The perils of the PQ: people are starting to laugh

"Toward a parallel PQ?" teased the marquee headline on a Le Devoir front page this week

Pacte électoral - gauche et souverainiste

Picture this as you fight your way through the traffic chaos that is the product of systemic governmental incompetence extending over decades in this province. But to hear some people, what's needed to fix what ails Quebec is some bizarro clone of the Parti Québécois.
The thought of this amid today's traffic crawl might be enough to make normally rational folk want to bang their heads on the steering wheel. But consider that the current Péquiste tribulations are more like the richest source of comic relief to be had in town this summer, outside perhaps the Nasty Show at the comedy fest. (And for that you have to buy a ticket; the Péquistes, bless them, are putting on their nasty show for free.) If anything, federalists should encourage the founding of a parallel PQ. That would make it three separatist parties (including Québec solidaire) splitting the sovereignist vote in the next election.
By mid-week, five members of the PQ's National Assembly caucus had quit the party ranks since the beginning of this month because they couldn't stomach life under Pauline Marois's leadership any more. At least that's what it boiled down to. Stated reasons were scattershot: the shame of a craven PQsponsored bill to shield from legal challenge a shady deal for naming rights to the hitherto imaginary Quebec City arena; disappointment that Marois isn't pushing hard enough for another sovereignty referendum; conviction - to the contrary - that Marois is pushing too hard for another sovereignty referendum; insinuations that since getting her recordhigh approval vote at the PQ convention this spring she's been channelling Stephen Harpr in imposing party dogma and caucus disciline.
Injury was heaped onto insult when, for the sake of preserving what remains of the PQ pretension to squeaky cleanliness, Marois was obliged to kick out yet another caucus member who is embroiled in a legal tangle involving purloined funds from his riding-office account. More defections are rumoured to be in the offing, with ship-jumpers splitting off in various directions, as the PQ appears to be disintegrating into its component factions.
All this is playing out against the backdrop of the Bloc Québécois disintegration in last month's federal election that measurably began from the moment Gilles Duceppe evoked the prospect of another referendum in the short term if the Bloc were to pull off another sweep of Quebec Commons seats. But then a funny thing happened on election day.
It's getting to the point where even sympathizers are cracking wise at the PQ's expense. One prominent francophone columnist of avowed sovereignist persuasion this week cruelly mocked the PQ's failure to generate enthusiasm for another referendum, indeed for separation period, after 40-plus years of preaching. He equated it to the pathetic efforts of a macho lout striking out with a woman he'd been hitting on for hours. "So he says, 'What's her problem? How can she resist my charm? Hell, she must be a lesbian . ' "
Pundits have learned to beware of predictions that the sovereignty movement is dying, but some are speculating this might well be happening to the PQ as we have known it.
The party's present state brings to mind the rule on party fortunes posited by the late federal Liberal mastermind Keith (The Rainmaker) Davey: If people are slagging you, it's worrisome. If they're laughing at you, it's fatal.

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