Question : Who can best claim to represent Quebec as elected officials? Answer (not for the faint of heart): The Bloc Québécois, who harvested 1,379,565 votes in October compared to the 1,362,801 gathered by the Liberals in last Monday’s election.
As elections go, Monday’s was a milestone. Called for dubious reasons by Premier Charest, officially because he was the one and only able to govern in these troubled economic times, the real one being that he was not willing to face two realities at once: The troubled economic times and a new electoral map.
While the first factor has received ad nauseum coverage, the second is the little election secret that nobody wanted to acknowledge. The Liberals, who had cloaked themselves as protectors of democracy, could hardly say: “We’re pulling a fast one on the PQ and the ADQ.” And the latter two could hardly admit that their election plans were revolving around the new electoral map and that they were not ready for an election and had been taken for a ride by Charest.
Pundits, who seem in Quebec to have a shaky grasp of numbers, were all unanimous to declare that the weather and voter fatigue was the main factor in this election. A look at past statistics brings other factors to light: Liberals are not as cold hardy as PQ’s, a little under 50,000 did not vote this year; 90,000 more Péquistes braved the cold; twenty some thousand Québec Solidaires did so; but almost 600,000 ADQ voters found the weather too cold to vote!
If the surprise of this election is the rebound of the PQ and the slide of the Liberals, both parties are far from their glory days of the 90’s when they both had around 1,700,000 voters. In the 2003 election, the PQ lost half a million voters to the ADQ and in the 2007 election it was the Liberals’ turn to shed 400,000. Both have not regained them.
Another point that should be remembered, while Mr. Charest has been re-elected for a third term, the comparison with Premier Duplessis is not equal. Mr. Duplessis won three real elections in a row, four years apart, with close to 80% of voters casting their ballots.
Jean Charest’s government will be walking a tight rope for months. He will not be able to “call” some ADQ members to his caucus with a gift of ministry unless he wants to face a caucus revolt. With a two member majority, the president of the Assembly being a Liberal, the most important job will be that of Whip of the Liberals. He cannot afford to have a by-election in any francophone riding and two of his MNA’s are sick.
All in all, he may have won the first wager but the poker game is far from over.
Another shuffle of the cards
All in all, he may have won the first wager but the poker game is far from over