The Bloc and PQ are surging, even if support for sovereignty is not

But the two sovereignist parties see a hopeful future

Actualité québécoise - vers une « insurrection électorale »?

Gilles Duceppe and Pauline Marois put on happy faces at their press conference.

Gilles Duceppe and Pauline Marois put on happy faces at their press conference.
Gilles Duceppe and Pauline Marois emerged beaming with enthusiasm from a joint Bloc Québécois-Parti Québécois caucus meeting in Montreal this week.
Their message was clear: Thanks to the Bloc keeping Stephen Harper from a majority and to the PQ for getting back into official opposition, the sovereignist movement now has plenty of wind beneath its wings and is ready to promote its option for the future as well as through the economic crisis.
With most polls putting support for sovereignty around the 40-per-cent mark, some might wonder on what planet the two leaders are living. But as far as the popularity of the Bloc and the PQ goes, Duceppe has a point. When you count Québec solidaire MNA Amir Khadir, Duceppe is right when he says that 101 of the 200 Quebec MNAs and MPs are sovereignists - that's a majority of seats.
Duceppe and Marois were probably also thinking of what might be coming down the road in four or five years. While nothing is certain about the results of the next election, the PQ's chances of forming the next government after three Liberal terms aren't all that bad.
But again, this is about the PQ as a party. As for its option, whether or not Marois actually commits during the next election campaign to try to attain sovereignty if she becomes premier is what will tell that story.
In the meantime, the reality is quite different. The PQ is not in power, no referendum is in sight and health care and the economy are the current priorities of most Quebecers. It's also a fact that Marois speaks a lot more about establishing a "rapport de force" with Ottawa within Canada than actually talking up sovereignty.
As for the Bloc, it has its own political dynamic to deal with. This means having to juggle two discourses at the same time. On one hand, it is committed to propping up a Liberal-NDP coalition if it forms a government. On the other, it promises to promote sovereignty at the same time. The result can sometimes be surprising. This week, Duceppe called Canadian federalism a "dead end" which, some would think, also includes this Liberal-NDP coalition.
As for the sovereignty movement, the Bloc's two-tiered approach appears complementary to some and contradictory to others. Some feel that supporting the coalition would advance Quebec's interests, including the PQ's option, mostly by battling Harper's neo-con agenda. Others, such as former PQ minister Joseph Facal, think the coalition is a big no-no. In a recent opinion posted on his blog, Facal criticized the Bloc's strategy because Liberals have always been "the worst adversary of the Quebec nation." As for any gain for Quebec, he adds it would only be used by federalists to prove that Canada works well.
He also rejects it on an ethical level. This "is a political scheme of questionable taste," he says, which will "taint the credibility of sovereignists the day they solicit the trust of the people for the real rendez-vous." The Bloc's real mission, he concludes harshly, isn't "in this new role of playing the lubricant in the Quebec-Canada relation."
But with polls showing that a majority of Quebecers support the coalition, Duceppe appears to have made the wiser choice, tactically and ideologically speaking on socio-economic issues - at least in the short-term.
It is the long-term effect on the Bloc that is unknown. The fact is that the question posed by the Bloc's support for the coalition isn't so much on sovereignty itself. That issue would be decided in Quebec if the PQ ever holds another referendum.
The question is whether the Bloc's move would end up boosting the Liberal Party's credibility with Quebec voters now that it's headed by a more popular leader who has no ties to the sponsorship scandal.
This puts the Bloc is an interesting quandary: If the coalition gets to govern, it might do just that. But if the Harper government survives its own budget, that would give the Bloc time to get back into battle mode against the Liberals.

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