by Joseph Facal
Joseph Facal was a cabinet minister in the Parti Québécois governments of Lucien Bouchard and Bernard Landry between 1998 and 2003. He now teaches sociology and management at the École des Hautes Études Commerciales in Montreal and writes a column for the mass-circulation tabloid Le Journal de Montréal and a blog on Le Journal’s website. We present excerpts from his blog, containing some of his more trenchant observations on Quebec’s recent election campaign. These articles were translated by Bob Chodos.
Change, but what change?
August 27 (election day –8)
If the most recent Léger Marketing poll is accurate, the Liberal Party could suffer its worst defeat since 1867. Completely abandoned by francophones, the Liberals survive only thanks to massive support from anglophones and allophones.
All you have to do is say the word “referendum,” and anglophones and allophones line up in unison behind a party that has a very thin record in office and a complicated relationship with ethical standards.
In the advanced Western democracies, I know of no other case where a party is cut off from the majority group but can hope to gain power solely on the basis of massive support from ethnocultural minorities. Of course, they have every right to do this.
This rout of the Liberals in the francophone community can be explained by the desire for change. The Liberals can’t offer a single positive reason to vote for them, so all they can do is paint the PQ and the CAQ as parties that will bring troubled waters.
However, the PQ and CAQ are presenting two radically opposed conceptions of change.
Putting the difference in its simplest form, the PQ is proposing changes on identity questions and in relations between Quebec and Canada. On economic and social questions, it supports what has been the underlying philosophy of the Quebec Model since the Quiet Revolution, as if Quebec had barely changed.
Still in schematic form, the CAQ sees things in reverse. It supports the status quo in Quebec-Canada relations, but it seeks profound change in the economic and social orientations that have been predominant in Quebec for many years.
Simple, isn’t it? Actually, it’s too simple. When you look more deeply, each of the two opposition parties has a huge Achilles heel.
In today’s circumstances, a sovereigntist might well think that a referendum in the short term is not realistic. But in saying that he would vote No if there were a referendum, François Legault crosses the line between strategic retreat and outright renunciation. I never thought he would go that far.
He tells Pauline Marois that a third referendum defeat would be a catastrophe for Quebec, which is true. So why in creation would he contribute to this catastrophe by voting No if he really has the future of Quebec at heart?
He replies that if he were leader of the opposition, he would completely refuse to join either of the referendum sides. How does he reconcile this mind-boggling abdication of his responsibilities with the alleged courage that he is supposed to embody?
As for Madame Marois,