What do the ghosts of two dead men and a disgraced former Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition have in common? For one thing, every one of them had been expected to lead their party to victory, at least in Quebec. This trio handling triage in the looming Federal Election includes, of course, the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the late Jack Layton, and the late, but not dead yet Gilles Duceppe, who has announced his pending return to Federal politics.
Gilles Duceppe, the former leader of the separatist Bloc Quebecois, has announced a mind-boggling comeback to Federal politics. His British heritage has had him joking he’s “the bloke who turned bloc.” Although his party won the second largest percentage of popular support in the province in 2011, they were reduced to a mere four seats, none of which were Duceppe’s. As tradition has it, the losing leaders promptly resigned their leadership, Duceppe included (and his tail firmly between his jambes).
The Bloc Quebecois are currently on their second leader since Duceppe’s apparently duceptive departure. The party—which once led Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in the House of Commons (while advocating for the breakup of the country)—has recently been polling lower than Conservatives in their province. Apparently, electing a hardline French language activist like Mario Beaulieu has proved to be unpopular. Predictions are giving them only 1 or 2 seats at the most. Who would have guessed?
Since his departure, Duceppe has voiced his opinions on matters of nation, state, and nation state, sometimes at odds with the current leadership. It sounds oddly familiar to a ‘retired’ Pierre Trudeau in the 1980s and 1990s. As with Trudeau, people (at least Quebecers) have listened. Briefly, Duceppe contemplated a run for the leadership of Parti Quebecois. It was revealed earlier that the long-term leader of the party would be helping his replacement with the election. However, it seems that the replacement is allowing Duceppe to take over the reigns of the party.
Party spokespersons have insisted that this is not a putsch. Yet, how exactly the leadership will be transferred back to Duceppe is questionable. Beaulieu appears to be resigning willingly in favour of the presidency of the Bloc. However, a lot of dictatorships have started with a ‘voluntary’ resignation—usually at gunpoint. Some suggested (perhaps not jokingly) that Duceppe will be required to pull a sword from a stone in order to win the leadership. Or, should we say re-win the leadership… if there’s even to be another leadership race, which seems doubtful.
Duceppe’s leadership is suspected to bring about a revival in the party’s fortunes. Hopefully, it will leave the Bloc as the third party in the Commons trying to win more seats based on the leadership of a dearly departed and well-liked leader. Controversy recently arose over NDP leader Tom Mulcair’s use of Jack Layton’s image on a number of campaign materials. Accusations have been raised from critics (whom the NDP leader denounces as individuals jealous of his popularity) that Mulcair is attempting to win his party seats by clinging to the coattails of “Le Bon Jack.” It’s an interesting thought to cross the mind of the Bloc, who felt they couldn’t attack Jack Layton in the previous campaign because of his good nature and “condition.” I’ll let you decide which party’s usage of the late Layton is more patronizing.
Mulcair appeared as floored by this decision as the rest of the country. In fact, his beard might sport a few more grey hairs now. Fumbling around for an analogy for the situation, he settled upon the line that “Quebecers don’t want to play extras in Back to the Future 4.” What he means by this is unclear. But, it is in response to Mr. Duceppe’s accusation that, under his leadership, Quebec NDP MPs have stopped advocating for Quebec and now advocate only for Canada. Specifically, they have failed to critique the Harper Government’s awarding of its shipbuilding strategy to BC and Nova Scotian companies over a Quebec one. Apparently, the unflappable Uncle Tom can, in fact, be flapped!
Of course, the Liberals have been using the ghost of another long dead leader in hopes of reviving their own fortunes. Trudeau has been launched as the Liberal Party’s saviour and some have said that most of this popularity is simply due to his late father Pierre Trudeau. Justin has proven himself to be a copy of his father, which is both a good and bad thing, no matter how you look at it.
With the NDP potentially forced to tack towards Quebec Nationalism with this development, it doesn’t bode well for Mulcair and crew. Such actions in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s sent them tumbling from first place in the polls to 4th. This isn’t necessarily good news for the Liberals and Conservatives either, but it certainly isn’t bad news. It allows the Liberals to remind everyone of their party’s ardent support for national unity and its record fighting separatists, something Harper can’t claim. At the same time, it does allow him to threaten a separatist-socialist-liberal coalition which couldn’t shore up much needed support in his own base.