Ever since Pauline Marois brought the separatist Parti Quebecois to an embarrassing failure in the April provincial election, the question of the party’s relevance has become the center of discussion. The PQ made mistake after mistake during the campaign, while the Quebec Liberals defined them as little more than referendum pushers.
Those mistakes—the Charter of Values, their conflicting rhetoric, and uncompromising separatism—survive in the party today, in the form of Bernard Drainville, Pierre-Karl Peladeau, and Jean-François Lisee, all frontrunners in the race to put the final nail on the PQ coffin.
In the last few weeks, it seems all three Pequisites have lost any credible footing in potential leadership campaigns. Most recently, Pierre-Karl Peladeau admitted to a self-diagnosed case of an “apparent situation of conflict of interest.” Peladeau used his political authority to lobby against the sale of a Montreal film studio sought after by Quebecor, his family business. Most unionized workers vilify Peladeau—unfortunate because they comprise a significant portion of the PQ’s base—and his gaffes prior to this potential scandal are far too many to count. Previously, PKP promised to put his Quebecor shares in a blind trust, later went back to dismiss his obligation, and then recently pledged again to do the same (if he was to seek PQ leadership). He compared the signing of the Canadian constitution to the imposition of communism on East Germany, and had a hand (or fist) in the PQ’s catastrophic campaign failure in April. Oh, and the media company in which he holds a majority stake, which in turn has a majority stake in Quebec media, recently sold off its English properties to Postmedia. English is so passé.
At this stage, I would say Peladeau has already inflicted enough damage on the separatist cause to be able to proudly call himself true PQ leadership material.
Jean-François Lisée, now a driving force in the PQ, has been chastised for calling on Peladeau to sell his Quebecor shares. It may be the right thing to do, but the PQ would hate to be painted as a party plagued by infighting. It would almost be dishonest, which is a quality the Parti Quebecois obviously loathes. Lisée continued to put his pieds dans sa bouche by revealing he would have voted against the Quebec Charter of Values because making people choose between their faith and their job was “inconceivable.” Pretty rich for the guy who wholeheartedly exploited identity politics during an election campaign. At one point in his career, Lisée seriously advocated to ban immigrants who could not adequately speak French from voting. During the election, he co-authored a letter featured in The New York Times that defended the Charter of Values and the Parti Quebecois’ platform. Pardon my French, but that’s a whole new level of idiocy in Quebec politics.
Finally, Bernard Drainville, architect of the ill-fated Charter of Values and possible brand ambassador to CLR Drain Cleaner, marred his chances following the provincial election. The Charter of Values was responsible for alienating minority voters, Anglophones, and anyone with self-respect from voting PQ. Some have labeled it xenophobic, unwelcoming, and downright racist. It should fit perfectly with his party, right? Apparently not.
Federally, the separatist cause isn’t faring any better. Over the summer, the Bloc Quebecois—already battered after the 2011 election where it lost official party status—dwindled down to 2 sitting members in Parliament. The resignations were caused by the new leader’s aggressive push for a “sovereignty first” platform. The first rule of separatism in Quebec is that you can’t talk about separatism. It’s a delicate procedure, akin to giving children bitter-tasting medicine to cure their common cold, but, in this situation, the medicine is toxic and trying to cure a problem that does not exist.
Perhaps there’s a branding issue. Drainville said we should seek Quebec independence, not sovereignty. Whatever that means. Maybe he’s just trying to be trendy like the rugged Scotsmen and their (failed) referendum campaign.
What was once an intense field for the helm of the Parti Quebecois has now turned into a dysfunctional waiting room at a gastroenterologist’s office, where the inner filth of candidates is being revealed via colonoscopy. Shit is going to get real, indeed.