Voting For or Against Is The Decision Facing Quebec Voters

I have already written at length about the implications of Quebec elections, the sovereignty movement and the future shape of Canada’s union. (links below)

So, as another Quebec election approaches, let’s take a look at the facts Quebec voters will need to assess when choosing a government.

Nothing you are about to read is in any way an endorsement of any party, candidate or preferred outcome. And I think I need to say, unequivocally, that I don’t blame Quebecers for wanting change. Change is often necessary and often good.

And with so many specific issues to consider, let me just touch on the overriding themes that have developed.


The Liberals

  • As the only true federalist party in Quebec, they have historically enjoyed the support of Quebec’s english speaking minority.
  • On the job since 2003, this center-right party, led by Jean Charest is suffering from voter fatigue, multiple scandals and various charges of corruption.

I wish there was something unusual about this, but the sad fact is that nearly every government that has been in power this long, has experienced similar, troubling breakdowns in ethics and governance.

See: The Federal Progressive Conservatives under Brian Mulroney, The Federal Liberals under Jean Chretien and Paul Martin, the Federal Conservatives under Stephen Harper. In these first two cases, the incumbent parties were voted against by voters wanting to punish them. (When using this strategy, it is important to point out that occasionally, voters end up punishing themselves)

In the case of the federal Liberal Party, after years in power and some very serious scandals, voters ultimately decided that a change was necessary.

For those voters, the only real choice at the time was the Conservative Party under Stephen Harper. And, as Canadians now know, this is not your father’s Progressive Conservative Party. Far from it.

Surprisingly, the same can also be said for the Parti Québécois: this is not your father’s PQ.


The Parti Québécois

  • With plenty of history in Quebec the PQ has experience forming a government.
  • They often have an unhelpful polarizing effect in the rest of Canada.
  • What was once a center-left party who’s raison-d’être is to secede from Canada, the PQ has lurched quickly to the right with some rather head-scratching policy ideas.

Do agree with the PQ’s stance on banning religious symbols other than a crucifix, limits on running for office based on language, or banning students from attending english language post-secondary schools? Do you agree that new immigrants should be chosen primarily by their ability to speak french? Would you like to reopen the sovereignty conversation?

If so, it appears the PQ may be your choice.

If not, then you are left with the Coalition Avenir Québec, or with Québec solidaire.


The Coalition Avenir Québec

  • Founded by François Legault and private equity guru Charles Sirois the CAQ is a very new party with no record of governance to assess.
  • Despite Sirois’ business expertise, they offer nearly three times more budgetary spending than any of the other parties.
  • It is led by Legault, a former PQ Cabinet Minster who, after explaining he is not a federalist, not a separatist, but a nationalist – has just announced he’s Canadian. He has committed to no referendums on sovereignty for ten years.

Read that paragraph again and please offer me an explanation on how to reconcile all five of those points. I can’t seem to do it.

It is hard to offer any honest assessment without being able to understand all of the above.


Québec solidaire

  • Québec solidaire describes themselves as “social democratic and sovereigntist”, meaning they wish to secede from Canada and provide Quebec with some admirable social programs.

If you wish to secede from Canada and want a younger, idealistic version of the PQ, they are worth a look.

However, with only one member ever elected, this coalition is unlikely to form a government at this time.


Final thoughts and suggestions

I will admit, I don’t envy Quebec voters, who must try to prioritize the various issues – some as noted above. But I can offer this:

It is far more productive to vote for something than to vote against it. I loathe “one issue voting”, so try to pick two things to vote for. Or, at the very least, vote for one thing and against another.

Vote for whom you think best suits your personal priorities, but also consider the priorities of your family, your community, your province and if you are a federalist, perhaps even your country.

Federally, Stephen Harper first came to power because enough Canadians voted against the Liberals, to allow him to form a minority government. He was then able to move on to a majority government with just over 1/3 of votes cast and about 25% support from all eligible voters. Let those numbers sink in for a minute.

Whether or not you support Mr. Harper is not my point. This is:

With so many mind boggling things to assess, resist the temptation to simply stay home.

I guarantee you that if you do stay home, you most definitely will not get the government you want.

You’ll get the government someone else wants.