Extremism and money

Both the Parti Québécois and the Liberals show off their weakness on the same day

Visite royale - Charles - Novembre 2009

It's not H1N1. But both the sovereignist and federalist movements in Quebec are infected by viruses.
In separate incidents on the same day this week, they showed the symptoms of their respective infections: by extremism in the case of the sovereignists, and by money in that of the federalists.
The incidents were the disorderly demonstration in Montreal against the visit of Prince Charles, and the withdrawal of Jean D'Amour from the Liberal caucus in the National Assembly.
Concerning the demonstration, it would be fair to describe the organizers and some of the participants as associates and even beneficiaries of Pauline Marois and Gilles Duceppe, the leaders of the Parti Québécois and the Bloc Québécois respectively.
The demonstration was organized by the Réseau de resistance du Québécois. The PQ and Bloc bought ads in its publication Le Québécois until early this year, when the RRQ forced the cancellation of a re-enactment of the battle of the Plains of Abraham with threats of violence.
Even after that, Marois and Duceppe accepted to participate with RRQ leader Patrick Bourgeois in the readings of nationalist texts, including that of the 1970 manifesto of the terrorist Front de libération du Québec, that replaced the cancelled re-enactment on the Plains.
Marois's and Duceppe's parties even helped provide Bourgeois with his platform, since the PQ contributed money and the Bloc technical support to the readings.
And this week's demonstration was supported by the Jeunes Patriotes du Québec. The JPQ, which is known for trying to intimidate federalists and disrupt their meetings, has also received encouragement and even financial support from the PQ and the Bloc.
Representatives of both parties regularly participate in the Jeunes Patriotes' more orderly public activities.
And last June, the JPQ publicly thanked elected members of the PQ and the Bloc as well as Québec solidaire, including PQ leader Marois, for financial contributions to one such activity.
A few hours before Tuesday's demonstration, D'Amour disclosed his involvement in a two-year-old possible violation of the political financing law.
D'Amour said that a construction contractor left an envelope containing an illegal cash contribution for another politician at D'Amour's house while he was out. He said he called the contractor and had him come get the money.
And so the spreading scandal of cash-stuffed envelopes given to politicians by contractors reached the party of Premier Jean Charest, whose government has been resisting calls for a public inquiry into the connection between public-works contracts and political contributions.
Sovereignists are not entirely immune to scandals involving money; the lobbying law that D'Amour might also have violated in another incident resulted from scandals involving a PQ government.
But most such scandals have involved federalist parties, and it's federalists who have suffered the most damage from them.
The federal Liberal Party still hasn't recovered in French Quebec from the sponsorship scandal, as shown in Monday's federal by-elections.
Before that, federalists blatantly ignored the campaign spending limits for the 1995 sovereignty referendum in organizing the Montreal "love-in" a few days before the vote.
Without breaking any law, the provincial Liberals have become the party of the wealthy by charging $1,000 a head and more for access to influential members at private, invitation-only events.
And since former Liberal premier Robert Bourassa coined the unfortunate expression "profitable federalism" nearly 40 years ago, federalists have appealed to the wallets of Quebecers rather than their hearts.
It's as though the S in "federalist" has been replaced by a dollar sign.

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