ADQ attempts to carve out moderate path

But at 13 per cent in the polls, the party has a long way to go

17. Actualité archives 2007

Mario Dumont quit the Liberal Party in 1993. But since he became leader of Action democratique du Quebec the following year, the man has been anything but a quitter.
His five-member caucus, including himself, remains tiny and unimpressive. But the 36- year-old Dumont is intent on showing up all us columnists who have predicted the ADQ's death more times than Don Cherry has ridiculed francophones.
Tomorrow, in Trois Rivieres, Dumont will be walking into his party's general convention with a new president: Gilles Taillon, the well-connected former head of the Conseil du patronat.
With the party debt nearing $1 million, Taillon's bold decision to jump in with the ADQ - a serious move for a man who was known as Liberal-friendly - is a signal to businesspeople that it is safe again to put some of their eggs in the ADQ basket.
Still, Taillon leans less to the right than the ultra-conservative Michel Gagnon-Kelly, who succeeded him at the Conseil du patronat. This shows Dumont has started to shift his party's platform closer to the centre-right.
In the introduction to the ADQ's resolutions package, Dumont even dares to brand the party as progressive on social issues - an overstatement for sure, but a definite hint that the ADQ's going into the next election as a more moderate party than in 2003 when its platform made Charest's Liberals look like socialists.
This more moderate ADQ rests on three pillars: family, education and its "autonomist" vision on the national question. But it's the first two that should grab the headlines.
The ADQ wants to pay a "significant compensatory" allowance to parents who choose not to send their children under 4 years of age to a daycare centre. On the more progressive side of the issue, it also wants to give more financial support to daycares in poorer neighbourhoods.
Other promising ideas include axing tuition fees for parents of babies under 18 months who want to go back to school, a $5,000 bonus for the third child, infertility treatments covered by medicare and financial support to help parents with international adoptions while also encouraging more home-grown adoptions.
On education, the ADQ wants to "decentralize and redistribute" human and financial resources toward schools and away from the "bureaucracy." If that isn't a warning to school boards, I don't know what is.
Going back to traditional report cards and giving more autonomy to teachers are also no-brainers that most parents would applaud.
So far, so good, But what's a good party convention without controversy? Two resolutions are bound to fit that bill.
One is to favour "non-mixed" classes to help boys perform better in schools. The second one is to have a "vast education campaign about the importance of having a better balance between male and female representation in schools" and encourage male teachers to teach male students in post-secondary institutions.
It sounds like the ADQ considers that being with girls can seriously distract boys from their studies and that a majority presence of female teachers can be detrimental to young boys' education to the extent that they could have too few male models to identify with.
To be fair, the ADQ is not alone in having these types of worries, and a number of private schools and classes are already separated on the basis of sex.
But be it the issue of separate classes or the need for more male teachers - which means fewer female teachers - these resolutions do make bold statements that are bound to create controversy. And that could either help or hurt Dumont, depending on the public opinion of these issues.
With only 13-per-cent support in the polls and the need for more good candidates besides Taillon, Dumont is obviously counting on what he calls the ADQ'S Plan A for Quebec as the key to his party's survival.
As he also faces more competition in the third-party category, with Quebec solidaire and the Green Party, Dumont will need all the help he can get.

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