The Quebec Liberal Party won a resounding victory last night, returning to office with a majority of 70 seats (41.51%) only 19 months after losing to the Parti Québécois (30 seats, 25.37%).
The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), a party that self-describes as being conservative on economic issues and liberal on social ones, garnered an impressive 22 seats and 23.07 per cent of the popular vote. While the Québec Solidaire (QS), a hard-left sovereigntist party, chewed away enough PQ support to win 3 seats and 7.63 per cent of the vote.
Pauline Marois the PQ leader lost her own seat in Charlevoix–Côte-de-Beaupré on the way to the lowest voter count her party has achieved in more than 40 years. In a late-night speech to the party faithful, Marois said that she was resigning her post and warned, “I am worried for our language. So regardless of our political allegiances, we have a duty to protect the French language.”
Identity politics to the end. To Marois’s generation in Quebec, it’s all about victimhood. And, to that group, the victimizers are the allophones and Anglophones of her province.
In Marois’s world, to be a real Quebecer, one must be pure laine, that is, those who speak French as a first language and who have French-Canadian ancestry. Others are tolerated—sometimes barely so—but seldom fully embraced.
Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard showed a far more inclusive stance. Common sense rather than identity seemed to govern his policies as he stuck to the “real issues” of the economy and health care.
“The time of inflicting wounds is over,” Couillard said. “We are all Quebeckers. We should focus on what brings us together. Division is over. Reconciliation begins.”
Couillard ran a safe campaign, to be sure. But his defence of federalism was unmistakable and left no doubt that, as he saw it, Quebec’s future was inside Canada and not outside its federation. He even ventured into forbidden territory at times as he opined about bilingualism, stating that he wanted every Grade 6 student to be taught English.
With luck, Quebec may now become a more inclusive place where openness, confidence and inclusion replace mistrust and exclusion.
With the Liberal victory, Quebec and Canada wins. Quebec sovereignty is thumped on the head and is not likely to re-awaken for, at least, a decade. During that time the rest of Canada will grow and become ever stronger, all the better to survive some future assault from those in Quebec for whom independence is the only way—for them the dream will never die.