Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Muddy Waters

It's official: candidates and parties are getting worse. Leaving aside the upcoming federal elections, for the moment, I shall focus on the ever-appealing matter of the provincial ballot which is, as is well-known, due to occur on March 26th, 2007 anno domini. As of this moment, I do not know who to vote for - and I am, by a large margin, not alone.

For the past four years the PLQ has treated its office like a dictatorship rather than a democratically elected government; opposition to policy, public petition and union dissent have done nothing to alter any policy the party had its collective will set on ramming down our throats. This is not to say that those policies were altogether damaging - some were and some were not - but rather that they were implemented against the will of the electorate. Because of this betrayal of public confidence, Charest's merry band of tyrants cannot be allowed to regain their office (although the polls show that they likely will).

That, however, is the rub. The conundrum this leaves Québecois with is nothing short of the complete and total failure of democracy. There are only two options left and neither is any good:

1. André Boisclair's Parti Québecois is hell-bent as ever on tearing Québec from the comfortable, coddling arms of a Canadian Federation which refuses to acknowledge that maybe, just maybe it should say no to the whiny province now and again, no matter what the cost. The fervour they've demonstrated in this pursuit time and again has led to a fearful electorate - not because they particularly oppose sovereignty, but rather because they oppose fanaticism.

Understand that when I say fanaticism, FLQ terrorists with bomb-belts and poutine-breath (although that may not be far behind) are not what I mean; the type of fanaticism I have in mind is less violent, though it is quite unpleasant. Its chief weapon is dishonesty and it assumes that the ends justify all means. The most recent example of this is a simple change of wording in the party platform: the word referendum, too loaded with negative connotations by nearly thirty years of bitter cultural conflict, has been dropped in exchange for the less volatile "public consultation." In its simplest interpretation this is a meaningless change - it's really the same political process and, in Shakespeare's words, "What is in a name?" The ramifications, politically, could not be more immense. Quebec's soft nationalists read the news and were offended, as they have every right to be - the Parti Québecois was taking them for fools!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know; it's really just the same old story, but it illustrates the problem with the party about as well as any example I can think of: the party leadership is so single-minded in their pursuit of this ultimately disastrous goal that they will attempt to manipulate every little perceived chink in our armour and they do it badly. In short, the problem isn't that they try to manipulate us - that much is expected - but that they are so lacking in competence that they manage to alienate, in their very first attempt at such political manipulation under their doped-up leader, the very voters they need for any "political consultation" to go through.

It is slightly disturbing.

2. Mario Dumont's Action Démocratique du Québec are completely untested in political office and are so far right that any bill they propose can only be read with peripheral vision. If they were voted into minority office (which is the only office the people of Québec would ever give the ADQ), they might actually do a fair job at running the province, but their political stance makes them unappealing to most Québecois and Montrealers, myself included.

Dumont is not entirely against the idea of sovereignty, which brings him down a notch in my books (not a very big one, he's not fervent about it and has bigger fish to fry), but it is his party's lack of experience in government and his lack of experience as a leader which most scare me. Running this province is an enormous task, demanding a lot from any man and party taking the reins; goose-stepping the minefield of what to say and when alone would send politicians from anywhere else in the "democratic" world running scared - Québecois are a... Fickle bunch, to say the least, and anything that might, in the smallest way, be interpreted as a slight against their province, their language or their "culture" can immediately turn yesterday's hero into today's pariah and I do not believe that the ADQ has the experience required to maintain a successful government in that sort of environment.

And so the citizen's duty is made difficult not by turmoil with other citizens but by the very mediocrity of those who would represent him; his choice is limited to another term of "liberal" fascism, a group of incompetent separatists led by an admitted cocaine addict or an untested, rookie party with no record and no real voter appeal beyond the "not as bad as the other guys" factor.

I cannot say how this election will turn out - I will not attempt a prediction - but I have decided, while writing this collumn, how I will vote: in the hopes that mine will be one in a pile large enough to tip the scales toward a liberal minority, I will vote ADQ.

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