Election Shows Parti Quebecois Solidifying its Pragmatism

The newly-called general election in Quebec is worth watching because it has the potential to bring another Quebec referendum some time down the line, should the Parti Quebecois win a solid majority.  The thought of another Quebec referendum is enough to make most Canadians who were of age in 1995 shriek. Those who weren’t, not so much.

But therein lies the central question.  A large segment of the Quebec electorate has no experience of the brink to which the Parizeau-Bouchard team took the country, and the feverish faith in an independent Quebec doesn’t seem to be there anymore. While it doesn’t mean that it could not return, it’s been gone too long.

Pauline Marois, Pierre Karl Peladeau,The anticipation of what the campaign could bring in future has also been heightened by the announcement that Quebec media mogul Pierre Karl Péladeau has just entered the fray and will run as a candidate for the governing Parti Quebecois.  Péladeau is the vice-Chair of Quebecor, the media conglomerate that owns Sun Media and TVA, one of the largest communications companies in Canada.

This is significant because upon its founding, the Parti Quebecois was the most labour-oriented political party in the country, and it has traditionally enjoyed near complete support of the province’s militant labour unions.  It is among these unions and students that the movement to separate from Canada has been nourished.

That said, for some time, the most radical edges in Quebec had accused the Parti Quebecois of becoming more traditional and of veering to the right. Many such accusers populated the new Montreal-based party Quebec Solidaire, founded in 2006.

In short, many of those who would likely be offended by Péladeau joining the Parti Quebecois left for Quebec Solidaire by the time the last general election took place.  What will be interesting to see is how much of the traditional labour movement the Parti Quebecois manages to hold on to at the polls.

The FTQ (Quebec Federation of Workers), one of the largest union groups in the province, has already referred to Péladeau’s candidacy as a “catastrophe for Quebec workers.”

Il s’agit probablement de l’un des pires employeurs que le Québec ait connu. Est-il besoin de rappeler que monsieur Péladeau traîne avec lui un record de 14 lock-outs ? La FTQ est convaincue qu’il ne s’agit pas d’un actif positif pour le Parti Québécois.

(It is probably one of the worst employers that Quebec has known. Need we be reminded that Mr. Péladeau carries with him the record of 14 lock-outs? The FTQ is convinced that this not a positive action for the Parti Quebecois).

It seems somewhat improbable that FTQ executives would want to sit at the same governing table as Pierre Karl Péladeau.

This is all politics, to be sure.  But the entry of Péladeau into the mix changes things.  Or perhaps it doesn’t really change them as much as it solidifies the PQ veering away from radical labour –and from the sovereignty option.

Given the demographic make up of the province, there aren’t as many young separatists as there used to be.  Young Quebeckers in the last 20 years have learned to live in a world that is interconnected, they are more travelled and more worldy, often do business in English.  They are more likely to reject the parochialism once embraced by their parents , whether it is personified by labour or by large capital.

Likely what we see is the institutionalization of the PQ as a political party comme les autres –like the other pragmatic parties. Its high ideological energy is waning.  The end goal of separation looms far in the horizon only as a token idea for the sake of a core of voters but the party is now after power (to control the policy agenda of the Quebec State), …and their policy agenda with sovereignty ahead of everything has become unworkable.

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