What happens now to the sovereignist vote?

What happens now to the sovereignist vote?

Martin Patriquin on the fallout in the wake of Pauline Marois

Philippe Couillard

Philippe Couillard on election night.

The suspense lasted all of a cab ride.  The last nasty month, spurred by the electoralist instincts of the Parti Québécois, came to an ignoble end in less time than it took me to go from the Radio-Canada studios to the Westin Hotel. The PQ ballroom was a morgue’s anteroom, where the dearly beloved gathered to mourn the rapidly expiring fortunes of their party on the big screens around the room. Then, after a frankly distasteful bit of chest-bumping by would-be PQ leaders Bernard Drainville, Jean-François Lisée and Pierre Karl Péladeau, Pauline Marois eloquently stated the obvious: she was resigning. “I love all Quebecers,” she said. Exit stage left.

Colleague Wells nudges at the definitive number: 25.39. After an all-in, scorched-earth campaign in which the Parti Québécois tried its populist best to appeal to the baser fears of the Quebec electorate, the party mustered less than 26 per cent of the vote. Both the party and the province in general will now have to live down the damage wrought by the so-called Quebec values charter—and, sadly, the chord it struck with a not-insignificant percentage of the population. “The damage is done,” lifelong sovereignist Jean Dorion told me recently. “Muslims read the same polls as you and me.”

There will be plenty of time for a post-mortem—kindly read Thursday’s edition of Maclean’s for my attempt at as much. But my immediate thought is what happens to the sovereignist vote in the coming years. Does the PQ give into political expediency and remove, or at least change, the provision in its article one of its program? Does sovereignty, already a mushy word compared to the more muscular indépendance, get an asterisk beside it? Does Québec solidaire, with its decidedly Kumbaya approach to sovereignty, become the vessel of choice for leftists disaffected by the arrival of Pierre Karl Péladeau to the PQ ranks?

And finally, who leads this decimated party? Because the knives are already out. Drainville, Lisée and Péladeau prefixed Marois’s farewell speech with what amounted to stump speeches. This pack of restless egos all come with their own baggage: Péladeau is a capitalist bogeyman who derailed the whole campaign by declaring his sovereignist credentials. Drainville designed and executed the whole charter gambit, then thoroughly bellyflopped. Lisée went along with both, because he thought Péladeau and the charter was the one-two punch that, to paraphrase the title of his own book, would deliver a K.O. to the opposition.

I thought of another leadership contender tonight, someone with a history of bipartisanship, and who projects the kind of humility sadly lacking in the pack of wolves who stood around Marois tonight. In the maw of brutal partisanship that is the National Assembly, she (nearly) passed Quebec’s right-to-die bill with all-party support. I have a feeling, despite her declarations to the contrary, that she has serious doubt about the charter. Her name is Véronique Hivon, and she would be a welcome balm to many PQ wounds in the next four long years.

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