The End of the Parti Québécois
René Lévesque did not want the political party he founded to be called the Parti Québécois. His choice was the much less emotionally charged and very descriptive Parti Souveraineté-Association and it is apparently very reluctantly that he accepted the choice of the party members. He did not want his party to be the party of a people. He wanted it to be the party of a people’s project.
The essence of this project and what made it a model from Scotland to Catalonia was that you could create a country for a historical and cultural community while protecting a strictly legal atheistic deaf-dumb and blind definition of citizenship.
It seems we have lost this notion of citizenship. Mario Dumont’s action Démocratique du Québec became the official opposition by correctly identifying a real discomfort in the francophone population and positioning himself as the defender of Québec’s “identity” and “values”.
Because of its very narrow victory many forget that the Liberal party narrowly escaped annihilation at the last election. Its francophone supporters were massively jumping over to Mario’s ship. In the end, only the Anglophone minority’s stubborn refusal to participate in democracy and their soviet-style support of the party with the most red on its logo allowed the Liberals to win the most seats in the election with less than 20% of the francophone vote.
After the election Liberal Jean Charest formed a cabinet with only one self-described member of the Anglophone community even though half of the votes that elected him were from the Anglos and other minorities. The Liberals new priority was to shed its image of Parti des Anglais and position themselves as defenders of Québec’s “identity” and “values”.
During the last election campaign, only André Boisclair chose to stand above this very real dividing of votes along ethnic lines. René Lévesque latest successor, Pauline Marois, has decided to turn her back on this principled heritage of her party’s past and decided that the party’s future was to become another party defending Québec’s ‘identity’ and ‘values’.
All three parties are no waiting for the Bouchard-Taylor Commission to tell them exactly what are these values they are defending.
If they had not panicked, the Parti Québécois could have realized that they actually had an ideal position in the current political climate. First of all, they had and irreproachable record when it came to the protection of Québec’s rights.
Second, while the Liberal’s and Mario would have been arguing about who was the “real” spokesperson of the Québécois, the PQ could’ve turned to voters and said: “Listen, we won’t try to tell you who you are or what your values are. We will give you the tools for these values, whatever they may be, need to not only survive, but thrive. We will give you an independent country.”
By removing from her party’s program any obligation to actually do anything about independence, like holding a referendum, Pauline Marois has relieved sovereignists of their “duty” to vote for the PQ. Just like the Liberals could count on the rock solid base of Montreal’s Anglophone community to deliver 15 to 20 ridings even in the worst of times, The PQ had its own hardcore base of indépendantiste who would have supported them through the darkest hour. These voters will now feel free to vote for any party that they feel can best defend Québec’s ‘interests’. And I don’t think many of them feel that is Pauline Marois’ Parti Québécois.
In an era of identity politics and cultural polarization, it seems the only thing the Parti Québécois has got going for it is it’s name. René Lévesque would not be proud.