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PQ stop beating around the bush

by Archives October 23, 2007

Ever since the infamous “ethnic vote” speech made by Jacques Parizeau after the referendum loss of 1995, the PQ has been loath to mention anything even remotely close to the concept of a “Québécois identity.” It has been more than happy to display its love of – preferably francophone – diversity. PQ leaders continue to stress the importance of the predominance of the French language in Quebec, but stayed mostly silent when it comes to “collective values,” or “accommodations.”
As long as people spoke French, so the argument went, they could be true-blue Quebecers. How times have changed.
On Thursday, PQ leader, Pauline Marois, filed two new proposed bills which call for the creation of a Quebec constitution, for new ways to strengthen the French language in order to protect Québécois identity, and for the setting up of new programs to facilitate the integration of immigrants into Quebec society.
Such shifts in policy were to be expected from Marios who vowed to make drastic changes in the party after André Boisclair piloted it into third place in March. But there is also another reason for the shift: there’s a new kid in town, called the ADQ and he’s very loud.
The ADQ has always puzzled analysts. What kind of party is it? It is clearly right-leaning, yet so much of its policy changes drastically and suddenly that it is hard to pin down. ADQ Leader Mario Dumont doesn’t really seem to care about rigid electoral platforms or party values; he orients his party according to the mood of the electorate. Back in 1995, when the “Yes” vote seemed to have a chance of winning, the ADQ supported separation.
These days, now that Quebecers seem uninterested by the option of creating their own country, the ADQ is what Dumont calls “autonomist” – an absurd exercise in fence-sitting with no real meaning.
Now that “accommodations” are all the rage, Dumont’s populism is paying off. To his credit, he caught on early that questions of identity would be central to last spring’s electoral campaign, and he managed to be on every TV set and in every newspaper talking about them.
Whether he was right or wrong was irrelevant; that he was out there talking about these very sensitive subjects while his opponents shyly dipped their toes into the ocean of debate ensured that Quebecers’ fears would send ballots his way.
When André Boisclair proposed in January to remove the Crucifix above the President’s seat in the National Assembly to promote the secularism of Quebec’s institutions, Dumont was only too happy to oppose it publicly as an attack on Quebec’s history as a Catholic Nation.
Jean Charest, on the other hand, gingerly sent one of his MP’s, Fatima Houda-Pépin to voice the Liberals’ opposition to the idea of removing the Christian symbol.
It was one more point for Dumont.
Of course, the Liberals created the Bouchard-Taylor Commission to wash their hands of the whole affair. And then, perhaps sensing a whiff of the cautiousness that cost his party seats in March, Jean Charest went ahead and proposed to change the Quebec Charter in order to make equality between the sexes predominant over the right to freedom of religion, thereby rendering his commission almost futile.
Maybe the Liberals are also setting their sails to whatever wind brought the ADQ to where it is now; to the effect that all three major parties in Quebec now align their compasses to the knee-jerk populism of a once obscure and almost insignificant party.

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