When Action democratique du Quebec garnered an impressive 41 seats on March 26, none of them were on the island of Montreal.
But noting his party had made a breakthrough in the 450 area code, Mario Dumont claimed the ADQ was now on the doorstep of Montreal. This week, he sounded like a leader intent on banging down that door the next time.
Dumont planted a few good seeds for the ADQ here with his demand for a quick resolution to the Montreal transit strike, forcing Jean Charest's minority government to issue an ultimatum almost in Dumont's words.
This is no scientific poll, but I came across a number of Montrealers who chatted about how happy they were at Dumont's clear stance. They used words like "leadership," "backbone" and "decision."
Qualities they now perceive in Mario, they said, but also qualities they said were lacking in the other two parties. None of them gave me any of that cliched anti-union stuff. They just said they didn't understand why this strike was happening at all. One even asked me: "Look, when is the last time you saw a party leader put his foot down this fast the way most people wanted someone to do?" It was, of course, a rhetorical question.
When asked if they would consider voting for Dumont next time, all but one said they would think about it, and they would watch him more closely than before.
These casual observations reflect what I believe is the No. 1 criticism most people have of Quebec's political elites: a lack of leadership. Be they right or wrong, many voters seem to feel this is one problem Dumont doesn't have.
Take the high price of gasoline. Charest was lucky so few voters watch the National Assembly's question period. If they had, they would have found one more example of this lack of leadership.
When asked what could be done to try to curb the gas companies' greed, Claude Bechard, minister of Natural Resources, said: "We're keeping a close eye on them." The answer provoked only laughter.
The ADQ's surprising election showing was credited in part to its ability to reflect the needs of the regions. But Dumont also knows Montreal and Montrealers pretty well, as shown by this week's move.
If he does end up making headway on the island, Dumont would pose a problem to the Liberal Party and the Parti Quebecois. Liberals are already in the doghouse with francophone voters, to the point where you wonder if even changing their leader would help. Next week's long-awaited report on Option Canada, a Liberal-headed ghost organization that might have funnelled money illegally to the No side in the last referendum, could hurt even more.
Many anglos didn't take well to Charest's dropping of two anglophone ministers from his cabinet. So some of the Liberal turf on the island could be up for grabs.
The PQ is not safe from the ADQ on the island, either, if Pauline Marois doesn't show the kind of strong leadership voters crave and if Dumont manages to build networks and a good organization here.
There were two significant signs Dumont has started doing just that. First, Mayor Gerald Tremblay, who couldn't hide his admiration of Dumont when the two met, even though the mayor is a former Liberal minister
The second came with the news that Marcel Tremblay, the mayor's brother and city hall's "Mr. Clean," will run in the next federal election, not for the Liberals, but for Stephen Harper's Tories.
Given how close Harper would like to get to Dumont, an ideological ally who has a chance of one day being premier, there now seems to be signs this informal alliance might be reaching as far as Montreal's city hall.
That is a very interesting development, indeed. And one that's definitely worth watching.
Mario Dumont sets his sights on Montreal votes
Even if voters don't always agree with ADQ, they like decisive leadership