Quebec’s latest electoral campaign has confirmed what recent elections in many provinces, including British Columbia, have recently suggested: campaigns are more crucial than ever.
Recall that Liberal Christy Clark’s victory last year was a product of her campaign. This time around it was the Quebec electorate’s turn to have front seats for an electoral match rife with unexpected turns. So much so that what was supposed to be a smart electoral calculation on the part of Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois, head of a minority government and with the lead in polls, has ended up causing her several costly setbacks.
Since I wrote this column when the Quebec electorate was but a few days away from making its final decision, I took the liberty of projecting myself into the future and predicting that on Monday April 7, Quebecers will have chosen Philippe Couillard’s Liberal Party.
The stars seemed to be favouring Marois’ government as the campaign buses first took to the roads. But a checkered campaign for both Marois and Couillard, gave our Quebecfriends the opportunity to choose perhaps the best of the worst.
In the end it seems to me that two main issues determined the outcome of this election: the Values Charter and a referendum on potential Quebec sovereignty. What transpired from this campaign is that Quebecers’ apprehension about a referendum held by a PQ government has weighed more heavily in the balance than their support for a Values Charter.
For Pauline Marois, the Liberal success in convincing many Quebecers that the Pequistes would conduct a referendum became a ball and chain she just could not get rid of. As for Philippe Couillard himself, he had his own ball and chain to drag along: his ties to Jean Charest’s government, the one defeated by Pauline Marois and the PQ in the last election. The PQ’s heavy hitters didn’t miss a chance to call him on that one during the electoral campaign.
But notwithstanding the final result, I found something very unusual during this past electoral campaign: the almost total indifference shown by media and people alike in British Columbia. There was a time not long ago when a Quebec election drew a lot of attention even on this side of the Rockies. That is no longer the case, save for a few political aficionados.
It may be in part explained by a generalized desensitization to all things political. But the main reason is quite simple: people here couldn’t care less about the eternal return of the referendum’s ghost every time the people of Quebec are called to the ballot box. It’s too bad, as it does nothing to foster a very necessary national dialogue, even though our province is now increasingly turning its economic hopes towards Asia.
Meanwhile, despite the indifference shown towards the election, the Liberals’ checkered victory – at least the victory I predict ahead of decision day – will trigger in many British Columbians a sigh of relief.