Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hard Lessons From the Federal Election For Quebec Politicians

BAD NEWS                        BAD NEWS              GOOD NEWS
If anything is clear from the vote last week that propelled a bunch of Quebec Ndp nobodies into Parliament, is that Quebeckers vote with their hearts and not particularly with their brains.

How else can one explain, voting for candidates who don't speak French, don't campaign or put up posters and never set foot in the riding they are running in. Call it revenge of the poteaus.

I'm not denigrating the quality of these candidates, in fact, they probably represent the best element of the NDP party which was hitherto stacked with nutbars, fantasists and conspiracy theorists.

It's not the first time that an emotional wave carried  Quebec voters off to an unlikely destination. It happened, back in 1995 when a wildfire grew under Lucien Bouchard's impassioned stewardship of the YES side in the referendum campaign where within a matter of weeks public opinion shifted so rapidly, that Quebec almost took itself out of Canada. It happened again in 2007, when a temporary fit of family values brought the ADQ to a short-lived term as the official opposition with over 31% of the popular vote and 41 seats in the National Assembly.

While pundits try to deconstruct the deep reasoning behind what happened in last week's federal election, I am reminded of the term 'Monday morning quarterback.'

Neither the pollsters or the experts had a clue as to what was to happen before the election, so being an expert afterwards is a bit galling.

I'm reminded of the American pundit Peter Schiff who was just about the only expert in America who predicted the recession and the meltdown in the housing market.  In a compiled video, expert after expert mocked Mr. Shiff's predictions, which actually turned out to be bang on.
Ben Stein-At least he can act- CLICK
If you want to laugh, watch the ten-minute video, that will help destroy any notion that you may harbour that 'expert opinion' actually exists when it comes to predicting the future.  
I'm particularly fond of the Ben Stein segment, where the economist /actor gave the worst advice possible, advice that would bankrupt any investor taking it. You'd think he'd slink away and never show his face again, but not so. He's back on television giving more advice today.

And so today experts like these, who were clueless before the  election, are explaining to us now, the reasons for the Liberal meltdown, the Ndp resurgence and the collapse of the Bloc Quebecois. Pardon my cynicism!

I'm certainly not going to explain why Quebeckers and Canadians voted the way they did, but will offer some simple basic conclusions we can easily draw after the fact.

Lesson Number One - Voters loyalty is a thing of the past.
There was a time when how you voted stemmed from familial tradition. For most, it was normal to vote the same way over and over again, for the same party, sometimes over a whole lifetime. That has changed not only in Quebec but in Canada as well. It appears that no party can take the vote of any particular group for granted. In Quebec the Bloc was beneficiary of this new bitter realty and in Ontario the Liberals were drubbed in 'ethnic' ridings that they considered their traditional fiefdoms.

Lesson Number Two - Voters do hold grudges.
They used to say that six months is a lifetime in politics and that voters have short attention spans and particularly bad memories. Quebeckers have proven that axiom wrong by refusing to let the Liberals out of Purgatory over the sponsorship scandal that occurred almost seven years ago.
In the rest of Canada, there's little doubt that the electors punished the Liberals, whom they blame as  instigators of the ill-advised coalition that almost brought separatists into the government.

Lesson Number Three - You can no longer buy votes with promises.
A bridge here, a new program there, more tax deductions for this or that, it doesn't drive voters any more. Whether voters are cynical or disbelieving, or perhaps finally cottoning to the fact that promises cost money, they no longer necessarily vote for politicians who promise the Moon.
It appears that voters in this election, cast their ballot based on ideology. The only election issue that  seemed to matter was the voter's attitude towards conservative governance versus social democracy. Even in Quebec, after the Bloc and sovereignty were rejected as an election issue, the choice boiled down to left versus right.

If these three simple conclusions are true, they will have a devastating impact in the next Quebec provincial election, even if it is over two years away.
For Jean Charest and Pauline Marois, it bodes poorly for both their political futures.

Mr. Charest cannot count on voters forgetting his past misdeeds, too numerous to enumerate. If six months is indeed considered a lifetime in politics, not even a cat's nine lives would suffice to assuage Quebeckers anger at Mr. Charest for perceived betrayals.
The Liberal brand has become toxic and like a polluted dump site it will take more than a few years to rehabilitate the brand. 
Much as I consider Mr. Charest a personal friend and it pains me to say so, reality is reality.

But Madame Marois and the PQ are no longer the natural alternative.  She is roundly unpopular  and the PQ's promise to militate aggressively for sovereignty is a turnoff for most who don't want to go down a losing road again.

Quebec voters have shown (by voting for the Ndp federally) that they will not choose between the lessor of two bad choices and Door Number 3, Francois Legault is looking better and better each day.

If he plays his cards right, he'll be the next Premier of Quebec.


  1. Editor, you forgot Door #4, None of the above. The level of fed uppedness (for lack of a better term) due to all the corruption and disappointment (broken promises) may lead to voter paralysis, a.k.a. apathy.

    Our society has undergone some sort of devolution of order. It's not all bad as an increasing portion of the population has improved its educational status, but it makes our society more complicated.

    I'm not suggesting that thinking for ourselves is worse, just more complicated. Our society until about a half century ago used to be pretty compliant and listen to our "betters", i.e., politicians, doctors and captains of industry. In Quebec, add the Roman Catholic church.

    As we all know, the societyh of the 60s broke and changed all the rules. Quebec broke from the Church, women's lib evolved, there was greater labour strife between workers and management, especially where unions prevailed, and students held protests in universities like never before, some of them violent.

    By the 70s, the Leave it to Beaver days of earlier were thrown out the window. Ward Cleaver, the patriarch of the family, just like Jim Anderson on Father Knows Best, always seemed to have the answers. There was a time only Daddy's signature counted on the kids' report cards, but by the 70s, either parent's signature was acceptable. Marital breakdowns didn't make Daddy always around to sign.

    Both parents more often started to go to work. June Cleaver wasn't always around with her apron-clad dress with the tray of milk and cookies anymore when the kids came home from school. Kids started to lash their tongues at adults, mostly because they had to fend for themselves, and where older siblings had to look out for the younger ones, they at times were thrown into adult situations, having to make adult decisions.

    Four decades later, we're in the world of today. Everybody is forced to think for themselves, kids now live by agendas (music lessons, play dates, cadets, soccer practice) and don't spontaneously meet and play pickup sports, hide and go seek, tag, or even board games.

    Our PC's (those old things?), laptops, even phones are now agenda setters, watches and libraries. Snail mail has been replaced by fax, e-mail and now texting. To think I was so amazed in the 1980s when I could send photocopies over a phone line. Do people actually still talk on phones? Wasn't that all they were good for?

    Changing societies, changing technology, changing voters. Where does it end?

  2. I agree Francois Leshmoe could win just by putting his name on the ballot. Having said that, the Editor could probably win also despite his fiercely anti-Quebec attitudes if he was the only third option to Jean and Pauline. It is very clear that Quebeckers just want someone new.

    My one "expert opinion" prediction that I will allow myself to make is this. All die hard separatists, every last one of them, will vote during the next provincial election. After seeing their Bloc decimated they will not be apathetic. They will try to prevent the same fate for the PQ. The only question will be wether there are enough separatists to challenge the, time-for-a-change voters.

  3. Typical brain dead, mainstream media and politicians…. WE have had it with Kebec period. We are sick and tired of the bankrupt; have not, welfare province and its anti-English language laws (bills 22, 178, 101…), sick and tired of the expensive charter, bilingualism, multiculturalism…all forced upon the country by scum bag Quebecers, Trudeau….

    This separatist bs, is just blackmail and has been for decades.

    Separate but remember one thing, learn the word partition, because you will be leaving with a much smaller province and a hell of a lot of debt, like it not. Now hit the road, get lost, the sooner the better.

  4. I am a federalist and a supporter of Canada but, should there be another referendum; as god is my witness I will vote yes and run for the door. Let these idiots have their garbage, good-for-nothing, economic drain of a province...errr..."nation" for themselves.

    Once the first transfer payment doesn't arrive, they'll maybe have another referendum to rejoin confederation, at which point I hope the whole of Canada breaks out into a collective "LOL", and says "thanks but no thanks, now fuck off."

  5. @ Marco right above
    "... should there be another referendum; as god is my witness I will vote yes and run for the door."

    Probably the funniest comment ever offered on this blog!

  6. À Marco: Vous êtes vraiment un frustré ! Si vous pensez que le Canada fait une fleur au Québec, arrêtez de lire The Gazette ou le Globe & Mail! La charité gratuite ça n'existe malheureusement pas en politique... Votre LOL vous pouvez vous le faire à vous même !

  7. @ Anon. at 9:50 PM,

    You sound a little frustrated yourself.

    What does Quebec contribute to Canada that compensates for the billions of dollars of charity that it receives every year? Instability?
    Racist language laws? Quebec has been dragging Canada down for decades.