In a by-election Monday, the voters of Saint-Laurent riding in Montreal can senda historic message to Premier Jean Charest and the Liberal Party of Quebec. Today, The Gazette urges the electors of Saint-Laurent to vote against and defeat the Liberals' parachuted-in candidate, Jean-Marc Fournier.
The candidate himself, and the party he supports, both richly deserve to be repudiated by allophone and anglophone voters there.
Saint-Laurent is one of the most polyglot ridings in Quebec - 51 per cent allophone, 16.5 per cent anglophone, and 32 per cent francophone, according to the 2006 census. At least 13 different languages have 1,000 or more speakers in the riding.
During the Charest years, non-francophones have become all too accustomed to abuse from the Liberals. We are the party's most loyal supporters, but anglophone and allophone representation in the cabinet has dwindled to two inexperienced ministers, one of them just demoted. Liberal safe seats, made safe by anglos and allos, are routinely bestowed from on high upon francophone "star" candidates from elsewhere.
That's happening here, and this time extra salt is being rubbed into the wound. Fournier, hoping to make a comeback to the National Assembly, was the minister who rammed the Liberals' rigged demerger bill down the throat of suburbanites across the province in 2004.
Remember? Campaigning, the opposition Liberals promised annexed suburbs the chance to shake off the heavy hand of central-city government. But once elected, the same Liberals came up with a dog's breakfast of conditions, making demerger both difficult and barely worth winning.
We wonder if Fournier even remembers how that played out in Saint-Laurent on June 20, 2004: Those who turned out to vote in the demerger referendum were 3-1 against remaining in Montreal, but the total "let us go" vote, at 28.6 per cent of eligible voters, fell below the artificial minimum requirement imposed by the government. Saint-Laurent remained part of Montreal.
We're betting that if Fournier wins next week but with support from only 28.6 per cent of eligible voters, he will take his seat in the National Assembly without a qualm, though perhaps with a smirk.
This arrogance cries out for punishment. Our chosen vehicle for this retribution is the Action democratique candidate, a slight immigrant from Bolivia named Jose Fiorilo.
We would not welcome an ADQ government for Quebec; indeed we think they're dead wrong on school-board abolition, to name one issue. And we know that most Quebecers will have to think hard to identify the party's current leader (Gerard Deltell). In the 2008 election, Fiorilo came third in the riding, with 1,000 votes, far behind Liberal Jacques Dupuis (15,600 votes) and a Pequiste (3,500). He did better in 2007.
Beyond that, we know little about Fiorilo, except that he says Saint-Laurent is a fine example of reasonable accommodation.
Under the circumstances, that's good enough. Adding a fifth ADQ deputy to the National Assembly would not make the heavens tumble, nor would it do much for the riding, to be honest. But how good it would feel to rap Jean Charest sharply across the knuckles.
If you live in Saint-Laurent, or know somebody who does, spread the word: Vote ADQ and send Jean-Marc Fournier back to wherever he came from.