Credits: ANNIE T ROUSSEL/JOURNAL DE QUEBEC/QMI AGENCY
MONTREAL - Canadians who fear the Parti Quebecois' sovereigntist ambitions can rest easy - for about six months anyway.
After that, what will happen is anyone's guess. But for now, Canadians can relax and read the latest regarding the public inquiry into Quebec's construction industry or details of the Quebec Liberal Party leadership race.
Major clashes between the three big parties will likely commence in the spring when the PQ tables its budget, said Jean Lapierre, QMI Agency political analyst and broadcaster on Sun Media's French-language news network.
Before then, he said, the PQ "will have to put water in its wine."
The PQ won 54 seats - nine short of a majority - after Tuesday's election and two parties that don't champion sovereignty, the Liberals and the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ), hold the balance of power.
Unless PQ Leader Pauline Marois compromises on proposed legislation, many of the PQ's plans will die on the floor of Quebec's legislature.
That is until the budget, which is automatically a confidence vote, Lapierre said. If the spring budget fails, Quebecers are back at the polls for the second time in less than a year.
He said neither the PQ nor the Liberals or CAQ will risk triggering an election before spring.
It is unclear how embarrassing the headlines out of the construction inquiry will be for the Liberals come spring. Moreover, it is also unclear if the upstart CAQ will be able to raise enough money to finance another election race in 12 months - or if the PQ will have increased its support among
Quebec's electorate significantly enough to risk an election.
And while there are many unknowns, one thing is pretty clear: The chances of a coalition government comprised of the Liberals and the CAQ are slim.
Peter Gossage, a Concordia University history professor, said the chance of that happening is "pretty remote."
He said that if the PQ falls early in its mandate and the Liberals and CAQ try to form a coalition government, then "such a move would be very unpopular in Quebec," he said. "Since all vestiges of the British monarchy ... are looked upon with considerable skepticism."
Lapierre threw out the coalition option for another reason: No one wants to get in bed with the Liberals right now, not with the construction inquiry set to begin in a few days, he said.
The construction inquiry is investigating allegations of corruption, collusion and influence-peddling in the construction industry. The inquiry resumes in mid-September, potentially delivering a steady stream of embarrassing headlines for the Liberals, and fodder for the PQ with which to attack the official Opposition, which will be leaderless.
Lapierre said the Liberals will likely choose a new leader by the end of January - and they'd better, if they want to have any leverage during budget negotiations with the PQ come spring.
So, rest easy Canada. But not too easy, you've got about six months.