April 11, 2014

Big shift in Quebec vote

Being a man of science, Philippe Couillard, premier-designate of Quebec, chose to use a geological term (though his field is actually medicine) to describe what happened in Monday’s election.

Couillard, 56, said he detected a shift in the “tectonic plates” of Quebec politics while he was campaigning that signified fundamental changes in the province’s political make-up that has existed for decades.

How else to explain the extraordinary triumph of the Liberals, returning to power in Quebec City with a strong, pan-provincial majority government only 18 months after the party was turfed from office by Pauline Marois and the secessionist Parti Quebecois?

Something big had to be going on.

The large shifting slabs Couillard was talking about, one surmises, are essentially two things: younger Quebecers do not pine for a separate country, as many of their parents did, and Quebecers, as a whole, are more outward looking then they used to be.

Blame the Internet or whatever, but the election results were validation of what recent polls have been finding. The PQ, once the party of legions of young, idealistic warriors in the cause of the creation of a French-speaking fortress-state, is no longer that. Polls show support for sovereignty withering among people under 40.

What happened with stunning suddenness in the campaign is the realization the PQ, if granted an unfettered majority, would begin to orchestrate a referendum on sovereignty.

On top of that, the PQ was determined to impose a charter of secular values that was dividing Quebecers and smacked of discrimination against vulnerable people, such as immigrant women.

As mentioned in last week’s column, the turning point came in the first weekend, when media baron turned PQ candidate Pierre-Karl Peladeau made the now-iconic fist pump for separation.

Awakened to the reality of the PQ’s program, voters, predominantly francophone, then began shopping for an alternative that could deliver three things: no referendum, economic progress and a stable majority government.

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