Coalition Avenir Quebec leader Francois Legault jokes with a man at the Western Festival in St-Robert Sentre, QC on Friday August 10.
Credits: DIDIER DEBUSSCHERE/QMI AGENCY
Our friends in Quebec are embroiled in an unusual and unpleasant summer election campaign, and on Sept. 4 it's pretty sure that whoever wins the most seats in the National Assembly will have been given that mandate by voters casting ballots with one hand and holding their noses with the other.
The Liberal government of Jean Charest is tired, unpopular and mired in accusations of scandal. An inquiry into allegations of corruption in the province's construction industry is set to resume days after the vote, Charest has been accused of interfering in a provincial police investigation, and candidates campaigning in Montreal have to be careful not to get in the way of the riot police still trying to rein in unruly student protesters.
The polls indicate Quebecers want change -- but if they opt for change, what are they going to get?
The choices are the Liberals, safe and predictable but worn-out and unwanted; the upstart, untried and unknown Coalition Avenir Quebec, who while federalist and supposedly centre-right, apparently love the idea of spending the money of Quebec's long-suffering taxpayers.
The Parti Quebecois is vowing to divert $10 billion from the province's pension holdings into a slush fund intended to shore up Quebec businesses that might be eyed for takeover by outsiders. It promises to extend Bill 101, Quebec's much-maligned language law. And the list of intrusive and expensive promises goes on.
The PQ should be a spent force. It is bereft if ideas, its philosophy of "economic nationalism" a dinosaur in a globalized world.
Meanwhile, leader Pauline Marois says a vote for the PQ is not a vote for another referendum on sovereignty. Or, at least, not one right away. Maybe.
An analysis published this week in the U.S. warns against any talk of separation, remarking that any credibility Quebec has on international markets is directly related to the fact that it's got the federal government backing it up.
But still, such is the Quebec electorate's antipathy toward Charest and the Liberals that current polls suggest the PQ might form a minority government.
It's not clear which direction Quebec's voters are going to choose, but let's hope it's not backwards.