Quebec Election 2014: Week 3 in Review
Every Friday for the duration of the Quebec election campaign, the Prince Arthur Herald will be publishing a weekly review. It features commentary by our columnists and contributors on the most important issues and developments of the campaign. In this week’s edition, Mathieu Paul Dumont comments on the drama, Tom Kott explains how this week’s debate was a breath of fresh air, Clare Schulte-Albert tells us more about the anglo students, Yasmine Hassan reacts to the debate, and Andrew Calame explains the PQ downfall. The Prince Arthur Herald has got you covered. Be sure to regularly check the website, and to follow us on twitter to stay up to date as we race toward April 7.
Mathieu Paul Dumont: Drama
The themes of the week have been integrity, money and voter registration. Watching the PQ go has been rather entertaining. The Parti Québecois was so desperate for attention last weekend that its leader Pauline Marois and several candidates encouraged a conspiracy theory that anglophone students were possibly attempting to steal the elections. It sounded ridiculous to begin with, and within hours the Chief Electoral Officer proved the PQ wrong. Talk about running on fear: fear of anglo voters, fear of strangers, fear that the culture is threatened… exaggerations and lies, all of it. The PQ is down in the polls and the Liberal Party is picking up. Francois Legault accused his opponents of being drama queens, he might be right.
The CAQ has ex anti-corruption figure Jacques Duscheneau back in the spotlight. When he appeared in the media for the first time last week since the start of the campaign, he said he thought the CAQ was having problems delivering its message. Duscheneau is lending a hand to a few CAQ candidates. However, he is definitively more useful to the CAQ in the media than on the ground. Encouraging the party is not the only thing that he’s done, he has also warned that if the Charbonneau Commission had not been interrupted the PQ would have been facing some trouble. He accused Marois of declaring elections to avoid answering questions. The PQ’s lawyers have responded by sending him a cease-and-desist letter dated March 22.
As for the PLQ, on Wednesday Philippe Couillard met with Montreal mayor Denis Coderre. They discussed the real needs of the metropolis. Couillard promised more autonomy and recognition for the city. He also suggested having a high speed train link to the airport as well as extending the Metro’s blue line into the East. Questions have been raised regarding the money Couillard placed while working in Saudi Arabia, however everything is legal so far. Now we wait and see what new drama and developments lie ahead after last night’s debate. It was a very serious debate in which none of the leaders really stood out. Both Philippe Couillard and Pauline Marois will be appearing on Tout le monde en parle this Sunday.
-Mathieu Paul Dumont is the Prince Arthur Herald’s Politics Editor.
Tom Kott: In a polluted political environment, we find a breath of fresh air
This week, we witnessed something rare in Quebec politics: we had a smart leader’s debate that focused largely on real issues and featured real proposals for the future.
That was Thursday night. The rest of the time was a waste.
The PQ started the week off by exaggerating claims of voter fraud amongst out-of-province student voters. The issue sparked a debate over what it means to be ‘domiciled’ in Quebec, a discussion that went nowhere and left supposedly ineligible voters worse off.
Then, the Journal de Montreal published a front-page story on l’UPAC’s investigation on former premier Jean Charest – a story that actually broke eight months ago. But the paper owned by PQ star Pierre-Karl Péladeau believed it was relevant enough to bring up again right before a debate.
On Wednesday, PQ candidate André Beaudoin announced he was worried Muslim prayers were disrupting the economy. Embarrassingly, statistics show his riding contains only fifteen citizens who identify as Muslims.
And then members of the PQ lambasted Philippe Couillard for having a bank account in Jordan while he worked in Saudi Arabia prior to 2000. They believe that, even if the practice was technically legal, he should have been paying taxes in Quebec on that income. In Thursday’s debate, Québec Solidaire leader Françoise David even wondered why he didn’t put it in the Caisse populaire. These comments are ludicrous, of course, and it would be unrealistic to hold any Quebecer working abroad to these same standards. But the attack meant to provoke the thought that Couillard just isn’t a real Quebecer.
However, the debate was a breath of fresh air in this polluted political environment. The first segment looked at health care. Each leader tackled the issue calmly, rationally, and actually sought to explain their positions and what they were proposing to Quebecers. On the economy, the leaders were stern but respectful. Things broke down when questions on integrity and leadership were brought up, and they sunk even lower during the discussion on identity and nationalism. But overall, Quebecers were treated to a real debate, unlike what they had to suffer through the previous week.
What is clear entering this last stretch of the election is that nothing is clear. While Philippe Couillard is ahead in the latest polls, these numbers can change fast. He stood his ground during the debate, but voters watched him play defence while less pressure was put on Premier Pauline Marois’ record.
It’s anyone’s game come April 7.
-Tom Kott is the CEO of the Prince Arthur Herald
Clare Schulte-Albert: It’s A Trap!
Madame Marois, we are absolutely out to get your majority. Ontario students, I mean. We will be bussing hundreds, maybe thousands, of students to Quebec on Election Day to vote down your government, the same way Ontario student unions bussed students out to support your Red Squares in Montreal on the student dime. We will bring one of the only five pieces of identification permitted for registering electors (Elections Ontario accepts 16+ types of ID). Then we’ll realize that half of us can’t register and vote because we were supposed to register 19 days in advance.
No matter, we will prance around in burqas, niqabs, kippahs, turbans, ostentatious rosaries and crucifixes, singing God Save the Queen at the top of our lungs. We will turn Quebec into a seething mass of democracy, free expression and multiculturalism before you are able to lay down one plank of your separatist utopia.
All because we Ontario students pride ourselves on interference and rabble-rousing in a province that appears no better off than our own. But at least, we would live and breathe under a democratically elected premier.
We certainly learn from the best where “hidden agendas” are concerned. Marois has been waffling on the question of a referendum. It’s hard to tell Quebeckers that you won’t call one when your entire caucus and party was formed and elected for that singular issue.
Quebec needs a leader with steady hands to steer their economy away from the rocks and into prosperity. Someone with credibility on the education and health files, the two pillars of provincial jurisdiction which have been crumbling for years under Quebec’s nanny state. More importantly, Quebec needs a government that will stand up to students when necessary, but also defend their basic democratic rights and liberties.
– Clare Schulte-Albert is the Prince Arthur Herald’s campus editor and a notorious Quebec politics addict.
Yasmine Hassan: Divide and Destroy
Last night’s debate was far from informative and turned into a mudslinging event between four politicians who seem worn out and more keen on making each other look bad than convincing us why we should vote for them. With each topic a scapegoat was chosen, and brought down, with issues from his or her past that were thrown in the rink as a smear campaign. Rather than discussing topics of great importance such as our crippled healthcare system and destructive roads, we were left watching a discussion about who is a better Quebecois, and whether M. Legault was in fact a sovereinist or a federalist Quebecois. All the while, we also heard a decent amount about whether M Couillard, who was also questioned on his patriotism, will prefer bilingualism to French in Quebec.
But the irksome topics that were covered throughout this debate were definitely about language and the Charter. I understand the importance of preserving the French language within the province, but how far is too far when defending the French language begins to cause rifts between the people of this province. I’ve rarely come across anyone who doesn’t speak French better than their native language as we were all subject to the famous Bill 101 and were left trying to figure out French grammar till our respite in CEGEP and university. And when did knowing multiple languages become such a big deal that it has trumped the discussion on waiting seventeen hours in the emergency room and being the poorest province in Canada? Can’t saving the French language wait a little until I find myself a family doctor.
In the end, I think I speak for many when I say, last night I felt left out, I felt singled out even. We have come here and have integrated in the best way possible, embracing the language and culture and carrying it with pride and joy, working tirelessly and giving back to the province that first welcomed my family with open arms so many years ago. But last night I seemed to be the thorn in their side because of a few extra language skills and a different religious background. And if they’re having trouble figuring out who is Quebecois enough and who isn’t, I’m probably better off reading a French dictionary while waiting in the emergency room than trying to convince them that I’m no threat to the patrimoine et la langue Française.
-Yasmine Hassan is a columnist at the Prince Arthur Herald
Andrew Calame: The Rising Tide
We have arrived at week three. And while people often don’t like to hear others say “I told you so,” well, I told you so. The past week has been a disaster for the PQ. During the first debate, Pauline Marois managed to get herself put in a corner by all three opposing party leaders. She failed to give a concrete answer about whether or not she would hold a referendum, keeping with her line about how there will be no referendum until the people of Quebec are ready. Francoise David even publicly shamed her over how she has failed the Quebec people after having spent a spring in the streets wearing the red square. And Marois’ reaction to being ganged up on? To cry foul and say that she was attacked by her opponents. Apparently being the outgoing Premier is tough.
To make matters worse for Mme Marois, Phillipe Couillard has now emerged into the limelight. His performance at last week’s debate where he maintained his cool and collected demeanor going through his answers and the facts – challenging even the moderator at times – finally got the media to shift some focus on him. In the past week instead of being presented as a quiet backbencher, he is now being presented as a real contender. Pauline Marois by comparison was described as getting increasingly flustered as the other party leaders challenged her over and over on the issues until she would give them a satisfactory answer. In fact, since that first debate the Liberals have gained enough ground that there is a chance they may form a majority government.
But the most disappointing and also distressing development of the past week has been the increasing issue of the student vote. While many analysts may argue that it was on the back of the student vote that the PQ ascended to power in 2012, and in spite of having polling stations being placed in CEGEPs and Universities, reports of voter suppression while claiming that other provinces are trying to “steal the vote” by the Premier are shameful at best. While there may be loopholes and sections needing clarification in the election act, the reports that have been coming out make the PQ seem desperate to do anything they can to keep some level of power as they are coming to realize that their plans to take over Quebec as a majority power have totally backfired on themselves. Again, they have made a massive faux-pas that has alienated a chunk of their voter base, and no amount of promising new French language bills will save them now, barring a miracle in their favour following last night’s debate.
-Andrew Calame is an occasional contributor to the Political Bouillon from Montreal.
The Prince Arthur Herald
Photo Credit: QMI