by Eric Duhaime
Very few people heard when Quebec Premier Jean Charest called the general election last week, right in the middle of the construction industry holidays and at the beginning of the Olympic Games.
His timing wasn’t an accident. Charest would prefer to stay as far as possible from the construction issue during this campaign and have us dreaming about gold medals instead.
Serious allegations of corruption and collusion have undermined his party for more than two years.
To bring the issue back to front and centre, Francois Legault’s new party, Coalition Avenir Quebec (coalition for the future of Quebec), announced last Sunday it had recruited star candidate Jacques Duchesneau, former Montreal police chief and head of the anti-collusion unit.
If the ballot question ends up being “who is the most honest and able to crack down on corruption?” the CAQ could win big.
Eighty-six percent of Quebecers currently believe their province is corrupt. (I wonder in which wonderland the other 14% live).
The only reason the Liberals are not below that 14% in the polls right now is probably because voters believe other parties are as bad, if not worse.
From a non-partisan perspective, the problem might well be structural, not cyclical. And that is exactly what the Liberals are betting on.
Their guess is that it will not be the construction industry but the students getting back from their holidays that will bring some much-needed wind to their sails.
Thousands of students are currently revoting in favour of a fall strike to keep protesting against the university tuition hikes.
The Liberals’ only hope for a win is that Quebecers will give a strong, renewed mandate to the government that stood up to the terror of students’ protests and riots last spring to impose its fee increase and send a clear message that a small minority of activists, who go as far as using violence, cannot reverse democratic decisions in our society.
The radical students’ associations are therefore becoming true allies of their Liberal enemies. The more visible and vocal they are before election day, the more popular the Liberals will be.
There is also the Quebec question. Pauline Marois’ Parti Quebecois wants to call a referendum in its first mandate if elected.
This year’s election might well give us an indication if the Bloc’s disaster in the last federal election was an accident or a trend for the separatist movement.
The appetite, outside of the PQ’s grassroots, for a third referendum is non-existent, but paradoxically the PQ has been leading in recent polls.
That being said, this election could well be one of the most exciting ones. The three parties are in a dead heat right now.
No one can predict who will finish first, second or third.
The leaders’ debates in two weeks are most likely to become THE game changer. Quebecers have less than four weeks to decide if corruption, education or separation is their number one political priority.
Let the Olympics end and the true Quebec games begin!
Categories: Contributor Columns