Mario Dumont is Bourassa's boy

The ADQ leader's constitutional policies and politics are very much those of his mentor - Robert Bourassa

ADQ - De l'identité à l'autonomisme - La souveraineté confuse

The Liberal Party did it to itself, again. For the second time in 50 years, Quebec Liberals were sidelined by a third party that sprang from its own ranks.
In 1968, Rene Levesque created the Parti Quebecois after he quit Jean Lesage's Liberal Party that had rejected his staunchly nationalist plank advocating a reconfederation of Canada with an equal partnership between Quebec and English Canada.
In the early 1990s, in the aftermath of the Meech and Charlottetown accords debacle, Mario Dumont, then president of the Liberal youth wing, also quit the Liberals. Premier Robert Bourassa had axed the Allaire Report - a radically autonomist platform asking for the patriation of 22 powers from Ottawa.

The Liberal Party came to pay a hefty price for letting these two men go. In 1976, the PQ ousted the Liberals. On Monday, the ADQ went from no-party status to official opposition, reduced the Liberals to a minority and positioned itself as a credible alternative to the government in the next election.
Both the PQ and the ADQ were born out of the Liberal Party. Both also owe their existence to the constitutional question. Who said history doesn't repeat itself?
But in Dumont's case, the irony is savagely cruel for the Liberals because when it comes to the national question, Dumont is in fact the true heir to Bourassa's type of nationalism.
This week, Konrad Yakabuski of the Globe and Mail compared Dumont's brand of nationalism to that of Maurice Duplessis. Nothing could be farther from reality.
Dumont's "autonomism" of today is actually a toned-down version of the more radical Allaire report. In this, it is pure Bourassian doctrine. It has nothing to do with Duplessis who had concocted a mix of "survivalist" theory of French Quebec, complete control of the state and collaboration with the Catholic hierachy.
Duplessis was a product of pre-Quiet Revolution Quebec. Dumont is not - he lives in the Quebec of 2007, not that of 1937.
Listening to Dumont's speech on Monday night after he won 41 seats was like hearing the ghost of Bourassa. Gone was the Dumont of 1995 who joined the Yes camp for the referendum.
In his speech, Dumont said he wanted Quebec to "assert itself without separating," vowed his first loyalty was to Quebec and that the "interests of Quebec must be defended in all circumstances." Those are exactly the three pillars on which Bourassa's nationalism rested.
But Dumont shares other traits with the former premier. Like him, he refuses to label himself a "federalist" - although he now is one - or a "Canadian." Like Bourassa, he doesn't seem to care much for English Canada.
When rumours flew that Harper was trying to bring Dumont to Ottawa, it was obvious Dumont wouldn't go. Like Bourassa, but unlike Jean Charest, Dumont's political culture is firmly rooted in Quebec. Not in the Rest Of Canada, and even less in Ottawa.
Like Bourassa, Dumont closed the door on separatism not out of love for Canada, but because, again like Bourassa, he has come to think Quebec capable of thriving without going through the instability of separation. Another trait he shares is his intent to deal strictly with Ottawa, not the ROC.
Dumont learned his lesson. He saw what happened to Bourassa when he ditched that approach and threw Quebec into a constitutional round with the other provinces. Bourassa failed and ended feeding sovereignist sentiment instead.
There are many reasons why the ADQ made its breakthrough on Monday: The weaknesses of Jean Charest and Andre Boisclair, Dumont's amazing campaign, and his seduction of the regions, the middle-class, families, and so on.
But his "autonomist" stance also must have looked more appealing compared with Charest's straight federalism or Boisclair's lack of credibility when he promised a referendum.

Given how ugly it's going to get for the Parti Quebecois - paralyzed by a leadership crisis and the usual panicky calls to water down its sovereignty option - chances are Dumont's approach might continue to look pretty good in comparison.

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