Monday, March 26, 2007

Canada Wins?

A fragile Liberal minority, with the Premier losing his seat. The separatists relegated to third and the Quebec dynamic under seismic change. At first blush, not necessarily a bad scenario for the Canadian federation.

Generally, when the reigning Liberal party loses the confidence of the people, we engage in another round of divisive debate as the PQ takes the helm. In a way the federation has dodged a bullet in this instance. Charest has failed, Quebecers have rejected the Liberals, despite the seat totals. The pandering and political manipulation has backfired, but the beneficiary isn't the separatist cause. Instead, the ADQ is the official opposition, the Liberals will have a new leader and the cycle is broken. There is no "knife at our throat", instead we now have a PQ in philosophical disarray.

I'm not a Quebecer, so my opinion isn't informed, but I take these results to mean a few things. Quebecers, despite their disdain for Charest, don't want a referendum, and are tired of the old debates. The ADQ vote is protest in nature, and reflects a desire for change. Conservatism has found a strong voice in Quebec politics, which may actually benefit Harper after all.

What does this mean for Canada? Conventional wisdom assumed a Charest majority was the best outcome, but I would suggest tonight's results are better in the long term. The Liberals can re-tool while still in power, a unique circumstance. Dumont is an unknown, but has no appetite for referendums and division. Hardline sovereigntists have never been weaker in terms of political power. The Bloc is weakened by extension, and will now have to argue relevance.

The downside, these results may help Harper. Dumont has spoken highly of Harper in the past, and the ADQ approach is analogous to the federal Conservatives. Harper did everything in his power to help Charest, but ultimately tonight's results might still present a favorable climate in the next election. I have no idea where this leaves the Liberals, a lot will depend on Dion's election performance and how he reacts to the new landscape.

All in all, I can think of worse scenarios.


Lept said...

"Dumont is an unknown, but has no appetite for referendums and division."
But it's fine that he has played the racist, LePeniste, demagogic card as long as he doesn't disturb the comfortable Liberal reality?

ottlib said...

I am not so certain.

Mario Dumont supported the Yes side in the last referendum. He chided Mr. Charest during this election for not getting enough out of Ottawa in terms of money and power. He believes in autonomy for Quebec, which for him means Quebec becomes a country in every way but name but it still receives all of the goodies it is currently receiving from Ottawa.

I do not like the PQ but I will say this for them. They were generally open and honest about their goals, if not in their methods of achieving them. Mr. Dumont is not.

As for the federal scene no party can take any solace in tonight's results. The vote is virtually split three ways. No federal party can say they have a clear advantage.

As well, this result is just going to confuse Canadians. With the drubbing the PLQ took tonight, including the defeat of Jean Charest, the Conservatives are going to have a hard time spinning this as a great victory for Mr. Harper's political strategy.

As well, it should be noted that 70% of Quebecers voted for progressive parties tonight and it is an open question as to how many ADQ votes were votes for them or votes against the old parties so I do not think Conservatives should be thinking that this is really the beginning of a Conservative wave.

Indeed, if the question in Quebec during the next federal election hinges on the different social, crime, environmental, and fiscal policies of the Conservatives and the Liberals as opposed to sovereignty or fiscal imbalance then I would say the Liberals would have the advantage.

Anonymous said...

Dumont gives me the creeps. This government won't last and during this time Duceppe will become PQ leader and then watch out!

Don't Quebecers know what they want?

What a mess. How much is this going to keep costing us?

Dana said...

Charest didn't lose his seat. Or at any rate not yet but CTV has called it for him with only about 15 precincts left to count.

Craig Oliver typically is calling this great news for Harper and assuring everyone that this means a spring federal election. Last week he was saying a Liberal win would be great news and would yada yada. The week before he was saying a PQ win would be great for Harper and would mean yada, whatever.

Mark Dowling said...

I'm not so sure the Adequistes will be able to hold it together. They only had 5 seats last time so they don't have much parliamentary experience and party discipline may be a problem for them, as it was for the List Fortuyn in Holland before they imploded after his murder.

daniel said...

As well, it should be noted that 70% of Quebecers voted for progressive parties tonight

I'm sorry, but the PQ, Greens and QS only garnered about 40% of the vote between them.

60% of Quebecers voted for either a center-right or a far-right party; hardly a victory for "progressives". Calling the Liberal Party of Quebec "progressive" is laughable at best, considering the innumerable ties it has with the federal Conservatives.

This result is probably the best Harper could have hoped for; he still has Charest as premier, but as a bonus, he has a very conservative leader of the opposition to top it off.

Steve V said...

I stand corrected on Charest.

ottlib said...


The PLQ is lead by a former Red Tory and it has some elements of it that would be considered right-of-centre but in general it is a progressive party.

To use the analogy of the federal scene the ADQ is the CPC, the PQ is the NDP and the PLQ is the Federal Liberals.

As for the PLQ's ties with the CPC I would point out that it had those very same ties with the Federal Liberals when they were in power. They moved when the Liberals lost power and they will move back when the Liberals regain power. The PLQ will establish ties with whatever party is in power in Ottawa and not care about ideology.