Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A test of Quebec's liberal values

The liberal nature of the post-Quiet Revolution Quebec electorate has become one of the hallmarks of Canadian political landscape. But where exactly do their limits lie?

I suspect that we're about to find out, now that PQ leadership candidate André Boisclair has admitted to cocaine use. This is a double whammy, given that he admitted to having done this while a provincial cabinet minister.

I suspect that if these revelations had come about in the middle of a simple election campaign where Boisclair was just running for a simple seat, he might still get elected. But this is ultimately a leadership race where the PQ rank and file are trying to decide who they want to lead them in a future referendum campaign. As someone who would like to see such a referendum defeated, I cackle with glee at the prospect of being able to splash the phrase "Just say no!" across an image of Boisclair's face.

Do I think that this is necessarilly fair, or that Boisclair's past performance was severely hampered by drug use? Not really. I think that Canadians would be shocked at how many people have used cocaine, and how many of that number have not become addicts. But politics is about optics, and that's an image that the sovereignty movement cannot risk. The leadership campaign just got thrown wide open.

Recommend this Post


At 1:06 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to hope that a referendum could be defeated based on its (lack of) merit, rather than 'ad hominem' attacks... If a referendum can't be defeated by sound logic, is there a point to defeating it. And if there IS a point in defeating it... shouldn't THAT be your argument? (rather than attacks on a person)

At 2:34 pm, Blogger Matt said...

Anonymous: Certainly many a referendum can, and has, been defeated on the basis of logic and merits. And in an ideal world, campaigns would be carried out in this fashion. But anyone who has looked at the last two Quebec referenda, and a host of other Canadian elections at varying levels, knows that other less well defined factors such as charisma, emotion, and leadership, come into play.

Look to 1980 for the catchphrase "Mon 'non' est Quebecois!" - Trudeau's response to Pequiste leaders who tried to tar him as not being a true Quebecois. Look at polling studies of the 1995 referendum for an example of a massive chunk of the electorate who hadn't a clue what the implications of a "yes" vote would be for the future status of Quebec in Canada.

Hopefully the Clarity Act would lead to a cleaner fight on the logic and merits of this issue that you so humourlessly point out should be the centre of a referendum debate. But other factors will come into play. And given that in the 1995 referendum, scrutineers in West Island Montreal tried to rig the results by rejecting "yes" ballots, a humourous jab such as this would be a minor arrow in the quiver of the "no" forces.

One can debate the merits of cocaine use, and its potential harms to both an individual and a society. But the fact remains that Andre Boisclair committed an illegal act while a Minister of the Crown - one which certainly would not have been given the collective shrug that is greeting this recent disclosure (a disclosure which did not come freely, or cleanly, and which he attempted to pass off as a youthful indicretion), had it come to public attention at the time. That is a legitimate factor to consider when choosing the person who could be your future head of state.


Post a Comment

<< Home