Happy about Québec’s Liberal majority? Thank the NDP.

Happy about Québec’s Liberal majority?  Thank the NDP.

Primum non nocere.

It’s been over a week.  It was a dirty election, but the results seem to have left many happy that it’s over.  All the same, In all the noise and analysis that came in a flurry of blog posts and post-electoral punditry, I can’t shake a feeling that, somewhere not too long ago, a butterfly’s wings dramatically changed the course of this election, and possibly the next decade’s political history.

Somewhere last February the top Québec brass of New Democratic Party strategists were sitting in a room together, pouring over polls and projections and lists of supporters.  They’d just registered the Québec provincial wing of the NDP and were sensing the winds of an election coming.  They no doubt batted ideas back and forth for quite some time, debating whether or not they were ready.  Did they have the money?  The support?  The contacts?  The ultimate question was asked:

“So, are we running candidates this election?”

Now I like to imagine someone in the room got up, walked over to the nearest window, peered outside, crossed his arms, brought a hand up to cover his mouth, and thought about it.  Everyone else waited, while this sage carefully weighed the situation.  I’m sure it was a hard call, full of unknowns, but finally, the answer came:

“No, not this time.  We’re not ready.”

And with that, the NDP unknowingly sealed the deal for the crushing Liberal victory we saw last week.

I’m convinced that of the 40% of us who voted for Liberal candidates, very few did so with great enthusiasm.  For many, the PLQ was simply the least of evils.  Caught between two separatist parties, an uncertain right wing, and a scandal-ridden natural centre, most federalists simply held their nose and voted Liberal for lack of other options.  Other options the NDP could have provided… had the QNDP been on the ballot.

Ideologically, there’s not much of a difference between the NDP and the PLQ, and the NDP is already a well-known and arguably trusted name in Québec.  To many federalist Québécois, the notion of a Québec NDP would basically read as “Liberal without the Liberals”.  Most federalists, for whom the CAQ was too far right, would likely have defected to these QNDP candidates in droves.

Given our electoral system, this would have been disastrous to the PLQ and federalism in general, as entrenched PLQ ridings would find their natural base splitting along red and orange lines, paving the way for many more PQ victories in Montréal and Québec ridings that would have been considered unwinnable to separatists just months prior.  It’s obviously a toss-up to say who would have won, but one thing’s for sure – the PQ would not have lost so clearly.

So, for those of us breathing a sigh of relief at the “victory” of federalism… be sure to know who you might owe that breath to.  Our democratic system is one easily trumped by something as little as that.  And for the NDP itself, the greatest asset they brought to their federalist cause might very well have simply been to do… nothing.

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About Author

Farnell Morisset

Farnell Morisset has an engineering degree from Université Laval and common law and civil law degrees from McGill University, where he also studied economics.

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