Gérard Deltell on the CAQ and Québec’s Future

Gérard Deltell on the CAQ and Québec’s Future

LiQ_Mag_Cover_July2014This article first appeared in the July 2014 issue of Life in Québec Magazine.
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By Michael Bourguignon

With the sovereignist Parti Québecois now in opposition status in a majority Liberal government, it’s time to set sovereignty aside and get on with the issues that really matter to voters – and another referendum is not one of them.

So says Gérard Deltell, the newly re-elected MNA for Chauveau and outspoken member of the ‘other’ opposition party, François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ).

“What we need to do now is deal with the real issues of the people, and people voted against having another referendum. That was the key issue,” Deltell said in a recent interview at his Loretteville riding office.

As is often the case in Québec politics, voters expressed their distaste for the reigning party by marking their ballots next to the names of the candidates most likely to succeed, suggested M. Deltell, whose CAQ party finished third in the April 7th election. “We don’t want a referendum, so we’ll vote for the party that’s at the top of the polls,” he said of the voters’ intentions, “not because people disagreed with our platform, but they decided to vote Liberal instead.”

Until Québecois go to the polls next, M. Deltell and the CAQ intend to act as the unofficial opposition in the National Assembly, to be a watchdog on issues such as the economy, employment, transportation, daycare services and other issues of importance. “Our priority now will be to apply our platform. I think we have to stick to our guns and be proud of our projects. We already see the government taking a lot of our proposals, such as the government hiring freeze. That’s exactly what we proposed during the campaign, so we hope the government will remain on the same track.”

LiQ_Mag_Abonnez-vousAccording to M. Deltell, the Liberal government is not alone in “adopting” CAQ policies. The MNA was pleased when Québec City Mayor Régis Labeaume publicly accepted the contention that the economy is in no shape to accommodate such municipal mega-projects as an ice-skating track when provincial coffers are $260 billion in the hole.

“I was very glad to see that Mayor Labeaume took almost word for word what I said a few weeks ago. What we said during the campaign is that these are good, interesting projects, but we have to put them in priority. That’s why we said the expansion of the Henri IV highway is a top priority because transportation is an issue in Quebec,” M. Deltell said. “We’re living beyond our means, and we have to think about what we’re leaving to future generations.”

With the PQ ousted from power – at least for the time being – should those who oppose another sovereignty referendum stop worrying about the future?

Sovereignty is not necessarily dead, M. Deltell warned. “I’m not a sovereignist, and I never will be, but ideas never die,” he said. “I’ve met some seniors who fought all of their lives for this project. They’re not in mourning.”

And what about the type of identity politics that led to such controversial projects as the PQ’s Charter of Values and, more historically, Bill 101’s restrictions and regulations on the use of languages other than French in many areas of public life? “The best contribution of Bill 101 was to make English-speaking people bilingual. We have to take advantage of that and to take inspiration from it. In other words, yes, we are proud of our identity, but we cannot be scared to speak English. It’s important to recognize that the Anglophone roots in Quebec are deep.”

How does M. Deltell view a future with the ever-looming prospect that sovereignty may ride again and a hypothetical majority Péquiste government? “If I was them, I would be proud of my position and assume it, because you have to be clear in politics. If a Péquiste government is elected, then we should have a referendum, because then the people will be the ones to decide.”

When he says “people” he means all of us, regardless of ethnic or linguistic identity, and he trusts that “the people” are capable of making informed choices about our own future. To M. Deltell, that means a future as part of a strong province of Québec within a united Canada. And it means being able to admit that we will always need a little help from our federal friends from time to time.

“I think the people of Québec can be very proud of both Québec and Canada, of being Québecers and Canadians at the same time. The federation has made us prosperous,” he said, adding, “Thank God we have equalization payments from the federal government. Nine billion dollars! How can we imagine the future of this province without help?”

“(CAQ party leader) François Legault left the Péquiste camp for exactly that reason, because he didn’t see the future of sovereignty.”

His final thoughts on the future involve the Coalition Avenir Québec gaining more and more steam – the party posted a modest gain of four seats for a total of 22 against the opposition PQ’s 30 and the Liberals’ 70. “Our goal is to be the next government, for sure. We have four and a half years to get ready for the next election, which will be a choice between a Liberal and CAQ government.”

How does he hope to win the hearts and minds of a majority of Québec voters by that time? By applying the party’s platform, keeping a close eye on the Liberal government, and letting their work speak for itself.

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About Author

Michael Bourguignon

Michael Bourguignon is a language instructor, writer, editor, translator, narrator, and amateur stage actor. He is available for children's parties.

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