It’s official, Daniel Paille has won the Bloc Quebecois leadership with a little over 61% on the second ballot (they used a preferential voting system). Ahuntsic MP, Maria Mourani came in second and Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapedia’s rookie MP, Jean-Francois Fortin came in third and was knocked off the second round.
I contend that this is good news for the beleaguered Bloc Quebecois, as if this party can be saved, only M. Paille can save it, although, I would’ve liked to have seen Maria Mourani win, under normal circumstances. He does, however, have an uphill battle, especially since he will be leading the party from the outside, as he does not have a seat in the House of Commons. There is, however, speculation about whether or not interim leader until now, and veteran BQ MP, Louis Plamondon of Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour will be amenable to retirement in order to allow Daniel Paille to run for his seat in a potential by-election. Assuming M. Plamondon does retire and M. Paille does run for the seat, how well does M. Paille know the riding?
All Three Candidates Differentiated Themselves From the Beginning
Unlike the first NDP debates (except for a tense moment between Paul Dewar and Brian Topp) last Sunday, the three Bloc Quebecois leadership candidates differentiated themselves from each other from pretty much the beginning.
Jean-Francois Fortin, the third place candidate basically campaigned on getting young people more involved with the party, as well as opening themselves more to the grassroots.
Maria Mourani wanted to make the party a welcome environment for both the left and the right; more inclusive.
In addition, Mourani took a rather moderate approach for most, but could be considered radical if one is a sovereigntist. She basically campaigned on detaching the party from the Parti-Quebecois, even saying she would not necessarily support the Parti-Quebecois in the next provincial election, if elected leader.
Interesting, though she said she would allow Bloc members to “choose whatever party they want”, had she been elected leader, would she have endorsed Francois Legault and the CAQ istes?
I call the approach interesting, given that many believe the Bloc’s downfall during the last federal election campaign came when Gilles Duceppe appeared alongside Pauline Marois, basically saying with her as premier and the Bloc back in Ottawa, “all was possible”. Pundits singing the tune that sovereignty was dead and that Duceppe’s little appearance had them all running scared to the NDP last May 2. As such, I’m reasonably certain that Ms Mourani’s leadership platform would’ve been a response to this–the winning platform in response to the so-called “oh groan, not sovereignty talk again!” It was not to be. However, if what all those pundits say is true, shouldn’t Ms Mourani have had the winning campaign, and thus be leader today? Or was she simply the wrong person to sell it?
On the other hand, both her opponents, Daniel Paille, insisted that the “sovereignty movement must speak with a single, unified voice”, and Jean-Francois Fortin, accused her of “trying to turn the Bloc into a federalist party which would be satisfied with Quebec remaining as a province.”
It is also interesting that M. Fortin, who was knocked off the second ballot, had about 60% of his votes go to Daniel Paillé. To me, that is more evidence that those gung-ho federalist pundits have jumped to conclusions.
The Asbestos Industry Also Divided the Candidates
Another thing that separated the candidates, this time pitting M. Fortin and Ms Mourani against Daniel Paille was, of course, the good ol’ asbestos issue, which cannot be ignored. M. Fortin and Ms. Mourani against and Daniel Paille in support — a stand that, of course, I am troubled by. Ms. Mourani was convinced that the Bloc lost on May 2 due to its’ position on asbestos:
“We lost the support of a lot of sovereigntists who traditionally voted for us, who did not vote for us this May because of our position,” she said.
I believe that could be a more plausible reason, not the sole reason, but a plausible one. Definitely more plausible than sovereignty talk which has been going on for ages. Maria Mourani did abstain on from an NDP motion which called on the federal government to ban the use and export of asbestos abroad, support an international efforts to add chrysotile asbestos to the Rotterdam Convention’s list of hazardous chemicals and develop a transition plan for workers and affected communities in the asbestos mining industry.
Let’s also remember that the NDP, who brought this motion in the first place and have been against the government’s support with the asbestos industry all along did sweep out the BQ last May. I think M. Paillé would do well to at least think about changing his spots on this one. Quebecers are against government subsidy of the asbestos industry.
About Daniel Paille
Daniel Paille is economist and has taught economics at Universite de Laval, Universite du Quebec and College Bois de Boulogne.
He began his political career as a staffer under Jacques Parizeau when he was a cabinet minister under Rene Levesque from 1976 - 1980. He was elected MNA for the lower Laurentian riding of Prevost under Jacques Parizeau in 1994 and became industry minister and left in 1996 for the private sector.
He was also a vice-president for the Caisse de Depot.
Later, he would be a financial analyst for La Presse and collaborator upon invitation for other media outlets like Radio Canada and TVA. More here (in French).
Basically, do not let his scruffy appearance fool you, boys ‘n’ girls, he’s probably the Bloquiste with the biggest corporate background since perhaps Lucien Bouchard.
The Paille Report
Daniel Paille is best known for the Paille Report in 2007. For those who don’t remember, allow me to refresh your memory. Remember Stevie Spiteful’s obsessive case of Liberal derangement syndrome? Well, in one of Stevie’s little games in yet another effort to humiliate the Liberals, he had Daniel Paille do him a little favour, knowing that there is one thing separatists had in common with him–disdain for the Liberals. Well, how about I just let Lawrence Martin tell you the rest from his book, Harperland?
To close 2007, the Conservatives got a little taste of their own medicine in the form of the Paille Report. Harper had hired Daniel Paille, a former cabinet minister in the Parti-Quebecois government, to conduct a probe of federal contracts for public opinion research between 1990 and 2003. Some suspected the Tories were looking for grounds to call a judicial inquiry into Liberal polling practices. The PQ was no fan of the Liberals, and Paille’s appointment gave the probe the look of a witch hunt. Auditor General Sheila Fraser had already looked into the polling practices of the Grits from 1999 to 2003 and had found nothing amiss.
But Paille was not about to be used. To the dismay of the Conservatives, he turned the tables on them, examinining not just how the Liberals awarded opinion research contracts but how the Tories did it as well. When they saw his findings, Harper staffers were hardly amused. They decided to keep the report under wraps for as long as they could. In this case it was two months before they found a day suitable to release it–a day when the news stood a good chance of being drowned out. The was when Brian Mulroneywas testifying before the Commons ethics committee on the Schreiber imbroglio.
The Mulroney story dominated the news, just as the Conservatives knew it would, but the Paille Report did manage to find some daylight. “Probe into Liberal Polling Dings Tories Instead,” read one of the headlines. In a nutshell, the report found that in 2007 the Harper government had spent almost twice as much on opinion research ($31.2 million) as the Liberals used to spend in a year($18 million). On average, the Tories commissioned two polls per working day. That amounted to about 546 opinion polls a year. Paille called the figure “astounding.” (The Liberals actually exceeded that number on occasion, but they never spent nearly the sums on their polls that the Conservatives did). Paille found no reason to call a judicial inquiry into the Liberal dealings. ( Chapter 10, “Tory Trendlines” Pg 118-119, Harperland)
Yes, boys ‘n’ girls, once again, we have another example of Stevie Spiteful the tactician. Well, partly anyway. I mean, what on earth would he have done if the whole sordid lyin’ Brian Mulroney–Karlheinz Schreiber affair wasn’t around the corner for him to hide himself and that report behind? Perhaps would’ve desperately been looking for one of their airbuses to escape on?
More importantly, M. Paille demonstrated that he was not afraid of ol’ Stevie Spiteful when he was under his employ. Now imagine him as a party leader?
Daniel Paille Joins the Bloc Quebecois in the Fall of 2009
I do remember the Harpercons and their cheerleaders taking a swipe at the Bloc Quebecois when Gilles Duceppe announced that Daniel Paille would be joining the Bloc as their economic advisor and seeking the seat in Hochelaga, as their star candidate in the November 2009 by-election. Ol’ Dimitri Soudas, at the time basically reacted by saying (emphasis mine),
“The global economic recession started over a year ago and a year later the Bloc Québécois realized that they needed an economic adviser,”
Considering just a year before, deficit Jimbo Flaherty, Stevie Spiteful, the puppet master and crew were all denying there was even an economic crisis happening, Dimitri sounded quite hollow, but I digress.
After winning his seat, M. Paille would become the Bloc’s finance critic.
It was largely thought that Louis Plamondon would be amenable to retirement and resign his seat so that Paille may run in a potential by-election and I have a feeling that if Paille had asked him to do so, there wouldn’t have been too much of a fight. I have the impression that M. Plamondon seems tired these days. However, M. Paille has no plans to ask any of the four survivors to resign their seats and plans to rebuild and run the party from the outside. In fact, he doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to run for a seat in the House of Commons at this time. I think that this may work in his favour for now. The party has no official party status in the House of Commons and as such, M. Paille couldn’t really do all that much, hanging around in Ottawa anyway. His time would probably be better served travelling la belle province, re-aquainting Quebeckers who once trusted this party to look out for their interests in Ottawa and assuring them that they can do so yet again–certainly better than any of the pan Canadian parties can. There is also the question of fund raising, which he will have to spend a lot of time doing, especially now, given the Harpercons’ phasing out the per vote subsidies. Still, if a seat does avail itself somewhere down the road, M. Paille has not ruled out attempting to run for it.
I can see another reason why M. Paille would not be in a hurry to seek a seat in the House of Commons at this time, that none of the media outlets are talking about, but I will speculate on is the next provincial election, which is coming sooner than the next federal election. The sovereignty movement as I have pointed out time and again isn’t dead, it’s just fragmented.
The Pequistes under La Marois are, to say the least, in shambles. Polls have repeatedly come out having them virtually in last place should an election be held today. Her party under her leadership still couldn’t capitalize from Premier Johnny-boy’s troubles in the recent Bonaventure by-election which saw the Liberal candidate, former mayor of St-Elzear, Damien Arsenault win handily. Yet, she still claims a “moral victory”, saying her party’s vote count went up in that riding from the 2008 general election, which as we all know, counts for shit.
Meanwhile, recent polls had suggested that if Gilles Duceppe were leading the Parti-Quebecois, he would be the only one who could beat Francois Legault and CAQ, in fact, he could probably win a majority. M. Duceppe has already said he doesn’t have any plans to take a stab at the leadership, citing he is not ready for a return to politics and has said that he will ‘stand by Pauline Marois’. However, is there any kind of active campaign going on behind the scenes to recruit M. Duceppe? Surely, the pressure has been turned up, yet again, for La Marois to resign since the loss in Bonaventure. We all know that M. Paille was M. Duceppe’s favoured candidate. I wonder if M. Paille is going to play some kind of role in a) bringing Gilles Duceppe to the PQ fold and b) actively campaigning for them before the next election. He is already on the attack not five minutes after it was announced he had won. To me, the things he said were not just sales pitches for the Bloc Quebecois, but rather, pitches for the Parti-Quebecois. Something to think about. He wouldn’t necessarily have the time to help with the next provincial election if he were leading the Bloc from a seat in the House of Commons where he wouldn’t be able to do much, anyway.
Let’s also remember that he is already igniting the fires of sovereignty. The Bloc Quebecois, being a federal party, is powerless to call any referendum on anything. They, themselves, cannot break up the country. They are a party who serve as a watch dog to make sure Quebec’s interests are served. All they can do is sell it to their constituents; not much more than that.
Another thing I have to wonder is if Francois Legault wins the next provincial election, given his insistance and promise to shelve any sovereignty v federalist talk for at least a decade, I’m wondering if Paille will be lurking around to light a fire under him?
Me Thinks Much of The Media Doth Protest Too Much
Yeah, yeah, yeah! They’re already gloating that this was a ‘non-event’. Most lamenting the fact that only over 14,000 members out of over 35,000 members eligible to vote participated. Voter participation is woefully low in all kinds of elections at all levels in this and age. Given that the NDP has only about 5,600 members in la belle province, is it expected that there will be as many or more who will vote for their next leader, come March 14? I won’t even mention the Harpercons or the Liberals.
One thing that is curious though, given that many of these outlets have been gleefully trumpeting the meme of “sovereignty is dead”, one would think they all would’ve been tripping over each other to hammer M. Paille over his sovereignty talk out of the starting gate yesterday. I didn’t really see that much of that.
Already Out of the Starting Gate
Barely five minutes after the announcement that M. Paille won the leadership, he was already on the offensive:
“The Bloc Québécois is still alive, we have to look ahead,” Paillé said in his victory speech. “We are a party that fights, a party that drives and we will never give up.”
Today, their values are hardly being represented or defended in Ottawa. Whether it is on the decision to scrap the long gun registry against the wishes of Quebec or to give other provinces lucrative shipbuilding contracts, Quebecers are more and more disillusioned and it is showing in the recent slip in the polls of the NDP.
“We sovereignists are no longer alone in not seeing ourselves in this Reform Party Canada,” Paillé sarcastically told 300 people who turned up in a Montreal hotel Sunday to hear the leadership results.
“Even the most ardent federalists, Jean-Marc Fournier (Quebec’s public security minister) for example, are stunned at having been treated as nobodies by Ottawa.
“Canada is being built with its Conservative, majority government without Quebec. This is a first in the modern history of Canada. At last, the ROC (rest of Canada) is saying to itself: ‘We can be sovereign without asking the permission of Quebec.’ ”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is “like a pyromaniac” because he wants to set fire to the long gun registry, an insult to Quebec values, Paillé added.
“Quebec voted for change in the last election…. and they got change,” Paille said shortly after learning he won the leadership.
“But they never voted to take the Quebec nation backwards. Never.”
All in all, Daniel Paille is proving to be a take charge kind of guy; a formidable opponent. The Liberals and the NDP, or rather, their future leaders, may want to take their cue from M. Paille. That kind of take charge attitude that we saw yesterday from Daniel Paille is exactly what will be needed from the new leaders. One who is not afraid of going on the offensive, especially against a thug like Stevie Spiteful and the Harpercons. One who believes in their message, no matter how unpopular it may have been for Canadians in past years, and sell it, not only because it’s good for Canada, but because in very much the same way Daniel Paille believes sovereignty is the only answer for Quebec’s future, they, themselves, really believe their ideas and programs are good for Canadians.