Sky Begins to Fall in as Mme. Marois Swears in Her Cabinet

Sky Begins to Fall in as Mme. Marois Swears in Her Cabinet

Opinion piece by Peter Stuart


A few days ago, the newly-minted Premier of the Province of Québec, Pauline Marois, swore-in her new Cabinet, with much fanfare and smiles all around.

It looked like there was a genuine feeling of happiness, joy and buoyancy in the Red Chamber of the National Assembly (ironically enough, this room used to be the old Provincial Senate chamber, which was a vestige of the British system, and was abolished, so it was quite strange that a new government, whose avowed goal is to abolish our links with Britain, should be sworn in at a place which used to symbolize our British connection.) And the members seemed to all be genuinely enjoying the moment, as well as each other’s company. 

They even went so far as to remove the Canadian flag during the swearing-in ceremony, only to bring it back in for when it was the Liberal opposition’s turn to get sworn-in.

Only in Québec.

There seemed to be a sense of common purpose amongst these people, that their vision for an independent Québec Republic is something which really matters to them. 

As much as I admire them for their sense of common purpose and camaraderie, I can’t help but remind myself to what point their personal and collective vision of Québec and Canada is at loggerheads with my own, as well as the vast majority of Québecers, who, quite frankly, did NOT vote for them and therefore do not share their vision. 

Some might say that ‘the sky is falling, there’s going to be another referendum’, or that ‘there’s going to be another Anglo exodus’.

As much as Pauline Marois wants to hold another referendum on secession, her hands are basically tied, and she needs to deal with the very real task of governing, of the debt, the deficit, overflowing hospital waiting rooms, doctor and nursing shortages, crumbling infrastructure, corruption, a sluggish recovery, a high dropout rate in high school, a below-replacement rate birthrate, a record-high suicide rate and abortion rate, and an alarming rate of conjugal violence, breakdown, and illiteracy.

Many secular secessionists have long-touted ‘le modèle Québécois’ as a model to be emulated, but so far, no country in the world that I know of is lining up behind us to copy how we do things here in the Province of Québec. Rather, all I hear about is our leaders fanning out across the globe, seeking out the advice of sages and consultants from countries and cities far afield to see how things are done elsewhere to see how we could possibly emulate them. 

Richard Henry Bain may have spouted out some nonsense gibberish about the ‘English awakening’ to the cameras the night of September 4th, when he was arrested outside the Metropolis, but I sincerely doubt it if his words are indicative of the mood of the average Anglo Québecer, especially not in Quebec City, which is very far from the epicentre of such traditional battlegrounds of linguistic tensions like Montréal. Perhaps some Montréalers and people in the Eastern Townships and the Outaouais, are peeved at having a secessionist government in Quebec City once again, but I think we’ve pretty much grown accustomed to their presence on the political landscape by now, and realize that after roughly two terms of Liberal rule, the secessionists are bound to get back in one way or another. 

Except this time, there’s the new, or should I say, ‘re-newed’ ‘X factor’ of the CAQ party to offset the traditional Liberal/PQ divide.

Third parties are traditionally spoilers, especially in our ‘first past the post’ electoral system. They split the vote three ways, therefore making it difficult for one candidate to get a solid majority or even plurality of votes in their riding, which is often a microcosm of the division within public opinion at large concerning the major issues. 

So François Legault’s CAQ party has basically prevented Mrs. Marois from getting a majority, and is indicative of just how enduringly ambivalent Québecers are about their future within or without Canada. It’s hard to tell if a vote for CAQ is a vote for various right wing policy options mixed with an autonomist vision for Québec within Canada, or if a lot of the 27% of those who voted CAQ are indeed hardcore right wing economic-nationalist secessionists who believe in the ‘new religion’ of a strong private sector presence for Québec entrepreneurs mixed with a heavy dose of economic nationalism with a renewed push for the institution of new initiatives by the Caisse de Dépôt et Placement in the field of mineral exploration and so on. 

Whatever the case may be, Pauline Marois is facing a formidable foe not only in François Legault, but in a renewed Liberal Party, which is likely to elect Philippe Couillard (the former Health Minister) as its new leader in the coming months. 

Mrs. Marois’ people may have been smiling that one day in the Red Chamber, but she must now deal with the realities of a house divided in her own ‘nation’.

Just another tricky day in the Distinct Society.

About the author:

Peter Stuart is a freelance writer based in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.
He has a degree in Canadian Studies from the University of Ottawa.
He has written Op-Ed pieces for the last ten years for publications including: Le Soleil, La Presse, Quebec Chronicle Telegraph and Impact Campus.
Peter writes in both French and English, and and has published his first book, entitled ‘The Catholic Faith and the Social Construction of Religion: With Particular Attention to the Québec Experience’.

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