Former Quebec's Premier Jean Charest pauses while announcing that he will be stepping down as the Liberal party leader during a news conference at the National Assembly in Quebec City, September 5, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/MATHIEU BELANGER
Quebecers had had enough of Jean Charest. They defeated him in his own constituency of Sherbrooke and made his Liberal Party the official opposition in the National Assembly with a respectable 50 seats out of 125. On Wednesday Charest said he would step down as leader of the party.
They gave the Parti Quebecois a small victory, a tiny minority government with 54 seats so the two other parties can block the pequistes' referendum dreams, their coercive language rules and their left-leaning economic policies. Voters also elected 19 members of the Coalition Avenir Quebec so Francois Legault's new party could prove what it has in its belly before the next election.
It's as if Quebecers consulted one another and collectively decided that none of the current choices on their ballots pleased them. They sent all the candidates back to work to present something more appealing next time.
They want the Liberals to elect a new leader who could be perceived as more honest, the CAQ to gain experience and the PQ to get away from the unions or the hardline separatists.
In the meantime, very little will happen. Prime Minister Stephen Harper can sleep soundly. Our new premier-elect Pauline Marois cannot start a true constitutional fight nor implement her program.
Those in English-Canada who freaked out when they read the PQ was back in government can breathe easily and relax. There are currently almost as many separatists in Quebec as there are in the rest of Canada. Last month, a QMI Agency poll revealed that 26% of English-speaking Canadians outside of Quebec would vote to kick us out of the country. Only 28% of Quebecers said they would vote Yes in a referendum on sovereignty.
These are certainly not "winning conditions" for the PQ.
Remember also that the PQ was elected by less than 32% of those who voted. That's 3% lower than the PQ got in the last general election when it finished as the opposition. It is only 1.8% more than Rene Levesque's PQ had in 1973 when the party was only able to elect six MNAs.
Pauline Marois ended up premier this week by accident or luck or both.
When Marois was victim of a putsch last year, she had to make a deal with the radical left and hardline separatists to survive. These small groups handcuffed her. She had to propose income tax increases as high as 7% for some taxpayers, force francophone adults to study in French only in colleges and CEGEPs, propose a referendum initiated by a petition within the next few months, among many concessions.
Now that the opposition can decide the true political agenda, Marois' government can blame others for not delivering on any front. Everything and everyone will be in a wait-and-see mood.
In other words, Quebec voters were wise and sent all of their political elite back to do their homework before they decide which path they want to take.
See you a la prochaine election, as we say in Quebec.