The Quebec election is a mish mash of separatist hopes and dreams contrasted with the social realities of making the province actually work each day.
Although Quebec voters are tired of the Jean Charest government after three terms they are smart enough to know that they can't let anything silly happen on 5 September. That's why they will reward Charest with a minority and if they want more risk they will allow Pauline Marois to form a minority government.
It will be a surprise if there is a majority government of any stripe especially for Marois' Parti Quebecois. The spoiler is Francois Legault who is the leader of the newly minted and untried Coalition Avenir Quebec party. Legault of course has Parti Quebecois experience as the ministers of education and health when they were last in power.
Apples rarely fall too far from their tree, but Francois Legault says he has lost his orientation to Quebec sovereignty and especially separation from Canada. He campaigns on a scandal free Quebec which asks Quebeckers to dump Jean Charest's Liberals for clean government. He is using the White Knight gambit in this election.
The only true federalist party in Quebec is the Liberal Party which means that voters are faced with a fourth term for Jean Charest if they clearly want that option. That may be the problem. Charest has tired out the Quebec electorate by being in power too long and now with scandals lurking waiting to surface it’s hard to trust another round with the Liberals. That's too bad for federalists because it means an opportunity for separatism ( I never use vague terms like sovereignty) to surface.
Pauline Marois has already stated that she will make life hard for the Government of Canada and particularly her nemesis, Prime Minister Stephen Harper if she becomes the next Premier of Quebec. It's easy to use Stephen Harper as a foil because his government is seen as a negative force for Quebec's separatist ambitions. That sounds very good to Quebec nationalists and those of a separatist bent but it does little to improve the day to day lives of Quebeckers.
Here is what you get with separatists in power at Quebec City. Certainly more propaganda problems with the Federal Government to make points about the alleged "special needs of Quebec". The only problems is the "needs" are rarely clearly defined and are mostly designed to lead to the ultimate goal which is to separate from the Canadian Federation.
If Pauline Marois brings her seething Parti Quebecois to power, even in a minority, inside the party lurk separatists waiting for a power opportunity . The pressures on Pauline Marois will be immense to advance the separatist cause. She will have to keep the lid on these people. If Marois waffles about separatism, and the separatists don't get their way, the Parti Quebecois will begin its usual internal fragmentation exercise as the moderates fight it out with the hard nosed separatist elements. That is usually a good thing for federalism.
Of course Parti Quebecois infighting always interferes with the real daily needs of the Quebec people. We've seen this scenario before. The moderate versus the hard nosed separatist elements of the Parti Quebecois fighting among themselves. Francois Legault is a result of this infighting. As a former harder nosed separatist, Legault surprises many of his former separatists by his current stance for the his new Coalition Avenir Quebec party. Former Parti Quebecois premier, Bernard Landry recently commented about Legault's turn around from separatism with some surprise.
So where do we stand for the election on 5 September? A minority Parti Quebecois government will work with the Coaltion Avenir Quebec members who are elected to perhaps manipulate a "nationalist" coalition into a majority government. We know that a Jean Charest minority will not work with separatists, and since no one will want another election right away separatist ambitions will be somewhat cooled for perhaps two years.
The Quebec electorate will be the final judge. They will award a minority because they want and need good solid government that will work for their needs such as the economy, education and health care. There is little interest in a separate Quebec state in North America, not now or in the future by the people of Quebec.
© Copyright, Tom Thorne 2012, All Rights Reserved.