A few months after claiming that the PQ “will survive the storm,” Bernard Drainville is jumping ship. The Parti Québécois representative in Marie-Victorin officially confirmed he was resigning from all political functions on Tuesday. As if the news of his departure weren’t bewildering enough, he also announced that he would replace Nathalie Normandeau as a co-host on Éric Duhaime’s salacious lunch hour program on FM 93.

Tuesday morning, Drainville claimed that his decision had been well thought through since the party’s last chief, Pierre-Karl Péladeau, resigned in May. “I won’t deny that Pierre-Karl’s departure was a hard blow,” he said, “it cut my legs out from underneath me.”

Drainville has been Marie-Victorin’s MNA since 2007. He also handled the Ministry of Democratic Institutions under Pauline Marois and held the role of parliamentary leader. He was a candidate to be Marois’ successor in 2014, but abandoned the race in favour of supporting Pierre-Karl Péladeau’s campaign. Péladeau’s resignation after barely a few months at the head of the PQ left Drainville at a dead end.

Bernard Drainville is most remembered for pushing the controversial Charte des valeurs, but during his brief time as a minister, he also fathered several democratic reforms. Most notably, he allowed students to vote on campus and restricted the funding of political parties to $100 per person.

Shock in the PQ

While the party is in the middle of another leadership race, Bernard Drainville quit halfway through the mandate he was elected for. There is certain irony there, considering how vehemently he reprimanded those who did the same throughout the years. In his own words, “a representative who chooses to resign before his mandate is fulfilled does not respect the moral contract he signed with his electors.”

Agnès Maltais, another Parti Québecois MNA, expressed similar sentiment to Énergie Québec 98,3 on Monday: “he is leaving mid-term. I’ve never liked that.” Even if Maltais is apparently the only member to express anything more than deep respect and regret at Drainville’s decision, she certainly isn’t the only one to feel that way. The partial elections in Marie-Victorin will cost $500 000$ in public funds.

To his credit, Drainville won’t receive any severance bonus. This is thanks to a law banning bonuses for MNAs who resign mid-term which Drainville championed and the assembly finally passed last year.

The loss of one of its most prominent figures is bleak news for a party that is struggling to convince the population that it isn’t agonizingly decomposing. It has indeed been a rough couple of years for the PQ, starting with a brutal electoral defeat after only six months in office. Pauline Marois, Pierre-Karl Péladeau and Stéphane Bédard have all resigned since then.

Although there is no denying Drainville’s influential role in the past, his future in the party didn’t hold much promise. He didn’t enter the current leadership race (reportedly for family reasons) and none of the candidates aligned naturally with his views like Péladeau did.

Drainville on FM 93

Maybe the end of Drainville’s political career shouldn’t have been so surprising, but his next step was rightly met with more than a few raised eyebrows.

A politician recycling himself as a commentator or host is hardly a shock. What is bewildering is that Drainville chose to do so on Quebec City’s infamous “Radio-poubelles” in the company of an icon of aggressive right rhetoric.

Duhaime’s lunch hour program, like most of FM 93 shows, is notorious for its routine attacks on immigrants, unemployed citizens, students, feminists and just about every minority. During the last few months for example, Duhaime’s favourite topics included how feminism oppressed men, how state-funded kindergartens were a communist plot and why Marine Le Pen is an outstanding politician.

What makes the whole thing even more ridiculous is that Bernard Drainville will not be the first politician to take on the job. In fact, liberal ex-minister Nathalie Normandeau co-hosted Duhaime, le midi right up until she was arrested by the Permanent Anti-Corruption Unit (UPAC) in March. She is currently facing charges for fraud, corruption and breach of trust for her actions as a minister under Jean Charest.

Provincial Democratic Institutions Minister Bernard Drainville commenced public hearings into the proposed Charter of Quebec Values by asking that the impending debate remain respectful.


The charter is disrespectful in and of itself. That the separatists are wasting precious public funds to have a public debate only adds insult to injury. It reminds of me of when Ahmadinejad would convene conferences denying the existence of the Holocaust. It’s the premise that’s fucked.

The problem the charter intends to solve doesn’t really exist. The culture of Québec is not threatened, never was, least of all by a few members of various religious minorities with public-sector jobs.

That this charter will result in people, citizens, taxpayers, having to choose between their faith and their jobs, all the while entrenching ‘overt public displays’ of Catholicism as an apparently crucial component of Québec’s cultural identity is incredibly hypocritical. It’s obscene.

Quebec Values Charter,

Moreover, it’s unnecessary. All Canadians are already protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the Charter specifically states we have the right to be free of religious persecution.

Telling civil servants they can’t keep their jobs if they continue to wear a hijab, a turban or a yarmulke is religious persecution. Telling the people their culture is more-or-less doomed to extinction unless everyone blindly goes along with a plan to institutionalize racism is damn near fascistic. Suffice it to say I can’t imagine the charter in its current form would survive a Supreme Court challenge…

But therein lies the rub.

After it’s ruled as unconstitutional, the péquistes in government can invoke the notwithstanding clause and go ahead with it anyways. That or the PQ will simply say that because Lévesque stubbornly refused to sign the Constitution Act they’re not bound by it anyways and can do as they please.

Meanwhile, unemployment continues to rise, Northern economic development is stillborn, infrastructure crumbles and the people of Québec are asked, as we’ve grown accustomed, to do more with less and settle into a lower standard of living. The charter hearings serve merely to distract the public from the PQ’s consistently reprehensible economic and social records. Not to say the Quebec Liberals are much of a better option, but at least they generally have the sense not to stir up trouble for short-term political gains. In any event, an election is expected this year, and you better believe the PQ is going to do just about everything they can to keep attention focused on the problems they’ve created or invented.

marois press conference

It’s gutter politics really – a party acts as spokesperson for a vaguely defined ‘silent majority’ whose core values are threatened simply because they say so. This majority for whom the party speaks is silent for a reason. It is ultimately the illusion of an exclusive club and the message is always party, not people, driven. The message is always the same: the minorities are a threat to the sanctity of the majority’s identity and something in turn must be done.

In Israel, far-right anti-immigrant parties hold rallies where hysterical women wail at the microphone about how they fear being raped ‘by packs of wild Africans,’ or relate completely groundless anecdotes to the same point. Members of this party, if you can believe it, actually favour rounding up all African immigrants in Israel and sticking them in concentration camps.

In Eastern Europe, far-right ultra-nationalist parties preaching even more violent means of eliminating undesirable ethnic minorities (notably the Roma) use much the same rhetoric as their Israeli counterparts to justify their own hate and prejudice.

Granted, Bill 60 isn’t as bad as all that, but the it’s rooted in the same kind of hate, ignorance and shitty populism.

The PQ defines who is and who isn’t Québécois and they only ever represent the Québécois who fit their narrow description. Anyone who questions the legitimacy of the party or its purpose, anyone who criticizes the leadership, anyone who refuses to support needlessly divisive legislation such as Bill 60 – these people are not Québécois in the PQ’s eyes, they are obstacles on the road to independence.

When ethno-nationalist governments run out of any kind of political legitimacy they create social panics concerning a potential loss of cultural identity, typically resulting in punitive social policy that aims to further marginalize minorities while claiming they represent a clear and present public danger.

Québec, in this particular case, is very much like a host of small, impotent nations driven pointlessly into national (but not economic) sovereignty as a consequence of invented ethno-nationalist panics. As a proud Québécois, I want my ‘nation’ to aspire to be greater than Serbia, Croatia or Uzbekistan.

charter of quebec values protestWhat’s particularly onerous is that the bill, ostensibly designed in part to protect women from various abuses (real and imagined) in conservative, male-dominated religiously observant households, will in fact put working women out of their jobs: nurses, doctors, teachers, social workers, early childhood educators, government employees of all kinds, these are precisely the kinds of jobs that can help entrench a family in the local middle class.

It’s hard enough to integrate into Québécois society and culture. What does it say of the PQ when they’re proposing we ‘respectfully’ discuss throwing religious minorities out of their rightfully earned jobs?

I’ll have none of it.

I want out of this discussion because I fail to see any reason to have it in the first place. The proposal is flawed, politically expedient by appealing to base populism and motivated by a desire to define the forthcoming election in terms of whose better suited to protect Québécois against the threats dreamt up by the PQ.

I can’t respectfully abide any of this. I don’t think we’ve seen obscenely manipulative politics like this in our province since the Duplessis Era.