Stars appear to be aligning for snap Quebec election

The failure of Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois to win a majority in 2012 put to rest the notion that the return of a sovereigntist government in Quebec would kick-start a new round of referendum hostilities.

The failure of Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois to win a majority in 2012 put to rest the notion that the return of a sovereigntist government in Quebec would kick-start a new round of referendum hostilities.

Polls suggest that could soon change.

This week, both CROP and Léger Marketing gave the PQ enough of a leading edge in voting intentions to put a majority within Marois’ reach.

With the wind of public opinion at her back in francophone Quebec, the premier is unlikely to let the opportunity to solidify her hold on power slip away.

Rather than wait to see if the opposition will have the fortitude to bring down the government over the spring budget, Marois might well take matters in her own hands and call a snap election.

The PQ’s secularism charter has gone a long way to shift the electoral momentum to the government.

Predictably the plan is popular with the francophone electorate that determines the outcome of Quebec elections.

But it is the performance of Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard that ultimately stands to make a quick election call irresistible.

Nine months into the job, Jean Charest’s successor has turned out to be less than ready for prime time.

Despite the glaring absence of empirical evidence to support the government’s proposed charter and despite the refusal of major elements of Quebec civil society to support it, Couillard has failed to make a scratch in the veneer of the PQ’s narrative.

It has not helped that he has been consistent only in flip-flopping.

Almost six months into the debate, his party was still scrambling this week to agree on a position that it could sustain for more than a few news cycles.

It is hardly the first time that the Quebec Liberals have struggled with an identity-related issue.

In the face of the passionate nationalist appeals of the Yes camp in the 1995 referendum, they offered what can only be described as a wet-noodle defence of federalism.

Two decades later, the charter debate has once again brought more ambivalence than conviction about the case they purport to make.

In their more successful past incarnations, they compensated for that on other fronts.

But it has been decades since a Quebec federalist leader has had constitutional progress to show for his dealings with the rest of Canada and every promising beginning has ended in failure.

Any commitment on the part of Couillard to reform federalism along the lines of Quebec’s so-called traditional demands cannot but fail the test of reality.

And then in contrast with Marois and CAQ Leader François Legault, Couillard has never held an economic portfolio.

Based on his uncertain performance to date he will have to work hard to hold his own against his rivals on the economy in the election debates.

The travails of a provincial opposition leader are usually of little consequence for the country as a whole, except when the travails are those of the leading federalist on the Quebec scene.

No one should doubt that a majority PQ government would focus its considerable resources on recreating the conditions for a winning referendum on sovereignty.

And while polls suggest that could be a challenge, anyone who has followed the secularism charter debate would be foolish to dismiss the possibility out of hand.

If it has shown anything it is:

a) that there is still quite a bit of political mileage to be had by stoking the collective cultural insecurity of francophone Quebecers;

b) that Marois’ government will stop at little within its powers to advance a goal that it has set its eye on.

No election outcome is preordained.

The PQ could still stumble on the way to a majority victory later this year.

But the odds that the Quebec/Canada issue will make a return on the national radar in time for the 2015 federal campaign are substantially higher now than even six months ago.

Chantal Hébert is a syndicated Toronto Star national affairs writer.

Just Posted

Alberta has made a more detailed framework for those looking to acquire an exemption to the mandatory indoor mask bylaw. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
Alberta changes requirements for mask exemptions

Masks wearing has been recommended for almost a year and provincially mandated… Continue reading

Alberta’a chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Thursday that there are more than 328,000 vaccine appointments booked over the next seven days. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta surpasses 2 million doses administered of COVID-19 vaccine

Red Deer down to 835 active cases of COVID-19

RCMP file photo (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)
RCMP investigating shooting near Maskwacis

Maskwacis and Wetaskiwin RCMP are seeking public assistance after a shooting has… Continue reading

Rode
Smith among impressive group of RDC soccer Queens recruits

There have been a number of cases where younger girls have developed… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools is projecting a $4-million budget deficit for 2021-22 school year. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Red Deer Public Schools prepares $124-million budget

$1 million COVID recovery plan to assist students

Bo’s Bar and Grill owner Brennen Wowk said the hospitality industry is looking for more clarity from the province around what conditions must be met to allow for restaurants reopening. (Advocate file photo)
Frustated restaurant owners want to know government’s reopening plan

Restaurant owners feel they are in lockdown limbo

Vancouver Canucks' Nils Hoglander, right, is checked by Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom during third-period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Thursday, May 13, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Lindholm, Tkachuk lead Calgary Flames in 4-1 win over Vancouver Canucks

Lindholm, Tkachuk lead Calgary Flames in 4-1 win over Vancouver Canucks

Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine, right, drives to the basket against Toronto Raptors center Khem Birch, left, and guard Jalen Harris during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
LaVine, Markkanen lead Bulls past Raptors, 114-102

LaVine, Markkanen lead Bulls past Raptors, 114-102

NFL schedules get off to strong starts with Week 1 twinbills

NFL schedules get off to strong starts with Week 1 twinbills

The Saddledome, home of the Calgary Flames, is shown in Calgary, Thursday, March 12, 2020. The final three games of Canada's Secret Cup women's hockey tournament will be played in Calgary's NHL arena.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Secret Cup women’s tournament final games to be held in Calgary’s Saddledome

Secret Cup women’s tournament final games to be held in Calgary’s Saddledome

FILE - In this Thursday, July 18, 2019 file photo, Ron Francis talks to reporters in Seattle after he was introduced as the first general manager for Seattle's yet-to-be-named NHL hockey expansion team. Four years since George McPhee was a “puppet master” of the NHL leading up to the Vegas expansion draft, general managers approached this trade deadline with Seattle’s upcoming addition to the league in mind. While Kraken GM Ron Francis prepares – and maybe made a handshake deal or two already like McPhee did – Seattle was on his colleagues’ minds.(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Kraken still plan to hire coach before expansion draft

Kraken still plan to hire coach before expansion draft

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney attends a news conference in Calgary on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Simmering internal discontent in his United Conservative caucus has boiled over into an open challenge to his leadership. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Two Alberta UCP members kicked out of caucus after challenging Kenney’s leadership

Two Alberta UCP members kicked out of caucus after challenging Kenney’s leadership

Toronto Blue Jays' Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (13) celebrates in the outfield at the end of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves Thursday, May 13, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Bichette, Blue Jays rally again to beat Braves 8-4

Bichette, Blue Jays rally again to beat Braves 8-4

FILE - Jordan Spieth waits his turn to putt during the third round of the Valero Texas Open golf tournament in San Antonio, in this Saturday, April 3, 2021, file photo. Spieth will try to complete the career Grand Slam next week at the PGA Championship. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas, File)
Momentum for McIlroy, few others going into PGA Championship

Momentum for McIlroy, few others going into PGA Championship

Most Read