The PQ becomes a Jacques Parizeau cargo cult

The arrival of a Parizeau acolyte and a Parizeau biographer at Marois’s side is vindication


From one exceedingly narrow perspective, the history of Quebec politics in the last 20 years has been the story of Jean-François Lisée seeking his true nature. The wunderkind reporter for L’actualité started as an observer and has become a combatant. He entered the arena as a counsellor and is, it’s said, about to become a candidate. He has strong beliefs and a healthy and honestly-earned ego; he decided in 1994 that he wanted to influence events instead of writing about them, and he seems now to have decided that the best way to ensure politicians take his advice is to be one.

That Pauline Marois, who was barely clinging to the PQ leadership a year ago, has now (it’s said) recruited Lisée is one thing. That she has also lured Pierre Duchesne, a veteran Radio-Canada television newsman who was still covering Marois and Jean Charest only several weeks ago, is another. She seems to be working to constitute a slate of star candidates, the sort of thing one does when one is preparing (or at least hoping) to take power back. The model here, a bit debased because every opposition leader in Quebec has tried to recreate it at every election for a half-century, is the “Équipe de Tonnerre” Jean Lesage built in 1960 around, among others, a Radio-Canada journalist named René Lévesque.

But there’s something else Lisée and Duchesne have in common: they’re both linked extraordinarily closely to Jacques Parizeau.

Lisée left journalism to work with Parizeau when the wily old trout managed to get himself elected in 1994. The day Parizeau showed up for his first news conference with Lisée smirking at his side was only a little less shocking than, say, the day Paul Martin showed up at a news conference with Belinda Stronach. Lisée was an architect of Parizeau’s referendum strategy, constantly urging the boss to reach outside the PQ itself to seek sovereignist allies in other parties, in trade unions, in municipal politics, and so on. He stuck around for some time after Lucien Bouchard replaced Parizeau, but he has always been a Parizeau man, which means he believes “being a sovereignist” isn’t some genteel state of mind, it must always be concrete action in pursuit of the specific goal.

As for Duchesne, he wrote the book on Parizeau, or rather three of them. His three-volume biography is one of the most ambitious anyone has written on a still-living Canadian politician. I wrote about the last volume here (I should issue a note of caution on the Preston Manning stuff: the former Reform leader wrote to Maclean’s after that column ran to say Duchesne misrepresented his actions during the 1995 referendum, though I’m afraid I don’t have details to hand). I know Duchesne just a wee bit and he’s a soft-spoken, gentle man, but his book makes it clear that he has always (I think accurately) seen Parizeau as the man at the centre of the sovereignty movement.

The arrival of a Parizeau acolyte and a Parizeau biographer at Marois’s side is a vindication for the PQ leader, who suffered an open revolt a year ago at the hands of the party’s Parizeau-ite wing. The former leader’s own wife, Lisette Lapointe, left the caucus along with a couple of other fans of the party’s longest-serving hardliner. He was at the National Assembly when the falling-out happened. But in what is perhaps a sign that he’s finally losing his edge in his 80s, Parizeau and his fan club weren’t able to orchestrate any serious sovereignist alternative to a Marois-led PQ. The rebellion eventually collapsed.

Lisée, who has informally advised Marois since she became leader, did not join last year’s rebellion and he discouraged the rebels on his L’actualité blog. This is consistent with his big-sovereignist-tent philosophy: Just as the PQ could never win a referendum alone without allies, there cannot be a referendum without the PQ at the centre of it. By remembering this and riding out the roughest period of Marois’s leadership, Lisée was arguably being more focused and strategic than Lapointe and the other rebels. More, one might say, Parizeau-esque.

So now a new generation of Parizeau students replaces the previous generation at the side of a leader who has turned into something of a survivor. This all matters because the Parizeau wing has always been associated with a desire to do something about wanting to separate, not just to sit around wishing Quebec would separate some day. The questions about Marois are whether she’ll win the election in several weeks, and whether she’ll be trouble for Canada after she wins. The presence of these two at her side increases the likelihood that she’ll be trouble.



The PQ becomes a Jacques Parizeau cargo cult

  1. Whether we know for sure if this ideology of Quebec’s sovereigncy is based on propaganda, delivered to us in the form of these seemingly endless, biased, one sided personally (and corporately) interpreted emotions, if the people of Quebec honestly feel the need to seperate from Canada, they should be allowed that right. However, being just as biased in my own personal opinion, I know that Canada would forever be at a loss on a monumental proportion. Without Quebec, this country never would have become the “true North strong and free”. Perhaps in neglecting your history, ancestry and the culture that we’ve all grown to be so proud and fond of, we should perhaps look and see exactly why the current population of Quebec’s concesentual idea of sovereignty is suddenly so dranatized? I’m pretty sure there was an article somewhere recently posted that suggested that Quebec’s seperation is “believed” to be of little concern to most Canadians, yet the majority of Quebec itself? I don’t think they want to seperate, but are being forced to because of so much negativity in regards to the way we have been led to believe that this dignified province stands for. I think its quite clear that something has to be done in regards to Canada’s reputation of “true patriot love”. Listen up Canadian’s,

  2. Quebec may indeed become an independent country some day in the future, who knows. But one thing is certain it won’t be the PQ that carries it off. The PQ has become a resting place for career minded sovereignists looking to live off the public purse while mildly espousing their distant dreams. In that respect, the Bloc became the equivalent of senate appointments for the sovereignty movement.

    Its been over 40 years since the movement was founded and support is hopelessly mired somewhere in the minority of public opinion. Mme Marois’ strategy is to rekindle the fire by reviewing the over 200 ”case studies” on the benefits of sovereignty, how boring. Less than 2 % of public opinion believes that the next election will have anything to do with sovereignty, yes that’s 2 %, nothing to make trouble about no matter how clever Lisée and Duchesne may prove to be.

    Having followed Mr. Lisée’s blog over the years he very cleverly cherry picks at statistics to prove his point, a facile tactic if ever there was one and exposes himself to his opponents.

    Right of centre opinion runs much deeper in Quebec than many observers claim and a left leaning sovereignty movement is doomed because of it.

  3. Quebec has indeed contributed incredibly to Canada’s quality. The “quiet revolution” where Quebec overthrew Catholic Church rule created a secular society civil law that is, broadly, the most progressive in the first world.

    Historically, the Catholic Church told Quebecers for 300 years that they are unique and special (which meant keeping them isolated and ignorant), and the problem is, once the PQ got in power they continued that strain.

    The PQ has basically lied to Quebecers for decades — that Quebec is owed money, that it is treated unfairly, that everyone hates Quebec because it’s French. I have met several Quebecois, educated professionals, who DID NOT BELIEVE that there were French speaking Canadians. I explained the Franco-Ontariens, the North, the Yukon, New Brunswick, and they were shocked.

    If the PQ had become a “French-Canadian” party, they may have become the National Opposition. But the obsession with Quebec’s borders and ‘sovereignty’ is insane. If you look at “sovereignty association”, which is what they SAY they want, we already HAVE it: Quebec control of language, education, health care and a civil law different from the Rest of Canada’s.

    In 25 years living here, I have not yet heard one logically sound reason for separation – not one. Ever. But it’s not going away, because the crusty old Parizeau/PQ guard is excellent at PR, and very Machievellian: as the PQ’s puppeting of unionist-sovereignist UQAM professors, who in turn puppeted their students’ movement into an “anti-Liberal” one .

    Also, many Quebecers — many, many — enjoy the “threat” of separation. It’s the “stick” they wield over Canada to get stuff, and the province is very good at it. So if and when the PQ wins, be ready for a renewed, endless cycle of the PQ’s only 2 emotions: “humiliation” and “outrage”. This is what has fuelled the rest of Canada’s backlash — not so much a hatred, as a willingness to call this tiresome bluff.

    • I agree, Canadians are tired of being bullied by the Quebecer’s who are always saying that they need more from the ROC usually in the way of money.

      The ROC has come to the conclusion that should the people of Quebec feel so hard done by that maybe the separation would do all parties some good in the long run.

      • the equalization formula is decided in Ottawa not Quebec, just saying
        Manitoba, PEI, NS and NB receive far more per capita than Quebec, just saying
        Quebec taxpayers pay into equalization fund to the tune of 22 %, just saying

    • excellent, well written

    • Then please, give me your “logical” reason why Canada should stay as an independent country and not merge with the US. Logic as nothing to do with it, it never has. It’s about identity and culture.

      “many Quebecers — many, many — enjoy the “threat” of separation. It’s the “stick” they wield over Canada to get stuff, and the province is very good at it.”
      This is pure non sense. For the last 30 years, I’ve never met once anyone who thinks like that. Some people are for an independent Quebec, some are for a united Canada, most don’t have a firm opinion. But almost all of them don’t really care what the ROC thinks, or does. There is no secret meeting where Quebeckers meet to plot how to extort more from the ROC. There are different factions that want different things.

  4. Quebec’s going to “separate” blah, blah, blah, blah, yeah whatever. There is no doubt the English, Scottish, and Irish people built a beautiful place for french talkers to whine, complain, and then force those builders of Quebec out, but really, who would miss the constant bitching and tribal bigotry that has become the norm in Quebec. The sooner french talkers vote to “separate” the sooner we can carve up that Province and be done with the tribal blackmail and bigotry the better. Stop the pretense and just vote to go already, who the hell cares anymore.

    • what part of the carved up Quebec do you plan on moving to ? Which tribe will you be with ?

  5. An interesting article, except that it’s too polite by half to the Quebec media. The writer mentions two or three separatist journalists; the fact is that almost anyone who goes on t.v. in Quebec preaches sovereignty — especially on Radio-Canada-RDI. The written media has an older generation that is centrist and skeptical; however, anyone younger than 50 s a raving militant and even La presse is an example. In one sequence I watched, on RDI, a round-table of journalists openly mocked Canada Day by sneering at it.

    • Nobody watches RC-RDI, and Canada day has always been just another bank holiday in Quebec, so what ? If it weren’t for the federal government shoveling money at Canada day celebrations in Quebec, there wouldn’t be any, so sneering at the feds for wasting money is now somehow traiterous ?

      • If you don’t know the difference between ignoring the country’s national holiday on the one hand, or even expressing indifference, and, on the other hand, getting together at a round table on federally-funded TV, to all sneer at it like disaffected 16-year-olds, but as paid ‘journalists’, boasting, in effect, of how you pissed on the flag — well you are one of the self-same ‘journalists’. As for ‘nobody’ watching them, are you telling us it was Radio-UdeM?

        • ignoring is exactly what I said, nobody watches RC-RDI

          • Your sneer is totally irrelevant, buddy, unless RDI was a basement operation transmitted out of Scarboro.
            Actually, both RDI and LCN, comparables, pulled massive audiences for their ambulance-chasing idiocy, the wall-to-wall live camera on marching sttudents, 24 hrs a day, during the student boycott.
            In fact, RDI outpaced LCN, which means part of its traditional audience came back to it to look in. They were pulling more than 250,000 viewers at one point, which is no ‘nobody’. But, as I said, your comment is superficial and rather parochial.
            Here are 2 articles I pulled up online, but, I suspect that you don’t read French:

            May 22, 2012

            Tout le week-end, RDI a poursuivi sa domination sur LCN dans les sondages
            d’écoute, pour sa couverture des manifestations.

            La chaîne a atteint un sommet dimanche soir, atteignant les 271 000 téléspectateurs
            à 23h. Habituellement, de 22h30 à minuit, à peine 20 000 téléspectateurs
            regardent RDI, alors qu’en moyenne 183 000 étaient au rendez-vous à cette heure
            dimanche. C’est neuf fois plus que la moyenne normale.

            La couverture de samedi a été la moins suivie avec une moyenne de 87 000
            téléspectateurs de 22h30 à minuit.

            May 17

            Les téléspectateurs ont suivi en grand nombre la programmation spéciale
            entourant la loi spéciale annoncée hier soir par le premier ministre Jean
            Charest. Pour l’ensemble de la soirée, RDI devance LCN, sauf durant la
            demi-heure de 21h30 à 22h.

            De 19h à 20h à RDI, Anne-Marie Dussault a intéressé 159 000 téléspectateurs,
            contre 112 000 pour Pierre Bruneau à LCN.

            De 20h à 21h, période durant laquelle on a retransmis l’allocution de M. Charest,
            272 000 personnes ont regardé RDI contre 192 000 pour LCN.

            Mais c’est de 21h à 21h30 que l’auditoire était le plus élevé à RDI,
            grimpant à 324 000, contre 287 000 à LCN.

            LCN a connu son meilleur score de 21h30 à 22h, attirant 300 000
            téléspectateurs, contre 252 000 pour RDI.

          • merci de prouver , chiffres à l’appui, ce que je disais. Si ”habituellement 20 0000 téléspectateurs regardent RDI ” c’est à peine 0,25 % de la population du Québec. Si une chaîne n’attire que 0,25 % de la population habituellement, c’est que personne ou presque personne ne regarde cette chaîne. Ce qui est visiblement le cas de RDI ( surnommée par plusieurs : Rien D’ Important )

          • [explanation of below: Daveyy has selected a phrase out of context from what I posted above to prove that 1/4 of 1% of the population ‘watch RDI’ so it doesn’t matter what political fools RDI pays to appear on its programs. His ‘audience numbers for RDI’ are from 10:30 to midnight, not over-all. However, even that’s irrelevant. RDI is a state-funded network capable of mass circulation]

            ”habituellement 20 0000 téléspectateurs regardent RDI” … vous prenez bien le soin de citer hors-contexte mon Davey, car voici ce que l’article ci-haut indique : “‘habituellement 20 0000 téléspectateurs regardent RDI ** de 22h30 à minuit** ” votre intention, claire, c’est de DEFORMER. Au fait, c’est quoi votre propos, que les médias (dont vous faites partie?) recusent l’esprit partisan? ou alors, qu les gauchistes comme vous ne trichent pas? Raconte…

Sign in to comment.