It's something new vs. anybody but

François legault's popularity is based on the fact that he doesn't carry the baggage of Pauline Marois or Jean Charest

[e-mail this page to a friend]

The Gazette, Wednesday, November 9, 2011

In 1979, 63 per cent of Quebecers in the 18-to-34 age demographic supported sovereignty. Of course, that was in the run-up to the 1980 referendum, when separatism was cool. It was also before cable news, cellphones and the Internet, the driving forces of globalization.

In the fall of 2011, according to a Léger poll for the Association of Canadian Studies that was published in The Gazette, only 32 per cent of Quebecers in the 18-to-24 cohort support sovereignty, while only 34 per cent in the 25-to-34 demo are in favour of it.

Wait; it gets better - or worse, depending on your political perspective. Only 30 per cent in the 35-to-44 demographic and 33 per cent in the 45-to-54 cohort support sovereignty.

Overall, it takes the older true believers, at 38 and 37 per cent in the 55-to-64 and the 65-plus age groups respectively, to pull support for sovereignty up to 34 per cent overall. And those people are dying off.

These days, the Occupy movement is cool. Sovereignty sucks.

These are not, as Lucien Bouchard once famously put it, winning conditions.

But then, Pauline Marois is not Lucien Bouchard. And neither is Gilles Duceppe, who, in failing to rule out a run for the non-available leadership of the Parti Québécois, is simply showing how out of touch he is with the new political reality of Quebec.

Defeated political leaders are supposed to have the decency to disappear, write their memoirs, and manage their legacies.

Clearly Duceppe still doesn't understand what hit him in the federal election on May 2, when the Bloc Québécois lost 44 of its 48 seats in the House of Commons and he was defeated in his own riding of Laurier-Sainte-Marie by 5,000 votes.

If he's really buying into the results of another Léger poll, showing that he would lead the PQ to a majority government if he replaced Marois as PQ leader, then he believes the nonsensical analysis that Quebecers think they owe him one.

Nobody believes anyone is owed the premiership of Quebec as a get-well card.

That Quebecers don't like Marois, and are mad at Jean Charest, explains why François Legault, Mr. None of the Above, is leading the polls as the head of the Coalition pour l'avenir du Québec. Or CAQ.

This is a very inconvenient brand name, somehow reminiscent of the Canadian Reform Alliance Party, or CRAP, as federal conservatives once threatened to call themselves during merger talks on the right.

Other than branding his party as "the future," (and no one can be against that), Legault hasn't done anything yet.

He doesn't have a platform. He doesn't have any candidates. He's just not Charest or Marois.

It's cute, but it's not coherent. And it won't stand up to scrutiny in an election campaign, much less in a leaders' debate.

We are very much in an ABC/ABM phase: Anyone But Charest and Anyone But Marois.

But if they're the only two on offer from the old-line parties, at least they have name recognition and trademark value going for them. Come to that, even Action démocratique du Québec, if not merged with CAQ, has its own brand value in the Quebec City region.

In all of this, there is a certain yearning for change. And this is the message the separatists missed in the federal campaign last spring.

Here are the numbers to remember. When Duceppe spoke to the PQ policy convention on April 17, the Bloc was at 38 per cent in the Nanos daily tracking poll.

Perhaps thinking he was speaking only to the room and the converted, he spoke of a strong Bloc deputation in Ottawa, and the "PQ in power in Quebec," leading to winning conditions where "everything becomes possible again." In other words, to quote the 1995 Yes slogan, another referendum. The last thing Quebecers wanted.

The following weekend, on Easter Saturday, Jack Layton drew nearly 2,000 people to a rally in Duceppe's riding, at a time when Quebecers were discussing the issue around the family table. Coverage of Layton's meeting was the dominant frame of the holiday weekend.

Just for good measure, in the final week of the campaign Duceppe brought out Jacques Parizeau, Mr. Bad Memories of 1995, as his third-party endorsement. That didn't work out very well. The Bloc finished at 23 per cent in Quebec on election day, and with only four seats lost its standing as a recognized party in the House. Without staff and time in Question Period, it has all but disappeared and has registered support as low as nine per cent in Quebec in a Nanos Research poll. And the PQ has taken a huge collateral hit. Like the Bloc, it suddenly got old.

While Layton is no longer here, the Orange effect is still very much with us. It's not just about change. It's about something new.

  © Copyright 2006-2012 L. Ian MacDonald. All Rights Reserved. Site managed by Jeremy Leonard