Quebec: Anthony Bonaparte: Texas hold 'em Liberal-style

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu Mar 8 16:00:55 UTC 2007

 Anthony Bonaparte:  Texas hold 'em Liberal-style

Its not easy to get excited about Quebec elections if you're an Anglo
Quebecker. For most, each plebiscite for the past 30-odd years has been
about things other than forging new policy directions. Instead, its been
about hanging on to country and not, you know, the things that preoccupy
everyone else like social and economic issues. While the rest of the
continent held elections where the debate centred on either a shift to the
left or a shift to the right, here, every trek to the polling booth is
tempered with whether we stay in or whether we leave. As reported in these
pages, 15 suburban mayors are mighty peeved that Premier Charest has
postponed a planned meeting with them until after the March 26 provincial
election and even then a date has not been set. Its easy to understand
their frustration and anger, but harder to get worked up about it if you
look at the crass snub from the point of view of the crass snubber and
that would be John James Charest.

Westmount Mayor Karin Marks said she thinks it makes a very poor statement
to the people that he wants to have electing them, and she's right except
for one thing. The Liberals already know that these people will elect
them. With a staggering 45-point lead on the West Island, the Libs are
pretty sure the Anglo bastion is not going anywhere soon, save for a
handful of huffy mayors. Beaconsfield Mayor Bob Benedetti is also right
when he says Charest's decision to declare the West Island fly-over-country
is an example of the Libs taking the area for granted. What else is new?
But Charest has no choice but to ignore the cries of his West Island
loyalists since his party is already seen as the party of the Anglos by
many, and in Quebec, thats poison.

When polls show the Liberal Partys level of popularity among francophones
as a bellwether, prepare to be walked on. For the tainted Libs, Anglo and
Allo issues are dealt with quietly and incrementally between elections.
During elections, they are to be avoided at all costs. Its the same thing
municipally. The fight over the renaming of Park Avenue became a Franco
vs. Anglo/Allo one in the French-language media, to the point where Mayor
Gerald Tremblay could not come out of the corner he backed himself into
without looking like he was cowering to the demands of you-know-who. It
took the Bourassa familys orchestrated intervention to bail him out. We
all know the heavy concentration of federalist votes on the West Island,
combined with its relatively low number of assigned seats in the National
Assembly, makes the enclave easy to ignore.

The real battleground is the disproportionally over-represented regions,
and the Charest governments main priority at the moment is to get its lame
keister re-elected. Charest can never appear to be beholden to the suburbs
where the fat lady from Eatons is purported to have retired. And they know
that you'll come back to the fold after the hissy fit. When Clifford
Lincoln and two other ministers resigned from the Bourassa cabinet in 1989
to protest his government's language policy and its adoption of Bill 178
that required French to be the dominant language on commercial signs, and
when Bourassa invoked the notwithstanding clause, Anglos rebelled.

When the Equality Party got its legs in the 1989 election, winning four
seats in the Assembly, Anglos beat their chests. When the partys party
ended five years later, Anglos came back. This pathetic history is not
lost on Charest, nor is it on a majority of Anglos and Allos that have
played enough poker to know when to hold em. The Libs know the West Island
is held hostage, and they figure it will come to its senses before the
flirtation with the ADQ goes too far. Montreal West Mayor Campbell Stuart
says he supports Dumont's ADQ because they promise to abolish the hated
agglomeration council. Fine! But Dumont has never promised to not support
the Yes side in a future referendum campaign, like he did alongside Lucien
Bouchard and Jacques Parizeau 12 years ago.

And Dumont never told us how his vision of an autonomous Quebec, which
includes a proposal to impose a single income tax collected by the
province, will be accepted by the feds. One wonders how those negotiations
will go without the threat of a referendum as a stick. And can anybody
name another ADQ candidate aside from Dumont?

Anyway, I fold.


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