Floor crossings in parliamentary democracies aren’t particularly rare. A CBC sampling here shows that there have been four defections to the Conservatives since 2005, and one—Belinda Stronach—from Stephen Harper’s party. My favourite floor-cosser remains Jean Lapierre, whose take on the status of Quebec in Canada was so fluid he hopped from the Liberals to the Bloc Québécois and back again. Lise St-Denis just went from the NDP to the Liberals. Sure, politicians bitch and moan about the practice, but never too loudly, lest a future defection makes them a hypocrite. If there’s an upside to such defections (and I realize this is a bit of a stretch, but what the hell) it demonstrates that our politicians aren’t so partisan as to be above switching sides if they are ideologically (or, as is unfortunately the usual case) opportunistically irked by their own.
Ah, but not at the Parti Québécois. Here’s what happens when you leave that veritable church: one of your former friends writes a really, really angry essay about you. Then the leading nationalist broadsheet prints every single 2,400-odd pissy, chest-thumping, hair-pulling word. The apparent failure of the cause is placed squarely on your shoulders, and you go from a true and blessed supporter of an honourable cause to a spineless, destiny-slaying, bandwagon-jumping careerist overnight. Just ask François Rebello, who jumped from the PQ to the CAQ recently. This is what his ex-buddy Jocelyn Desjardins had to say about him when he joined the CAQ, which dares to want to put aside sovereignty to concentrate instead on things like education, the economy and rooting out corruption in Quebec’s political system.
I have a question for you. What sort of political destiny awaits a people whose only collective project has to do with questions of administration? Because putting questions [about sovereignty, etc] on the back burner can’t not have an effect on the political destiny of a people. Any people who lose sight of their national destiny, even for one political mandate, are doomed to subordination, submission and ‘minorization.’ […] What hides behind “real issues” is an abdication of our destiny.
Let’s be clear: Rebello, a PQ MNA since 2008 until he defected to the nascent Sort-Of Coalition Avenir Québec last week, did not say he was no longer a sovereignist. Just the opposite, in fact. Rebello says the CAQ—which, remember, has it as its policy not to pursue the option—will actually help the cause. Sure, you’d need a map to figure out Rebello’s pretzel-like logic, but that’s just one of the charming peculiarities of Quebec politics. War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. An apparently non-separatist party will help the cause of separatism. Whatever. I take him at his word: he’s still a sovereignist.
But no matter: according to Desjardins’s ilk—and there are many, many like him in the PQ—Rebello’s sin is to have left the Church of the Parti Québécois. And damned if he isn’t going to be ex-communicated, even if he still is still very much a disciple of the cause.