I had heard nothing from the federalist media, particularly from those from the right who say nothing but sovereignty is dead in la belle province. The evidence they have? Well, some polls, which I do take with a grain of salt–the usual suspects–Leger Marketing. Sadly, that is all most Quebecers have to work with. I do wish we had polls that were more reliable like Nanos. However, we can only try to work with what we’ve got. I don’t find that CROP is much better. Lately, though, these polls have been coming out with other interesting results as well, reflecting Gilles Duceppe, if he were to take over the reigns of the Parti-Quebecois, he could beat Francois Legault’s new Coalition Pour L’Avenir du Quebec (CAQ), as well as the NDP losing popularity to the beleaguered Bloc Quebecois. Interesting findings indeed. They beg the question, is sovereignty really as dead as many would like to believe? Is the Bloc really so far down as they will never be able to get up again? The answer to the first question may come to many as a surprise. The second, I think is a bit premature. I have always said never rule out a Bloc Quebecois come back.
I will be attempting to find explanations for these happenings in two separate posts. In part 1, I will be exploring the Parti-Quebecois and in Part 2, I will be looking at the Bloc v the NDP.
No One Should Believe that The NDP Sweep of the Bloc Quebecois on May 2 Meant a Death Blow to Sovereignty
Flashback, the NDP sweep 59 seats in la Belle province. The Bloc Quebecois reduced to a rump of four seats. Gilles Duceppe loses his own seat to another NDP rookie. Many celebrate the so-called end to sovereignty and believe that Quebec has begun to embrace federalism. Some, however, saw the NDP win was simply due to the fact that they played the role of “Bloc light” or “Bloc of another colour”. Many still saw it simply as “Throwing the bums out”, a mood for change. “Jackmania” brought it on. One thing that is not and cannot be disputed is that most Quebecers voted for the NDP in Quebec because of the personality of Jack Layton–”le bon Jack”. It was “Jackmania”, much like “Trudeaumania” of the late 60s.
Both Pauline Marois of the Parti-Quebecois and Premier Johnny-Boy Charest agreed that the vote of the NDP simply meant that the debate on sovereignty was simply removed from Ottawa and brought back home to Quebec City. I believe they’re right.
A few things that I had always believed since May 2, was that I don’t think most who had voted NDP in Quebec believed that Stevie Spiteful would’ve gotten his majority and that the Bloc would’ve taken the blow that they did. Many of my Nationalist friends who voted NDP, while having no regrets for their votes, were certainly surprised and somewhat remorseful of the final results. They were (and probably more so, today) concerned about how well would the NDP be able to defend Quebec’s interests given the fact that most were neophytes and that that parliament was ruled by a gang of Harpercons who clearly proved they didn’t need us to get their coveted majority. The concerns are not unfounded as we see today.
Also, while Pauline Marois was never the most popular leader for the sovereigntist Parti-Quebecois, she was still riding high from her April leadership approval of 93% and the party was still, seemingly, holding it together, despite some of the usual internal skirmishes, that is, before the Bill 204 Peladeau-Labeaume hockey rink bill straw that broke the camel’s back, that would lead to the exodus of five prominent hard liner sovereigntist MNAs. Jean-Francois Lisee, Parti-Quebecois membership sales went up shortly after the last federal election. Also, at the time M. Lisee’s blog entry was posted on May 6, no one made any requests to leave the Parti-Quebecois.
Another thing to be noted at the time was, that despite the fact that Francois Legault and his Coalition Pour un Avenir du Quebec was riding high in polls, it was still very much fictitious and nothing more than a polling pipe dream for many. At the time, not even Legault, hisself, was sure he was going to transform his pro-business movement into a political party. Something both La Marois and Premier Johnny-Boy could somewhat find comfort in.
Later, of course, shit would hit the fan when La Marois would attempt to whip her caucus into voting for Bill 204–that fateful Peladeau-Labeaume hockey rink bill that Quebec City area, Tacshereau MNA, Agnes Maltais sponsored. Mind you, Bill 204 was only the straw that hit the camel’s back. The fragmentation of the PQ was about much more than that. A sovereigntist movement that was ever more fragmented. I think it’s important to note that the key word here is ‘fragmented’–not ‘dead’. Also, Pauline Marois is simply the wrong person to lead a province, let alone any kind of movement.
Also, last month, there was an annual rally and march for Quebec independence. Oddly, it was held on the same day as an Occupy Montreal march, though, not at exactly the same time. The Occupy Montreal march was held about about two hours later. Given that the Independence march was held earlier, I decided to attend for the first part, anyway. I made an appearance because I always believed that media and pundits from both sides of the equation exaggerated the events and attendance of such events; I wanted to see for myself. Also, I wanted to see exactly which media outlets would be attracted over there. I remembered the year before, some of the English language media types were basically mocking it as having only a handful attended by only a few old relics of the past. This event had people of all ages. Young and old. Many families too, with young children holding their fleurs de lys proudly. When I left to head toward the Occupy Montreal event, there were approximately 1000 people and more still flocking into the square. And yes, there was more media than there was at the Occupy Montreal event, including English language media.
One of the Pundits’ Favourite Reasons for The Bloc Quebecois’s Demise I Think We Can Rule Out
Right around the time Pauline Marois had her leadership review, the federal election campaign was in full swing. Gilles Duceppe had come out and said something along the lines that along with Pauline Marois leading the Parti-Quebecois in Quebec and he, the Bloc Quebecois, “it all becomes possible”, meaning Quebec sovereignty. Many pundits in English Canada, including those from federalist media believed that that was where Duceppe hit himself on the head. The believed, perhaps wishfully, that sovereignty was as dead as a doornail and no one wanted to hear about that. I always believed that that analysis was flawed. Yes, dragging along Jacques Parizeau was a definite mistake, but only because trotting out old relics is never a good idea. Period. It’s much like Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff dragging out Jean Chretien and Paul Martin to speak at their rallies. However, I never really believed that Duceppe’s appearance with La Marois saying that “it all becomes possible” was his biggest problem. I will concede, though, that perhaps appearing with an unpopular leader of a provincial party may not have been one of his finer moments though. If Gilles Duceppe’s appearing with La Marois during his “…it all seems possible…” was what really cemented his demise, why is he so popular these days? Why would so many vote for a Duceppe led Parti-Quebecois over a Francois Legault CAQ if an election were held today?
Why is Gilles Duceppe So Popular These Days?
This, according to two recent polls taken by Leger Marketing and CROP–again, two polling firms I tend to take with a grain of salt, so I’ll tread cautiously. But, then again, these polls are also consistently polling sovereignty at an all time low and the NDP maintaining their lead in la Belle Province, as well as maintaining Francois Legault at highs. Like I said, I wish we had more reliable polling firms in La Belle Province, but we’ll try to make do with what we have.
The possible reasoning behind the potential resurrection of Gilles Duceppe, as well as his downfall and that of the Bloc Quebecois back in May 2, goes back to bringing the sovereignty debate back to Quebec City and out of Ottawa. I don’t think Duceppe’s downfall on May 2 had anything to do with him, personally. Well, ok, that slogan, “Parlons Quebec”–”Let’s talk, Quebec!” was lame, but other than that, I don’t think he really did anything wrong. Duceppe and the Bloc served a purpose for a time. I also think for many sovereigntists, they no longer do. I think this can be best explained in the open letter below from Kathleen Gurrie, a freelance writer living in Alexandre Boulerice’s riding, which I’ve translated to English. The original in French can be found on this La Presse site.
I voted for the NDP MP for the riding of Rosemont-Petite-Patrie, Alexandre Boulerice. Beyond the fact that this member has progressive values like me and is not at all a “sign post candidate”, I voted for a federalist party for the first time in my life and, paradoxically, for the sovereignty of Quebec.I agree that my strategy may be perceived as distorted. I greatly respect the work that you’ve always done for Quebec. You were the most rigorous and most cultivated politician at the federal level, right up until your resignation. I like your will and your heart is in the right place. At the unveiling of the election results, I was left speechless. I expected that the Bloc take a slap, but I did not expect it to be almost decimated.I particularly did not expect you to lose your own seat, nor would have felt so bad to see the consequences of the choice I had to make. Eyes full of water, to see you so worthy, I want to take the time to explain what I had done, what we had done: to sacrifice you.I do not think the NDP will represent us well and that is not why I voted for them. Of course, I wanted to get rid of Stephen Harper. But I never thought for a moment that the NDP could take power, even with a minority. Throughout my discussion, it became clear that Quebec would never be well represented at the federal level, even by you. From my experience as a constituent, too young and frustrated at being unable to vote in 1995, having always had the Bloc there as a guard dog, it was a new finding. It also seemed more absurd to have a strong Bloc in Ottawa and a weak government in Quebec City. I hear of nothing that is capable of beating Jean Charest and the Liberals, a government that has never represented me.I began to see the Bloc and its’ work as nothing more than a pain killer or a band-aid. Nothing is going too badly in Quebec, but nothing is getting better, neither. It has stagnated. I’m disgusted. I do not want us to talk about it. I want us to act on it. In this sense, I must tell you that your slogan was not very good.I have watched the Bloc, many highly skilled, dedicated MPs, and I was suddenly want to see them come home. To see them change things here, rather than fight in the arena in the ROC. Still, mostly in opposition, we do not collectively look like ROC, nothing can be done about that … Without you in Ottawa, we will be had.I know this and yet I have chosen to sacrifice you. Sovereignty, independence, autonomy of Quebec always seem essential to have a government that represents us at last in all spheres.And here I come: I voted for a federalist party, to not have a clear conscience. It is time to remove the band-aid off this wound, to be remembered with our wound, the pain is here again felt in the population, without Bloc pills for relief, so that finally, perhaps, the ’one act instead of talking. Already, the shock is felt, Quebecers have hurt the day after the elections …“Full stomach does not have rage,” sang the great Felix. Without you there, but here, I hope that the hungry and enraged Quebecers will choose the only option to finally have a government that looks and acts for them and their needs.Excuse me, Mr. Duceppe, I have sacrificed you, but right now, I would do the same with the hope of the Alouette in anger in the heart. Defend us at home now.After the election, May 3 in the morning, I went to the site of the Parti Quebecois and I renewed my membership. For now, this gesture is symbolic, but my message is clear: “I am ready.” Are you ready, Mr. Duceppe?
A few things struck out at me about Ms. Gurrie’s letter. How many other Francophone sovereigntists voted for the NDP for the same reasons she did? Was she foreseeing the downfall of La Marois and potentially seeing Gilles Duceppe leading the Parti-Quebecois? But then, she wasn’t expecting the NDP to represent Quebec’s interests, nor was that the reason she voted for them.In fact, she wanted Quebec to be reminded as to why sovereignty would be best by reminding her fellow Quebecers that the feds don’t have our best interests at heart. However, did she expect those Harpercons to go as far as they have, regarding la belle province? You know, shoving the monarchy down our throats with all those royal titles. Non French speaking senior posts in the PMO, etc. Agree or disagree with Ms. Gurrie, her letter would be a definite possibility as to Gilles Duceppe’s popularity today.
I will be revisiting Ms Gurrie’s letter when I discuss the potential resurgence of the Bloc Quebecois in Part 2.
Is Pauline Marois Starting to See the Writing on The Wall?
She is still stubbornly hanging onto the PQ leadership. However, her days appear to be numbered. A recent poll in the Bonaventure riding shows that the Liberal candidate, former veteran St-Elzear mayor, Damien Arsenault is ahead, comfortably, of the PQ candidate, Sociology professor, Sylvain Roy. Though, considered a Liberal bastion, Bonaventure did elect a Pequiste in 1994 in a protest vote. If there was ever a reason for a protest vote against Quebec Liberal Party, it would be now. Sure, the former MNA for the riding was instrumental in hammering a deal with the feds for drilling in the off-shore oil field of Old Harry, which could potentially bring jobs to the area, but let’s not forget that in last year’s by-election in Kamouraska-Temiscouata, another usual Liberal stronghold, Premier Johnny-boy had also promised hundreds of jobs to the La Pocatiere Bombardier plant to build new metro cars for the STM and yet, the Pequistes still squeaked by. As such, it is believed that if Roy does not take Bonaventure away from the Liberals come December 5, there will be much more pressure for La Marois to leave.
Also, according to the Twitter feed last Sunday evening, La Marois told Guy A Lepage and viewers on her appearance on the popular talk show, “Tout le Monde en Parle”, that she would be willing to ‘share’ leadership of the PQ with Gilles Duceppe, though she was quite vague on what that would entail.
Sovereignty Movement is Not Dead, But Is In Disarray and Has the Wrong Leader
Pauline Marois is definitely the wrong leader for her party, definitely not premier material and certainly not one to lead a movement as important and as large as sovereignty. No, her gender has nothing to with it, as many seem to suggest. I think most are progressive enough to be open to a woman leading them, La Marois is just the wrong woman to do so.
Right now, I contend the movement is simply fragmented and not dead. Can Gilles Duceppe bring it together? He certainly has a better shot than La Marois does, that’s for sure. One thing that is certain, as premier, he could and would certainly give Stevie Spiteful a lot of head-aches. Yep, after PE Trudeau and Jean Chretien, I think Gilles Duceppe is Harper’s third most hated foe. Sovereigntist or not, if Gilles Duceppe came back to lead the Pequistes, he’ll get my vote the next provincial election.