I waited to post on this subject because I was waiting to see ol’ Johnny Charest would resign or not. I confess that while the media was claiming to have “sources” from the inside saying he would go and others still who said he was gone, I wasn’t entirely sure he was going to resign. I will outline my own reasons shortly.
I won’t talk about the shooting because I touched upon that in an earlier post and I really have nothing to add to that, at least, until we hear more.
I was reading some of the blogs and columns out there, and yes, amongst some of my facebook friends. I can’t help but choke my coffee over some of them. The fear mongering of the new Anglo exodus is going to happen! Or from the likes of L. Ian MacDonald, implying that La Marois and the PQ’s win is catastrophic. Wow! The power of misinformation is really strong! As usual, pertinent facts tend to get in the way of a dramatic narrative. I will not link to L.Ian’s post, it’s enough that every time I see him on the boob tube or read his swill, I always feel like my IQ has dropped about 10 points.
Now for some perspective. In the first place, boys ‘n’ girls, let’s take another look at that seat count, shall we? PQ 54 PLQ 50 CAQ 19 and QS 2. Yes, boys ‘n’ girls, La Marois and the PQ’s minority is a thread bare one at best — by 4 lousy seats! Well, actually, by 3 seats given that a new speaker would have to be selected and as we all know, the speaker never votes unless it is to break a tie. Hardly enough for her to do any “damage”; certainly not “armageddon” as many like to point out. Even with the 2 seats from Quebec Solidaire, it would hardly make a dent considering that the Liberals and CAQ, who are really ideologically similar to each other, have about 70 seats combined — more than a healthy majority. La Marois and her party will be lucky to live past the opening day of the National Assembly. But if that is enough for you to move outta here, then please, by all means do so!
I would also like to add that voter turn out was actually pretty good for the first day after Labour Day — about 74% turn out. Yet none of the leaders and their party got overwhelming support. The voters didn’t like anyone and that generally is a recipe for low turn-out. I think all wanted change on some level, but didn’t know whether to take a chance with CAQ or to simply give it to La Marois and the PQ simply because, they’re known. Also, strategic voting to keep lesser evil out played a large role here. The thing is that to all, it was quite clear that who is lesser evil differs from one person to the next. This new distribution of seats in the National Assembly is quite apparent of that.
Now, boys ‘n’ girls, let’s examine the leaders and their parties and what led them to where they are today. On with the festivities!
Jean Charest and the Liberals
As I’ve mentioned above, I was rather skeptical about his leaving for a variety of reasons. Had the Liberals taken a blood bath, I would’ve believed that Charest’s resignation would’ve been inevitable. But 50 seats? Just 4 shy of the PQ thready minority? I wasn’t so sure about that. Here’s why. First of all, by the seat count, it would make for a formidable opposition, especially if they saddle up with CAQ.
Apparently, his caucus wanted him to stay. There is really no reason to believe otherwise. Unlike La Marois who has knives wielded at her direction at any given time by her own party, Johnny never did face this problem. There is no one really in the wings who was itching for Johnny’s job and at the moment, there is no one really viable. There are rumours that federal Liberal MP for Bourassa, Denis Coderre may be interested, but then, there are just as many, if not more rumours, that Coderre is interested in running in the next municipal election to be mayor of Montreal. Given the toxic stew that is potentially the dirt that could and/or would come out in the Charbonneau Inquiry on construction scandals, funny accounting games and some fancy questionable party financing, I would hazard a guess that Coderre may be more interested in running for mayor of Montreal, or even remain with the federal Liberal caucus. There also had been some talk by the punditry awhile back that outgoing justice minister, Jean-Marc Fournier may be a candidate. I think it is likely that he will be the interim leader of the Quebec Liberal Party until a permanent one is found. The last outgoing deputy premier, Michelle Courchesne, did not run for re election. More may start crawling out of the woodwork, and maybe a few surprise candidates, but that is another subject for another post somewhere down the road.
With caucus approval, Johnny could’ve played let’s make a deal with one of the surviving incumbents from his caucus and ran in a by-election in a Liberal safe seat, say, perhaps in the west end of Montreal. Lawrence Bergman in D’arcy McGee is in his 70s, and has held the riding for close to 20 years, may well be amenable to retirement. Sure Bergman is loved there, but I’ve always said that you can run a chimpanzee in D’arcy McGee and it would still win if it had an “L” emblazoned on it. The same could be said for a few other west end Montreal ridings. IF the callers on CJAD are any indication, Johnny, for some gawd forsaken reason, is their hero of sorts.
Another thing, if one remembers their civics lessons, in a minority situation in a parliamentary system, the incumbent gets first crack at forming a government. Granted that it would be easier had Johnny won his seat, but with a little sweet talk and a deal of sorts, CAQ may have been amenable to this. As a matter of fact, particularly after last night’s final results came in, I was of the belief that La Marois and the PQ woudn’t have gotten a chance to form government, or at the very least, not have the confidence of the National Assembly, in which case, the end result would be pretty much the same. Liberals and CAQ would form a coalition or some cooperation agreement of sorts and go to the lieutenant governor with that and it would likely have passed given that they have a combined seat count of about 70, without going to another election. Now without Johnny, that possibility is much slimmer, at least until a new permanent leader is selected, now. I still don’t rule out that possibility.
As for Johnny’s loss of his own seat in Sherbrooke, well, I believe it’s a tad more complicated than simply a sign that the people are telling the Liberals to get a new leader; time for change. Yes, premiers generally have a short shelf life in La Belle Province and that is only a small part of it. But, I contend there is more to this. Johnny managed to somehow hold on to Sherbrooke for 20 years, first, federally as a PC MP under Mulroney and then provincially since 1998. For Johnny, this is actually quite a feat. He is not the most popular guy in Sherbrooke by any stretch of the imagination. Many times he won his seat by the skin of his teeth and had even come close to losing it. It was a matter of time before the voters of Sherbrooke kicked him to the curb, permanently. Also, Johnny had about 2 things going against him where it concerned his tenuous hold in Sherbrooke. 1) Sherbrooke has a very large student and academic population. Arguably the largest student/Academic demographic in all of Quebec. So yeah, a lot of angry folks in Sherbrooke. 2) The PQ ran a homegrown star candidate, Serge Cardin, against Johnny. For those who need a refresher, after Johnny left federal politics to join the Liberals in 1998, the riding reverted to the Bloc Quebecois and Cardin had been the MP for the riding for all that time until he fell to the NDP sweep. I contend that those both of those factors were the biggest contributors to Johnny’s loss of his own seat.
I suspect with this strong of an official opposition party, Anglos and other staunch federalists were not ready to give any strong mandate to Franky Legault and CAQ at this time. Also, La Marois, by any stretch of the imagination, is probably the least popular Parti-Quebecois leader in history, so no one was willing to let her loose with a majority.
Also, I believe that the resumption of the Charbonneau Inquiry was on a lot of voters’ minds, thus, not willing to allow the Liberals to continue governing at this time. It is no secret that Johnny was anxious to call an election before Charbonneau resumed September 17, when there is likely a lot of Liberal dirt to come to the forefront. For me, his resignation confirms that he knows he doesn’t have clean hands and that potentially, the shit would fly in his general direction.
The student protests would’ve been his perfect storm as it was a marvelous distraction to keep the attention away from Charbonneau and the scandals. The truth is that he could’ve really made more effort to negotiate with the students in good faith. Johnny had one more year in his mandate. He could’ve allowed a freeze for another year and let that potential election in 2013 to decide that. And if he were really serious about post-secondary education, a few things regarding accounting games by these universities need to seriously and thoroughly be examined before simply hiking tuitions when it is known that it would be a bail out and nothing to do with improving education and services. However, by that time, the shit would’ve likely hit the Liberal fan by then and he would’ve left in disgrace. At least this time he had an easy out.
Plus, we can’t forget that odeous, badly and hastily written Bill 78, which basically limited protests of any kind. Many people I have spoken to who were against the student protests, were also equally horrified about Bill 78, as they should be. This bill limited protests of any kind, pretty much criminalizing them. They saw that while written in reaction to the student crisis, they also knew that it affected everyone.
Johnny ran on stable government or street rule? However, that fell flat as the student protests died down in July. Later, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois of CLASSE resigned and another student leader who was considered more moderate, Leo Bureau-Blouin was running for office in an uphill battle in suburban Laval-des-Rapides. The students were basically concentrating their efforts on getting the young to get out and vote more than anything else. Dan Delmar, who was running the election desk for CJAD, was dead on when he said that if Johnny were truly serious on running on the student crisis, he should’ve called that election last May or June when the crisis was climaxing. Basically Delmar said that Johnny’s ballot question would’ve been something as simple as ok students, let an election decide this matter. If I win, you go home. If I lose, I go home. But alas, he didn’t do that.
Also, I wonder if he picked September 4 because it would’ve distracted the media away from Tony Tomassi’s preliminary hearing on his fraud charges which was also held that day. Although, as I’ve mentioned, the opening of a preliminary hearing is pretty dry material. To this day, Johnny has never really come out to denounce what Tomassi had done.
Either way, Johnny pretty well outlived a typical Quebec premier’s shelf life. Bye-Bye Johnny! Good riddance!
Francois Legault and Coalition Pour L’Avenir du Quebec
Here the polls were really off regarding this party. They had touted them potentially for official opposition, sending the Liberals to third place. Many had predicted seats in the high 20s, perhaps even surpassing 30 seats. Many of his star candidates like Dr. Gaetan Barrette who ran in Terrebonne and Maud Cohen who ran against an incumbent cabinet minister and Bureau-Blouin for the PQ in Laval-des-Rapides, lost.
About half the seats the CAQ obtained were really those of ADQ survivors who held on and were swallowed up by CAQ. They only had a net gain of 10 seats. They were really slated to win more. So what happened? I suspect much of it is the same problem Mario Dumont and the ADQ faced — ambiguity regarding the federalist v sovereigntist question. However, unlike the ADQ, CAQ did run on a platform of no referendum talk for about 10 years. It was a little less ambiguous, but not much.
Also, while Quebec gave the ADQ a chance as official opposition to a Charest Liberal minority in 2007, they pretty much blew it as it was apparent that Dumont ran that opposition like a petulant child rather than a Premier in waiting. His team was, to say the least, ill equipped for this. In fighting would begin to ensue. They never quite recovered in 2008 and weren’t likely to ever recover, hence the take over of this party by CAQ. Perhaps they remembered that experience and were thinking twice before giving this party as much power for now.
Another way to look at this is up until about the middle of the campaign, the CAQ’s numbers had significantly declined after the take over of the ADQ. For awhile, they never recovered as their numbers plateaued. Simply put, there is a disadvantage to peaking too soon as Franky Legault had. So perhaps, these 19 seats are really not a bad win for the fledgeling party.
I think this means that the voters may be flirting with them but don’t entirely trust them as of yet. Particularly Anglos and other federalists. Basically, let’s see what you do in this minority National Assembly and then next election, we’ll see.
Franky was still schmoozing the Anglos in his speach last night. I suspect he will continue to pander to them given that another short election date is likely.
With all his protests of the Liberals being too corrupt, I think that was more for show than anything else. Last night, when asked, he really didn’t protest it with a whole lotta conviction. Especially given that Legault, as a PQ MP, didn’t even attempt to get his party to tackle this decades’ old systemic problem of construction scandals among other things.
Pauline Marois and the Parti-Quebecois
The so-called “winner”. In reality, she and her party are virtually in a tie with the Liberals. As mentioned, her party only won by a thread bare minority.
Up until election night, she and her party’s numbers held steady at about 33%, give or take a percentage point or two either way. That, in and of itself is telling. There are two ways of looking at this. First of all, it reminds us of how unpopular La Marois, herself, really is. Despite the Charest Liberals mis steps and the scandals, she couldn’t capitalize on that. For that matter, neither could have Franky Legault and CAQ. Folks were tired after 9 years of Liberals and wanted change, yet neither she nor Franky Legault were able to capitalize on this. The flip side of this being that her numbers could’ve dipped significantly after her flip flopping on certain things, though, it must be said that Johnny and Franky had to do some back pedalling of their own during this campaign. La Marois is a very unpopular leader and I suspect that many Quebecers wish she would go away. Yet, as unpopular as she is, neither Franky, nor Johnny could’ve taken advantage of this or all of her back tracking over incendiary things she said during the campaign.
Due to her low seat count, even with Quebec Solidaire’s 2 seats, the still cannot form any agreement nor would they have the votes in the National Assembly than CAQ and the Liberals do combined. Assuming she makes it to at least her first PQ budget which would come in late winter or spring, La Marois will find that the opposition parties would be less stressful than the knives coming back out, wielding in her direction from her own party.
Like Johnny, La Marois, too, is a survivor. She won her leadership review last April, something not too many expected her to do. The Bill 204 fiasco which saw at least 5 of her MNAs leave her party and a few of those who remained, were causing her head-aches to say the least. Later, following the Bloc Quebecois loss, Gilles Duceppe was being touted as La Marois’s successor. He is still popular and if he were leading the PQ (assuming that scandal over questinable party spending didn’t come out of the woodwork), I suspect we’d be looking at a different composition of the New Quebec government. Back when CAQ was still riding high in the numbers, polls, if they’re to be believed, also said that if Duceppe were leading the PQ, he would’ve taken them to a majority. For a short time, he looked like he was interested in taking a crack at the leadership, that is, until hints of questionable party financing came out. I always found that the timing of that mess was, to say the least, quite impeccable, really. Some friends and I suspected that it was La Marois who would’ve somehow caught wind and leaked it herself in a desperate play to keep her leadership. Yes, there was nothing she would’ve done to allow anyone to spoil her chances of her ultimate dream of becoming the first elected woman premier in La Belle Province. She may well regret her troubles later down the road.
As an ok cabinet minister at best, I wonder how many were really expecting her to be a great premier? Probably not too many. I don’t . However, she does have one thing that is appealing — she will give Harper head-aches on a regular basis. Harper has been getting a free ride, thanks a divided and rather weak opposition. Therefore, if premiers are the ones who must provide the oppposition, La Marois would be best for that — Johnny and Franky are now and would remain Stevie Spiteful’s best friends.
While Johnny’s own leadership is over, I am thinking that La Marois’s days are numbered as well. If she is lucky enough to make it past throne speech, she won’t get much of anything done. Sadly, she will have to swing right in order to survive. Not that this is so far fetched for her. Let’s remember, as an MP and cabinet minister under Lucien Bouchard and then, Bernard Landry; the two who really turned the party to the right. Hence, the raison d’etre of the existance of Quebec Solidaire — a party that came to be because many folks saw that the PQ lost its’ way. It was once considered a party of the working class and that is no longer the case, really. She will have to really bend backwards to CAQ and the Liberals and it still may not be enough. For the time being, she may be able to get temporary support from the Liberals as they are leaderless and not eager to return to an election so soon. If she must bend too far for CAQ and the Liberals, that will get those knife wielders in her own party out in full force. Like I said, her biggest opposition will be likely members of her own party. This could also cause another exodus in the PQ, thus not only reducing their minority but potentially not having any mandate to govern. There are signficant risks and like I said, I don’t see this lasting. Then again, maybe the search is already on to challenge La Marois’ s leadership.
Francoise David, Amir Khadir and Quebec Solidaire
Nothing really out of the ordinary here. Amir Khadir retained his seat in Mercier and contrary to hopes and projections of many, they did not get the 4-6 seats many predicted, but they did get their second seat with co-leader Francoise David in Gouin. I think her strong performance in the televised all leaders’ debate pretty well cinched her win. It was close, but for awhile now, the incumbent, PQ MNA and candidate, Nicolas Girard, was indeed at risk of losing his seat to Mme David. But, as mentioned, the debate cinched it for her. I’m glad she will be in the National Assembly, in fact, for me, her win is one of the very few high points in this election.
However, perhaps the next election could bring additional seats.
Laurier-Dorion for one. While the QS candidate came in third, the party’s vote count increased by over 11 percentage points and was nipping at the PQ’s heels. Badiona Bazin, the PQ candidate for the second time in the riding saw his vote count take a dive, by a little over 10 percentage points. Gerry Sklavounos, the Liberal incumbent, somehow kept his seat but saw his vote count drop. Another interesting riding for the QS to perhaps start setting their sites on would Ste-Marie-St-Jacques.
There never were great expectations for this party.