The Quebec election: What's your reaction to the outcome?

Parti Québécois wins

Parti Québécois wins


Many Canadians watched the campaign wondering if it would vault separation back onto the national agenda.  The results are in ...what do you think?

What's your reaction to the outcome of the Quebec election?
With host Rex Murphy.


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Today we want to talk about the Quebec election. Elections in that province always seem to carry with them an added spice of broader consequence ...menacing to some, hopeful to others ...because of its smouldering existential question.

The result surprised many observers, pollsters included, many of whom predicted a healthy Parti Quebecois majority. The PQ just squeeked into government with a four seat advantage ...and a plurality of less than one percent in the popular vote. At one point written off by the experts, the Liberals came close to winning power again. The new party, the Quebec Future Coalition, or CAQ as it is known ...vaulted forward to win almost as much of the popular vote in a relatively close three-way split ...but did not do as well in the seat count. In the end, the overall result looked more like indecision. Trying to divine a new popular direction from the traditional leanings whether left and right, or federalist and sovereigntist is tricky at best.

Despite statements at the beginning of the campaign that sovereignty would not be a big issue, it became one of several big issues that Quebecers debated ...while the rest of Canada watched with mixed feelings of deja-vu.

The new Quebec Premier Mme Pauline Marois says she will do what she can to move the issue of Quebec's independence forward ...and certainly try to gain more powers for the province within confederation.

The election-night shooting also served to increase tension between anglos and francos in the province in the week that followed, kicking off another round of discussion about language politics. All because a cry at the scene of the crime from the alleged perpetrator that 'the English were waking up.'

How will the new government 'get on' with Ottawa? Is Stephen Harper's style of federalism a better fit for a sovereigntist government or will there be friction? All federal parties are going to have to adjust their approach in dealing with a separatist government in Quebec ...which one faces the greatest challenge?

How will the rest of Canada react to more manoeuvring for increased powers for Quebec? What do you make of the rise of the new party CAQ ...does it offer a new way out of the politics of language and division? What about the student protest which hastened the calling of the election, does the outcome prove the power of street protest?

Jean Charest announced he is leaving politics after 28 years ...what are your thoughts on his legacy? Fourteen years ago, he was virtually conscripted into leaving federal politics and taking over the leadership of the Quebec Liberal party save the country. Did he succeed?

There are many issues and points to discuss in this one election story. Tell us what's got your interest.

Our question today to start the discussion: "What's your reaction to the outcome of the Quebec election?"

I'm Rex Murphy ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius satellite radio channel 159 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.


  • Bruce Anderson
    Pollster and political analyst now with Anderson Insight, formerly Senior Associate with Harris Decima.

  • André Pratte
    Chief Editorial writer for La Presse newspaper in Montreal and the author of a biography of Wilfred Laurier in Penguin's Extraordinary Canadians series.

  • Daniel Turp
    Law Professor at the University of Montreal and former Bloc Québécois MP

  • Benoit Pelletier
    Law Professor at the University of Ottawa. Former Member of the National Assembly of Quebec and cabinet minister under Jean Charest

  • Janice MacKinnon
    Former Finance Minister of Saskatchewan, now Professor of History and Public Policy at the Univ. of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.


Globe and Mail

National Post



I was living in Montreal the first time the PQ came to power and working at the Centaur Theatre.  And you know the sun came in the east the next day and set in the west. As I reflect on the seeming constant desire of Quebec to want to leave confederation it reminds me a bit of a 30 something who is still living at home who keeps threatening to move out unless the parents meet this or that demand. The parents end up constantly caving in. I think maybe at the next federal election there should be a national question on the ballot.  The question, have you had enough already, should we just say Quebec that's it you do not want to be a team player so that's it you are no longer part of Canada. Maybe it is time for a bit of tough love.

Dundas, Ontario


In the flushed glow of a PQ minority victory, Quebec voters may appear to have cast a measured decision against independence, but in the light of further analysis their basic nationalist predisposition becomes much clearer. Momentary relief that the Parti Quebecois' separatist agenda may not have received the electorate's full endorsement must, unfortunately, be offset by the actual electoral results.

According to published figures, the harsh reality is that the majority of Quebecers did indeed vote for sovereignty in one or another of its three prescribed forms: 1. Immediate - by separatists in a hurry, the SQ (6%)  2. "When conditions are right" - the traditional, hard bore PQ approach (32%) or 3. Within ten years - the time the upstart CAQ believes it requires to form government (27.2%). This translates into a full 65% of Quebec voters backing parties amicable to, or in the case of the disingenuous CAQ, with no stated opposition to separation.

Irrespective of the growing call for a CAQ/Liberal coalition, a considered option to prevent the PQ from becoming Quebec's next government, the federalist cause has found itself surrounded on three sides by nationalist forces. This outflanking manoeuvre must be viewed as a palpable threat to constitutional freedoms and the economic development necessary to insure the province's - and the country's - future security. Not the benign result domestic apologists and foreign governments generally believe it to be.

Winnipeg, Manitoba

If you look at the distribution of popular vote, as opposed to the seats won and lost, this election can be best typified as "none of the above. "It is clear from outside Quebec that people were doing two things at the polling booth: defeating a government which had lost its authority to govern and parking their votes.  The PQ cannot see this as a clear mandate to govern.  It is only a caretaker position.

Langley, British Columbia


The role of Quebec in Canada is, perhaps, the most puzzling issue in our history.
I suppose had France not prevailed on Britain at the conclusion of the Seven Years War to accept ownership of New France, Quebec could very well have subsequently been bartered off in a fashion similar to the Louisiana purchase. I mention that in passing because our modern-day understanding of Quebec is riddled with historical fiction.But what intrigues me currently is the example set by Jean Charest in 1998. Having played a pivotal role in that 'squeaker' which was the 1995 Quebec referendum, he was prevailed upon by federalists (principally the prime minister) to resign as the federal Progressive Conservative leader and assume the leadership of the Quebec Liberal Party. In expressing gratitude the only way a specimen like Chretien could, he torpedoed Charest's campaign during the provincial election that year.Yet Charest came back to win 3 provincial elections. The pundits are suggesting that the PQ government, with only a cushion of 4 seats, will not be long-lived. And the NDP is promising to field a provincial slate by the time the next election rolls around further splintering the federalist vote.So, I'm wondering if Tom Mulcair cares enough about the unity of this nation to subvert his party's provincial ambitions, and to, himself, resign his federal office and return to the provincial Liberal Party whence he came to, like Jean Charest before him. Federalism needs a Charest-like champion in Quebec. Tom Mulcair is the most conspicuous candidate. We don't need another period of national uncertainty and I won't even attempt to get into the issue of the ultimate fate of the District of Ungava if we start parcelling off sections of the nation.



I served in the Mulroney cabinet with Jean Charest. His legacy is a Canada that still includes Quebec. I found him to be one of the few politicians who understood all regions of this wondrous country (Once when I told him in dismay the boat gas dock at the  isolated BC First Nation village of Kyuquot had shut down, he knew immediately it would affect the aboriginal and sports fishery, because he had once crewed on BC coastal freighters one summer). I hope  Captain Canada continues to serve on the bridge of our ship of state in some capacity.




As an Anglophone who worked and resided in Quebec for 20 years but now resides in BC I give my full support and trust to Quebec Solidaire but I do not support the PQ or Liberals or CAQ. Although I voted for Rene Levesque in the early days, I believe the PQ has lost its vision and public mandate. The QS  is now the real party of the people.

Saltspring Island, British Columbia


The only prediction I heard that proved right was Conrad Black in the National Post on September 1st. "My prediction is that the Quebec election will produce a result roughly analogous to that observed in Britain two years ago (which also was a three-way affair): the defeat of all parties." As far as the future is concerned, he said, "Quebec and its Quiet Revolution have failed, and its politicians have failed. The real revolution will come when Quebec looks itself in the eye and realizes where its ambitions and possibilities intersect." Whatever personal opinion anyone may have of Mr. Black, the fact is he called this right, and deserves credit for his insight into Quebec politics.

Montreal, Quebec


The election in Quebec was about change. In Canada about 50% of Canadians want change. Now 20% of Canadians are taking most of the money, they pay another 30% enough to keep them happy and wave the Canadian flag, the other 50% feel they are not getting their share and will for now vote to change this. Some of the younger people will use other means to get what they want.

Miramichi, New Brunswick


I am enjoying your show about the Quebec election. I have noticed that you, and many English media persons, refer to the PQ as 'separatists', while those in my limited exposure from Quebec, refer to themselves as sovereignists'

Victoria, British Columbia


I can tell you from deep and sustained experience working in a Francophone context across Quebec that most Francophones could care less. They'll vote to keep Ottawa away from their door, they'll vote progressive rather than conservative nine times out of ten, they'll vote for cultural and social programs rather than against (they have socialized daycare, for example). A referendum will only come along again if some politico figures that they can game the system just enough to do it, for their own agenda.

Halifax, Nova Scotia


I think the current national and global tensions in the world and politics and economics ie: Quebec, Syria, Norway, USA, are not totally based on substantive issues but are derivative of an underlying physical and physiological basis brought on by the real changing but some what insidious effect of the changes on the environment and climate (produced in part say 55 % by human inappropriate and over activity and consumption and carbon use and trillion dollar oil infrastructure and systems,) and producing and effecting mood and psychological aspects of all life on the planet and the planets systems on the micro and macro and middle scales.

Thus the palpable tension and unease in many relationships and dissing and being blown off by others. and random acts of seemingly senseless violence. Perhaps which many are finding common in the media and governance, work and society in general.

The remedy and recourse which seems to be emerging in the works but lacks the conventional chain of command structure and operation and is more of a soft leadership and consensus style and attribute , the face or faces of which perhaps yet remain to come into focus and effect. Perhaps the best example of the emerging global governance structure is found in the creation and existence of the G20 which is attributable somewhat to Arthur's of old round table but the players involved seem to lack the desired creativity and intuition and capital and will perhaps needed to guide the planet and humanity through these as yet uncharted waters and spaces.

Personally I think the remedy lies in the inception and execution of a global biome/state or federation or confederation governance model rather than the current global nation/corporation/state model as nature be our host and benevolent dictator any way one cuts it in the final analysis.


It may be that the consequences of giving the Conservatives a majority in Ottawa is to persuade Canadians, in Quebec but also in Ontario, that they are better off with minority governments.

Nicholas Tracy
Fredericton, New Brunswick

I think that people in Quebec did exactly what they wanted to do in the election. They did not want to give any party a clear majority.  They wanted to let Jean Charest go as they were tired of the Liberals to a limited degree. They almost wanted status quo and they are not interested in a referendum.  Quebec already is it's own country within a country; they are to be admired for being involved in their politics and not letting democracy down.  The students are to be commended for their long fight against the government over tuition fees.  Mamby pamby Ontario the good rarely gets excited about anything and that is probably why they have some of the highest tuition fees in Canada if not the highest.We should all thank Jean Charest for having led the Liberals out of the wilderness by changing from federal to provincial politics so many years back. So as far as the Quebec election goes; yes they had one.

Haileybury, Ontario


Justin simply is not ready. Jean Charest is and apparently available. I have recently taken the baby step of becoming a Liberal supporter. I might be persuaded to become something more than that should Mr. Charest do the logical thing and come back home to the federal House of Commons as Liberal and ultimately as Prime Minister. We all know his qualifications. No one has more energy and experience for the job in the country.
Ottawa, Ontario


It seems to me that this election is a step on the path to a return to the Keynesian economic principles of the mid-twentieth century -- the end of the Mulroney/Thatcher/Reagan era as a caller has said. Charest's government was a Liberals-in-name-only government, like Chretien's federally and ours in BC. These neo-liberal governments have held sway across Canada and have dragged social policy into the dark ages with, among other things, their belief in "trickle down" economic theory. Starting with the "Occupy" movement last year and the election of so many NDP members to our federal parliament from Quebec, and continuing onto the student protests of 2012, I am seeing a rejection of the corporatist/capitalist agenda and a return to the social justice principles that made Canada so successful in the post-war period The PQ party is a social justice party, and they were elected in the absence of the NDP on the provincial scene in Quebec. This is just the beginning of a broader movement as middle class Canadians to reclaim their political ground from the neo-cons.

Maple Ridge, British Columbia


Quebec itself is very much divided.  One caller spoke of the myth of the English monolith in "English Canada" but what many do not realize is that Quebec itself doesn't have a French Quebec monolith either.  Montreal is right behind Toronto in terms of ethnic diversity.  The mission of the federal government and the rest of Canada is to recognize this diversity and work at convincing immigrants to see Canada as their country - an ethnically diverse country.  The propaganda of the "two solitudes" is really and truly now itself a myth.  The old Canadian polarity of English/French really no longer exists.

Embrun, Ontario

Unless the CAQ has been lying, It will take another provincial election before there can be any referendum on sovereignty.  As far as I know, the NDP plans to run in that election. What are the implications of that? The current CPC's tendency to put its partisan interests ahead of the interests of the country, its bullying, divisive approach to politics, its economic and administrative incompetence, and the limits of his ideology have weakened the country on many fronts, including the so-called unity front.  The key is to try to limit the damage the CPC can do before the next federal election in the face of PQ provocation, and to make sure the alternative is as strong as possible in that election, so that they have as little influence as possible afterwards.

Edmonton, Alberta


CBC interviewed a man in the past week, a commentator I think, or perhaps an author. What he said boiled down to this position: There are two obvious explanations, the perpetrator was moved by the political debate, or the action was an extension of mental illness. He rejected the political explanation, and was left with the idea of mayhem and murder flowing more or less naturally from mental illness. It is a sad and bad thing that it could thus be in the interest of politicians to promote a grave prejudice against people who suffer mental illness.

Interestingly, the interviewee said that violence never had a place in Quebec politics, from that I infer that he is numbered among the recently born, and never drives over the Pont Pierre Laporte. Probably the history of Quebec politics is not taught in schools. One could go back further, but that would be unCanadian, drawing attention to violence.

Kingston, Nova Scotia 

I find the comments about separation confusing. Is it not significant that the P.Q. lost almost 4% from their 2008 election result? I would read this election as " A plague on both your houses" not a vote for potential separation....but if we keep reacting as if it is, we are likely to stoke the fire of that cause.

Calgary, Alberta


As a native Montrealer with family roots dating to the early 1918s and someone who's lived 36 years in Quebec. I find some people's reaction too excitable. Quebec has already had 6 Parti Quebecois premiers, some of which have implemented progressive changes. This includes government paid day care and the fact that women retain their maiden family names when they marry. The PQ's election is a reaction to many of the federal government's policies including gun registry, the environment, Afghanistan and previously same sex marriage.

Vancouver, British Columbia


Justin Trudeau for the premier of Quebec. I think that he could do great things in Quebec.  I don't think that he has a true chance Federally.  The new Charest!

New Westminster, British Columbia


I am curious to know why the media, CBC included has went from calling the PQ separatists initially, to sovereignists in the last couple months, then back to separatists in the last couple weeks. Canada values Quebec.  They are a very important part of our shared heritage.  From the Maritimes, to Quebec, to Ontario, the prairies, west coast, natives and Inuit we all have an important part of Canada and its history.  We did not get here without them, and I wouldn't want to move forward any other way.

Beachburg, Ontario


I am concerned with Ms. Marois "Quebec Secular Charter"; an agenda that would -if I understand it correctly- see the abolition of religious wear, symbols and discourse from la belle province - at least those which are not historically tied to Quebec culture. In other words, it is an extreme attempt to remove faith from public life in a way which borders on bigotry: it would see Sikh's remove turbans, Muslims remove hijabs and so on and so forth. While it is inappropriate for any one religion or sect thereof to legislate their dogmas on the populous, as in a theocracy, it is more troubling that a government would try to deny the role faith plays (and has played) in the lives of Quebecers to the degree in question. Religion has and should continue to be honestly seen as a legitimate patch in the quilt of constituents' worldview and in turn the wardrobe, language and debate of (provincial) politics. Ms. Marois Charter ought to be rejected out right.

Kingston, Ontario



If a minority government 'can't' have the 'confidence of the house' the GG/LG gives opposition groups a chance to form a government.  If the Quebec government in minority fails, surely then we are not definitely looking at another election? Isn't this what Harper got away with when he managed to 'dissolve' Parliament, rather than risk the Governor General offering the opposition, with 66% more or less of the popular vote, try to form a Government! Lets use all the tools we have to avoid the increasingly vacuous elections

Victoria, British Columbia


We Canadians, aside from Quebec, are so very fatigued with the question of "separatism"! Special status is not part of our culture; we all are special and live and work together. As a nation, we must work together in the international community. If you want to go, then go, we're tired of your whining; we'll miss your culture but, you need to assimilate and embrace the other members of this great, diversified nation.

Wolseley, Saskatchewan


Let's not forget that Lucien Bouchard, the man who nearly led Quebec out of Canada during the last referendum in 1995, subsequently described Quebec sovereignty as a "pipe dream." I don't think anyone mentioned that during the show.

Barrie, Ontario


The smartest thing that could happen for Charest, for Harper and for Canadian federalism would be for Charest to be appointed government leader in the Senate.

Halifax, Nova Scotia


I don't agree about no federalist champions being left in Quebec.  You just had one on the phone with you,  Benoit Pelletier and there are many more.  All that you have to do Rex is check with the Radio Canada website.  Mr. Pelletier indicated today that he is considering being a leadership candidate for the Liberals.  I couldn't think of a better choice for that party.  He is positioned somewhat to the left of Charest on many issues and even has publicly supported the idea of proportional representation.  Charest did some good things but he didn't control corruption in his party and that is one of the main reasons for the Liberal downfall.  Charest, an ex Tory also brought the party farther to the right than it has ever been before.  Someone like Pelletier can pick up some votes from the left.  Of the 5 potential leadership candidates mentioned, he is, at 52, the second youngest and has a lot of political life left in him.  He is also the most knowledgeable one on constitutional issues and has some good thoughts on this. Forget Justin Trudeau.  Nobody in Quebec takes him seriously.  Mulcair is very popular in Quebec. He was at one time considered as a possible replacement for Charest.  As Liberal Minister of the Environment, he stood up to Charest on the issue of condo development in a provincial park at Mt. Orford, was rewarded by a cabinet demotion and eventually quit provincial politics. He can come on as a strong federal champion. The PQ isn't as far left as it makes out.  Yes, they have union support but they clawed back salaries in the past for civil servants and teachers.  Pauline Marois and her husband are not exactly "of the people".   They made a fortune on questionable land speculation and they live in a mansion, which encroaches on crown land.  I'm sick of people from the Rest of Canada (le ROC) championing anyone who happens to be a federalist.  This type of thin brought us among other things, the sponsorship scandal.  The whole point of this election is that two thirds of Quebecois want to move past this interminable federalist-separatist debate and get on to something much more real, like what type of society we want. A Quebec provincial NDP may be in the books.  Mulcair alluded to this a few weeks back in "the House".  The PQ over the past year had a lot of defections.  Let's see how, if, they survive a minority government.

Grenville, Quebec