Wednesday, 16 April 2014


Several people have asked me about the results of the April 7 Election results in Quebec. I was not going to write about it but given the numerous questions, I will give my take on it.

First I have to state that my family belongs to the Anciens Canadiens arriving in 1662 in Quebec City. The new elected Liberal Premier of Québec Dr. Philippe Couillard's family arrived in 1613 so we belong to the old stock. Now for a lot of people familiar with Quebec Politics this makes us ''pure laine'' but we cannot be called séparatiste, this is not the case. The majority are attached to the concept of Canada as one Nation. The rest can be best described as sentimentality with a dose of pragmatism.

First for myself and for many other belonging to the Old Stock families, the Province of Québec as we know it today is a modern invention dating from 1949. The borders have changed a lot since 1763 when Canada was ceded to England by France under the Ancien Régime in the Treaty of Paris ending the Seven Year War between England-Prussia vs France-Austria. In fact until the Treaty was signed some 4 years after the short battle (10 minutes) on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City in September 1759 it was not very clear to the troops of King George II if they were going to stay permanently or return to Europe.

France was tired of its territory in North America, too costly and did not bring anything in terms of revenue, England did not want New France, the war in North America had been nothing more than a diversion. When France offered in the peace talks to give away all of New France which was basically all of North America with the exception of the British 13 Colonies, the Prime Minister of England William Pitt Junior said NO!  In the end Pitt realized he had to accept, there was nothing else on offer. The King of England did by decree recognized and guaranteed protection for the French Language, religion RC and French Civil Code. In the Royal decree of 1791 women who owned land could also vote.

Fast forward to 1865 and all the talks about uniting the 4 Provinces against a possible American aggression. Here Quebec represented over 50% of the population of the New Canada under Confederation. The new National symbols all belong to pre-arrival in Canada of the so called English, the Feuille d'érable, the Castor, and the National Anthem O Canada,  a poem composed as a French-Canadian Nationalist Anthem for the St-Jean Baptiste Society, not exactly an English symbol.

Though to be fair, the English Elite (mostly Scots and some Brits) dominated the business sector and abused their position.  The French-Canadians, Irish,Welsh and a few Jews where not well treated at all. There was grievances and they were not always properly addressed. Though again French-Canadian Politicians dominated the political scene. One of the most famous Prime Ministers was Sir Wilfrid Laurier an icon of French Canada and a Saint of the Liberal Party.

So for me Canada or old Canada is this big land mass from l'Acadie (today's Maritime Provinces) to the Rockies out West and also a great big chunk of the USA where the Mississipi flows including many cities like Detroit, Chicago, Duluth, St-Louis all originally French settlements.

I cannot conceive of this idea that the Province of Quebec today would be my country and ignore the rest of Canada as irrelevant. I also do not buy into the long winded speeches of Politicians of the Parti Quebecois though they appeal to basic fundamental cultural heritage and language. Speech that mirror a very narrow vision of Ethnic Nationalism, remember Yugoslavia and Milosevic, very similar.


The situation in Quebec today (2014) is not that of 1968 when the Parti Québecois was created by René Lévesque. It is true that back then Quebec society was far more homogenous, so was Canada for that matter. There were some important social injustices and economic inequalities, there was none of the important financial institutions like the Caisse de dépôt or economic autonomy which exist today.

It was another world and another generation, that of my parents who were running the show. The Catholic Church which had been such a power for centuries was losing its grip. Society was becoming rapidly open and accepting of new ideas and concepts, in other words it was the era of the famous Quiet Revolution.

The PQ came to power for the first time in 1976, the year of the Olympic Games in Montreal. In their first mandate they certainly cleaned up the mess left behind by years of inept governments, they also established a framework on cultural identity and language, Bill 101. That was then and the past cannot be relived or brought back.

Today Quebec Society is diverse, multicultural and young. Quebec controls fully its Immigration something none of the other 9 provinces in Canada do, we have seen an important intake of French Speaking Africans, Haitians, Maghreb Muslim Arabs with others from Lebanon, Egypt and Syria.
The actual number of French citizens (France) coming to Quebec is fairly small and not stable since upwards of 40% leave after only a few years in Quebec.

The PQ was created in 1968 for one purpose alone Secession from Canada, its article 1 of the Party Charter. The raison d'être without it there is no reason for the PQ. The PQ lost by a slim margin the second and last referendum in 1995. Since then a long period of bitter recrimination amongst PQ loyalists has been simmering against the Federal Government in Ottawa and anyone like myself and others or 65% of the population of Quebec do not support them.

According to official PQ speak, the victory had been stolen by the Anglos and Ethnic voters in 1995. Foreigners were the problem and kept Quebec in a state of advanced Colonialism like what could be seen in Africa prior to 1960. The PQ speak is extremist and borders on known forms of extremist ethnic politics. If you do not speak French fluently you might not always understand the turn of phrases used.

Some 18 months ago in 2012, the Quebec government of Liberal Premier Jean Charest fell with the help of social unrest provoked by Pauline Marois and the PQ in their support of University students who were demanding Free Tuition for post secondary education.

The students looking at post-secondary education in some European countries where it is Free  demanded that the same standard be applied here. Premier Charest had 80% of public opinion on his side and refused to grant the request of the students claiming that there was no money for such a policy, which is quite true given that record numbers of young Quebecois going to University. However through well orchestrated public protests and riots in Montreal and elsewhere the government called an election on the question and lost and Premier Charest retired.

During this election Mme Marois promised the students that she would grant them Free Tuition, once elected she quickly forgot that promise and raised the tuition fee tying it to the inflation rate. Though her victory was far from complete, the Liberal won 31.2% of the vote the PQ won 31.95% of the vote Marois was in but had a minority government.

 Mme Marois wanted a majority government and to gain a majority she needed an issue, she found one by creating a false identity crisis based on a narrow ethnic definition of what a Quebecois is. No one was fooled, to fit the bill you have to be an Old Stock Family, White, Catholic, French. The Catholic part is bizarre since very few people are practicing Catholics.

The Quebec economy required attention and massive intervention but Marois and her PQ colleagues could not gain much traction on that topic given the PQ lack of policies and vision on investments, job creation, etc, high taxes in Quebec and the bloated Public Service and the enormous debt are a huge impediment. Not the sort of complicated issue you can win easily with when you have no plan.

Pauline Marois and her tchador (election humour)

So the issue of choice of Mme. Marois was the ''Foreigners'' in general, who undermine Quebec culture and the Muslims in particular with their Sharia, tchadors and violent ways, the Jews and religious Sikhs were also thrown in for good measure. The problem with this approach being that most if not all immigrants come either from Francophone Africa or the French Maghreb. So if the Foreigners are the problem why is Quebec Immigration concentrating on a specific region of the World?

Marois and her party orchestrated a Commission of Enquiry for the implementation of a Charter of Québecois Values to study the Muslim menace which promised to turn Quebec into an Islamic Caliphate in no time at all. The Charter had to be imposed to protect Quebec old stock identity and Christian civilisation. Again all this was extremely strange and bordered on the twilight zone of politics.

Some testimony at the commission was hilarious and downright dumb, like the one by this family who travelled to Morocco for the first time and came back with cartoonish impressions of strange Foreign practices we could not allow in Quebec.

On the other hand you had testimony by people like Jeannette Bertrand who is a retired talk show host, tv actress, public personality and an icon of 1970 Feminism ( a select club of white old women who see their values as the correct ones) Mme. Bertrand would like to correct young women today who do not understand that their brand of Feminism makes too many concessions to please those other foreign women wearing veils. Her friend Lise Payette also a former talk show host and a former PQ politician wrote articles sympathizing with her.

The whole Charter episode is a sorry one of ignorance, intolerance and prejudice, too many ugly things were said by people who should have known better given their status in Quebec Society.

The Charter debate in the media and public at large gave the impression to Mme Marois that she could easily have an electoral campaign based on cultural identity crisis and fear of the other. She firmly believed that this would be the magic trick to a majority government.

This was a false impression, the polls appeared to give her a majority government, they were wrong and her strategy backfired. She failed to understand that the Quebec population wanted to talk about the economy, jobs, the debt, investments, education and health care, not separation and not a referendum and the Charter embarrassed far too many people.

Clear polls showed that 85% of the Quebec population did not want a third referendum and did not want to hear about Sovereignty, Separation or any other items of the basic PQ platform. Mme Marois ignored those polls, it was her big mistake.

Then she allied herself with PKP or Pierre Karl Peladeau the son of Peladeau father the media baron who became rich by being tough with the little guy, a crude and unpleasant man. PKP is also known as being the enemy of the working man and for his hatred of labour unions. Suddenly this arch-conservative was a PQ star. It is important to note that the PQ has always been a leftist party closer to socialism and labour unions than capitalism. How could a party which stood for the lower classes and the blue collar workers suddenly become the Republican party? No one in the Quebec electorate understood that one, least of all staunch PQ old time leftist members, the die hard separatist branch of the party.

The debate on the Charter of Values created a malaise in Quebec society, most people think of themselves as open and socially progressive, Quebec is by far the most open and liberal society in terms of morals and attitudes in North America, if compared with any other part of Canada or the USA for that matter.

This Charter was not and is not a reflection of Quebec, Montreal a city of 4 million people is diverse, cosmopolitan and multicultural, how to impose such a backward notion of society on a city which is the economic motor of the Province.

So the result of this ill conceived campaign was a PQ defeat, the worst electoral results since its creation in 1970, gaining only 25% of the votes cast. The PQ still got 30 seats but just barely, in many cases wining by just a few hundred votes where just 18 months ago they had won by a large majority.
It was also the first time since 1921 that a sitting Premier (Marois) was defeated by a new incumbent (Couillard).

In many ways this defeat of the PQ is a third NO to the idea of a referendum and separation. Probably a final No to the basic tenet of the party. Mme Marois herself lost her seat to an unknown candidate and so did all other controversial candidates espousing narrow ethnic views like Mme Mailloux who spouted Nazi propaganda which Mme. Marois did not disavow. It was the worst campaign I had ever witnessed, showing how incompetent Mme Marois was and how detached from every day reality. It was also a vanity project, Mme. Marois saw herself as the first women to become President of a New Republic, she would succeed where men including the party founder René Levesque had failed. Born in a very poor and humble family, Marois rose to prominence and became a millionaire living in a Chateau on an island and wearing a lot of bling. How did this all happen, well that is another sorry story.

What is troubling now is how her lieutenants like Bernard Drainville and J.F. Lisée two senior PQ Ministers say they did not mean all the things they said and did not really support the Charter. Repudiating Mme Marois even before she steps down after Easter.

As for the PQ loyalist they blame again the Media, the Foreigners like the Muslims and all other Quebecois who do not support their vision for this defeat. Basically the majority 58% is wrong for not supporting the PQ. What is also sad is the continuous un-going monologue about how we as a people are in danger and how the forces of oppression (the bad anglos and the foreigners) are out to get us. The other country and its Parliament (Canada) is pure evil, we must save ourselves. Just read the chat lines and the opinion pieces in newspapers, pure lunacy. It remains as the Elected Premier Couillard said, an idea does not die, yes that is true and in Quebec the 30% die hard separatist will not let go. But the PQ as a party is in very serious trouble and may disappear all together in the coming years if it is unable to re-position itself. If the PQ abandons article 1 on separation then it has no purpose as such, if it does not then it is marginalized, other parties have taken up the space the PQ once occupied, this is how political commentators see the debate. It very much looks like the whole idea which led to the creation of the PQ was the project of one generation which is now passing. PQ support is amongst the 60 and older group.

I think it can be truthfully said that the Quebecois are Nationalist but not Separatist. Happy to remain in Canada and make the best of it as we have for the last 400 years.


  1. I really enjoyed reading your historical and political analysis, Laurent! Quebec is no longer essentially a monocultural society -- it must now grapple with multiculturalism like the rest of Canada has had to do over the past 40 years. I think English Canada has come to terms quite well with multiculturalism (albeit with many struggles and hard lessons to learn) -- the key is tolerance and respect for diversity. Not a hateful Charter that tries to suppress overt difference in the name of "secularism." While Quebec must of course retain its own language and identity, the definition of Quebecois can no longer be based strictly on bloodlines and the Pure Laine.

    English Canada first learned these necessary lessons by learning (sometimes painfully) how to respect Quebec's right to be different and unique. Those lessons then helped us to respect all the other many cultures that now make up modern Canada. I truly believe that is what will make Canada a leader in showing the world how to thrive in the future. Europe desperately needs to learn those lessons now too. The face of the future is multiculturalism.

  2. Thank you Laurent for this assessment of the situation and your perspective. It is very valuable and the background provided is necessary to understand what has happened.

    1. We can only hope now that the PQ will fade slowly away so we can all get on with our lives.

  3. why this was a marvelous read; thank you for it.
    I plan to reread it a few times to get as much out of it as possible.