Quebec says ‘Non’ to PQ govt after less than Two years.

It is 3,000 miles away and no, I am not arguing for a moment that you can transplant the political musings of the francophone province of Quebec on to our situation, but this election is a genuinely interesting one to watch.

Scandals, divisions and student protests drove the last Liberal government from office after 9 years in power. Promising a fresh start and a new sense of politics the Parti Quebecois hoping to rebound from the near wipe-out of their sister party, Bloc Qubecois in 2011, won a narrow victory in the 2012 Quebec elections. At the time a long time Quebec journalist, Chantal Hebert, remarked that if this has been 1993 the PQ would have won a majority government with its eyes closed.

Now, we move on to the present day where after just 18 months, the PQ government has gone down to a huge defeat. What happened? Well, the promise of a referendum on separation from the rest of Canada happened. Going into this election, the PQ had a narrow lead of the Liberals and looked set to either come back with a strengthened minority government or just scrape a majority. However, when the party recruited media mogul Pierre Karl Péladeau and he made his statement that in the next term of government Quebec will be a country, the PQs poll ratings almost immediately began to fall.

In every debate, the opposition continued to hammer Marios on her position on a referendum. Unable to answer whether she would hold one, voters opted for the federalist parties who oppose any form of separation from Canada.

The lesson here which is appropriate for our situation is thus-don’t attempt to call a vote or raise an issue unless you have a good chance of winning the argument. An opposition which after its last term in government should have been out for at least two terms is now back after just 18 months. Combine this with weak separatist representation in the Canadian Parliament, Quebec separatists are truly out in the cold.

Final results from election






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  • Tir Chonaill Gael

    “…I am not arguing for a moment that you can transplant the political musings of the francophone province of Quebec on to our situation…

    The lesson here which is appropriate for our situation is thus…”

    Right then.

  • David McCann

    Yeah I said a lesson-didn’t argue that every aspect fits our own.

  • The Parti Quebecois’ humiliation at the polls is also attributable to several other crucial factors besides the concerns about the question of independence. The PQ’s Pauline Marois has been a consistently poor and unpopular leader from the get-go, both within and without the party. Her weak and accident-prone style of government caused no ends of problems for PQ, as did the pushing of the controversial (and presumably now defunct) Values Charter, the continuing allegations of corruption and malfeasance in Québec society, the poor handing of the economy, etc. Nationalist rivals to the PQ, Coalition Avenir Québec and Québec Solidaire, all registered significant electoral gains so its a far more complex picture than simply a rejection of sovereignty.

    The nationalist establishment, PQ, is now threatened by more progressive rivals. Which parallels events in the Basque Country, Catalonia and of course the north-east of Ireland (or historically even 1918/19 Ireland).

    The biggest lesson of the Québec election is choose your leader well or you will most certainly live to regret it. Marois is no Salmond.

  • David Crookes

    Great posting, David, many thanks.

  • An Sionnach Fionn,
    You beat me to it

  • Mick Fealty


    That fits with the mishandling of the issue itself. If the SNP lose their referendum, as I expect they will, it won’t mean meltdown. But it may come describe a highmark in the cause of Scottish independence.

    Quebec came as close as any separatist movement to achieving its goal the first time. Now it’s played a role in the near wrecking of PQ in that province.

    Front-ending what ought to be the final move in any strategic project is the equivalent of a prisoner handing back the jailer the keys. Once people know it can defeated, they come round to assuming that it will be everytime.

    You don’t build a nation through populist trickery.. 🙂

  • Reader

    Mick Fealty: You don’t build a nation through populist trickery..
    But I think that, over here, we have demonstrated that you can build half a nation through populist trickery.

  • Yes but I think one should exercise caution in assuming that it is the issue itself that is the problem. Or is this case the cause of PQ’s electoral woes. It’s certainly true that the people of Québec, Francophone and Anglophone, have cooled considerably on the issue of independence and support for that option is now at its lowest level for many years. However that is part of a general disenchantment with politics in the province, the feeling that things have gone awry with a political establishment that is out of touch and prone to cronyism and corruption. Unfortunately PQ has been the most visible face of the latter two phenomena and the leadership of Marois has been disastrous in handling both. The secular charter, while ostensibly a good thing, was very poorly conceived and presented. The addition of media mogul and union-buster Pierre Karl Péladeau to the PQ ticket drove left-wing and union-related voters into the arms of smaller nationalist parties or away from the ballot box altogether. There was no great enthusiasm in the vote for the Liberals. As several commentators have noted it was more of an anti-Marois vote than a pro-Liberal one.

    What we are witnessing in Québec is an older, notably grey-haired nationalist party that is failing to find any resonance with younger voters in what should be its natural demographic. Instead they are moving elsewhere, more radical groups or student movements. It is also a party in a state of flux and confusion, unsure whether it is of the Left or Right as Québec society at large changes. PQ is no longer the voice of the Québécoise. The PQ’s sister party in the Bloc Québecois (who sit in the federal parliament) were the first victims of this generational change. Too self-satisfied for words sooner or later someone was going to take them down (though few thought it would happen in such a spectacular fashion).

    Meanwhile anti-federalist (-unionist) sentiment is growing not lessening. The people of Québec continue to support greater autonomy within Canada, strengthened language laws, etc. The numbers of people in Québec who reject the label of Canadian has never been so high. Both nations continue to draw apart. Far from being the end of the debate on sovereignty it is merely another period of consolidation until the next challenge emerges.

    That is the lesson for Scotland.

    To borrow a phrase, in a referendum on independence the Nationalists only have to be lucky once. Unionists/Federalists have to be lucky every time.

  • dodrade


    I assume you mean the second time in 1995, the first referendum in 1980 was 60/40.

  • Mick Fealty

    Dod, erm, yes. (that will teach me to practice what I preach!). Fascinating post electoral analysis from Don McPherson: And another from centralist, Ottawa-based perspective: