It’s Not A Distraction: It’s a New Strategy – The PQ’s hardline “identity” stance is framing the next election

It’s Not A Distraction: It’s a New Strategy – The PQ’s hardline “identity” stance is framing the next election

By Farnell Morisset

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The board was set a year ago.

In the days following our last provincial election, political analysts took great pleasure in pointing out how minority governments rarely last more than 18 months and how the upcoming mandate would be little more than a Parti Québécois focused intermission.  Ticking along like clockwork, 12 months have gone by and already the National Assembly’s titans are beginning to pound their chests for another round of electoral competition.  It came as no surprise to me then that the PQ’s latest hardline nationalistic outbursts – namely the “leaked” charter of values and the redefinition of mandatory history education as “Quebec identity reinforcement” – seemed to land right before the fall, traditionally a rife election season.

Now I’m going to keep my full opinion of the PQ’s newly minted socio-nationalistic identity zeal for another article, but suffice it to say I’m not in favour of intolerance masquerading as manufactured social justice.  That being said, politically, it’s a very smart strategy.

If anything, the last election changed the province’s political chessboard dramatically – even more so than the 2007 election which saw the meteoric rise of the Action Démocratique du Québec and the first provincial minority government in living memory.  The 2012 election showed that the PQ’s hold on separatist politics was no longer absolute, and therefore no longer sufficient to keep its supporters in line.  Arguably, it was the 350,000 or so votes that went to upstart separatist parties Option Nationale and Québec Solidaire who narrowly cost the PQ it’s majority – not the appeal of the Coalition Avenir Québec or Quebec Liberal Party.

Given that the main opposition parties have strong-armed the PQ into compromising on key philosophical points such as cancelling the tuition hike, abolishing the health tax, and strengthening French supremacy laws, it would seem surprising at first glance that the PQ would respond with comparatively more radical proposals that would ban public officials from showing any religious symbols and introduce ever greater Québec-centric history classes as part of mandatory school curricula.  But it’s precisely because there’s no possible way these proposals could survive the current National Assembly that the PQ is proposing them.

By proposing these measures, the PQ sends a two-fold message to its traditional base, the do-or-die supporters of the Révolution Tranquille who would like nothing better than to see the gains of the 1960s and 1970s frozen in law and protected from change.  First, the PQ is emphasizing how it still has the will to enforce this ideology, at the same time setting up the last year’s unpopular compromises as the fault of the major opposition parties.  Second, the PQ is branding itself as the “national identity party”, something neither other fringe separatist party can effectively do.  Option Nationale is now neutered and leaderless, while Québec Solidaire’s de facto public face Amir Khadir represents, rightly or wrongly, the very change in national identity hardliners are trying to avoid.  It’s a strategy simultaneously rooted in political grandstanding and dog-whistle xenophobia, and the PQ is betting it’ll pay off.

It’s the PQ’s last hope that their neo-nationalist cultural rebranding will court traditional supporters of the PQ’s original 1960s ideals – typically white, French-speaking, left-leaning secularized catholics, and that they’ll be able to draw social debate away from economics, health care, or education, where their track record over the last year is severely lacking.  They’re hoping to consolidate wayward nationalists while framing the issues of the next election in a way that the CAQ and PLQ will split their supporters as evenly as possible.  It’s a high-risk, socially manipulative gambit, but the way the chessboard is now, it’s the PQ’s last chance to entirely avoid checkmate.

I predict elections before Christmas.  The CAQ will focus its message on the economy, the PLQ on health care, and the PQ… on this.

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Other opinion pieces from LifeinQuebec.com:
Proposed Quebec “Charter of Values” – Can It Get Any Sillier? by Frank Verpaelst
Debunking the Myth of Quebec and Equalisation Payments by Lucky James
Stealth Snowmobiles Can’t Defend the North – And Shouldn’t Be Expected To by Farnell Morisset

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About the author:

Farnell-Morisset_BiogFarnell Morisset is passionate about discussing (among other things) the issues of modern social identity for many Québécois who, like him, feel deeply connected to the Québécois nation and culture yet do not identify with the traditional francophone non-practicing Catholic nationalist image.

It is with this in mind that he contributes to LifeinQuebec.com as a valued member of our in-house writing team.

See other articles by Farnell Morisset

Categories: News

About Author

Farnell Morisset

Farnell Morisset is passionate about discussing (among other things) the issues of modern social identity for many Québécois who, like him, feel deeply connected to the Québécois nation and culture yet do not identify with the traditional francophone non-practicing Catholic nationalist image. He has an engineering degree from Université Laval and is currently a law student at McGill University.

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