Friday, April 04, 2014

Quebec election: "You don't need a weatherman....

... to know which way the wind blows", goes the old Bob Dylan song. It applies well to this Quebec election, which has had plenty of twists, turns and surprises but whose outcome now seems clear.

The final polls on the Quebec election will come out this weekend but the verdict can be discerned without looking at the polls. By the way the polling numbers can all be found on this Wikipedia page.

Consider this: Pauline Marois promised tax cuts on April 3rd (after the budget is balanced). An appealing campaign promise in Quebec with its allegedly high taxes, right? Except it comes much too late in the campaign to do any good. Nearly 18% of Quebec voters had already voted in advance polls prior to yesterday, about 24% of the total vote we will see come April 7, if we use the 2012 turnout as a benchmark. If tax cuts are an important way to win votes perhaps it would have been be more beneficial to make the promise before any voters got to the polls. When parties begin to behave in an erratic and desperate pattern, you know they are in trouble.

There are good reasons to be cautious about polls in Quebec. Most of them are online surveys, a method TC thinks should be regarded as experimental. Given that we haven't seen a reliable poll yet there is some uncertainty, but all the non-poll indicators suggest the Liberals will easily win a majority.

It appears that the PQ coalition among francophones is fracturing - movement to the right to the CAQ (Coalition Avenir Québec) and movement to the left in the form of the Québec solidaire and some to Option Nationale (a party formed by dissidents from the PQ). The movements have been complicated. It seems that mid-campaign there was movement from the CAQ to the Liberals based on antipathy to a referendum. More recently the CAQ has been doing better based on leader François Legault`s performance in the second TV debate.

The PQ campaign has been an amazing display of incompetence. They let themselves be dazzled by the Pierre-Karl Péledeau (or PKP as he is known) recruitment, not recognizing the downside to his candidacy. By highlighting the prospect of a referendum during the announcement PKP and the PQ aroused all the latent hostility to holding a referendum. The PQ also ignored the potential for having a notorious strike-breaker in their midst to drive traditional left of centre PQ voters to Québec solidaire. There could be a post-election bloodbath in the PQ ranks.

There was an excellent report by Terence McKenna on the April 3rd edition of the CBC National that is well worth watching.

One of the extraordinary items in the report is about the Liberal leader Philippe Couillard's defence of his assertion in a TV debate that learning in English can be helpful to Quebeckers in the workplace. In spite of attacks on him from nationalists a couple of days after the debate he said:
"We absolutely want to protect our identity, our language... But it has nothing to do with the fact that we want to give our children the chance to learn another language. Is there a parent in Quebec that doesn’t want their child to learn another language? No."
On the face of it this should have been fatal in a Quebec election campaign given the anxiety of many francophones about the future of the French language in Quebec. However, it is Pauline Marois who has resorted to desperate late promises about taxes, not Couillard. She has also tried to kickstart her campaign by promoting the so-called "Charter of Values", but as I noted in my previous post it ranks low among the considerations of voters who might be expected to support it, and it continues to cause deep divisions in the ranks of those who favour Quebec independence.