'It's the party for Quebec

Par Thane Burnett

Élections 2006

Election results tell us the collective decision of a nation. But in the results, and the din and clamour of a campaign leading to the vote, it's often the voices of individual Canadians that are left out of the debate.
In these weeks before the Jan. 23 federal election, Toronto Sun columnist Thane Burnett is travelling the country, to gauge the pulse of ordinary and extraordinary Canadians alike.
JOLIETTE, QUE -- Liberal officials came courting Louis David Malo before he was old enough to vote.
Twenty years ago, they came to talk to Quebec school children, including Malo, about the Meech Lake Accord. At that time, Liberal Leader John Turner was being pushed into a corner, considering the support the controversial agreement had in this province -- and how his party considered Quebec one of their strongholds.
Lighting political fires
They arrived at his Joliette school in the hopes they could prod an interest in politics and that students would become loyal Grits in the years to come.
Today, Malo credits that Liberal visit to his school with, in part, lighting a fire -- but not burning the way they wanted.
Across this section of Quebec, most main streets -- not lawns, because that is not the custom -- are lined with campaign signs for the upcoming election. The Bloc candidates take up most of the real estate on telephone poles. But a close second -- against very few Liberal signs with not a single NDP sign I could find -- are Conservative banners.
Those who think the Tories are unwelcome in Quebec have not been reading recent polls. Or listening to Malo, a 32-year-old rural development councillor for the provincial government.
He grew up in a house that, except during the referendums, was often quiet on politics. He has to think back to the days of his grandfather, a local municipal advisor, to find someone passionate about politics.
But Malo himself has found a home within the ranks of suddenly vocal Quebec Conservatives.
He's so sure about the party's future in Quebec, that he's helping out the area's Conservative candidate, Sylvie Lavallee.
He's volunteered to break down the economic landscape of voters -- to better target their election concerns.
It's a largely middle-class riding, where a tire plant and the hospital are two of the largest employers. During the last referendum, 72% of the people here voted to separate.
But, in many ways, a federal election doesn't dominate the political landscape in this riding. Local, municipal politics are king.
During this election, with a short time to go, the two local papers and radio station have largely ignored the race.
The media have told candidates to write up their own stories, and they'll -- when it's closer to election day -- find some space for them.
But everywhere he goes, Malo persistently pushes freedom to fellow Quebecers. But not the kind promised by the Bloc.
"I believe the Conservative party would respect provincial jurisdictions," he tells me. "It's the party for Quebec."
Some friends and neighbors have questioned his decision to help Conservative leader Stephen Harper's dream of taking seats from the Bloc.
"Some say, 'You're crazy -- your candidate will never be elected," he explains, as we now sit in an office on the east end of the city.
"But everyone knows I'm a federalist. And they are willing to now listen."
He talks to them -- even family members -- about a tough stance taken by the Prime Minister over Quebec. That Harper is willing to work with Quebecers.
"That the Conservative party is the only alternative to the Bloc," says the father of two.
And are they angry toward the Liberals?
"Hell yes," rages Malo. "It is not a trustworthy government."
That's one thing Conservative and Bloc supporters can agree on, he points out. The biggest obstacle to federalists within Quebec may be something out of their control.
"If there is a sense of (Quebec) bashing -- that will enrage Quebecers ... and not help us," he believes. "There is a (renewed) sense that we can work as a team in this country."
As we talk, he holds up a copy of a national newspaper. The headline blares the Conservatives are ahead in the polls.
He tells me: "As a (Quebecer), I don't see another party who can make it work, other than the Conservatives."

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