Earthquake in Quebec

Mario Dumont is the big story in Quebec tonight. The right-of-centre populist leader of the ADQ came from five seats to 41. Dumont himself had predicted 12-15 seats. He now finds himself as the rudder of a censured Liberal minority government.

Indeed, because of the very fresh breakthrough of the ADQ, it was unknown how the seats would be distributed and at certain points of the night, it appeared as though the party might even form government.

Now Dumont has a solid opposition against Charest’s Liberal minority. Since Charest and the bloodied Boisclair will likely face leadership contests during this next sitting of the Quebec Parliament, Dumont will have a chance to show Quebec that his party can be a responsible political broker, much like Stephen Harper is showing Canada with respect to his own right-of-centre party.

Dumont will have a bigger microphone (and conversely, a brighter spotlight) as he stands on the platform of opposition leader. The time that Dumont spends during this sitting of the Quebec Parliament will give his party an opportunity to mature (in shadow cabinet rather than in the actual one).

On the sovereigntist Parti Quebecois, this election represents a disastrous result as the party hasn’t been so battered since 1970. We may not even see another referendum on sovereignty for another decade or more.

Again, this represents good news for Quebec as the governance of that province can focus upon real issues for Quebeckers (finance, healthcare and education) and we may see a reconfiguration of the Quebec political scene on a left-right axis rather than the now classic federalist/sovereignist one. Dumont signaled that the province has turned the page politically and has “entered the 21st century”.

Even the PQ’s Boiclair noted that Quebec needs to develop in Canada and in the world. This represents an interesting insight into the evolving political scene in Quebec.

I think that it may be too soon to declare that Dumont’s success represents a new wave of conservatism in Quebec as some of Dumont’s electoral fortune was likely a result of a protest vote against the other two parties embroiled in the old Canada/Quebec debate. However, Dumont did run on family issues (such as a childcare benefit, similarly styled after the Harper plan), the economy, taxes and integration of immigrants. Notably, the only significant region that Dumont couldn’t confidently crack was the island of Montreal. The regions and the middle class delivered for Dumont (again, this sounds like Harper). The election of the ADQ to opposition status may not represent a tidal wave of conservatism, but there’s certainly a strong undercurrent.

Dumont and Harper’s electoral fortunes may be closely linked as the autonomist is now on the radar of the decentralizing federalist. Political observers will remember the so-called “Harper fluke” of 10 seats that the Prime Minister won in Quebec during the past federal election. However, Harper came in second place in more than 40 other Quebec ridings and these regions overlap with many of the 41 ridings won by Dumont.

The Prime Minister had two solid allies in the Quebec election and they both did well. Stephen Harper will be able to tell Quebec-nervous Ontarians that the Parti Quebecois fell to third place under his Prime Ministership.

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