Well, how apropos: The NDP will use Mario Dumont as the host of its leadership debate Sunday in Montreal.
Dumont is a congenial figure of the slightly-righter-than-centre-right, a genuinely likeable guy — I covered him only very occasionally during his long political career, and my readers were never his key vote base, but he always had a kind word when I showed up in the press pack — and one of the most recognizable personalities in Quebec. He runs a talk show now that’s a mix of politics and lighter fare. He’ll run a debate well.
He is also an excellent incarnation of the danger facing the NDP in Quebec. In the 2007 election, Dumont’s fourth as leader, his tiny Action Démocratique du Québec party increased its caucus tenfold to 41 seats, reducing Jean Charest’s Liberals to a minority and pushing the Parti Québécois to third place. It was a historic breakthrough.
In the 2008 election the ADQ was cut to seven seats. Dumont resigned in disgrace. His party lost a by-election in his own riding, and a few weeks ago, five years after the greatest electoral triumph the party ever knew, it was legally dissolved and combined with another party, the CAQ.
So really, all Dumont needs to do on Sunday is ask one question: How do you plan to avoid the NDP winding up the way the ADQ did?