Tim DuboyceCBC's National Assembly correspondent
It's make it or break it for the PQ
Posted: Aug 2, 2012 4:07 PM ET
Last Updated: Aug 2, 2012 4:01 PM ET
It's no wonder Pauline Marois blasted out of the starting gate nearly three hours before the official start of this election campaign on Wednesday, blitzing her blue and white bus through five whistlestops on day one.
This election is of pivotal importance for Parti Québécois as a party, and for Marois as a leader.
The PQ has failed to reclaim power through three straight elections, under three different leaders.
The movement, first brought to glory by René Lévesque, has never faced such a string of democratic misfortune in its 40-year history.
For many péquistes, it is quite simply the PQ's turn to take back the premier's office and set Quebec's political agenda, at least for a while.
The challenge ahead
However, despite the broad disapproval Jean Charest faces, after nearly 10 years in power, this election is far from being a slam dunk for the PQ, and Marois. And not for a lack of trying.
Marois has overhauled the PQ in terms of organization, and policy, since storming back from the political wilderness in 2008. She did so at a deep cost.
Two very public crises over her leadership, defections, and threats of a political beheading, nearly ended Marois' bold tenure.
On one side, she faced hardline sovereigntists who unrelentingly demanded a clear commitment that a PQ government would call another referendum in its first mandate.
On the other, moderates who were reading the tea leaves of public opinion, who felt the odds of such an endeavour succeeding in the short term were slim, and therefore too politically risky. Marois appeared to see things the same way as those moderates.
But, as things go in the PQ, that wasn't good enough, and so several heavyweight PQ MNAs including Pierre Curzi, and Lisette Lapointe (the wife of Jacques Parizeau) stormed off to sit as independents, never to return.
Ostensibly, their reason for leaving was the party's questionable sponsoring of a private member's bill to help ensure construction of a new NHL-class arena in Quebec City.
But for the defectors, that was simply the straw that broke the camel's back. Sooner or later, they would have left, over the party's official line on how and when to seek Quebec's independence.
It was a tough lesson in the unfairness of internal PQ politics. Marois learned quickly.
She soon capitulated to another set of somewhat-hardliners, promising to allow a so-called "citizen-initiated referendum" on sovereignty – or just about any other issue – so long as enough signatures can be collected on a petition.
And, Marois agreed to endorse a promise to toughen Bill 101, Quebec's language law.
Marois and her party wore the red square in the National Assembly at the height of the student crisis in May. (Clement Allard/CP) In the end, it worked, and Marois made a seemingly miraculous return from a political near-death experience few predicted she would survive.
But Pauline Marois wasn't done making decisions that would stir up controversy within her own ranks.
Last spring, she decided her caucus would don the red square, the emblem of the student protest movement.
Some wore it only begrudgingly.
One prominent PQ MNA, Sylvain Simard, the party's treasury critic, refused outright.
By the time the national assembly rose for the summer recess, most couldn't take that red square off fast enough.
Even Marois has since stopped wearing it, even though she purports to support the students.
All that has fed the Liberals with an endless arsenal of attacks: the PQ are flip-floppers, willing to give into any group that screams loudly enough.
"Governing from the street", as Charest has repeated charged.
One last challenge Marois may never overcome: her personal appeal.
For whatever reason, Quebecers have never come running in leaps and bounds drawn by some irresistable yet invisible magnetic power of attraction.
On voting day, none of this may matter. In reality, Marois and the moderates in her party are probably right: most Quebecers aren't interested in a referendum in the near future.
So, given the level of dissatisfaction with the Liberal government, soft-pedalling on the "national question", while presenting an election platform offering a comprehensive alternative to Charest, may end up being enough to take the PQ back to the place they haven't been for almost a decade: in power.
Follow Tim Duboyce on Twitter @TimDCBC
Quebec Election Results
Updated: Sep. 5, 2012, 1:58 AM EDT
|Party||Elected||Leading||Total||Vote Share (%)|
All results are unofficial until final ballot counts are verified by Elections Quebec. CBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.
Leaders & Parties
- Jean Charest Liberal Party
- Pauline Marois Parti Québécois
- François Legault Coalition Avenir Québec
- Amir Khadir, Françoise David Québec Solidaire
- Jean-Martin Aussant Option Nationale
- Claude Sabourin Parti vert du Québec
Latest Quebec Votes 2012 Headlines
- Pauline Marois to become Quebec's 1st female premier
- Pauline Marois and the Parti Québécois claimed victory over the incumbent Liberals on Tuesday night, winning a minority government in an election night that ended with a deadly shooting. more »
- Liberal Leader Jean Charest concedes defeat
- Liberal Leader Jean Charest loses his seat, as his government was ousted from power during Tuesday's Quebec election. more »
- PQ Montreal victory rally shooting leaves man dead, 1 injured
- A man in his 40s was shot dead and another person was critically wounded close to where Pauline Marois was giving her victory speech to supporters before midnight, prompting a swift response from the Parti Québécois leader's security team and an evacuation of the downtown Montreal concert hall. more »
- Premier Jean Charest loses home riding of Sherbrooke
- Former Bloc Québécois MP Serge Cardin has defeated Liberal Leader Jean Charest in his home riding of Sherbrooke, a seat the Quebec premier has only narrowly held on to in past elections. more »