Voters turned off by political game-playing

Quebecers don't like any party enough to give it majority government

Climat politique au Québec

After the March 26 election, most voters seemed rather satisfied with having a minority government. Conventional wisdom had it that this was a good thing, that parties would have to co-operate and the Liberal government would be kept in check. But how many still hold that idyllic view today?
Chances are they were optimistic because no one recalls the last minority in 1878. Those age 45 or more might have fond memories of the 1972-74 Liberal minority in Ottawa. Propped up by NDP leader David Lewis, Pierre Trudeau delivered a left-leaning agenda that became so popular that he got a majority in 1974.
While this allowed Trudeau to govern better, partisan tactics in Quebec City have trumped actual governance, with no collaboration between the parties.

The reason is simple. Two recent polls - a CROP/La Presse and a Léger Marketing/Le Devoir - showed the three parties in a dead heat. Among francophone voters, Liberals are at 25 per cent, Action démocratique at 30 per cent and the Parti Québécois at 36 per cent. There's no majority in sight, but a new minority government is for any party's taking.
If poll numbers stay that close, the next election could be one of the hardest-fought, nastiest campaigns Quebecers have ever seen. In fact, the tight poll numbers, coupled with a minority government, really means a never-ending election campaign.
The result is that the government consults but hardly governs for fear of upsetting a volatile public. The ADQ and the PQ, meanwhile, are both obsessed about getting maximum media exposure to woo voters and consolidate their base.
Be it Pauline Marois's bill on identity, the PQ's René Lévesque T-shirt campaign or Mario Dumont's surprise tabling of a non-confidence motion, it's all about creating controversy and attracting attention.
That's the theory. This ADQ and PQ hyperactivity might be getting the media's attention, but it seems to be putting off a part of the electorate. It also adds to an already negative perception of politics as just one big, self-interested game in which the only prize is power.
With Liberals gaining some ground, this week's Léger Marketing poll showed the ADQ slipping to third place while a whopping 66 per cent of francophones want Marois either to axe her identity bill or modify it.
But tactically speaking - since tactics matter more here than actual content or vision - the PQ bill did achieve three things. One was to cast Marois in the classic role of the defender of Quebec's interests, something that adds to her first position in polls when asked who would make the best premier.
Second, it mobilized those PQ members who, with no referendum in sight, are content with Marois's more traditional form of nationalism. Third, it helped to polarize the debate, not on sovereignty this time but on nationalism. Chances are that quite a few federalists, disgruntled Liberals who had gone ADQ but who are put off by the focus on identity at both the PQ and the ADQ, are being sent back into Charest's arms.
Expect Marois to find a way before the election of getting rid of her bill's most unpopular section depriving citizens of some of fundamental democratic rights.
As for Dumont, Marois's affirmationist image means he now has to share that territory with the PQ. Another problem is that his team's lack of experience is starting to show. Dumont also has yet to flesh out the voters' yearning for "change," which partly explains the ADQ surge on March 26. At some point, Dumont will have to detail what changes he wants.
Still, the latest polls served up a hefty dish of humble pie to each leader. Although voters see the bad side of minority governments, they don't find any of the parties impressive enough to deserve a majority.
If the parties continue their attention-grabbing shenanigans, chances are voters will remain unimpressed.
- source

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