Interesting times, as always, in Quebec politics. You remember the ADQ, right? The right-y libertarian-esque party that veered weirdly into identity politics and helped spur that little spleen-bursting spat over immigrants and what not? Well, it’s no longer—swallowed up in one bite by the CAQ, the nascent political coalition led by former Péquiste minister François Legault. It’s an odd marriage spurred by a shotgun blast of political expediency: no sense, said Legault and ADQ leader Gerard Deltell, in further dividing the centre-right vote. That said, Legault himself told me of his misgivings about Deltell last summer—”too federalist,” Legault said of the former TV reporter—and the CAQ, which leads in the polls, will become even weirder when it inevitably starts attracting disillusioned Liberals and Péquistes. Legault has said he’s cast off the cause of Quebec sovereignty for the sake of the province’s purse strings and looming demographic issues, and has made it his mission to attract anyone and everyone, sovereignist or not, who feel the same.
Here’s a wee prediction: no one—not the Liberals, not the PQ, and certainly not the Quebec City press corps—will drop the issue. Why, just this week Jean Charest labelled Legault a sovereignist, while PQ leader Pauline Marois said the new ADQ-CAQ merger was already prompting a “fight between right-wing federalists.” It’s an illuminating example of the old (but still very sharp) knife edge of Quebec politics: regardless of what you do, you must first define yourself on the black-or-white, for-or-against issue of separation. God help any leader who is the least bit blurry on the issue—like Legault, who isn’t Canada’s biggest fan but says there are bigger cats to skin—because s/he will be hounded and hounded on it.
As Legault’s own popularity shows, though, many (even most) Quebecers are themselves blurry on the issue, and don’t see themselves in the ancient and tiresome federalist/sovereignist mould. It would be nice if the province’s political and journalistic class would at least acknowledge as much.