“By the Fireside” is a novel segment written by our newest featured contributor, Bob McDiarmid. In it’s current form, “By the Fireside” is an op-ed column with grating wit and biting political insight from a centre-left perspective. Bob’s profile will be updated on our “About” pages in the coming days, so you can look there to make his acquaintance, or dive in with both feet, as he has with this article. –M.G.
The term “unmitigated disaster” is too often thrown around for dramatic effect; however, when a Premier calls a snap election 18 months after her minority government comes into office, and in so doing not only concedes a majority to the opposition, but also loses her own seat, you certainly have to wonder what went wrong. On the April 7th election, Quebec voters rejected a number of things: a controversial and divisive Charter of secular values, the thought of another pointless referendum, but above all else Quebec has soundly rejected bad government. As the liberal majority prepares to close the book on a dark chapter in Quebec’s political history, Philippe Couillard vouches to be anything but the Parti Quebecois.
Regardless of political affiliation, as an elected official it is your duty to govern in the best interests of the population you serve. Unfortunately, Pauline Marois’ term was guided by a selfish, narrow-minded agenda that pitted Quebecers against one another and ignored the realities of crumbling infrastructure and joblessness throughout the province. The Quebec Charter of supposed values is completely inconsistent with the vision of Confederation and its presence in the legislature is an embarrassment to Quebec and indeed all of Canada. Some people have expressed joy at the fact that Quebec voters have rejected this discriminatory, racist nonsense; others have been keen to point out that the Liberals didn’t start running away with this one until Pierre Karl Peladeau brought up the issue of sovereignty. I would argue that the Quebec Charter and Quebec sovereignty are really just the same issue.
When Quebec voted against sovereignty in 1995, then-Premier Jacques Parizeau blamed the defeat of the movement on money and the ethnic vote. As unbecoming as that statement is, he probably wasn’t entirely off-base – I would imagine a wide majority of non-Francophone Quebecers voted no in the referendum. Keeping in mind that 94% of registered voters participated in that referendum, and the No side won by fewer than 50,000 votes, imagine the substantial impact on the results if some of those people were to go away. Some time passes and voila, a proposed Charter which adversely affects ethnic minorities. The proposed Charter has already polarized the province and has turned much of the rest of Canada against the Government of Quebec, and if it were to pass it would set the perfect political scene for a successful sovereignty referendum: it would send a message to non-Francophone, non-Catholic Quebecers that they are not welcome in the province, and it would inspire a reference to the Supreme Court of Canada that the PQ could use to their advantage (i.e., by telling Quebec that the Court has declared their ‘values’ to be unconstitutional in Canada). Those who would be likely to vote no in a referendum leave, those who are undecided vote yes out of spite for the SCC, and Quebec becomes its own independent country. It was the perfect plan.
Thankfully (for a unified Canada), the star candidate did not stick to that plan. By unabashedly exclaiming his desire to make Quebec a country, Peladeau brought the true purpose of this election to the surface. The Charter of Values was not intended to secularize Quebec and promote state neutrality and equality – the Charter was a tool that would put in place winning conditions for a referendum. It was the product of a selfish, arrogant government fixated on power; a government who ignored the interests of its people in favour of promoting outdated sensationalism; a government whose 18 months in power was an unmitigated disaster. Regardless of whether Quebec voters rejected the PQ because of the Charter or because of the possibility of a referendum or both, they have delivered a powerful blow to bad government. I profoundly hope that this Liberal majority is an opportunity to bury the biased PQ agenda forever. Of course, if Pauline Marois needs some advice on how to shrug off a monumental and embarrassing collapse, she can talk to the Toronto Maple Leafs.