Behold the rebirth of a forward-looking Parti Quebecois: the leader, last seen in the National Assembly as house leader, now re-enters the chamber, having won a safe seat at last, against almost no opposition. Meanwhile PQ apparatchik Marie Malavoy, who once resigned in disgrace, has been parachuted into another safe seat. New blood? Not exactly.
Malavoy becomes the new MNA for Taillon, a seat once held by Rene Levesque. The German-born professor, elected in Sherbrooke in the PQ victory of 1994, resigned from Jacques Parizeau's cabinet after word got out that she had previously voted in this country before becoming a Canadian citizen.
Boisclair, for his part, won four straight elections to the Assembly but quit, some say out of sheer boredom with life in opposition, two years ago tomorrow. He was on the verge of leaving the province when a lacklustre PQ leadership field tempted him to run, and he won.
Since being chosen leader last November, Boisclair chose to pass up opportunities to win an Assembly seat. Some have criticized him for that but it was a legitimate decision; a party leader's job is only partly in the Assembly. Jean Charest was Liberal leader for seven months before he entered the Assembly.
Now the leaders of the two main parties will face off in the chamber. Many assume that Charest will easily out-debate the younger man. That might or might not come true; in either case it might not be very important. Parliamentary debate as a spectator sport ranks barely above lawn bowling in Quebec. Elections are not won or lost by erudite repartee about recondite committee reports.
Still, the cut-and-thrust of question period and debate does lay bare any failure of research, any lack of diligence, any shallowness. Charest, whatever his faults, is neither lazy nor ignorant, and he's a fine debater and campaigner. Boisclair's performance, if very good or very poor, could strike a note which reverberates throughout Quebec.
He started poorly Monday night, accusing Charest of dividing Quebecers. What could be more preposterous than that particular claim from the leader of a party whose sovereignty project has divided Quebecers in such a costly and pointless fashion for so many years?