Sunday, March 25, 2007

Who will win the Quebec election?

There are times when I'm really glad that I'm a historian as opposed to a political scientist or a journalistic pundit. My job entails looking at an election campaign years after it is over, examining various pieces of evidence, and only then explaining why it turned out the way it did. It's a somewhat less daunting challenge than reading the tea leaves in a three-way race and attempting to predict who will win.

But because I like to dabble, here's my best guess. It will be a minority government. I suspect that Charest will come out with the most seats, but not by a large margin. This will make Dumont the effective kingmaker, and I suspect he will prop up the Liberals for as long as it is convenient for him.

There is not a minority government scenario that I can envision where André Boisclair plays an active role in making or supporting policy. There is simply too much distance between Boisclair and Charest on issues of federalism, and between Boisclair and Dumont on issues of social policy to make a coalition involving the PQ viable. So even if Boisclair wins the most seats, if he fails to claim a majority, he is unlikely to form the government, and if he tries to, it will fall at the first budget.

What does this mean, in a broader sense? It means a continuation of demands for decentralization of powers and fiscal space from Ottawa to Quebec City, coupled with some right-wing policy shifts. I don't Quebec is in for a Mike Harris-style revolution, but there may be some selective moves away from the state-centric policy that has characterized Quebec's political economy since the 1960s.

What's that rumbling sound you hear? That would be the sound of the campaign buses of Boisclair's rivals revving up for an impending leadership race.

Of course, all the pollsters could be wrong, and we could see a majority government tomorrow. We'll all just have to wait and see!

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