It’s election season in Quebec again and the PQ have just launched their first ad on YouTube and it’s, well, it’s something:
Basically, the ad suggests that another four years of Premier François Legault would mean that Quebec would lose Bill 21 and Bill 96, two laws that Legault created, proposed and passed (with the support of parties like the PQ, not that it was needed, given that he has a Majority Government). Their reasoning? Ottawa will get rid of them unless Quebec becomes its own country.
Okay, first, I have to point out that Legault and his Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) Government had no problem passing and maintaining these laws within a federal system (Bill 21 was passed early in Legault’s mandate). And while federal politicians like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh clearly and vocally don’t like Bill 21, they aren’t prepared to use federal powers to change a Quebec law.
So while I hate to defend Legault, I think I have to here. He’s more than capable of protecting the bigotry enshrined in Bill 21 and the sheer ignorance of reality baked into Bill 96 on his own.
It’s clear, though, from this ad, what the PQ’s election strategy is: try to outflank the CAQ on the right, mobilize hard nationalists and flip some rural and suburban ridings back to them. They seem to have abandoned all hope of winning back the progressive sovereigntist votes and Montreal island ridings they lost to Québec solidaire (QS).
It’s unfortunate, given the PQ just released one of the better public transit ideas I’ve heard in a long time: A $1/day transit pass valid all over Quebec. If they focused on that and put some similar proposals on the table, they could battle it out with QS over who is the most progressive.
Instead, they’re continuing on the rightward trajectory they’ve been on since René Lévesque left office mixed with the reinvigorated country-or-bust approach they switched back to when Paul St-Pierre Plamondon won their leadership. The only lip service to progressivism in this ad is an attack on fossil fuels, but even that is couched in nationalist language (“Alberta oil”).
This PQ tact is both desperate and a leap of logic, but it’s good news for Québec solidaire. As long as leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois sticks with (and keeps repeating) his promise to dismantle Bill 21 if elected, they will keep most of the progressive votes they won from the PQ and only have to contend with smaller progressive parties, Anglo and allophone (and even some Francophone) progressives upset with their voting for Bill 96 and voters who see the Quebec Liberals (PLQ) as the only way to stop Legault.
As for the PQ, I don’t think their attempt to out-Legault Legault and win xenophobic votes from the CAQ will get them very far. Asking bigots to prioritize their nationalism over their bigotry and social conservatism is a tough sell for anyone, especially a party trying to pull itself out of the dustbin of history.