Sunday, October 18, 2009

Journalists May Have it Wrong About Quebec By-Election

I am speaking mainly of L. Ian MacDonald's opinion piece in National Post and Chantal Hebert's piece in the Toronto Star, regarding one Quebec riding up for grabs down river: Montmagny-L'Islet-Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup. In both of those pieces and in others, I'm sure, they presume the new 'star' candidate, Bernard Genereux will have support of Premier Jean Charest in the upcoming by-election. It is said that he has close ties to Charest's Liberals. I think they're assuming too quickly that Charest will back Genereux.

As someone who has spent time in that part of Quebec, the folks of Montmagny-L'Islet-Kamouraska-Riviere-du-Loup, I can honestly say that, although  I believe in the end, the Bloc will remain there,  it could be close. I also never believed that provincial riding would go Liberal, neither. One never can tell how these elections can turn out with certainty.  It was the heartland of the short-lived Mario Dumont Action Democratique du Quebec, a sort-of reincarnation of Maurice Duplessis's old Union Nationale party. The A.D.Q. still exist but, without it's native son, Mario Dumont, Montmagny-L'Islet-Kamouraska-Riviere du Loup won't be such an easy win for Genereux. 

These people are conservative for the most part, rural, and like so many rural regions in  Quebec, the Catholic Church still has some influence over their lives. However, these are unilingual French speaking people who are generally pro-separatist.

These journalists like MacDonald and Hebert are saying Genereux has close ties to the Charest Liberals. I'm wondering how close is it really?  Do they think it's enough to get Genereux through? I'm not so sure about that.

We must remember during last year's federal election, Charest was none too happy with Stevie and his Harpercons for cozying up to Dumont. That, along with the cuts to arts and culture Stevie announced just after calling the 2008 election were enough for Charest to campaign for the Bloc. It ended up costing dearly for Stevie and Harpercons in Quebec. Has Charest really changed his tune where it concerns Stevie?

Given Charest's loyalties to Brian Mulroney, and Stevie's absence from the anniversary party of Mulroney's 1984 win,  and the rift between Stevie and Mulroney over the Karlheinz Schreiber affair; Charest isn't likely to help Stevie. It has been suggested that ol' Stevie start playing nice with Charest if he expects to get anywhere in Quebec. That is all well and good, but it may not even be in Charest's political interests to start playing ball with Stevie. Depending on what you read, there has been speculation about this term as premier of Quebec may be his last. Although he said as recently as last August that he wants to stay on, being prime-minister of Canada with the Tories has always been an aspiration of his. He is still young enough for a political career change and if Stevie doesn't get a majority in the next Federal election, he will have to resign, thus, leaving the door open for Charest to run for Tory leadership. He is someone who could get a Tory majority in Canada.

One thing curious as of late, I have not found anything to suggest that Charest is campaigning for either Genereux or Nancy Gagnon, the Bloc candidate for this By-election. He appears to be staying out of it. I don't know if this is a good or a bad thing for either party. However, the fact that he's not campaigning for Genereux brings up the question: how close are Genereux's ties to the Charest Liberals, really? Have journalists like Hebert and MacDonald overestimated these close ties? I suppose Genereux might have gotten more support if he ran for the Bloc.

Charest may come out in support of one of the parties just before the by-election, although, that might not be too likely, as he has other problems of his own on the provincial front. He wants to lower Quebec's deficit as quickly as possible with measures like introducing service fees for some governement services, hike in Hydro fees, introducing tuition fees for  CEGEPs, something that will no doubt get a rise from the student population who tend to be separatist leaning. He also intends to raise the sales tax come January. I speculate that trying to sell these measures to Quebecers will make him too busy to worry about a by-election down river. 

One thing I must question about Gilles Duceppe though. Why waste a star like Daniel Paille in Hochelaga, one of the Bloc's safest seats? Hell, Duceppe can run a chimpanzee in Hochelaga and they would still win. Paille should perhaps be running in Montmagny-L'Islet-Kamouraska-Riviere-du-Loup. Oh well, I wish Nancy Gagnon all the luck, because she will need it. 

While I'm not a separatist, I view the Bloc as 'my enemy's enemy is my friend', thus a Bloc win down river could well keep Stevie and Harpercons from making any gains here in Quebec. It's bad enough that they could take the B.C. and N.S. ridings. 

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