_ The Gazette (Montreal) March 21, 2006 Tuesday
"Boisclair should be worried. Women make up half the electorate."
It should come as no surprise that Pauline Marois has announced her decision to leave politics. For someone with her experience, dedication and party loyalty, it must have been deeply painful to lose the Parti Quebecois leadership to a man whose accomplishments were far fewer.
Marois, 57 next week, received just 30 per cent of the votes from PQ members in last fall's race. Winner Andre Boisclair, who is nearly two decades younger, famously admitted using cocaine when he was a cabinet minister.
Boisclair said yesterday that he did not think his victory caused Marois to quit political life, but that was a transparent effort to put a good face on the situation. Losing a leadership race to him would be discouraging for anyone.
In fact, it was disappointing to hear Marois praise Boisclair's leadership talents and pledge that "at crucial moments" she would be there for him. If she's going to go, she should just go. Boisclair doesn't deserve her support.
Marois's departure signals a new and likely downward direction for the PQ. She might not have inspired much devotion in the hearts of electors or even among her fellow MNAs, but she was a woman with ideas and ambition and the energy to carry through on them. She is an adult.
That's not to say she has done everything right. But she has certainly been effective. First elected in 1981, Marois served as Quebec's first female finance minister. Over the years, she held almost every major ministry. She ran for the party leadership in 1985, losing it and her seat. She returned to office in 1989 and tried behind the scenes in 2001 to capture the leadership after Lucien Bouchard resigned.
Even if she didn't ever win the top prize, her example was important to women. She fought for what she wanted in what is still a man's world. It was she who brought in the $5-a-day daycare program, whose price had to be hiked to $7 a day. It is still costly for taxpayers while not providing service on an equitable basis for all families. Despite those flaws, the daycare program was, and is, hugely popular.
Marois was criticized for being hard and difficult, for not being a team player. She and her husband, Claude Blanchet, former head of the Societe generale de financement, a government-agency, were also lumped in with former cabinet minister Francois Legault as members of a "millionaires' club." They were sneered at by their poorer PQ cousins.
Boisclair said he was worried about the place of women in the PQ, after Marois's decision and the departure of Pointe-aux-Trembles MNA Nicole Leger, who had been minister for families, children and later of poverty.
Boisclair should be worried. Women make up half the electorate. They favour the Liberals over the PQ, in general. The last thing the PQ needs is to feed the notion that it is not open to industrious women.
But that might prove to be the residual message of Marois's last year in politics.
Marois was good for the PQ
Pauline Marois quitte le PQ