Québec politics

For those of you who haven’t been following it, the provincial election campaign here continues to be ridiculous. There are five notable parties running: in order from left to right on the political spectrum, they are Québec Solidaire, the Parti Québécois, the Liberal Party of Québec, and the Action Democratique du Québec, plus the Green Party (who don’t fit quite as neatly into this spectrum). Of those, only the Liberals think Québec definitely ought to stay in Canada, but only the Parti Québécois say they’ll hold a referendum immediately. The ADQ and Solidare are in favour of increased autonomy, but don’t see immediate need for a referendum. This appeals to many voters here, who for now are parking their vote with the ADQ because they’re tired of the sovereignty debate and neither the Liberals nor the PQ has an inspiring leader. I’m leaning towards a vote for Solidare, but unfortunately they’re unlikely to win any seats. The Liberals tried to bring in wide-ranging voting reform this term, but couldn’t agree internally on what it should look like, so the smaller parties are doomed to attracting just the protest vote, alas.

Meanwhile, the ADQ has dropped two candidates in the past week — the first said the École Polytechnique Massacre memorials made too big a deal of the 1989 killings of 14 women engineering students, and the second said that the Québécois needed to increase their birthrate, or else “ethnic groups will take over”. Unfortunately, this sort of rhetoric appeals to a significant minority of voters here, who fear efforts to accommodate women and minorities have gone too far and risk undermining traditional Québec culture. As Chantal Hébert (my favourite commentator on Québec politics, and the only columnist I know of who writes in English but actually understands French Canada) points out, this is similar to the platform Harper used to win unexpected gains in Québec last year, and could easily work again.

Also worth noting is that despite weighing in at a mere 33% in the polls, a majority of Québécois expect Charest to win. I’m sure the prospect of an ADQ victory will scare some people towards the Liberals or the PQ in the coming weeks. (I mean, the ADQ proposes to improve education by eliminating school boards, and outsourcing all administration to Indian call centres!) But how many votes will that gain, and for whom? Either way, the signs currently seem to point to Québec’s first minority government in over a century. The main televised debate is tonight, though, and given how close this race has become could easily make or break a party. Hébert notes that Charest won the 20042003 election based largely on his performance in those debates.

Interesting times…