By The Canadian Press - Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 0 Comments
QUEBEC – The Parti Quebecois minority government, which has been forced to retreat on…
QUEBEC – The Parti Quebecois minority government, which has been forced to retreat on several key policies since it took office last fall, continued down that rocky path Wednesday as it reversed itself on a decision to cut $63 million in funding for environmental protection and health research.
The measure had been introduced last November in the provincial budget, a document that also had the government having to cancel plans to retroactively raise taxes on high-income Quebecers after an outcry.
Wednesday’s reversal came a day after the government mistakenly approved a symbolic legislature motion slamming itself over cuts to university funding.
Premier Pauline Marois told the legislature that the $63 million in cuts were “perhaps too much.”
“We are aware that the effort required is big, perhaps too big . . . and from that, we have worked to dislodge some funds,” she said.
Marois has said the previous Liberal government had left her Parti Quebecois administration holding the bag for an undisclosed deficit of more than $1.5 billion. Chopping research was one of the ways the PQ said it had out of the financial mess.
However, the government managed to scrape up $26.5 million to distribute to three research projects, $8 million of it going to health research.
The plan to cut research funds had generated a storm of protest, including from a cancer sufferer at a news conference.
Researchers argued labs would be forced to close and projects would need to be shelved.
“The government has listened to us, it was sensitive to our demands and our demands were not big,” said Serge Rivest, director of the Quebec university hospital centre.
“We asked simply that our budgets be renewed to allow us to continue our research without major cuts.”
Of the $26.5 million, $15 million comes from consolidated funds, $6.5 million comes from the ministry for sustainable development and the rest from funds for higher education.
Interim Liberal Leader Jean-Marc Fournier said the government should just cancel the research cuts altogether.
“There are $63 million in improvised cuts,” he said.
“You already admitted you’ve made a mistake. Can you at least admit it completely? You cut $63 million.”
One person who did fess up to an error on Wednesday was PQ deputy house leader Martin Traversy, who a day before had mistakenly put his entire party behind a joint Liberal-Coalition party motion criticizing cuts to university funding.
Traversy, who was distracted when he made the call on Tuesday, chalked his blunder up to inexperience.
“We’ll get more experience,” the 29-year-old said.
“Listen, youth, it’s something that leaves room for learning. So we’ll continue working and we’ll turn the page and we’ll move forward.”
By Maclean's - Friday, November 9, 2012 at 5:00 AM - 0 Comments
Two years after our cover story provoked a defensive uproar, evidence of the deep-seated corruption has continued to pile up
Two years ago, a Maclean’s cover declared Quebec “The Most Corrupt Province in Canada.” In the story inside, Quebec bureau chief Martin Patriquin presented a litany of examples, both historical and current-day, revealing the deep-seated record of corruption running through municipal, provincial and federal governance in the province.
We never argued Quebec was the only province to be visited by corruption or compromised politicians, merely that the scale and persistence on display in La Belle Province outdid anything we could find elsewhere. We argued further that this record constituted a tremendous disservice to honest Quebec taxpayers. Finally, we noted the heartening provincial tradition of promptly tossing out elected officials tainted by scandal.
The reaction to our efforts at lifting the veil on corruption in Quebec and encouraging voters to clean house? We were viciously and repeatedly attacked in numerous and unprecedented ways. Continue…
By The Canadian Press - Monday, November 5, 2012 at 12:13 PM - 0 Comments
QUEBEC – The newly elected Parti Quebecois government will seek to protect itself against…
QUEBEC – The newly elected Parti Quebecois government will seek to protect itself against the threat of an opposition takedown by tabling its first budget far earlier than usual.
It announced Monday that the full 2013-14 annual budget will not be tabled in the spring, as is the standard practice, and will be presented in just two weeks.
That earlier-than-expected Nov. 20 budget could keep the minority government afloat longer.
It will be tabled while the Opposition Liberals are still embroiled in a leadership race, and while the new Coalition party is building its young organization.
That means that even if the other parties oppose the PQ fiscal policies — as they have so far — they might be hesitant to topple the government and risk an election.
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 The Canadian Press - Friday, September 28, 2012 at 11:53 AM - 0 Comments
MONTREAL – The race to succeed Jean Charest has its first prominent participant as…
MONTREAL – The race to succeed Jean Charest has its first prominent participant as a former finance minister joined the Quebec Liberal leadership contest Friday.
Raymond Bachand, who until recently was the province’s finance minister, announced his entry at a news conference. Several prominent MNAs spoke at the podium to introduce him.
Bachand’s participation could add some ideological spice to the race.
He was the architect of the province’s tuition hikes — which were heavily supported by small-c conservatives but were bitterly opposed by progressives and have now been cancelled by the new Parti Quebecois government.
Bachand will face stiff competition as it is all but certain that Philippe Couillard, a popular former health minister, will enter the race as the potential front-runner.
It remains to be seen whether the party’s federalist grassroots will hold Bachand’s past against him; back in his early 30s he was a prominent figure in the PQ during the 1980 independence referendum.
Bachand sought to reassure Liberals that he is a committed member of the federalist family. Accompanying him at the event Friday was the widow of the late former premier Robert Bourassa.
He also spoke about his attachment to Canada. He said Quebecers had helped shape the country and that it was part of their heritage.
“I’m proud to be a Quebecer,” he said, “but I’m also proud to be a Canadian.”
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 3:29 PM - 0 Comments
QUEBEC – It’s over — the tuition increase that triggered such social strife in…
QUEBEC – It’s over — the tuition increase that triggered such social strife in Quebec has been cancelled.
The Parti Quebecois government has repealed the fee hike, by decree, in its first cabinet meeting on its first day in office.
Premier Pauline Marois is acting on a promise that she had made during the election campaign.
She announced the decision at a news conference after the meeting.
Marois says tuition will go back to $2,168 — the lowest in Canada. With the planned increases, it would have been $600 higher this year and would have kept growing each year.
Marois says she will not decrease funding for universities, however, and she will make good on a promise to hold a summit on how to fund universities.
Marois says she will also cancel the Charest Liberals’ controversial protest legislation.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 10:12 AM - 0 Comments
Quebec Premier Pauline Marois may have a minority government, but she has an ambitious…
Quebec Premier Pauline Marois may have a minority government, but she has an ambitious separatist agenda, the Globe and Mail reports.
“My government is sovereigntist,” she told reporters in Quebec City. “Remaining a province of Canada constitutes a risk. … We have the firm conviction that the future of Quebec is to become a sovereign country.”
She says her goal for her first term is to firmly establish the limitations of Quebec’s provincial status within Canada, so better articulate why Quebec needs to be a sovereign nation. The PQ will also be promoting sovereignty abroad, as well as establishing its credentials as responsible managers of the economy by balancing the budget while abolishing the health tax and eliminating the controversial university tuition fee hikes.
While few analysts expect the minority government to last more than two years, Marois is looking to put her government in a strong place to form a majority in the next election.
By John Geddes - Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 10:23 AM - 0 Comments
John Geddes on the NDP leader’s rise through the ruthless world of Quebec politics to become the PM’s toughest opponent yet
Thomas Mulcair grew up in a Montreal suburb as the second-oldest of 10 children in his family, which is noteworthy enough. Even more remarkable, though, at least by today’s standards, is that he remembers his parents hoping for just a few more kids. “When my mother would have a child,” the NDP leader recalled recently, “my father would always bring her 14 roses, because they decided when they were married that they would have 14 children.” His father, Harry, was an insurance man of Irish-Catholic descent, and his mother, Jeanne, a teacher from an old French-Canadian family, was of course Catholic, too. For another public figure, details like these might be mere background colour. In Mulcair’s case, apart from the roses, every bit of it—the many brothers and sisters, the Quebec roots, a Catholicism devout enough to entail mass on weekdays before school, even the Irish streak—is central to his emergence as a formidable political fighter and plausible future prime minister.
By his own account in an interview with Maclean’s, backed up by the observations of some who have worked closely with him, Mulcair’s upbringing in such a large, tightly knit, complex household remains the template for his important relationships. Aides and allies say he maintains unusually close contact with family and old friends, cultivating an intensely personal network and leaning on time-tested loyalties more than most top politicians. While he is no longer an observant churchgoer, Mulcair’s brand of left-leaning politics flows directly out of his home province’s distinctive and deep well of progressive Catholicism—a powerful influence on seminal Quebec politicians of the past, including Pierre Trudeau. As for Mulcair’s Irishness, Graham Carpenter, an old family friend and long-time aide, alludes to his “Irish world view,” and not jokingly, as an explanation for Mulcair’s storied scrappiness and more. “There’s mystique to it,” Carpenter says, “that’s for sure.”
By John Geddes - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 8:47 AM - 0 Comments
This week’s Maclean’s features my profile of NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair. For the story in the issue on newsstands today, Mulcair answered questions about his life over lunch in a back booth at a diner not far from his home just west of Montréal. The interview lasted nearly two hours, enough time for Mulcair to wash down his salad with two double-espressos.
Even in a fairly long article, though, not every telling reply from a conversation that expansive makes it into print—there’s not enough room. So here are three outtakes that, taken together, might offer a sense where Mulcair’s coming from, and a glimpse of the challenge he faces in getting where he wants to go.
By Martin Patriquin - Friday, November 18, 2011 at 10:10 AM - 0 Comments
In the former airline exec, Quebecers are once again looking for a political saviour
Long before he became Quebec’s would-be saviour, François Legault was a businessman who, in 1986, co-founded a popular Quebec-based charter airline. Having been obsessed with efficiency in the private sector, Legault was reportedly put off by the cumbersome process by which new political entities are registered in the province. So when it came time for him to turn his Coalition pour l’avenir du Québec, Legault’s right-leaning pseudo think tank, into a full-blown political party, he chose a novel way to make it legit.
Rather than having 100 candidates mail in their support of the party and wait for the province’s director-general of elections to authenticate everyone—a part of the law that can take upward of two months—Legault and 100 of his supporters marched into the election authority’s Quebec City offices themselves. It was an irresistible bit of political theatre, a jaunty example of participatory democracy you rarely see from the right flank of Canada’s political spectrum: Legault the Pied Piper, literally leading his supporters toward the supposed reinvention of Quebec’s political scene.
Yet if Legault’s approach was novel, the popularity of this formerly retired politician is anything but. Legault, who has ridden high in the polls for nearly a year, is the latest in a long line of federal and provincial leaders from Quebec who find themselves suddenly, and almost absurdly, popular. The next provincial election is as many as two years away; still, given his sustained perch at the top of the polls, it is safe to say that Legault has benefited from the politician-as-saviour phenomenon, one seemingly as Québécois as Bixi bikes, depanneurs and the adding of curd cheese to gravy and french fries.
By Martin Patriquin - Monday, October 17, 2011 at 8:20 AM - 0 Comments
The Quebec premier tends to reverse himself only after incurring maximum political damage
Jean Charest stays in power because of his political smarts, his eye for the jugular and his ability to, time and again, defy expectations. At least, this is the accepted wisdom when describing how Charest, who has never exactly warmed Quebec’s collective heart, has managed to become one of the country’s longest-serving premiers. He is a constant in a fractured political landscape: the 53-year-old has faced no less than five Parti Québécois leaders over three elections. And he has strongly hinted he’s hungry for more.
Yet if Charest has a weakness, it’s his own tendency to make and hold to highly contentious decisions, only to reverse himself once the decision has incurred the maximum political damage on his own government. Exhibit A: the premier recently said he’d be open to holding some form of public inquiry into the province’s demonstrably corrupt construction industry—something the opposition, the voting public and several municipal officials have pleaded for throughout the last two years. And as lukewarm as Charest’s endorsement may sound, it constitutes nothing short of a huge climbdown for the premier, who has spent much of this time refusing to even consider the possibility.
There are many such grand reversals throughout Charest’s eight years in office. The building of the CHUM, Montreal’s French superhospital, was delayed by Charest’s insistence that it be located in the municipality of Outremont, even though the public overwhelmingly favoured a downtown site. Only after the ensuing squabble—which delayed the project by upwards of four years, according to former Université de Montréal rector Robert Lacroix—did the premier reverse himself.
By Philippe Gohier - Friday, August 26, 2011 at 7:03 PM - 3 Comments
My colleague Alec Castonguay, who toils over at our sister publication L’actualité, posted a…
My colleague Alec Castonguay, who toils over at our sister publication L’actualité, posted a first-rate interview with Pauline Marois earlier this week that’s a must-read for anyone interested in the Parti Québécois’ ongoing travails. Among the things that stood out to me was Marois’s apparent doubling-down on the policies that drove away four members of her caucus earlier this summer—namely, her insistence that a referendum shouldn’t be top-of-mind for the party. Of the nascent Nouveau Mouvement pour le Québec, aka the new home of sovereigntist hardliners in Quebec, Marois says they “should start from where Quebecers are at… There isn’t a crazy appetite for sovereignty, even if polls have us at 40-45 per cent ,” she says. (CROP pegs support for sovereignty at 38 per cent and Léger at 36 per cent, but let’s not quibble.) “Renewal isn’t about waiting for the referendum.”
Good government—which, unfortunately for Charest, is more or less synonymous with “change” these days— is what Marois wants the PQ to focus on delivering. Creating a second chamber at the National Assembly that would focus on regional issues, taking over control of EI from Ottawa, increasing the constraints on companies who extract resources from Quebec’s northern regions, and broad efforts at democratic renewal are all part of what Marois describes as the PQ’s plan for “sovereigntist governance.” “The government’s actions are what will show that Quebec deserves to have all the tools to blossom.” Continue…
By Martin Patriquin - Friday, August 19, 2011 at 3:08 PM - 0 Comments
Does the Nouveau mouvement pour le Québec have a political future?
By Philippe Gohier - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 6:47 PM - 0 Comments
Yet another MNA quits the Parti Québécois over its referendum policy
Leave it to the Parti Québécois to find a way to make a bad situation worse. On Tuesday, the PQ’s Benoit Charette became the fifth MNA this month to quit the party. PQ leader Pauline Marois also expelled René Gauvreau from caucus over allegations an aide was helping himself to party funds, but let’s focus on Charette for now, if only because my brain can’t process how bad a month Marois is having. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 9:40 AM - 0 Comments
It appears Quebecers agree that Quebec is most corrupt province in Canada
Maclean’s has heard a great many voices over the past two weeks regarding our recent cover story on corruption in Quebec politics (“The most corrupt province in Canada,” Oct. 4, 2010).
Many of these voices, largely the political elite in Quebec, have expressed a degree of outrage ranging somewhere between apoplexy and eye-popping fury. We have been wildly accused of xenophobia and bigotry. The House of Commons, in a unanimous motion orchestrated by the Bloc Québécois, declared its “profound sadness” at our coverage.
We’ve heard a very different message from the public at large, however. Canadians have told us loudly and clearly that they are concerned about the significant problem of corruption and unethical behaviour displayed by their elected representatives. And this sentiment is noticeably stronger in Quebec than any other province. It seems a far more convincing expression of the public interest than complaints from a bunch of self-interested politicians.
By Philippe Gohier - Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 3:14 PM - 0 Comments
Perhaps the most impressive part of Marc Bellemare’s testimony at the Bastarache commission is…
Perhaps the most impressive part of Marc Bellemare’s testimony at the Bastarache commission is the former Justice Minister’s seemingly infallible memory. Bellemare has been able to recall specific conversations on specific dates, not to mention many other innocuous details about his time in government—the brand of sparkling water he was served by Charest, the outcome of Montreal Canadiens’ hockey games, etc.
All of which makes it difficult to make sense of this exchange between Bellemare and the commission’s chief prosecutor, Giuseppe Battista, concerning Marc Bisson’s nomination as a judge for the Court of Quebec (see pp. 93-95 of the transcript):
Bellemare: [...] and [Liberal MNA] Norm MacMillan had also told me in August 2003 that Bisson the father was a delicate subject. The Auditor General’s report into the Gomery affair had been produced—I think it was in mid-February 2003, just before the election—and Mr. Guy Bisson, the father, was, apparently involved in that story, so we had to be careful. The father…
Battista: Who told you that?
Bellemare: Norm MacMillan and Franco Fava
Bellemare: But not at the same time.
Battista: What did you have to be careful about?
Bellemare: Because Guy Bisson was involved in… with the sponsorship scandal.
Battista: And? What does…
Bellemare: Well, that he… that it was delicate because… for him and for the father, because he might be investigated and he might eventually have to testify before Gomery. Because Judge Gomery’s mandate had been confirmed, but the hearings hadn’t happened yet. I was being told to be careful because the father…. but with the son, there was no problem.
There’s a serious problem with the timeline here. The Auditor General’s report wasn’t released in February 2003, but on February 10, 2004—nearly three months after Bisson’s nomination was confirmed by the Charest government on November 26, 2003. (The Gomery inquiry was announced February 11, 2004.)
While it’s true the A-G’s investigation was well underway by then—a spokesperson for the A-G’s office confirmed to Maclean’s the investigation took about 18 months—there isn’t a single mention of Guy Bisson in Sheila Fraser’s report. In fact, Bisson’s name didn’t come up in connection with the sponsorship scandal until March 2005. By then, Bellemare had been out of government for nearly a year and was meeting with… the very same Franco Fava mentioned above to see if the Liberal organizer would help him raise money for his run for mayor of Quebec City.
Everything you ever wanted to know about Axor's illegal donations in Quebec (but were afraid to ask)
By Philippe Gohier - Tuesday, August 10, 2010 at 5:34 PM - 0 Comments
Late last week, Quebec’s Directeur général des élections (DGE) announced it had uncovered forty…
Late last week, Quebec’s Directeur général des élections (DGE) announced it had uncovered forty cases of illegal donations to provincial political parties by the engineering firm Axor. (Although the DGE treated the donations as having come from three separate companies—Axor Experts-Conseils inc., Groupe Axor inc. and Axor Construction Canada inc.—for the sake of simplicity, I’ll treat them as one. If their names are any indication, it’s not like much thought went into distinguishing them from each other anyway.)
By Philippe Gohier - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 at 6:50 PM - 0 Comments
Has the provincial party bottomed out in Quebec?
Martin and I spent the morning poring over polling data to sort out whether the vultures circling above Jean Charest are onto something. Here’s what we compiled using data from Léger Marketing’s monthly polls:
June 2010: 30%
May 2010: 31%
April 2010: 30%
March 2010: 32%
Feb. 2010: 37%
Jan. 2010: 39%
June 2010: 41%
May 2010: 40%
April 2010: 40%
March 2010: 38%
Feb. 2010: 40%
Jan. 2010: 41%
June 2010: 13%
May 2010: 12%
April 2010: 9%
March 2010: 10%
Feb. 2010: 9%
Jan. 2010: 6%
Government approval rating:
June 2010: 20%
May 2010: 20%
April 2010: 21%
March 2010: 24%
Feb. 2010: 33%
Jan. 2010: 35%
Government disapproval rating:
June 2010: 76%
May 2010: 76%
April 2010: 77%
March 2010: 70%
Feb. 2010: 62%
Jan. 2010: 58%
Charest as best candidate to be premier:
June 2010: 18%
May 2010: 18%
April 2010: 17%
March 2010: 20%
Feb. 2010: 28%
Jan. 2010: 27%
Marois as best candidate to be premier:
June 2010: 25%
May 2010: 26%
April 2010: 27%
March 2010: 24%
Feb. 2010: 24%
Jan. 2010: 26%
Public opinion of Charest (rating in December 2009):
Positive opinion: 24% (40%)
Negative opinion: 68% (48%)
Public opinion of Marois (rating in December 2009):
Positive opinion: 42% (42%)
Negative opinion: 44% (44%)
Here’s what stuck out to me:
(1) The drop in Liberal support has seemingly gone to the ADQ. And yet, I suspect this is a bit of a red herring. The ADQ’s finances are nothing short of a complete mess, as are its membership numbers: donations tumbled to $441,946 in 2009 from $2,078,427 in 2008, and membership fell to 6,120 in 2009 from 12,275 in 2008 and 25,887 in 2007. Liberals might be parking their votes with the ADQ, but Quebec’s right-wing hardly seems on the cusp of a breakthrough as a result.
(2) Charest’s government is now significantly less popular than his party. This is unusual because it means even Liberal voters think the Liberal government is on the wrong track. Furthermore, it suggests virtually no one outside the party supports the government.
(3) While Charest’s personal popularity numbers have jumped off a cliff—the gap between the number of people who like Charest and those who don’t has grown to 44 points from eight points in December 2009—Marois’s ratings are unchanged over the same time period. People have really grown to dislike Charest regardless of the alternative.
(4) Amazingly enough, these aren’t even the worst numbers Charest and the Liberals have posted since coming to power: in April 2005, the Liberals were running at 21% and 78% of people disapproved of the government.
(5) Unless Charest somehow manages to drive his government’s reputation even further into the ground, the Liberals may be bottoming out at 30% in the polls, which really isn’t so bad considering the staggering number of scandals they’re fighting off. If that’s true, with Mario Dumont gone from the ADQ and Marois entrenched as PQ leader, this might be as polarized as the electorate gets in Quebec these days.
By Philippe Gohier - Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 5:56 PM - 25 Comments
Why it’s getting harder and harder to give him the benefit of the doubt
Never mind that the inquiry Jean Charest called to look into judicial nominations in the province doesn’t get at the heart of the controversy surrounding his government—namely, that a former justice minister says he saw Liberal bagmen collecting cash donations to circumvent party donation rules. Even when it comes to the limited scope of Michel Bastarache’s inquiry, it’s getting hard to believe Charest isn’t already sunk, whether or not his government is eventually exonerated.
Consider the government’s confusion over whether or not the judicial nomination process was indeed changed after Charest’s election in 2003. The current minister’s own assistant tells Le Devoir the list of potential candidates for judgeships is shared with the provincial cabinet before the nomination is made. After the justice minister makes his or her recommendation, “the cabinet will look at the other candidates and make a decision,” she says. Under the previous system, the justice minister alone would make the final decision, though it would be presented to the cabinet as a “recommendation” which would then invariably rubber-stamp it.
By Philippe Gohier - Saturday, April 10, 2010 at 3:32 PM - 98 Comments
Sometimes, “it’d be way easier if Quebec wasn’t around”
Twenty years after the Meech Lake negotiations collapsed, leaving Quebec as the only province without its signature at the bottom of the Constitution, Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe is still looking for someone—anyone—in the rest of Canada who’s still interested in talking about Quebec’s plight.
“Canada hasn’t made any offers” that would entice Quebec to sign on to the Constitution, Duceppe said in an interview with Macleans.ca, “and I don’t think any are coming.” And that’s true, he adds, no matter what the federal government looks like. “When there’s a majority government in Canada, they say ‘we have a mandate and it’s to not make any offers.’ When it’s a minority government, they say ‘we’re not in a position to make an offer.’ We’re forced to conclude, then, that Canada is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.”
By Philippe Gohier - Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 2:22 PM - 3 Comments
Are provincial cabinet ministers in Quebec trying to tell us something?
Transportation Minister Julie…
Are provincial cabinet ministers in Quebec trying to tell us something?
Transportation Minister Julie Boulet, February 2010: “There are rules that govern the funding of political parties. It’s legal in Quebec to engage in political financing, for companies to donate.”
Education Minister Michelle Courchesne, December 2009: “The majority of private enterprises donate to all the political parties.”
Minister for Transport Norman MacMillan, December 2009: “There’s a law that governs all this. We can’t prevent company X from donating $3,000 to the Liberal party.” MacMillan then added government ministers are expected to raise $100,000 a year for the party.
Aside from the fact they were all made by Quebec Liberals, the statements have something else in common: they’re all patently wrong. Quebec hasn’t allowed corporate donations since 1977 and the repeated slip-ups have now caught the attention of province’s chief electoral officer, not to mention that of Pauline Marois.
By Philippe Gohier - Friday, January 22, 2010 at 6:41 PM - 35 Comments
If you haven’t yet read John’s piece about how difficult it’s going to be…
If you haven’t yet read John’s piece about how difficult it’s going to be to balance the budget, what are you waiting for? In much the same vein, the good folks at Léger Marketing (yes, this is another poll-related story) have released the results of a survey in which they asked Quebecers where they would cut if they were given free rein to get Quebec City back in the black.
Here are the top 10 suggestions:
- End the financing of private schools.
- Significantly increase taxes on business.
- Allow the establishment of fully-private health clinics.
- Introduce tolls on certain bridges and roads.
- Bring in a system to moderate access to health services.
- Abolish school boards.
- Close down Quebec’s diplomatic outposts.
- Significantly increase the user fees for $7 per day daycare.
- Abolish CEGEPs and tack on an extra year for high school.
- Significantly reduce subsidies for festivals and cultural events.
The last item on the list is especially intriguing—I seem to recall there being a bit of a backlash last time someone tried it. Otherwise, no big suprises, except perhaps that Quebecers really don’t seem to have much of a problem with user fees.
By Philippe Gohier - Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 5:09 PM - 11 Comments
Léger Marketing released the results of its latest poll into the political leanings of…
Léger Marketing released the results of its latest poll into the political leanings of Quebecers yesterday. Here’s where the federal parties stand (the numbers in parentheses represent the change since Nov. 27):
Bloc: 40% (+3)
Liberals: 23% (+3)
Conservatives: 17% (-3)
NDP: 15% (-2)
Whatever it is that’s ailing the Conservatives elsewhere (prorogation? Afghanistan? widespread grumpiness?) appears to be hurting them in Quebec as well, with their votes fleeing to the usual places—to Mononc’ Gilles and Professor Ignatieff. With no election on the horizon, it may not mean much. But the Liberals, Tories and NDP have to be hoping one of them can definitively pull ahead as the mainstay federalist option in the province to avoid splitting the vote and handing 55 seats over to the Bloc.
One of the things I like about Léger’s polls is the regional breakdown. Of course, the usual disclaimers about very small sample sizes apply, but here’s where everyone stands in Montreal/Quebec City/the rest of Quebec (i.e., les régions):
Bloc: 36 / 30 / 48 (-2 / +4 / +10)
Liberals: 27 / 14 / 20 (+4 / +2 / –)
Conservatives: 12 / 30 / 18 (-3 / -8 / -2)
NDP: 18 / 20 / 10 (+2 / +1 / -8)
A few things stand out:
-The NDP is considerably more popular than the Liberals in Quebec City. Huh.
-The Conservatives appear to have lost some ground everywhere, but are likely most worried about losing a good chunk of their base in and around Quebec City. They’re simply not competitive enough in Montreal to be able to afford that kind of collapse.
-The Liberals remain a force in Montreal. Of course, given the linguistic divide in the city, it’s hard to imagine this not being the case. But it’s still noteworthy.
-Whatever support bled out from the Bloc to the Tories and the NDP, especially in the rural areas, appears to have gone back to Duceppe and the gang.
By Philippe Gohier - Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 7:35 PM - 5 Comments
The Gazette‘s Don Macpherson boldly predicts 2010 won’t be all wine and roses for…
The Gazette‘s Don Macpherson boldly predicts 2010 won’t be all wine and roses for Quebec Premier Jean Charest:
A year of recession and losses at the Caisse de dépôt ended with Charest being hounded by demands for a public inquiry into alleged corruption in the construction industry and with his government’s satisfaction rating at only 34 per cent.
And this year, things might get even worse.
The new year begins with Charest’s government facing problems in three key areas: political morality, public finances, and identity.
According to Macpherson, those problems are: persistent demands for an inquiry into dodgy dealings in the construction sector, as well as a perceived need to tighten ethics rules; a budget that will need balancing in the short term; and lingering identity and language issues that could prove to be a boon to the PQ’s fortunes. There’s nothing really, truly terrible on Macpherson’s list, but I can see why Charest and the gang might want to start burnishing the government’s image as soon as possible to prevent any of those issues from snowballing into something like, say, the Bouchard-Taylor Comission. Continue…