Marois' win signals change in political climate

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The tragic shooting Tuesday night at the Quebec election victory celebration of the Parti Quebecois has shocked many Canadians, and understandably so. Two people were shot in this senseless act, one fatally. Who would have imagined that elections in this country, however heated or emotional they can become, would be marred by such aggression?

It's unclear what prompted the shooting, but according to The Canadian Press, the gunman, as he was taken away by guards, shouted in French: "The English are waking up."

What a chilling and disturbing sentiment. Details about the incident are still unfolding, but it's appropriate that all parties have responded quickly with messages of condolences and statements denouncing such violence.

It seems everyone had their share of victories and disappointments in Tuesday's vote. Obviously for Pauline Marois and her PQ team, the victory was in winning a mandate to govern after nine years in opposition. But against the backdrop of opinion polls that suggested a massive win for her, the 54-seat minority victory can't be what she was expecting.

For outgoing Liberal leader and premier Jean Charest, arguably one of the country's most successful politicians, the loss of his seat in Sherbrooke had to be devastating. Nevertheless, with the polls warning of political annihilation for the party, the fact his party won 50 ridings and will form the official Opposition has to be viewed as a victory.

Francois Legault, leader of the newly formed Coalition party, must also be disappointed at taking only 19 seats, but his victory is that his party did find a niche in the Quebec political landscape, and established a basis upon which he can build. As for the Quebec solidaire, its two seats may enjoy some prominence in the National Assembly where Marois will need all the support she can get.

Marois faces challenges her PQ predecessors did not. Leading a minority government, she'll have to work co-operatively with the other parties if she wants to govern effectively.

But it's outside Quebec where the real uncertainty lies. Given the relatively low interest in sovereigntist sentiments in her province at the moment, Marois isn't likely to launch any aggressive initiatives toward that goal. But we can expect her to generate support for it wherever and whenever she can.

That's where it could get interesting. We have a Quebec premier whose sovereignty agenda could well be advanced every time she gets a 'no' from Ottawa. And in Ottawa, we have a prime minister who is widely perceived as having little difficulty saying 'no' to anyone. As well, unlike previous prime ministers, Stephen Harper doesn't have to work to maintain any support in Quebec; his base is elsewhere.

Will Marois' strategy be to capitalize on these factors and try to foster an appetite for sovereignty? Will Prime Minister Harper adjust his own agenda to be more accommodating?

The minority status of Marois' government hardly rocks the nation's political foundation. But the PQ victory is a reminder to all Canadians that the unity struggle, which has plagued this country throughout its history, never really goes away. Surfacing again at this time - in the midst of the country's current economic challenges - it makes the current climate of federal-provincial relations that much more complex.


Organizations: Parti Quebecois, Canadian Press, National Assembly

Geographic location: Quebec, Sherbrooke, Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • Gerry
    September 06, 2012 - 19:20

    @ Angus , exactement!

  • Garth Staples
    September 06, 2012 - 11:10

    It is a great relief for taxpayers to have a Prime Minister who can say NO.

  • angus
    September 06, 2012 - 11:08

    Steven Harper could hardly ask for a better outcome. Marois with her hands tied and the NDP with 58 of their 100 seats in Quebec and the Liberals at 28% in the Polls. Come 2015 where will the voters in the ROC turn? To Mulcair and the NDP with most of it's Quebec MPs closet separatists and former Bloc/PQ supporters? I hardly think so. How about the Liberals, whose leading leadership candidate, being an entitled child of privilege as usual, has already said if he didn't get his way, he'd look at separation? Yeah right! Islanders maybe would support the Libs - some of them are dumb enough. Harper has already proven jobs and the economy are what count and was given a majority based on a platform that said just that. He's proven he can govern without Quebec and is tough enough to say no, when it's for the good of the country. He'll get another majority in 2015.

  • does not signal any change at all
    September 06, 2012 - 10:15

    While some media have attempted to revive the separation movement based on the election, Marois herself has said that a referendum is far away. Given the minority she holds, there is nothing she can do without consensus. The people of Quebec were sick of Liberal inefficiencies and clouds of corruption. The upstart party of CAQ has the same support as PLQ and Liberals. Take note Mr. Ghiz, corruption shortens life in politics. Ghiz will be flipping pizza when the change hits PEI. thanks eh

  • Minority governments are accountable not like Ghiz
    September 06, 2012 - 07:24

    As Quebec was sick of the cheating and corrupt Liberals, they were turfed out. The vote was not for separatist interest which only has about 15% support in Quebec. The change in climate is best seen with the CAQ party which came from nowhere to match the support of the other two parties. The lesson to learn here for PEI is that enough of the disenfranchised voters are ready to turf out corruption and deceit which should serve as writing on the wall for the Liberal crooks in PEI.