PQ grumbling augurs ill for Boisclair

Imagine how bad things would be if the party were behind in the polls

Boisclair - chef du PQ

What's a five-letter word for what dictionaries describe as a spiteful man, often in a position of authority?
No, not the familiar, vulgar expression that rhymes with "trick." The new synonym, in the reported opinion of some members of the Parti Quebecois, is "Andre," as in Boisclair.
Their grumbling about their leader, though still anonymous, has grown loud enough to reach the public.
A story in yesterday's La Presse listed the anonymous grievances of PQ members of the National Assembly against their leader.
It related anecdotes depicting Boisclair as vindictive, tactless, confrontational with potential allies, unwilling to take advice from anybody but a few trusted advisers and slow to respond to developments.
And as far as public opinion is concerned, "everybody has seen the same thing," one source was quoted as saying. "Over the holidays, in our ridings, we didn't hear one favourable comment about Andre Boisclair." The story described the mood of the PQ caucus as "depression."
So imagine how badly the party's MNAs would feel if the PQ weren't leading in the most recently published poll results, with an election expected this spring.
Though the Charest government's satisfaction rating, the most reliable political indicator between elections, improved in the second half of last year, it was still negative in a CROP-La Presse-Le Soleil survey conducted in late November and early December. A majority of voters, 53 per cent, said they were dissatisfied with the government, to 43 per cent who expressed satisfaction.
In party preferences, the PQ led the Liberals by 13 percentage points in the rural regions where Quebec elections are usually decided, and 20 points among francophones overall.
But the PQ is notoriously hard on its leaders. Boisclair's predecessor, Bernard Landry, was shown the door two years ago even though he, too, had the party ahead in the polls.
Boisclair was elected leader in November 2005, with 54 per cent of the first-choice votes of party members. But in the PQ, all that means is that he started out with 46 per cent of the party already not wanting him.
And it says something about how well he got along with the PQ caucus that even though it was obvious from the start he would be their next leader, only 15 of the 44 MNAs at the time supported him.
Boisclair was on an official visit to Paris yesterday, and not immediately available to comment on the story. But back home, his entourage insisted, naturally, that Boisclair's relations with the party are good, as is the PQ's morale.
It also said, just as naturally, that the party is in good financial and organizational shape for an election that will be fought riding-by-riding, and that the PQ will win because voters want a change of government.
And if Boisclair has yet to assemble the "dream team" of candidates he promised, it was only because well-known candidates wouldn't commit themselves far in advance of the election.
We'll see. But it's already clear the Liberals consider they have enough of an advantage over the PQ in leadership to come from behind in the campaign to win the election, as they did in 2003. Indeed, there's a theory, cruel to Boisclair, that the Liberals have been talking about an imminent election since last spring because they wanted the PQ to think it had no time to change leaders.
The next couple of weeks could be important for Boisclair. Next week, the PQ caucus meets for two days, followed by a meeting of the party's riding presidents. In the meantime, the CROP polling firm is in the field this week, conducting its first survey since early December. The results are due to be made public in the middle of next week - that is, just before the PQ meetings.
Polls drive news coverage of politics, and if CROP's results show a new decline in PQ support, the media will look for possible causes to explain it. And the grumbling about Boisclair's leadership from within his party could grow louder, even as the election approaches.

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