Usually, provincial elections are just something of passing interest to most people but that Quebec dust-up last Monday sure grabbed attention, not to mention relief (for many), with the Liberal Party winning such a strong majority.
The Parti Quebecois took a real beating and will be licking its wounds for some time to come while they sit out and soul search, wondering what went wrong.
In the 19 months since the PQ ousted the Liberals in 2012, the (now former) Premier Marois introduced the controversial Charter of Values to the howls of protest not only from inside Quebec but across the country. The charter sought to ban the wearing of religious symbols for anyone employed by the Quebec government and barred the hijab, turban, kippah (yarmulke), burka, or any notably visible crucifix or religious symbol while on the job.
Then she called an unnecessary election with the strategy of wanting to see the PQ move up the popularity pole to majority government status. But in the campaign the sovereignty issue surfaced and took flight with the misguided concept of a referendum question. Seems to me they’ve been down that road before with a “no” vote telling them Quebecers wanted to stay in Canada.
What were they thinking? Hardcore separatists aside, clearly the majority of Quebecers were asking the same thing. So they gave the PQ the boot, moving them from a minority status to a species at risk.
Liberal leader and now incoming Premier Philippe Couillard couldn’t be happier. The party won 41.5 per cent of the popular vote and 70 seats. A neurosurgeon by profession, he made a career move into politics in 2003, becoming Minister of Health and Social Services and one of the most popular ministers in the Charest government. He became leader of the Quebec Liberal Party in March 2013. When Premier Marois floated her Quebec Charter of Values, Couillard instantly saw problems ahead. His distain of that less-than-valued policy was described by him as an unnecessary bill that will only divide Quebecers. No doubt.
Couillard has his work cut out for him. At the top of the to-do list is for his government to fix a wobbly economy which will likely remain lack-lustre for the rest of this year. But going for him right now is the fact that, if there is one thing economists like after an election, it is certainty. The Liberal’s win assures a level of stability for the next four years. That sense of renewed optimism was strong enough to nudge the dollar up a quarter of a cent.
Now, sound economic policies and budgets can get passed without endless squabbling with opposition parties and the Libs can focus on honouring their election campaign pledge to create 250,000 jobs over the next five years.
Quebec’s new political landscape is a much healthier reflection of what all Canadians want – a stronger economy, stability, growth, and shared prosperity. Right now, Quebec has to deal with a crumbling health care system, high debt, and a lack of new job opportunities. And the profile of Quebecers has changed. Many are neither Anglophone nor Francophone but ethnic immigrants with values that will play into the mosaic of Quebec’s future profile. They need jobs, business opportunities and investments, and social support systems.
Politics of course has endless moving parts. Referendums and the separatist debate are pretty much shelved for the foreseeable future which is not to say it won’t return. But this election is a strong statement from Quebecers that, for them, the status quo is working.
I guess they have figured out Canada’s a pretty decent place to live. But we knew that all along, didn’t we?