Andre Bellavance, MP for Richmond—Arthabaska, has announced that he is quitting the Bloc Quebecois, finally relegating the party to irrelevant status in the House along with the other two-seat party, the Green Party of Canada.
Just think about that for a moment, the Bloc, which formed the Official Opposition from 1993-1997, is down to two seats. Their vote is meaningless, as is their potential to drive debate. Remember back to 2004, when Stephen Harper, Jack Layton, and Gilles Duceppe met to talk about destroying Paul Martin? Or in 2008, when Stephane Dion, Jack Layton, and Gilles Duceppe met to talk about destroying Stephen Harper? The Bloc Quebecois used to matter, as did Quebec.
So why has the Bloc fallen from grace? Some, like (inexplicably) David Soknacki’s campaign manager, blame Mario Beaulieu, the new leader of the Bloc Quebecois running a campaign purely based on separatism and demagoguery.
Not so super, that Mario…#qcpoli
— Supriya Dwivedi (@supriyadwivedi) August 25, 2014
Though Beaulieu’s tenure has seen the caucus shrink in half, from four to two, it’s hardly a considerable loss considering Duceppe brought it from 49 to four. A quick glance at the Bloc’s platform helps elaborate why:
Given that the Bloc’s platform is utterly indistinguishable from three other parties with seats, but with the caveat that all of it will be framed in Quebec-focused terms rather than equity for the entire country, there’s little incentive for those who aren’t rabid sovereigntists to support it, especially when national parties have a better chance of forming government to implement them.
Beaulieu recognized this, but instead of trying to actually solve the problem (for example, marketing themselves as a decentralizing party advocating for the rights of all provinces as a source of differentiation), he dropped the rest of the platform and is running on “vote for us if you want to separate!” That’s part of the reason why some of the other Bloc MPs have decided it’d be better to wait out the next year as independents and retire before 2015 comes around. The other reason is that separating just isn’t important to Quebeckers anymore. There’s a tacit realization that separating is not feasible, financially, militarily, or even culturally, and that Quebec needs to become the Canadian province again (that means a functioning economy and a lack of endemic corruption) before the subject can win hearts and minds again.
In the meantime, Beaulieu probably won’t win many seats in the next election. The reign of the Bloc is over, for now at least. A rebranding may have been the answer, but separatism probably isn’t the way to do it.