By Martin Patriquin - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - 0 Comments
Martin Patriquin on Bernard Drainville’s conspicuous silence
To be fair to Parti Québécois MNA Bernard Drainville, if you are in politics long enough, you’re pretty much guaranteed to become a hypocrite at one point or another. In Drainville’s case, it’s taken him just over two years to fall victim to this particularly pungent side effect of partisan politics. And boy, did he do it in style.
Yesterday, the PQ Premier Pauline Marois announced the appointment of erstwhile Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau as chairman of the board of Hydro-Québec. Nothing wrong here, of course. Nakedly political and partisan appointments to Crown corporations are as much a staple in Quebec as anywhere else. It’s a way of thanking well-connected party supporters, currying favour with the powerful, and/or stealthily (or not so stealthily) advancing one’s own political agenda. Call it a winner’s perk, for both the political party and the individual involved. Drainville must approve; he hasn’t utter a peep about Peladeau’s appointment.
This certainly wasn’t the case two years ago, when Drainville was righteously (and rightly) outraged at the patronage appointment of former Bell Canada CEO Michael Sabia, that other wealthy, well-connected businessman with known ties to the government in power. Here’s the transcript of a video snippet of Drainville’s reaction when Charest appointed Sabia as CEO of the Caisse de dépôt et placement, the provincially controlled public pension plan manager, in March 2009.
The reason we think [Sabia] is disqualified for the job of CEO [of La Caisse], is because of the process by which he was appointed. Michael Sabia was chosen by Jean Charest. There should have been a much more open process where other candidates were examined. In fact, the Caisse de dépot only considered one candidate, and it was Michael Sabia. [...] It was obviously a political decision. The Caisse shouldn’t be politicized, to become an instrument of the Premier of Quebec. It makes no sense.
Drainville’s 2009 musings about Sabia are even more fragrant in retrospect for a couple of other reasons. He scolded Charest for having appointed Sabia in part because Sabia still had business interests in Bell Canada. Drainville went so far as to say Sabia was in “conflict of interest” because Sabia could potentially benefit financially from Caisse decisions.
Yet though Peladeau recently stepped down as Quebecor CEO, he is still very much involved in the company. As the Toronto Star noted, Peladeau “will become chairman of the board of Quebecor Media and vice-chairman of the parent company, Quebecor Inc.” Translation: Michael Sabia and Pierre Karl Peladeau were in roughly the same situation when appointed to their respected patronage-drenched gigs.
And it’s hard to imagine Peladeau’s appointment as anything but political. One example: Marois spent much time and political capital devising and ramming through Bill 204, which cleared potentially pesky legal hurdles for Quebecor’s new arena project in Quebec City. She lost three longtime PQ MNAs as a result.
Finally, Drainville is a former journalist whose job it once was to point out this sort of political overindulgence. As a politician, he has done it only when it suited partisan ends. How’s the muzzle taste, Mr. Drainville?
By Martin Patriquin - Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 4:45 PM - 0 Comments
Martin Patriquin on a political pas de deux
On one side we have federalists, whose perpetual goal of “saving the country” has brought an equally enduring sense of self-entitlement amongst many federalist politicians. On the other the sovereignists, who purposefully stymie Canada’s political machinery if only to show to what extent the whole mess doesn’t work.
Back then, of course, we were in the former bit of the equation—which saw, among other things, the indictment of a sitting cabinet minister; a deputy premier (and municipal affairs minister) who received money, Céline Dion tickets and roses from a construction company owner; another cabinet minister who met at a swishy club with Frank Zampino, Paolo Catania, Bernard “Mr. Three Per Cent” Trepanier just prior to a notorious Montreal land sale that may well land Zampino and Catania in jail on corruption charges; the harvesting of millions of dollars in illegal campaign donations from a variety of engineering firms; and so on.
By Martin Patriquin - Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 2:00 PM - 0 Comments
Philippe Couillard reveals his ‘pet project’
Newly minted Quebec Liberal party Leader Philippe Couillard is a trained surgeon, an occasional businessman and an amateur fly-fisher. Yet he is best known as a consummate politician who has long held designs on the leadership of the party. In 2008, put off by then-leader Jean Charest’s stubborn hold on power, Couillard resigned as health minister and went into business. He also went fly-fishing on occasion. Both pursuits landed him in hot water.
Following his resignation, Couillard joined Persistence Capital Partners (PCP), a private equity fund “focused on high-growth opportunities in the health care field,” according to PCP’s website. That a former health minister would join a for-proﬁt health care fund ruffled a few feathers, though it shouldn’t have; after all, Quebec has the largest network of private medical clinics in the country.
But Couillard’s association with Arthur Porter, former CEO of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), has become a sizable blemish on Couillard’s otherwise impressive political resumé. Once the darling of Quebec’s medical establishment, Porter has since been charged with fraud in relation to alleged bribes he received from SNC-Lavalin in return for the contract to build the MUHC’s new megahospital. Porter, who says he has has advanced lung cancer, is holed up in his Bahamas compound. He has said he is too sick to travel to face the charges.
By Paul Wells - Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 12:35 PM - 0 Comments
Paul Wells on the Parti Québécois’s sudden love of resources
Few events challenge a political party’s convictions more profoundly than the transition from opposition to power. Suddenly everything is so much more complicated than it was. The other day I asked a Quebec government official how Pauline Marois, the province’s Parti Québécois premier, plans to handle Jean Charest’s plan for major natural resources development in the North.
“We keep going,” the official said. This surprised me. Marois campaigned last autumn on claims that Charest’s vast northern strategy—$80 billion in public and private investment, $14 billion in benefit to the Quebec government—amounted to pillage of Quebec’s natural beauty by private interests. She didn’t want to cancel the whole thing, but she was eager to rein it in by charging much higher royalty rates to mining companies, so Quebec could share the wealth. Of course that might have killed the goose that laid the mineral-laden eggs.
These days she doesn’t talk as much about overhauling the royalty regime. In December she visited New York City to pitch northern development to U.S. investors, telling reporters on the way that she now expected to implement Charest’s plan with “slightly different parameters.”
But there’s more. So much more.
“The two most important days since Mme. Marois became premier,” the Quebec official told me, “were budget day and the day she met Alison Redford.”
That meeting happened last Nov. 22 in Halifax, during the annual premiers’ conference. Redford is Alberta’s premier. She is trying to get oil sands bitumen out of the ground and to market. If she cannot sell the oil, very little of the massive investment in northern Alberta makes economic sense. But everywhere she looks she sees obstacles. Westward, the Northern Gateway pipeline faces opposition from British Columbia’s premier, her likely successor, and just about everyone who shows up at environmental hearings. Southward, the Keystone XL pipeline faces perhaps years of delay even if, as now seems likely, Barack Obama finally gets around to approving it.
That leaves the east. On the day Marois met Redford, the Canadian Press described the Quebecer as a “potentially combative customer.” A reasonable guess but flat wrong. Marois seems positively eager. Last month she added New Brunswick Premier David Alward to her meeting schedule. The two emerged with a plan to jointly study a proposal by TransCanada to pipe hundreds of thousands of barrels a day through Quebec to the Irving refinery in New Brunswick.
Add that to Enbridge’s plan to reverse an existing pipeline to send 300,000 barrels a day to the Suncor refinery in the east end of Montreal, where some of it would be refined on site and the rest shipped by boat—big honking boats—to the Ultramar refinery in Lévis, across the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City.
The stakes for Suncor and Ultramar are clear. They’re the last two refineries in Quebec. In 2010 Shell’s plant in Montreal closed and 500 jobs were lost. But of course with oil those are never the only stakes. Quebec environmental groups were pretty sure they had a friend in Marois. Already they’re wondering what happened. “She told us she wanted a strategy for reducing dependance on oil,” Equiterre’s Steven Guilbault told Le Devoir’s environment reporter Alexandre Shields, whose reporting on all these developments has been diligent. Now, Guilbault said, there’s nothing about an oil-reduction strategy, and a lot about pipelines. Who’s on these committees Marois has struck with Redford and Alward? Will their reports be public?
The longer you look at Big Oil’s recent moves in Quebec, the more intriguing coincidences you see. Recall that Marois and Redford first met on Nov. 22. That was the day Joe Oliver, the federal natural resources minister, visited the Ultramar plant in Lévis. He told reporters the Alberta oil, if it makes it that far east, would “replace higher-priced foreign oil . . . from countries such as Algeria, Angola and the United Kingdom.” I’m told the Quebec government observed the coverage of Oliver’s visit closely. What they saw was that coverage concentrated not on the prospect of dirty Alberta oil ravaging Quebec’s virtue, but on the prospect (hardly guaranteed in any event) of cheaper gas at the pump.
Oliver has been in Quebec at least once a month since November for activities designed to help the oil patch and the PQ get along.
Of course, the oil patch likes to make friends. A month after Marois and Redford met, Enbridge announced it was buying a half stake in the 150-megawatt Massif du Sud windmill farm southeast of Quebec City. The windmill farm was developed by Electricité de France. Enbridge’s share cost it $170 million. The windmills are across the St. Lawrence River from Pauline Marois’s riding.
Albertans and Quebecers really need to stop hurling insults at one another. They’re forming the most intimately connected business partnership in Confederation. A year ago a Quebec think tank reported that the Caisse de dépôt, which invests the Quebec Pension Plan’s assets, held $5.4 billion in oil sands assets, more than double its holdings in all Quebec companies combined. The Caisse has done its math. Marois is doing hers. A prosperous Alberta keeps Canada’s equalization system going, but why wait for equalization?
All of this has many implications. Here’s one. Tom Mulcair is the former Quebec environment minister who’s staked the NDP’s future on a classic confrontation between Quebec’s environmental virtue and Alberta’s profligacy. What does he do if the two provinces become partners?
By The Canadian Press - Monday, January 28, 2013 at 12:52 PM - 0 Comments
MONTREAL – The legal question of whether a man charged in Quebec’s election-night shooting…
MONTREAL – The legal question of whether a man charged in Quebec’s election-night shooting is mentally fit to stand trial will be addressed in court today.
Richard Henry Bain has previously had his fitness hearing delayed several times over the last seven weeks.
Bain is back before a judge today as lawyers discuss a fitness report and question the psychiatrist who wrote it.
The fishing-lodge owner faces 16 charges, including first-degree murder, related to the attack at a downtown Montreal club where the Parti Quebecois was celebrating its election victory last September.
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 7:05 PM - 0 Comments
DAVOS, Switzerland – Premier Pauline Marois says she has no immediate plans to press…
DAVOS, Switzerland – Premier Pauline Marois says she has no immediate plans to press Prime Minister Stephen Harper for another meeting to push her political demands.
Marois talked tough in Quebec’s election campaign last year, saying she would pick fights with Ottawa to get more powers.
The two leaders met in Kinshasa at the summit of francophone nations last October, a month after Marois formed a minority government.
She said a get-together with Harper is still on her mind.
“When it’s possible, I’ll try to get a meeting with Mr. Harper,” she said Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“For now, I’ll do my prep work.”
Marois is being criticized back home by opposition parties who suggest her strategy of sovereigntist governance is simply aimed at laying the groundwork for Quebec independence.
Spokesmen for the provincial Liberals and the Coalition party say Marois has no mandate to try to win new powers from the federal government as part of a long-term goal of achieving sovereignty.
Marois says her strategy of sovereigntist governance is aimed at defending Quebec’s interests, a role she insists has been assumed by previous Quebec governments,
“I am stunned,” Marois said Thursday after learning of the opposition criticism of the sovereigntist governance strategy.
“We were elected after all. With a minority, but with the program we have. I’m not going to prevent myself from governing just because I lead a minority government.”
The opposition is putting heat on the PQ because of a renewed push planned this year for its sovereigntist agenda.
There are reports Quebec Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Alexandre Cloutier is working on a plan to get more powers from Ottawa.
Marois didn’t address sovereigntist strategy but said the Liberal and Coalition parties have both agreed with the transfer of powers regarding culture and communications to Quebec.
She also says a campaign to promote sovereignty to be launched this winter will be financed exclusively by the PQ.
That campaign has also been denounced by the opposition.
Other PQ objectives include obtaining Quebec data from the defunct federal gun registry as well as powers over employment insurance.
There is a broad consensus in favour of getting the gun data but support for getting control of EI is less clear.
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 11:19 AM - 0 Comments
QUEBEC – Premier Pauline Marois is backtracking on her government’s decision to give former…
QUEBEC – Premier Pauline Marois is backtracking on her government’s decision to give former Parti Quebecois leader Andre Boisclair a lucrative government job.
The Marois government announced in early November that Boisclair had become Quebec’s delegate-general to New York.
It then emerged this week that Boisclair had also been named assistant deputy minister in the International Relations Department.
News of the assistant deputy-minister position sparked outrage among political pundits and opposition parties.
Some people accused the government of favouritism and ”indecency” at a time when Quebecers are being told to tighten their belts.
Marois told a news conference in Quebec City today that because of the controversy Boisclair will no longer take the job in the International Relations Department. He will keep his position in New York.
Marois says she decided to act swiftly because she didn’t want her government attacked on ethical questions.
Had he kept the two jobs, the 46-year-old Boisclair would have been guaranteed an annual salary of $170,000 and been able to start taking his full pension at the age of 55.
By Martin Patriquin - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 9:40 AM - 0 Comments
The commissioner of official languages on Montreal’s language shift, a bilingual Olympics and the PQ government
For the francophone population, it’s a sobering statistic: according to 2011 census data released last week, people who speak immigrant languages will soon outnumber Canadians whose mother tongue is French. Yet Graham Fraser, the commissioner of official languages, sees an enduring vitality of the language both within and beyond Quebec’s borders. He learned to speak French in the trenches: as a 19-year-old university student, the Ottawa-born Fraser worked on an archaeological site in Quebec where he “had the sense of being a foreigner in my own country,” as he wrote in his 2006 book Sorry, I Don’t Speak French.
Q: The census suggests that “other” languages will overtake the number of French speakers in Canada. Given that, is the French language in danger outside of Quebec?
A: We’ve actually seen an increase in the number of francophones outside of Quebec. It’s gone over a million, after years of decline. We’ve seen the growth of [French] schools and school boards across the country in every province, as well as of francophone institutions in almost every province. And the thing to remember about “other” languages is that it varies among a whole range of languages. People don’t speak a common “other” language, like Spanish in the U.S. The other thing to remember is that over three generations, people choose to adopt the majority language of the province where they are living. In 1951 there were 450,000 Canadians who reported that they spoke Ukrainian at home. By 1981 that 450,000 had become 45. That is the natural pattern of immigrant languages. That has not been the case with French.
Q: There’s a large increase in the number of French speakers in Alberta. Can you explain that to me?
A: It speaks to the economic boom. We are seeing francophones from Quebec and New Brunswick moving to Alberta like everyone else, and we’ve seen an increase in the francophone population outside Quebec. What I find distressing is that nationalists in Quebec as well as certain columnists outside of Quebec have used these census numbers to present a narrative of decline. It’s self-evident that the percentage of mother-tongue French speakers would go down, because as a country we decided we are going to welcome 250,000 newcomers every year. Since the last census, we’ve welcomed 1.25 million newcomers, 80 per cent of whom don’t have English or French as their mother tongues. Not only is it not surprising, it is arithmetically impossible to maintain the same level of English or French spoken at home when you are welcoming this number of newcomers.
By Martin Patriquin - Monday, October 29, 2012 at 10:43 AM - 0 Comments
While the corruption scandal rages on, Liberals can’t seem to get enough of their tainted former leader
Aside from three consecutive winning campaigns, arguably the best gift that Jean Charest gave the Liberal Party of Quebec was losing his seat along with September’s election. It afforded a graceful exit, avoiding the indignity of him having to sit in Opposition after nine unbroken years of power. It has also allowed for the party’s first leadership campaign in nearly three decades—a golden opportunity, some might say, for Liberals to distance themselves from Charest’s scandal-plagued, chronically unpopular last few years in government.
Yet the exact opposite seems to be happening in the run-up to the leadership convention in four months. Neither the party nor the three declared leadership candidates who wish to lead it have attempted in any way to distance themselves from Charest. Far from it. “After having led the Liberal party for more than 14 years and the government since 2003, Jean Charest leaves an economically strong government, having fulfilled many great achievements, and a party in excellent health,” reads a dedication to Charest on the party’s website.
It may seem an odd thing for a party to be so smitten with a former leader who regularly scored near-record dissatisfaction levels throughout his last mandate. It is all the more strange considering that an inquiry into corruption in the province’s construction industry, reluctantly called by Charest himself in 2011, recently heard testimony alleging three of his former senior ministers curried the favour of (and solicited donations from) a Mobbed-up construction magnate. It has only reinforced the general view that under Charest, the Liberals were home to dodgy fundraising practices and populated by a host of less-than-savoury characters.
By Martin Patriquin - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 2:03 PM - 0 Comments
Marois has already overplayed her hand and completely misread the population she claims to represent
The Parti Québécois has been in power for 48 days. So far, the sky remains exactly where it was before September 4, the province hasn’t spiraled any closer to hell, no one has spontaneously combusted and, apart from some all-too-predictable parsing of PQ leader Pauline Marois and Stephen Harper meeting in the Congo—rarely have we seen such a high-stakes game of political brinkmanship that zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz—the province and the country hum along as though Quebecers had never even elected a cabal of evil separatists into government. So much for bogeymen.
Odder still: through a series of flip-flops and monumental cock-ups, the PQ government has seemingly been working as hard as possible to ensure a quick return of the Liberals to power. By at once overplaying its hand and completely misreading the population it claims to represent, the party of René Lévesque has gone a long way in proving how yawning that gap is between sitting in opposition and actually governing a province. And it has hurt them, to the tune of a 56 per cent disapproval rating in a Léger Marketing poll last week.
To put this in context, the PQ has yet to set foot in parliament (that happens October 30), and has as opposition the Liberals, a party thigh-deep in scandal—three of its former senior cabinet ministers having been caught in the Zambito dragnet—and lacking a permanent leader. And the poll was conducted on October 15 and 16, when the televised proceedings of the so-called Charbonneau Commission looking into municipal and provincial corruption were drawing a serious crowd, upwards of 111,000 viewers a day—”Quite high,” according to a Rad-Can flack I spoke with this morning. And yet for all the tales of their over-indulgences and skullduggery, the Liberals remain within the margin of error with the PQ, exactly the same as on election night.
Here’s why. During the last 48 days, the PQ has had to reverse itself on four major policy issues, including two language-related files, which you’d think would be familiar territory for the party. First off, there was the PQ’s reversal on the so-called $200 health tax instituted by the Liberals during the last budget. This tax, Marois declared last February, was “a veritable injustice to the economic plan” that was the “worst example” of the Charest-era soak-the-middle-class shenanigans. And yet as veritably injudicial as it may have been, Marois couldn’t bring herself to kill it off. It’s now part and parcel of the PQ platform.
What’s more, the PQ will exempt certain lower- and middle-lower class earners from its ”health contribution” (a Liberal talking-point phrase, by the by). These exemptions are nearly identical to those proposed by Raymond Bachand last year, in which 60 per cent of Quebec taxpayers would be exempted from or partially reimbursed for the $200 tax. Translation: Marois has spent a considerable amount of political capital to implement what amounts to a carbon copy of what Charest was proposing.
Second: PQ Finance Minister Nicolas Marceau has totally mishandled the PQ’s tax increases. (If you’re reading the following out loud, take a deep breath now.) Marceau originally wanted to tax those revenues above $130,000 at 28 percent and at 31 per cent above $250,000. He wanted to increase the capital gains tax to 75 per cent from 50. And he wanted to apply all these taxes retroactively to January 01, 2012. He has reversed the first two, and strongly hinted that he’ll renege on the retroactive tax as well. It’s really hard to do, but the PQ has managed to peeve both the left and right.
Third: the PQ announced that it would stop subsidizing those schools with entrance exams, apply Bill 101 to kindergarten and end English intensive courses in Quebec schools. Education minister Marie Malavoy said the first measure would force private schools to take its share of troubled and at-risk students, while the latter two were measures meant to avoid the spread of English—”a foreign language,” as she called it—to the all-too-malleable minds of young Quebecers. Trouble is, Marois has already had to walk back on the private school thing—defunding them is a near-impossibility, as La Presse’s Paul Journet recently pointed out—as well as Malavoy’s Kindergarten Bill 101 initiative. And those intensive English courses happen to be quite popular, even among language hawks; Le Devoir’s Michel David, who doesn’t exactly have a Maple Leaf tattooed on his chest, recently sung their praises.
The Liberals won’t have a permanent leader for another five months. But the PQ is already making life easier for him, whoever he might be.
By Stephen Gordon - Monday, October 1, 2012 at 8:52 AM - 0 Comments
Imposing higher income tax rates on high earners is one thing; expecting the measure to produce large amounts of new revenue is something else entirely. There are two problems with the idea that increasing the tax rates for high earners is the same thing as generating significant new revenues:
- There aren’t many high earners.
- High earners have access to high-quality tax planning advice.
You can add the fact that high earners are mobile, but this is a longer-term, cumulative effect: the number of high earners who leave in a given year will increase slightly, and the number of high earners who arrive will decrease. But the point remains that when governments raise tax rates, high earners will react by finding ways to reduce their tax burden.
By Paul Wells - Friday, September 28, 2012 at 11:45 AM - 0 Comments
Marois’s new Harper-opposing policies discourage investment, immigration, resource development and healthy universities
It is a marvellous country that tolerates as many contrasting styles of government as Canada does. In the late 1990s Preston Manning gave a news conference in Ottawa where he argued that, with Mike Harris and Ralph Klein running Ontario and Alberta on the right, Jean Chrétien must somehow be kept from running Ottawa on the left. In the end the only mechanism that could be found to fix the problem, if it was one, was a succession of general elections. It took many years after Manning voiced his complaint, but today Stephen Harper is running the country in a different direction.
Unfortunately for fans of uniformity, the provinces move too. Ontario hasn’t been run the way Mike Harris, or Stephen Harper, would like it run for nearly a decade. British Columbia seems likely to tilt leftward soon too. And in Quebec—well, let’s have a look.
Watching the early moves of Pauline Marois’s Parti Québécois government, I’ve found myself thinking of a speech Harper gave at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January. This was Harper the economic manager laying out his long-term vision for Canadian prosperity. Even people who don’t like what he’s done to the long-form census or the long-gun registry might discern some horse sense in what the Prime Minister said at Davos. At the time I noted it was much like a big speech Paul Martin delivered seven years earlier.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 14, 2012 at 5:23 PM - 0 Comments
As the Member of Parliament for a community that has been dealing with the impacts of asbestos for many years now, I am pleased with the actions of the Government of Canada to transition the Asbestos region of Quebec away from asbestos production and to allow the placing of this product on the Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention.
Furthermore, I wish to congratulate Minister of Industry Christian Paradis for taking a bold and decisive step in reversing a 4-decade old policy held by the Government of Canada that was supported by various governing parties. I have no doubt that this announcement will be supported in Sarnia-Lambton and in fact across Canada by all Canadians, who will feel this decision is the right and responsible choice to make.
Via Twitter, Les Perreaux points out that, despite what the Harper government is saying today, the Parti Quebecois hasn’t promised to “prohibit” the asbestos industry, it has said it would cancel a government loan for the Jeffrey Mine. I’ve corrected my post below.
By Paul Wells - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 2:18 PM - 0 Comments
Paul Wells on the fundamental changes in the party’s language and identity policies
“Je n’ai jamais lu autant de violence envers nous les Québécois dans la Gazette, j’ai refusé de donner une entrevue à ce journal,” Sophie Stanké wrote on Twitter a few days after the Quebec election. Translation: “I’ve never read so much violence toward us, the Quebecers, in the Gazette, I refused to give this newspaper an interview.”
Stanké, an actress and TV personality, was the Parti Québécois candidate in Saint-Henri-Saint-Anne, one of the prettiest ridings in Montreal. She lost. The Gazette is still publishing.
I wonder who Stanké thinks is working at the Gazette. The paper has been published in Montreal since 1778. The very large majority of its employees grew up in Quebec. I will guarantee that if Sophie Stanké and Don Macpherson, the paper’s Quebec affairs columnist, sat down for a written and oral exam in French, Macpherson would get higher marks. And yet here was a candidate for public office drawing a casual distinction between “la Gazette” and “nous les Québécois.”
By Martin Patriquin - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 11:55 AM - 0 Comments
Québec Solidaire and Option Nationale won an amount of votes equal to 25 per cent of the PQ vote
For the first time in nearly 14 years, the Parti Québécois will form Quebec’s next government. This in itself is incredible for the sovereignist party and its leader Pauline Marois, both of which were teetering on political oblivion barely a year ago. Just last summer, Marois faced down four deserting péquiste MNAs, an attempted putsch by backers of former Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe and an electorate that was decidedly ambivalent to her charms. There’s a reason her supporters call her dame de béton—Lady Concrete.
Yet the victory of Quebec’s first female Premier is nonetheless qualified. The PQ won office with less than 32 per cent of the vote, it is the fourth-lowest showing in PQ’s 42-year electoral history. It is 3.3 percentage points lower than just four years ago, when the party became Quebec’s Official Opposition. It is why, despite the overwhelming and near-chronic unpopularity of Jean Charest’s Liberals, Lady Concrete was unable to form a majority government.
Perhaps more hurtful to péquiste sensibilities are the reasons behind the ‘loss’ of a majority government. The upstart Coalition Avenir Québec, led by former PQ cabinet minister François Legault, siphoned support from the vote-rich regions of Montreal’s exurbs and the Laurentian region north of Montreal. The CAQ also played spoiler in certain ‘getable’ ridings for the PQ, allowing the Liberals to slip up the middle.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 7, 2012 at 4:38 PM - 0 Comments
Jonathan Kay cautions against finding too much political significance in the shooting outside the Parti Quebecois victory rally this week. Michael Den Tandt says you can’t separate politics from the crime. Montreal’s Saint Jean Baptiste Society says the English media is partly to blame.
The Globe editorial board calls the shooting “an attack on the Canadian belief in the primacy of discussion and debate.” The Montreal Gazette quotes a reader.
A letter-writer to The Gazette puts it equally eloquently: “I would propose that all Quebecers become honourary members of the Parti Québécois for a day to show solidarity and respect for the democratic principles upon which our political system functions and, I am sure, are fully espoused by the overwhelming majority of Quebecers. Our hearts go out to the families of the deceased and injured as well as to all PQ supporters, who duly elected their party to govern in Quebec. All Quebecers must denounce such acts and advance the healing process by standing together with the PQ at this critical hour.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 4:40 PM - 0 Comments
Poilievre said he plans to initiate a debate on how to give Canada’s public servants the right to decide whether they want to join a union and pay union dues. It’s unclear how he plans to go about this, since it would require legislative changes. As a parliamentary secretary, he is unable to introduce a private member’s bill to make such changes …
Poilievre’s proposal could be the most radical policy change embarked by the Conservative government and is reminiscent of right-to-work legislation that has been introduced in some U.S. states. “You can call it that,” said Poilievre. “I consider it enhancement of workers rights and freedoms.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 1:18 PM - 0 Comments
The NDP leader says he doesn’t expect another referendum and describes his approach to Quebec thusly.
“The NDP is a very strong federalist voice. We have always understood that you don’t just pay lip service to the differences. You work on them constructively,” Mulcair said, adding the surprising results of the 2011 federal election means there is a “pan-Canadian, federalist” party that holds the majority of seats in Quebec for the first time since the early 1990s.
Mulcair said that approach is recognized in the Sherbrooke Declaration, the policy paper that spells out the NDP position on asymmetrical federalism and what happens after a referendum on sovereignty. “It is a clear expression of the understanding that we can have asymmetrical federalism that takes into account the differences between the regions and the very specific differences between Quebec and the rest of Canada in terms of its civil law, its majority French language, its cultural differences, these are all things that can be worked on,” Mulcair said. “There is nothing divisive about that unless somebody wants to play politics with it and make it divisive. Where the NDP comes in, is we’re all about building bridges. We will let the other parties blow up those bridges,” Mulcair continued.
An anonymous NDP insider explains the situation to the Globe.
As one NDP strategist told The Globe and Mail on Tuesday, any defence by the NDP of PQ strategy will allow Prime Minister Stephen Harper to “attack Mr. Mulcair in English Canada for collaborating with separatists, while pointing to his [own] caucus of federalist Quebec MPs.”
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 12:19 PM - 0 Comments
Last week I attended the Parti Québécois’s last big rally of the campaign. It was at the Metropolis nightclub on Ste Catherine St. A familiar venue. It’s a big old music hall with a capacity of about 2,200 and superb sightlines, so politicans of all stripes like to rent it when they think they can fill it, but mostly it’s one of the city’s most popular entertainment venues. The last two shows I saw there were Jean Leloup and a Men Without Hats reunion. It’s a second home for a lot of Montrealers younger than me.
By Lise Ravary - Tuesday, September 4, 2012 at 12:45 PM - 0 Comments
It would speak French. And mix curry with maple syrup.
Lise Ravary is a columnist and blogger for Le Journal de Montréal
A few months ago, I wrote about the largely white, mostly Francophone and very boring reality of the Montreal area where I live. It came back to me as I pondered the Québec the Parti Québécois wants to build and the accusations of self-loathing thrown at those who do not practice identity nationalism.
Why does it bother me so much? I am a Canadian and I belong to the Québec people. I am proud of my French Canadian roots and of the culture that nurtured me. I grew up in a working class part of town. We did not go to Place des Arts to hear classical music. We watched québécois sit-coms on TV. I am proud to be a native French speaker.
I attended university in English. The experience didn’t assimilate me or turn me into the stereotypical West Island Anglo hag. If anything it reminded me that the Quebec of my dreams would speak French and would work to keep it that way. Like the Danes are proud to be Danish and speak Danish. Since we live amongst some 340 million English speakers, we would all speak English well enough. We would stop believing the canard that only Québec has an original culture.
By Paul Wells - Saturday, September 1, 2012 at 5:39 PM - 0 Comments
Surely the Charest government loses votes every time any Quebecer tries to drive somewhere on the province’s highways. The Inklessmobile spent a half hour parked on the Autoroute des Cantons de l’Est, and I got to St. Jean sur Richelieu quite sure I’d missed Pauline Marois’s lighting visit to the town’s pretty farmer’s market. But I found a crowd of a few dozen people waiting by the side of the street. Maybe all was not lost. I buttonholed a guy wearing a PQ button on his shirt. He turned out to be Dave Turcotte, the PQ incumbent in the National Assembly. Marois’s bus had been stuck in traffic just like my car, he said.
I asked Turcotte how the campaign is going. “You know, this is my third campaign,” he said. “I’ve known defeat, narrow victory, and now it looks like another kind of victory.” Who’s his competition? “The CAQ,” François Legault’s new party. What’s happening to the Liberals? “Melting.”
Marois’s bus showed up and presently she climbed out of it, shoes matching dress, a smile that seemed quite genuine on her face. Like this:
She had four such events on Saturday and will, one suspects, have more of the same on Sunday. I spent nine years covering Jean Chrétien and six covering Stephen Harper; I’m not used to a party leader shaking the hands of any but carefully selected partisans three days before an election. But Marois has little to fear: even though I spotted one CAQ lapel pin in the crowd, she is, my colleagues told me, greeted at least cordially and often with glee wherever she stops. “Is it okay for me to kiss you?” a gentleman of a certain age with a T-shirt that said FIER D’ETRE NORMAND asked her. She nodded; he planted a genteel kiss on each cheek.
My colleagues on the PQ bus told me the real fun of the day came earlier in Châteauguay, when Marois held a longish press conference featuring questions on all the fun topics.
By Jonathan Montpetit, The Canadian Press - Friday, August 24, 2012 at 11:38 AM - 0 Comments
It should have been a cakewalk…
MONTREAL – The idea of citizen-driven referendums has inspired grassroots chatter within the Parti Quebecois for years. It was a crisis of Pauline Marois’ leadership, several months ago, that finally made it party policy.
Now the ticking “time-bomb,” in the words of one longtime party insider, has gone off just as Marois was strolling through a trouble-free election campaign.
The possible premier-in-waiting has performed a sudden about-face on the policy and now says that, no, a PQ government would not be forced to hold a vote on independence whenever people gathered a few hundred thousand names on a petition.
Marois now says the petition would simply be taken under advisement. Under the constitutional order, she says, parliamentarians must have the final say on such decisions.
The episode has left constitutional observers, political insiders, and Marois’ opponents weighing in on the possible implications on her bid for the premiership.
The PQ has raised, debated and, for a variety of reasons, rejected the idea of allowing citizens to petition for referendums before. Marois herself opposed the plan in 2008.
By Paul Wells - Friday, August 17, 2012 at 10:20 AM - 0 Comments
Let’s assume what probably won’t happen, which is that rapidly fluctuating voter support in Quebec stops on a dime and the results turn out the way this morning’s Léger poll says they will.
This seat projection from the pollster’s client, the Journal de Montréal, suggests what might happen: 65 Parti Québécois seats, enough to hold a bare majority in the 125-seat National Assembly, with 33 per cent of the popular vote. That’s possible because the PQ vote is more efficient than other parties’ — there are more regions in the province where the PQ vote is strong enough to carry ridings, and fewer where it’s bunched up in local pockets where the next PQ vote won’t change the outcome, as the Liberal vote is in several places from Peel St. to the Ontario border.
If that were the way Quebec’s election turned out, it would be an intriguing result. Marois is already making the most mealy-mouthed sort of half-commitment to a secession referendum if she wins. Two of her most prominent recruits, the ex-journalist Jean-François Lisée and the, er, ex-journalist Pierre Duchesne, come from the Parizeau Fan Club wing of the party and would very publicly not be thrilled to spend a mandate in government attending interprovincial conferences the way members of an ordinary government do.
But at 33 per cent, Marois would be in a fix. That would be the second-lowest level of popular support the PQ has ever received in the 10 elections since the 1976 election, higher only than the 28 per cent and change the party received under André Boisclair in 2007, when the PQ sank for two years to third-party status. Continue…
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, August 16, 2012 at 3:36 PM - 0 Comments
The law on religious wear wouldn’t survive a court challenge
MONTREAL – A prominent constitutional lawyer says a plan by the Parti Quebecois to restrict certain religious symbols in public institutions would ultimately be shredded up in court.
He used the example of doctors with religious headwear and said that if they one day challenge the PQ proposal, they will win.
The PQ has proposed a Charter of Secularism that would forbid employees in public institutions from wearing overt religious symbols; the policy would not apply to necklaces, like the crucifix.
“Imagine the absurdity of saying that we have the best surgeon in Quebec, but he can’t operate in Quebec because he’s not permitted to wear his kippah, turban or scarf,” Grey said in an interview Thursday.
“I think a doctor would succeed — I think there’s no reason for a doctor not to wear a turban, kippah or scarf.”
Grey cited jurisprudence that could be used to knock down the PQ proposal, including the famous case of turbans in the RCMP.
He said any Quebec public servant who would launch a legal challenge would also be successful.
By The Canadian Press - Wednesday, August 15, 2012 at 6:13 PM - 0 Comments
Foreign-born PQ member becomes a target
By Alexander Panetta and Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press
MONTREAL – The ethnic background of a Quebec election candidate has come under attack in a campaign that has already seen identity frequently used as a wedge issue.
The ill-tempered remarks were aimed at Djemila Benhabib, a foreign-born Parti Quebecois candidate with an Algerian father and an international upbringing.
First, the mayor of one Quebec municipality took shots at her ethnic background Wednesday. Later, the mayor of Trois-Rivieres, where she is running for the PQ, questioned the party’s decision to parachute the resident of Gatineau, near Ottawa, into the central Quebec riding.
The events were the latest iteration of an always intense, sometimes ugly, debate in recent years over perceived threats to Quebec’s cultural identity.
Benhabib’s party has appropriated that cause as an election issue. The PQ says it wants to put identity concerns to rest — with the help of tougher language laws and a new Charter of Secularism, whose guidelines would ban religious symbols like hijabs and turbans in public institutions.