Friday, April 6, 2007

Nationalism's Ghost

On March 26th we were privy to one of the strangest elections in Québec history. Recent history anyway. The PQ, a party that I once referred to fondly as the "Snake of La Belle Province" in another iteration of this blog (, practically imploded. I had pegged them to finish second in the election race and they came in last with the worst numbers they've posted since before their first election victory in 1976. It was disquieting.

So I decided it would be worthwhile to give the development some thought; these are the results of my musings, in no particular order:

There was a lot of dissatisfaction over the work of the liberals over the last four years, but there was an equal amount of dissatisfaction over the PQ's reinvention of itself into a three-ring circus. The "election" of André Boisclair to the head of the Parti was a joke; they had veteran politicians, skilled and liked, in the persons of Pauline Marois and Richard Legendre and yet, a combination of hard-line seperatists and young social-activists, attracted on the one hand to the cokehead's fanatical rantings about sovereignty - the likes of which hadn't been seen since Jacques Parizeau committed political suicide - and on the other hand to the possibility of showing up the world by electing a homosexual to public office. The gamble backfired.

We live in an age where fanaticism gets people killed; from terrorism to bible-belting presidents, fanatical public figures scare us, now. To see André Boisclair standing on a podium and shouting about how slighted the people of Québec are about this, that and every other thing has grown not only tedious, but downright frightening. Between Québec's economic situation, Boisclair's negative influence on the party itself and the ADQ's few interesting ideas about policy changes - cutting the bureaucracy and the like - it is easy, in hindsight, to see that the PQ simply could not have won this election.

In the new Age of Minorities, Québecois are becoming increasingly content with the federal system - the Bloc Québecois has a much more significant say in government and it's paying off; the cushier the deal gets, the less the folk known as "soft nationalists" see sovereignty as a good idea. That's the beauty of the sponsorship scandal, and the irony. It was that scandal, a program that cost hundreds of millions of dollars and enraged seperatists and federalists alike, which sparked the real move towards minority governments (though it was a liberal minority at the time, it was still very tentative). The minority governments finally started working with Québec in a constructive fashion and results on just about every front started to show up.

Nationalist outrage killed nationalism. It is a delicious irony, but one which serves simply to highlight the volatility of the soft nationalist segment of the population; what is required for a PQ victory is a simple scandal which doesn't lead to constructive cooperation, or an economic recession or something to that effect. The voting intentions of the soft nationalists can turn on a dime and the only way to properly bury the PQ now is for this minority government to continue working well and towards progress - it must be shown that parties which aren't the PQ can provide responsible, progressive and constructive government so that the simmering unrest which fuels soft nationalist indecisiveness can cool off and finally save Québec from that political uncertainty which is so undeniably damaging to our economy that even the seperatists look at the numbers and hang their heads in shame.

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