The View From Here – May 2nd Election in Quebec City

The View From Here – May 2nd Election in Quebec City


by Peter Stuart  

For an election which Stephen Harper says that ‘nobody wanted’, this current federal campaign, as we lead up to polling day next Monday, May 2nd, is shaping up to be anything but predictable or boring in its potential outcome.

People initially were talking about the ‘same ol’ same ol’’, that the election ‘wouldn’t change anything’ and that we’d end up with ‘another Conservative minority’, and that we’ll have ‘wasted another 300 million dollars for nothing’, etc…

But wait a minute! Things seem to be shifting significantly within the realm of public opinion. As Harper’s polling numbers begin to top out around 40% of  the popular vote, give or take X % points of margin of error, nine times out of ten, we’ve begun to see something quite stunning occur on the other side of the political fence.

The Bloc Québécois seems to be in a spot of trouble in some Québec ridings, with the NDP even going so far as being able to draw a crowd of 1300 in east end Montréal on a Easter Saturday weekend, something heretofore unheard of in this province. It would seem that some of the Bloc’s traditional Social Democratic voter base is defecting to the NDP, after becoming disillusioned by the party’s stance on secession, and its inability to speak for Québecers in a cooperative way within Canada to get things done in a timely fashion. 

More and more French-Canadians that I speak with in an anecdotal fashion seem to be coming around to the notion that Canada isn’t such a bad place to live in after all. I think that the younger generation of Québecois people are in fact the happy victims of their Father’s and Grandfather’s struggles to make Québec a better place to live, both under Liberal, P.Q., and even U.N. administrations from 1960 onwards. 

There was a steady increase in the material standard of living of Québecers starting with the Jean Lesage governments of 1960-66, then the Daniel Johnson period which came afterwards, which, although they were a Union Nationale administration, continued the reforms of the previous administration. Mr. Robert Bourassa from 1970-76, then Mr. René Lévesque from 1976-85, basically completed the transformation of Québec society. 

So basically, today’s youth, especially those 18-35, have inherited a standard of living which is in large part a result of massive inputs of government intervention in society, both provincially and federally, which have allowed them to be healthy, eat well, go to school, and get good jobs, start a business, get access to credit, buy a home, a car, and especially, to travel and see other parts of the country and the world like they’ve never been able to before. 

All of this has been done while still being part of Canada, and cooperating with our partners in the rest of the country. So I think some of the residents of my home province are starting to think twice about just how ‘oppressive’ Canada really is, especially when they see how people live in places like Japan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, Indonesia, Thailand, the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Burundi, Rwanda, DRC, Sudan, etc. I think they’re starting to realize just how lucky they are to live in the ‘True North Strong and Free’, and that Canada has vowed to ‘Protègera nos foyer et nos droit’ (to protect our homes and our rights), in exchange for us consenting to be part of  it. So not a bad idea that we should, in exchange, ‘stand on guard for thee’. 

So basically, the two versions of the national anthem complement each other: You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. Whatever works, eh? After all, this is Canada, right? 

One thing that worries me, though is how all this will translate onto the electoral map on May 2nd. Seeing that our ‘first past the post’ electoral system is basically broken, and doesn’t accurately represent the popular will of the people anymore, Stephen Harper could wind up with a slight majority government on May 2nd with barely 40% of the popular vote! 

When Jean Chrétien was PM, he governed with successive majorities, regardless of the fact that he didn’t win a majority of the popular vote, but still could’ve counted on the support of the NDP, if push had come to shove, and it would’ve been necessary to build a coalition to keep the Tories from power. 

This would mean that 60% of the population of the country will not have voted for a right wing party, but we still might wind up with one in power anyways! This is the perverse nature of what’s left of our British-inherited Parliamentary institutions. I’m a staunch Constitutional Monarchist, and a firm believer in British parliamentary democracy, but I still feel we need proportional representation in this country, and that somebody needs to explain it in a simple, no nonsense way to Canadians. 

Stephen Harper seems poised to potentially consolidate his majority grip on power in this country not through better ideas or better policies, but through better manipulation of the existing weaknesses which exist within the current democratic process, so as to accede to power and dominance in this country through what might amount to a perversion of democracy, and the old axiom of ‘divide and conquer’, or ‘divide and rule’, keeping the left wing in this country bickering amongst themselves whilst he slithers on up the right flank of the political spectrum to ultimately reign over country which needs vision, not division. 

On May 2nd, maybe Michael Ignatieff’s mantra of ‘Rise up! Rise up, Canada!’ will be heeded and we might see a sort of ‘Canadian Spring’ occur on the main streets of all of our cities, towns, and villages. 

I, for one, am not holding my breath, but am rather anticipating with muted dread the ascendance to power of Canada’s first ever replicant android with a hairdo that just must be impregnated with at least a full can of Spray Net: Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister that ‘nobody wanted’, from the election that ‘nobody wanted’. How’s that for democracy, eh?
Article: Peter Stuart
Cartoons: Mike Roache

About the author:

Peter Stuart is a freelance journalist and 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 is currently working on the publication of his first book. 
You can read more of Peter’s work by visiting his blog.

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