From my vantage point in Quebec, it appears that minus an NDP-like federal election surge by the CAQ, or an Alberta surprise return of the PC Party, the sovereignist Parti Quebecois will tomorrow morning find itself once again beginning to assume stewardship of Quebec’s political fortunes.
Why would Quebecers decide to provide Pauline Marois with the keys to the corner office at the National Assembly, particularly when polling shows the appetite for another referendum on Quebec departing confederation is polling lower than 30%?
Quebecers, and not only Francophones, are largely an insular people. I write this not with insult in mind. What has taken place in the province over time is that through the Bill 101 enshrined declaration of French assuming primacy over English or any other language, it has become unnecessary for Francophones to become even passingly familiar with a language other than French. At least while inside provincial boundaries.
I daily encounter young Quebecers particularly who have virtually no knowledge of English and are therefore exposed only to French language media and commentary. That should be an option or choice, but not the only choice. Particularly when you live on a continent where for more than 300 million people English is either their primary language, or certainly the language of commerce.
The desire to protect the French language from being slowly reduced to secondary status in Quebec is completely understandable. It would be so in other parts of Canada if English were in danger of being eclipsed. Former Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa and the architect of Bill 101 told me in an interview a week after the 1995 sovereignty referendum that it was his sworn duty to protect French and the best way to do so was through Bill 101.
Insular thinking was bound to be the result.
PQ leader Pauline Marois and those within the party who continue to yearn for a nation of Quebec will, should they win the election today, begin as early as tomorrow a campaign to persuade Quebecers that the breakup of Canada is what is best for Quebec. There will be little or no suggestion that it would be good for the rest of Canada as well. Marois and her inner circle don’t care about that at all.
How does Marois accomplish her objective of a third sovereignty referendum and a successful one at that (from the PQ’s perspective)? Making the nationalist argument to a largely unilingual (young) population is much easier than doing so to a multi-lingual population with easy access to English language counter-argument to the sovereignist’s dream.
It appears the PQ will win today. If it scores a majority bet on a referendum within 18-24 months at the latest. A minority win would be used to set the stage for a majority score 6-10 months from now. With the chief opposition coming not from the Liberal Party, but rather the newcomer CAQ with its former Marois PQ cabinet colleague Francois Legault at the helm, the Pequistes may indeed find their wish for a majority government delayed only briefly.
The Liberals? Jean Charest may not win his own riding in the city of Sherbrooke and there don’t appear to be any political young-blood stars waiting in the wings. Quebec’s Liberals may follow their federal counterparts into the political wildnerness. That is unless a significant percentage of Quebec’s voters find themselves, pencil in hand, today at the last moment deciding they do not wish to green-light Pauline Marois and the PQ at all.
We will know what course Quebec will chart and through that affect also the direction for Canada in a matter of hours.