Monday's surprise Conservative victory in the riding of Montmagny-L'Islet-Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup is likely sending shock waves in the Bloc Quebecois camp. It's a signal that Quebeckers are coming to the realization that having little or no representation in the government may not be such a good thing.
Mr. Harper's hardball message to Quebec may have finally gotten through. The Bloc's aborted coalition with the Liberals and the NDP and it's failure to have any meaningful impact of government decisions is starting to grate on those voters in Quebec who believe that they are being short-changed.
What is troubling to the Bloc, is that the riding is very typical and representative of a least fifteen others. If Montmagny can go conservative, so many other previously 'safe' Bloc seats are now in play.
The towns Montmagny and Rivière-du-Loup are located on the south shore of the St. Lawrence river and even though they are just an hour up the road from Quebec City, they exist in another world.
Here, the people are closely knit, and the cooperative movement is strong. It's a place of traditional Quebec values and the birthplace of Mario Dumont's ultra-conservative ADQ. It's not the type of place where people are open to 'reasonable accommodations' and at any rate, there's not much call for them, as the population is as homogeneous as a bottle of milk. It's a place where nary a word of English is spoken, yet the population is open and welcoming to tourists.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of the area is it's fall festival celebrating the migratory path of Canada's famous snow geese. Every October, the town of Montmagny is a rest stop for the birds on their return trip down south. It's actually quite a sight, tens of thousands birds birds crammed closely together, turning selected farmers fields into a sea of white, while amazingly, adjacent some fields remain empty. When I asked a local about the phenomenon, he told me that the fields where the birds rested were off limits to hunters and that over the years, the birds had learned to adapt. Quite amazing!
The festival which is the highlight of the year, is a traditional Quebec celebration with much boozing and revelry. It's definitely another world.
The most important issue in this election wasn't sovereignty or federalism, not the gun registry or Afghanistan, it is the more mundane issue of double tracking the rural highway (85) from Rivière-du-Loup to the New Brunswick border.
The road is an important economic link, as many northern New Brunswickers travel to Quebec for shopping, especially around Christmas time. It's also a vital transportation link that brings goods from Quebec out to the Maritimes.
The half a billion dollar project is slated to go ahead next year, with the federal government picking up a large portion of the costs.
Perhaps voters were fearful of invoking the wrath of Harper and decided to vote their pocketbooks rather than their hearts.
If the project is completed, or even undertaken as scheduled, it will be a clear sign of what is known in Quebec as "Federalism rentable" (federalism that pays.)
The Conservatives will use the project to show Quebeckers what supporting the government can mean and for many Quebeckers, tired of the Bloc's utter ineffectiveness, the message will resonate.