque, who was always a language extremist who appeared with Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes, Pierre “The Habs are Too Federalist Curzi, MNA for Borduas, and Lizette Lapointe, MNA for the North end Montreal riding of Cremazie and wife of Jacques Parizeau. All three, as mentioned, are going to sit as sovereigntist independents. All have said that they have been long unhappy with Marois’s authoritarian leadership style and her not pushing hard enough with their sovereignty goals.
It doesn’t look like the bloodshed will end, though. A fourth MNA, Jean-Martin Aussant, representing the Trois-Rivieres’ South-Shore riding of Nicolet-Yamaska, has just announced his resignation. Aussant, like the other three of his colleagues, will also be sitting as an independent in every sense of the word. I have a feeling that we haven’t seen the end of the bloodshed. Claude Cousineau, PQ MNA for Bertrand, has called for La Marois to let this go to a free vote and at least two more MNAs have expressed dissatisfaction with Bill 204.
It looks like Pauline Marois, to date, still isn’t getting it. She hasn’t gotten it for a very long time. She’d better and soon. The only way for her to get it, frankly, is to resign.
As for Lapointe, Beaudoin, and Curzi, none have expressed desire to join Francois Legault’s center-right movement (not yet a political party)–“Coalition pour l’Avenir du Quebec”–Coalition for the Future of Quebec, nor will they be joining the lone MNA, Amir Khadir of Quebec Solidaire. Mme Lapointe says that she is still hanging on to her Parti-Quebecois membership card. I will take that to mean that the trio are keeping their options open at this time, not even ruling out a return to the PQ fold, especially if La Marois resigns, which I believe will be inevitable if discontent continues within the party.
As for those MNAs who resigned and now sitting as independents, they too, don’t get it, which I will elaborate further in a future post. Their mentality is archaic and to say the least, not inclusive. That will have to change if they wish to connect with Quebecers.
Could the PQ Survive this latest crisis? It’s always amusing listening to the right winged staunch federalists on CJAD going ga ga giddy every time sovereigntists and their political parties take a hit. Assuming these MNAs run for re-election as independents, there are many Bloc MPs who lost their bid for re-election on May 2, some of whom, big names, who find themselves available and perhaps willing to run for PQ nominations in those ridings. Or, those newly minted MNAs could come back to the PQ family at a later time if Marois were to resign or things changed to their liking.
There is, of course, a few other possibilities, which would not be good news for the PQ, if they ran new candidates, be they old Bloc MPs or not, against the independents: a) the independents win re-election; yes, odds are generally against independents prevailing, but it has happened and most of them are heavy weights and are popular amongst their constituents. Like the MNAs who currently represent them, these constituencies are staunchly separatist, who knows if the new PQ candidates would be too moderate for them? B) Through vote splitting amongst the sovereigntist candidates, the Liberals or even the ADQ, squeak up the middle.
Who knows? Maybe all those independent MNAs will form their own party.
Only time will tell. I will say this, though. This isn’t the first time they’ve had such a crisis in the past and they’ve come bouncing back. If they do, it won’t be an easy road back. The first step would be for la Marois to resign and leave sooner, while there is still plenty of time to prepare for the next provincial election. Also, the party would have to modernize somewhat and adapt to certain new realities and yes, start targetting new constituencies. That would mean dropping the language extremism and paranoia. Quebec is not becoming more Anglicized. In fact, I’d start being more welcoming to some moderate to left-leaning Anglophones and Allophones who are disillusioned with Stevie Harper. As mentioned, I will further elaborate in a further in a future post.
As for you, Johnny Boy Charest, you want to do good by your base? Vote against Bill 204, convince your caucus to do the same. Go ahead, call Regis Labeaume’s bluff. See how serious he really was. Do the right thing for once. This could possibly be your escape from that two hundred million dollar share of that albatross you got yourself into awhile back. As you can see, it didn’t buy you love. It just ain’t worth it. After all, the same problems that sent the Quebec Nordiques outta Quebec City to Denver, still very much exist today.
Oh, and Johnny Boy, I wouldn’t quite gloat about the PQ’s little crisis quite so much. Cockiness will get you into trouble. There still remains the problem that you’ve overstayed your welcome in the National Assembly. Furthermore, as I’ve mentioned before, you used to be more fun when you were combattive with Stevie Spiteful. Now you’re just too complacent. Complacency with Stevie Spiteful is the last thing we need right now.
By the by, have you kissed and made up with the federal official opposition’s Quebec lieutenant, Tom Mulcair, yet? Or has he with you?
At best, you may get a minority by virtue of mega vote splitting with a pizza National Assembly with all those different sovereigntist MNAs and parties surrounding you, like sharks.