Adios, Super Mario (and other scattered thoughts about the election)


ELXN Que ADQ Dumont 20081208A few (more) final thoughts on the election:

1) I have a nagging feeling Charest’s inability to convert his huge lead in the polls into a huge majority is being vastly overstated. A majority is a majority is a majority, no? He’ll have to rule over his caucus with an iron fist to prevent internal dissent from undermining that slim majority. But that’s still not as bad as having to deal with an unruly opposition that goes behind your back and elects a Speaker from its own ranks. That said, a minority government would have been devastating to the Liberals, especially considering they would have found themselves squaring off against a rejuvenated PQ rather than an incompetent and ineffective ADQ.

2) I’m having a hard time reconciling the notion Stephen Harper’s low-rent separatist-baiting was responsible for the PQ doing better than expected with the fact voter turnout was an abysmal 57 per cent, “the lowest election turnout since 1927.” Turnout was actually much worse than that oft-repeated nugget implies. In 1927, and for every election before that, turnout was calculated based on eligible voters in all ridings, even those in which a seat went uncontested. Voter turnout jumped by more than 20 points when the acounting method was changed in 1931, meaning participation in this past election may in fact have been at its lowest point in Quebec history. It’s hard to imagine that all the nonsense in Ottawa wouldn’t have an impact. But if it did, why did so many people stay home? Furthermore, how low would turnout have been had Harper not gone off the rails? The simplest explanation is that the pollsters just got it wrong.

3) Everyone saw the collapse of the ADQ vote coming, even Mario Dumont, who evidently showed up to the post-election party with a resignation speech in hand. Although I was surprised when I first heard him say he was stepping down so quickly, in hindsight, it should have been obvious Dumont had completely run out of gas. He started the campaign with a curious mea culpa to his supporters for the party’s many mis-steps over the past 18 months (and followed it up with a nonsensical attack on Charest and Marois for not doing the same). Before it was even over, he was already musing about a life after politics.

4) I can’t come up with a scenario in which the ADQ survives Dumont’s departure. As Chantal Hébert memorably pointed out to Dumont himself late in the 2007 campaign, the party has always been a “one-man show.” With no guaranteed speaking rights in the National Assembly and no formal research budget, putting the party back on track was going to be an immensely difficult task to begin with. And now, without a leader or an obvious successor with any demonstrable political skills, it becomes downright impossible.

5) The demise of the ADQ is intimately linked to the Liberals’ and PQ’s rush to the mushy middle of Constitutional politics. Their convergence left little room for Dumont’s third way and quickly turned the notion of “autonomism” into a quaint anachronism. At the same time, that convergence highlighted just how little there was to the adéquiste program once you stripped away the backlash against “the old parties” and their “old debates” over Quebec’s place in the federation. The abolishment of school boards? Opposition to a new religion course in public schools? A war on Internet pedophiles? If you can spot a winner in that, you’re probably an ADQ member already.


Adios, Super Mario (and other scattered thoughts about the election)

  1. Mr. Gohier, great analysis. The MSM hype over the impact of Harper’s comments on the Quebec election was ridiculously speculative and overblown.

  2. That seems to be Harper’s secret weapon towards ultimate power: turning off voters from the whole electoral process. Apparently, the CONs believe two uninspired voters is worth three in the bush.

  3. I thought autonomism always was a quaint anachronism.

  4. Latest EKOS poll (Dec 4) says that Quebec voter intentions are 41.7-22.5-18.6-12.0-5.2 (BQ-LP-CP-NDP-GP). Only difference between now and the election is a 3% swing to the BQ, which is within the poll’s MOE. No poll since this fiasco began has shown any significant movement in the Quebec numbers versus election results, in contrast to a huge CP swing west of the Ottawa River.


    Just bury the idea already that the pre-prorogation mouthoff by Tories versus the BQ has had any significant effect on Tory fortunes in Quebec.

  5. Great analysis Philippe. What do you lay the odds for the remaining ADQ-ers going over to the Liberals?

  6. Also – Crazy thought here..everyone is assuming if Dumont goes into federal politics it will be with the Conservatives. I would say those people do not understand just what kind of damage Harper has done to himself in Quebec the past couple of weeks. How about, though, if Dumont went over to the Ignatieff-led Liberals? I think Dumont is a politician first and an ideologue second. Furthermore right wing in QC politics translates into centre in Canadian politics. Am I nutty or am I onto something? I guess the only question would be if it would cause too much consternation within LPC ranks. But you know, speaking as one of those Liberals, I really REALLY want to beat Harper and get back in power *lol*

    Also, how about Ignatieff targeting the Conservatives’ Quebec MPs as floor crossing targets? They are living on borrowed time anyway.

  7. Jean, I have mixed feelings about the ideas in your posts… Philippe Gohier has done a `great analysis’ yet you still think Harper has done `great damage’ to himself in Quebec? The most interesting part of Gohier’s analysis is the turnout/ 1927 thing and his saying that the Harper effect is overblown. Don’t really understand this contradiction for you.
    Nevertheless, you make an excellent point that an Iggy led Liberal party will be more right wing than the previous versions, will be actively courting the West (kind of the same thing) and won’t have the toxic Dion brand, and that Dumont would be wise to have a bidding war for his services given the Liberals aren’t what they used to be. As a Tory I also worry some of the Quebec MP’s may get cold feet and bolt, like Andre Harvey et al did after Charest went to Quebec City.
    Probably needs another year for that to shake out, both for Iggy to either gain some momentum and look like the winer, or else fall flat on his face; and also to assess if the anti-Harper Quebec backlash is real or just a figment of the Montreal media, which isn’t Tory friendly or very close to the rural regions where ADQ/Tory vote has been strong. I don’t really see this backlash – ADQ and Quebec tories really seem to have a hard nugget of support around Quebec City land. It’s unlikely to ever break out of that zone but people in that region really do seem to think and vote differently.

  8. keith c – It seems to me that what Philippe Gohier argued was that the Harper effect was overblown as it relates to the provincial election results. And I agree with his analysis. I think this can be expl;ained by the following:

    1. Both Charest and Marois denounced Harper’s language about Quebec. So voters wanting to express their displeasure with Harper did not necessarily have to vote PQ to express that displeasure.

    2. More to the point, this was a PROVINCIAL election. Qujebec voters are more likely to wait for the next federal election to let Mr. Harper know what they think about him using the separatist bogeyman to boost his poll numbers in the ROC, no?

    Gohier did not actually offer an opinion on whether the not Quebecers were offended by Harper. I absolutely think they were.

    Now I will concede that public opinion in Quebec is just as complex and fluid as anywhere else. Still if you want to get a sense of how Quebecers feel about Harper’s behavior you should compare poll results in Quebec with the ROC on such things as support for the coalition, or who they blame for the crisis in Ottawa.

    Finally just stop for a second and consider it: when Harper spits out the phrase “separatist coalition” with pure venom in his voice, when he and his MPs describe Liberals and NDPers as “traitors” for making a strategic and limited alliance with the BQ how do you think Quebecers will feel? Keep in mind that not everyone in Quebec is a sovereigntists. In fact only a minority are. But everyone in Quebec knows a sovereigntist, have sovereigntists as either friends and/or members of their family (well maybe not some West Islanders), and realize that sovereigntists are not demons but are just regular people like you and I.

    You don’t always need polls to tell you something that is self evident. Harper deeply offended me as a Quebecois, even though I am about a strong a federalist as you will find and am actually kind of bi-cultural. If I feel that way…if I felt my tribal instincts kicking in…how do you think other Quebecers will feel who have less love for the ROC? But you know what? We’ll just see what happens next election.

  9. I also think the potential national unity damage caused by Mr. Harper is directly related to what extent Quebecers think Mr. Harper speaks for the ROC,

  10. Jean, Harper’s separatist comments spoke for a huge majority of the ROC and the Tories weren’t afraid to show it. I agree that the crisis has dragged us into somewhat dangerous ground, but Gilles Duceppe shaking hands with federalist parties in a photo op has been revealed to be the ROC’s bottom line of unacceptability, regardless of Quebecois feelings. it’s the first time Harper has probably actually had the majority of english canada agree with him on anything. Lefty, female friends of mine who hate Harper were joining the NO SEPARATIST COALITION groups on Facebook, for what that’s worth.

    I agree that it’s regrettable that people were offended but wonder if you have asked yourself if you were really offended that Harper called separatists separatists, or if, since you’re a partisan Liberal, you already don’t like the guy and were looking to hate what he said anyway or read `venom’ into his tone.

    ” this was a PROVINCIAL election. Qujebec voters are more likely to wait for the next federal election to let Mr. Harper know what they think about him using the separatist bogeyman to boost his poll numbers in the ROC”

    maybe .. though i think this is a bit of a funny thing to say, if people were really angry they could have run to the polls in greater numbers… i think more likely a year will go by and something else will come along as the issue of the day.

    I would also dispute that Charest `denounced’ Harper’s language as you say. He made a pointed but veiled comment about the `tone of discussion’ as I recall.

    Andre Pratte and Patrick Lagace, la Presse’s interesting Western Canada correspondent, have both said they didn’t see any Quebec bashing in the comments.. OK, fine, they work for tory-backing La Presse .. but I still think they woudn’t hesitate to call a spade a spade..

    the afghanistan mission was supposed to nuke those 10 quebec tory seats… then the arts cuts were… and those 10 tory seats are still standing.. I kept hearing from Quebec “experts” that Harper was in trouble and out of touch, but the 2006 breakthrough stayed solid … Mario Dumont who didn’t bash ottawa and photo ops with harper still kept his regional stronghold .. maybe it is “self evident’ and you’ll be proven right, but it would be fun to bet ten bucks against you

  11. Only 10 bucks?

    Oh so I see…shaking hands with separatists is the last straw eh? You do realize these people don’t have bubonic plague right? *lol* Harper has shaken hands with Duceppe on plenty of occasions. But maybe by “shaking hands” you meant enter into a coalition agreement. To that all I can sday is that the Bloc part of the coalition was cleraly just about strategic necessity and did not compromise Canadian unity in any way (except in the imagination of Cons) and, also, as has been repeated ad nauseum on this baord, Harper was more than willing in the past to also consider a coalaition wih the BQ.

    Some people in Canada really need to stop for a second and think about why it is that they are so bothered by the Quebec sovereignty movement. I guess it has to do with the fact that it reveals that Quebcers have mixed feelings about Canada, and do not love it the same way that your average Canadian does. Some don’t even love it all. I know it must be hard not to feel rejected under those circumstances, but really….and here’s the thing…the sovereignty movement isn’t really about Canada. Just because some Quebecers want their own country that doesn’t mean they think Canada is a “bad” country.

    Think of it in terms of Canadian nationalism. Yes, a strain of Canadian nationalism has an anti-American edge to it. One of the ways nations define themselves is by contrasting themselves with other nations. But Canadian nationalism also has a positive side to it, you know feelings of pride, wanting to support and protect Canadian culture, a feeling that Canada is your “home” and that other Canadians are a “people”, etc. It’s the same thing in Quebec. The only difference is that for many Quebecers feel they are simultaneously part of both the Quebec AND the Canadian nation, albeit to different degrees. It sometimes seems as if some in the ROC are really bothered by this and want to force Quebecers to choose one of the two nations. Trust me, if you don;t want to force Quebecers to make that choice. At least not if you want Quebec to remain part of Canada. But then, maybe some people don’t want that, right? Twould be a pity. Quebec and Canada are both much more interesting together than they would be apart.

  12. The Quebec media thinks attacking the separatists (or even calling them separatists) hurt Harper in Quebec because the Quebec media is mostly separatist and they don’t like being attacked.

  13. yeah only 10 bucks – ok maybe 20, 50. but not 100. I just don’t think I’m that good at reading crystal balls. In 2005 I was sure Martin was going to smoke harper in 2006

    English Canadians do regard Bloc as bubonic plague I’m afraid.. while this is perhaps regrettable it won’t go away. English Canadian politicians do Canadian unity a favour by downplaying the deep views of their constituents as much as possible. However, the photo op of D-D-L shaking hands for a formal deal – strategic or not, there’s a written commitment for a year – was bubonic plague territory I’m afraid. We do feel it compromises Canadian unity and Iggy’s recent moves suggest he secretly agrees.

    Your analysis of why English canadians dislike sovereigntists so much is 50% accurate – all of what you say is true but the other side of it is: it would hurt us. Our country would lose territory. The country would be financially and culturally poorer. There would be an unholy mess, maybe demands for partition, unrest. The Americans might use it as an excuse to renegotiate Nafta. Quebec anglos might have to be resettled. The Maritimes and Newfoundland would be geographically cut off. Why should we good-naturedly accept this unless there’s a good reason?
    If Quebec were like Ireland in 1911 and 85% of the population was angry and rioting and demanding independence, then Quebec should of course have it. But the results of the two referendums and the lack of electoral traction for the pur et dur tendency in the PQ suggest otherwise. So there are limits to how much the separatist impulse deserves ROC’s accommodation.

  14. keith c – the irony is that the bet way to actually encourage quebec seperation is to be fearful about it and to manifest that fear by Quebec bashing

    It is perfectly acceptable for federalists and “English Canadians” (setting aside whether there is such a thing) to push back against the BQ and against Quebec sovereigntists, but you have to push back in a calm, rational, fair and democratic way. i know this is easier said than done. i also know there is PLENTY of idiocy and ignorance on the sovereigntist side as well (believe me I have had this exact same argument in reverse with some of my sovereigntist friends here in Quebec. but, as i’ve said before, no one ever said democracy was easy, or governing a post-modern country/nation was easy. it’s actually really really tough. it demands a lot of our leaders but also of us as citizens. i choose to remain optimistic however. i believe sufficient good will exists in both Quebec and the ROC to continue finding ways to accommodate each other.

  15. DR – The Quebec media was mostly critical of Harper for calling the BQ “separatists” in English, but “sovereintists” in french, and then claiming (another lie) that he did not understand the distinction between the two terms.

    that’s because Quebecers don’t like a lying hypocrite anymore than fair-minded Canadians do.

  16. Living here in Montreal, I can’t think of one person over the coalition/provincial election time period that even mentioned in passing a connection between the two.

    If you are a federalist, then negativity about separatist/souverainiste agenda are pretty much right in your wheelhouse anyway, no? If you’re already independantiste, then I suppose you can be *really* up for it, but what’s the difference? I can’t see someone changing their mind over something so fundamental as national unity based on the rather benign (and let’s face it, it was) commentary of PMSH. I doubt anyone would even be surprised, truth be told.

    Are people really that facile and changeable? I doubt it. I’m not at least, and I can’t think of many who would be. (Example: My wife told me she didn’t like the shirt I’m wearing…I’m filing for divorce, naturally..)

    What are people actually talking about in Montreal these days? The important issues…snow, and removal thereof.

  17. KW – It wasn’t what so much Harper said, as the way he and his minions said it.

    You are probably right to point out the reliable apathy of most voters, but, you know, opinion leaders were paying attention :)

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