Marshall McLuhan's theory that the medium is the message fits Pauline Marois like a glove. She says her message is new, even breaking with what she calls Parti Quebecois dogma, but it has an air of deja vu.
The medium, or the leader, is new and the message sounds new. But it's not. On sovereignty, Marois's position is a carbon copy of Andre Boisclair's after the March 26 election debacle, a cruel irony for the former leader.
Just like Boisclair, Marois says she'll talk about sovereignty, but put aside referendum talk because Quebecers aren't willing to have another one. On Telejournal, she spoke of taking up the fight on fiscal imbalance instead while waiting for Quebecers to tell her when they'll be ready for a referendum.
In the PQ lexicon, that's a mix of Lucien Bouchard's winning conditions, Bernard Landry's fight against fiscal imbalance and Pierre-Marc Johnson's national affirmation. That's the mix Boisclair offered on the swearing-in of his 36-member caucus. "What matters," he said, "is to get more powers for Quebec." In the present context, it adds up to an alignment with Mario Dumont's autonomist stance.
For Boisclair, the policy was one more nail in his coffin. But not for Marois. There's even some talk at the PQ of an alliance with a possible future Action democratique government to increase Quebec's powers within Canada - an idea also defended by former PQ adviser Jean-Francois Lisee in the summer issue of Le Quebecois.
Yesterday's CROP-La Presse poll should comfort Marois in her choice to match Boisclair's position. Sixty-eight per cent of respondents said the PQ "should abandon the idea of a sovereign Quebec and demand more powers for Quebec." In other words, to borrow Bernard Derome's "si la tendance se maintient," the next election will be fought among three main parties with some kind of autonomist stance: The ADQ, the Liberals trying to be more nationalist to gain back some of the francophone votes they've lost, and the PQ shelving the referendum and keeping sovereignty as a project to be talked about but not necessarily acted upon.
Marois also talks about renewing social-democracy. This, she says, means creating wealth before redistributing it. No novelty here, either. The expression, in fact, was one of Landry's favourite mantras and what some might call a "lieu commun." Since Marois hasn't given any concrete examples of her own renewed social democracy, we don't know what's new here. We do know, however, that her economic platform is being prepared by Joseph Facal and Francois Legault, known to share some of the ADQ's vision on the economy.
The reality is that with Marois or Boisclair, the PQ would axe the referendum and work to further shed the PQ's social-democratic image. This means voters will not only be faced by three parties vying for more autonomy for Quebec, but parties that will also stand either at the centre or at the right of the ideological spectrum.
With Quebec solidaire to the far left, this will leave voters with no alternative at the centre-left.
It's a sad comment on the state of Quebec politics that instead of standing out with original and bold ideas, the Liberal Party and the PQ continue to succumb to a bad case of ADQ envy. But two polls yesterday showed most voters can tell the real thing from the clones.
CROP showed 52 per cent of voters think Dumont is the one proposing the most "new ideas," with only 15 per cent for Marois and 11 per cent for Charest. As for the Leger Marketing/Journal de Montreal poll, 52 per cent think the PQ won't win the next election. Chances are it's because they feel Dumont will win.
If given a choice between Liberals or Pequistes with ADQ ideas, how many voters will be tempted to go straight for the real thing? These polls also show voters enjoy a minority government so much these days that for lack of any strong contrast among the parties, they could well hand the next one to Mario.
New leader, old ideas
Marois's position on sovereignty is similar to Boisclair's and Bouchard's and Landry's and ...