Barbara Kay: Five takeaways from a brutal Parti Québécois defeat


National Post - Tuesday April 8th, 2014

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Quebec Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard is greeted by supporters following his victory speech, Monday, April 7, 2014 in St-Felicien Que.

I was asked for an election prediction in a media interview Monday afternoon. Based solely on an intuition that francophone Quebecers were in a punitive mood after being treated as dummies for 33 days, I said the Liberals would end with a solid majority (I did not dream it would be 70 seats!)

So I am naturally feeling rather chuffed today. Last evening was given over to euphoria. This morning, I am recollecting the campaign in tranquility and marshaling my emotions and thoughts. Here are some.

First, we are going to have at least four years of rational, inclusive governance and political stability, a gift that cannot be over-estimated in the light of the psychological turmoil we have experienced without respite from the moment the PQ began their divisive campaign in 2012. Quebec’s presently tanking economy will rebound – it must – and we will see a blessed dissolution of tensions between linguistic and cultural groups. Tolerance, cooperation and civility will return to public life. The exodus of the best and brightest will slow or even halt.

Second, it means we have effectively had a third referendum. Since it is clear that the Péladeau fist pump for sovereignty was the tipping point at which the PQ fortunes began their decline, it is fair to deduce that Quebecers voted against sovereignty. So can we close the book on referendums? Anyone proposing another referendum in the next generation cannot be taken seriously. The sovereigntist dream can never be declared dead, but at least one can say today it is on life support.

Third, this is more than just the obvious triumph it appears to be for the federal government.  It is a personal benefaction to Stephen Harper for the next federal election. If the PQ had won the election, and national unity remained high on the agenda, Justin Trudeau would be a shoe-in to win the next federal election. As a member of the québécois tribe and the son of the legendary savior in the 1980 referendum, Justin would have been the only federal leader with the credibility to pitch federalism to Quebecers with passion. It is the one area in which he can legitimately shine as a leader with no competition to speak of. Now his intervention is no longer required and he will have to fight the next election on prosaic policies and indifferent rhetorical skills. Which doesn’t mean he won’t garner huge support in Quebec just because he is who he is, but he won’t hold the whole country in thrall.

Fourth, I feel vindicated for all the times I have said that a Quebec political leader with the courage to say that Canada is a fine country and that bilingualism is a good thing might be vilified by the politically correct media and political tribalists, but the majority of Quebecers would not only agree with him, they would respect him for it and reward him for saying what they in their hearts believe. Couillard’s courage in speaking these truths and his courage in running in an unsafe riding when he didn’t have to give him solid moral and political capital to spend in his initial period of governance.

Fifth, when was the last time we saw a Quebec premier who likes and gets along with his provincial peers and the PM without defensiveness or tiresome knife-to-the-throat strategies? I can’t remember: the thought is refreshing. 

So those are my predictions. Now, what follows is Schadenfreude, perhaps, but I think it is permissible after all Pauline Marois put us through:

Could it be sweeter that Marois lost her own riding, and that it was so close she had to wait to the very last moment to know the outcome? Could it be more appropriate that Péladeau won his riding, with no excuse to abandon the mess he created, condemned to serve his four years with no power and no honour? Gives new depth of meaning to the old saying, “hoist by his own petard.” Also nice to see thwarted the arrogant, smooth-talking Jean-François Lisée, who always considers himself the smartest man in the room, but continually outsmarts himself. How many times must that happen before he is officially stupid?

Jacques Parizeau was ominously silent. Hey Jacques: Who is the lobster now? Who crawled into the trap?