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Kamouraska-Temiscouata–The Quebec Version of Vaughan & Why Canadians Should Pay Attention To This By-Election Race–(UPDATE)

While Canadians are keeping an eye of the three federal by-election races happening today, particularly the hotly contested riding of Vaughan, there is a Quebec provincial by-election happening today as well–Kamouraska-Temiscouata.  Like Vaughan, this by-election is also the test of  leadership.  The fate of premier Jean Charest and Parti-Quebecois leader, Pauline Marois will largely depend on the result of this by-election. However, unlike many pundits, I see this more as a test for Marois than for Charest; that this would be a bigger loss for Marois should her party not be able to capitalize on the scandal ridden Liberals who are presently riding low in the polls.

Just to give my readers outside of Quebec an idea of what the nature of this riding is, Kamouraska-Temiscouata is a Lower St-Lawrence riding not far from both the New Brunswick and Maine borders.  It is rural, 100% Francophone and somewhat right leaning and some social values are somewhat regressive.  I wouldn’t call these people hardcore sovereigntists but not by any stretch of the imagination staunch federalists neither.

Kamouraska-Temiscouata had been held by the Liberals for twenty-five years: from 1985-1997 by France Dionne and then succeeded by a young up and coming star (he was even seen by many as potential successor to Jean Charest), Claude Bechard who held the riding until last September, when he died of cancer.

However,  much like Vaughan, this riding is the Parti-Quebecois’s to lose.  Remember, Jean Charest’s Liberals are now pretty much a lame duck party and are more than likely going to lose the next general election come 2013. A crisis has been manufactured in the form of bringing up an age old corruption problem that is really a systemic problem that can’t escape any government, no matter which party.   He just survived that non-confidance vote last week brought forth by Pauline Marois.  He’s plummeting in the polls (last CROP poll done for La Presse had 15 percentage points below the Parti Quebecois).  When one thinks about this,  Charest really hasn’t anything to lose.  Pauline Marois, on the other hand, should be capitalizing on Charest’s misfortunes and his party’s lack of popularity and (near) lame duck position  and should be soaring in the polls of this uniquely Francophone riding.  This should be a lock for her.  Hell, given the right of center nature of the folks of Kamouraska-Temiscouata, the Action Democratique should be more competitive here; they did come in second to the late Claude Bechard the last two elections, but they’re trailing in the third place.

Granted, Jean Charest has set the table for this by-election. He has brought back Mr. Bechard’s, predecessor, France Dionne to run, a “star” candidate. He gave the contract to build 500 new metro cars to the Bombardier-Alstom consortium, thus bringing back 400 jobs that were lost to the La Pocatiere Bombardier plant and probably a few hundred more .

Here is the breakdown from CROP poll done  for La Presse last week : PQ candidate André Simard is at 32 per cent, virtually neck and neck with Ms. Dionne at 34 per cent support, while the Action démocratique du Québec’s, Gerald Beaulieu is at 25 per cent.

Beaulieu could surprise and jump into second place to either Dionne or Simard,  but I find it unlikely he will win.

If Marois and PQ lose this riding, the knives within and without her party will be circling closer.  This loss would further prove her failure as a leader, showing that despite the scandal ridden premier and his party and his popularity at an all time low, she still can’t win a by-election in an all-Francophone riding.  No one can blame Anglophones or immigrants this time.   A Liberal win further weakens her chances of surviving a confidence vote on April 15 by PQ delegates.

Why should Canadians be paying attention to this by-election? Well, as mentioned above, a loss in Kamouraska-Temiscouata further lessens Marois’s chances of surviving this April’s vote. Should she fail, a PQ leadership convention would have to be held, my guess would be sooner, rather than later.  A few potential successors are PQ MNAs, Pierre Curzi and the younger ex-broadcaster, Bernard Drainville, who would be more likely. However,  despite denials, there is a possibility of Gilles Duceppe stepping down from the Bloc Quebecois to throw his hat into the PQ leadership ring.  Parti Quebecois elders, Jacques Parizeau and Bernard Landry have already come out and said that Duceppe was a better candidate to lead Quebec to sovereignty and latest polls have shown that if Gilles Duceppe were leading the PQ, and an election were held today, they would decimate the Liberals with far more ease than Marois .

I agree with Chantal Hebert that If a federal election is held only after a potential Duceppe defection to the Parti-Quebecois,  odds of the Bloc Quebecois having a successor as strong as Duceppe are slim and probably couldn’t yield the results in Quebec as they had in the past.  The door is left wide open for either the Liberals, Harpercons or NDP to take more seats in the province.  Could even further facilitate majority governments.

Interesting by-election day today, though.  Much like Vaughan,  the results of the Kamouraska-Temiscouata contest could further determine the fate of certain party leaders.

Apparently, I’m not alone in connecting the dots between this by-election in Kamouraska-Temiscouata and how it could affect the next federal election. Jean Lapierre thinks so too. Watch the video .

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