Monday, October 24, 2005

Election Primer part 2: the provincial race

I am very ignorant about provincial politics here in Quebec, but I'll post what knowledge I've got to give you some info. Knowledge of provincial politics outside your own is pretty low across Canada and I don't think this has much to do with any french/english divide. I'm sure most BC'ers have no idea about Alberta politics, for example. So what little I know from my stay here should be enlightening to those of you who are new or on the outside.

The provincial government body in Quebec is called L'Assemblée Nationale. Very generally, it works the same way as the federal government, where the party with the majority of seats gets to be the party in power. Currently, the Liberals are in power, led by Jean Charest. He was very well-respected in Quebec as a federal politician and decided to take over the Quebec Liberal party. He led it to a strong victory over the Parti Québécois, the separationist, lefter-leaning party that is the main opposition.

Now, everybody hates the Liberals and Jean Charest. It's hard to tell if he's done anything at all and even more difficult to discern why everybody hates him so much. One concrete thing he did was to cut down tons of university scholarship money, which caused weeks of student strikes and ended with him giving some of the money back through some federal funding.

The PQ has been struggling to get itself back in fighting form. First, Bernard Landry, their long-time leader resigned because he only got 76% of party members support. It's still unclear why he resigned and if it was a planned decision or not. He claimed that he couldn't act unless he had full support. Because of that, the PQ has now started a leadership race. The top runner was Pauline Marois, about whom I know nothing. Revelations that her younger, gay and Harvard-educated rival André Boisclair was a total coke fiend when he worked in the parliament, helped boost him to the lead.

The PQ's separatist mandate, though perhaps more directly effective than their federal counterpoints in the Bloc Québécois, is not on the top of their debating and PR list of subjects these days. They seem to be arguing about actual social and spending policies here in Québec. Part of that is that independence is a given in their platform, but I think another part is that they don't want to be pushing independence too hard, at least until they get in power.

From what I hear and read, everybody hates the Liberals so much that the PQ have a real chance to win. But I have a vague memory that at the end of their reign, everybody was hating the PQ just as much. When it comes to provincial politics, I don't know about any solitudes. Quebecers seem just as bitchy and whiny about their politicians as every other province I've ever been in. If they're from the right, they complain that the government is taking away too much of their money. If they're on the left, they claim that they aren't giving them enough money. I think this is a Canadian characteristic, perhaps one that can help bring us together!

So separatist pundits are keeping an eye on this next election (which hasn't been called yet and I think could be as far as 2 years away) because if the PQ wins, there is a chance that they could push for another referendum. Much of the push for separatism comes from the older wing of the party and they still have a lot of power. But I sense a growing fatigue and annoyance with independence. Quebecers are doing quite well and their culture is pretty strong (at least economically speaking). I think most of them want to get on with building the economy. I don't see a referendum winning here. But you never know. I wonder what would happen to me? Would I be allowed to get a Québec citizenship? That would be kind of cool.


WeSailFurther said...

This is fascinating. Keep it coming. Where does a person get news in Montreal? Is there a WNYC-type radio station, or NPR, or CNN-type TV station? How many newspapers are there in the city?

Anonymous said...

Your whole website has been fascinating to me! We are hoping to move to the Gatineau Hills, Quebec and work in Ottawa. We are wondering if the seperation will prevent us from being able to work cross border. We aren't planning to move for a couple years, until we are finished school in Ontario. There are so many questions.....what about the healthcare system in Quebec? How does income tax work when you work in ON and live in QC? Will we be able to take language courses? How long do we live there before we are considered residents? As residents do we get the cheaper tuition prices?....
I could ask a million questions......