Quebec politics in 2008 will look a lot different than in 2007

The decline of the ADQ and the rise of Charest and Marois change the landscape

Climat politique au Québec

The year is drawing to a close with surprising realignments of political forces in Quebec and Ottawa that are sure to affect events in 2008.
None is more striking than what's happened to the Action démocratique. Since it became the official opposition last March, it has failed to establish itself as a government-in-waiting. Leader Mario Dumont, labelled by Premier Jean Charest as a "weather vane" who is long on criticism and short on solutions, suffered from leading an unimpressive caucus. Unlike Charest's ministers and Pauline Marois's team, most of Dumont's MNAs aren't ministerial material, and they lack experience and even basic communication skills. The scarcity of women is also a minus.
Time has played against Dumont. His caucus has shown itself to be inferior to those of his opponents. On the issue of leadership, Marois's arrival after the the catastrophic André Boisclair and Charest's good performance has seen Dumont drop to third place in polls as the best premier.

Even his official rapprochement with Stephen Harper has failed to increase his numbers. If anything, the Harper-Charest tag team being upstaged by the Dumont-Harper alliance could actually help Charest: It enables him to put some distance between himself and Ottawa - always a winning card in Quebec.
And it allows Charest to accuse Dumont of being a weaker defender of Quebec's interests. Also, it helps Charest ditch part of his Tory past - something that has bothered many longtime Liberals for years. The return of John Parisella and Michel Bissonnette, two experienced advisers who are products of the Bourassa era, strengthens Charest's Liberal credentials and has quieted down any talk of an early retirement.
Ironically, even looking more Liberal than before, Charest can also still count on some old Tory friends. Charest, who remained close to Brian Mulroney, is bound to get some discreet help from him. With Harper treating Mulroney as an embarrassment, the former prime minister could be more tempted to put some of his impressive network of influence to Charest's service rather than to Harper's.
As for Harper's choice to hitch the Tory wagon to the ADQ, the prime minister could discover that it still lacks a solid organization in the regions where Harper sets his hopes to get a majority.
In provincial politics, if Marois and Dumont don't get the poll numbers to support an election in 2008, Charest will get more time. He could shuffle his cabinet, fine tune it and use the time to try to seduce back some of the anglos and financial leaders who turned to Dumont last spring when the ADQ was soaring.
As for Marois, the PQ picked up in the polls when Boisclair left. The most recent CROP-La Presse poll put the PQ in first place among francophones, the ADQ in second and Liberals in third. But it confirmed that Marois's gains came mostly during the summer, going up only slightly in the fall. Her advantage is that she came out on top as the best potential premier.
But the poll also showed an increase in the government's satisfaction rate, and Charest went up from third to second place in the "best-premier" category. Still, Marois's biggest challenge in 2008 will be to mobilize her troops with no referendum in sight and the promise to move the PQ further away from the centre-left.
In 2008, the wild card in Quebec politics will be the results of the federal election if there is one. What will happen to the Tories, the Liberals and the Bloc is sure to affect their allies in this province.
With minority governments in each capital and voting intentions so close, how the dominoes will fall in Ottawa will help forecast how they could fall in Quebec City.
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