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Québec is a key battleground for the Liberals. In April 2014, the provincial Liberals swept the PQ out of office after only 18 months and they continue to do well in byelections. But, like in many provinces, support for the provincial party doesn't necessarily translate to the federal party, and the 2011 Orange Wave doesn't seem like a one-off occurrence. For Trudeau, Mulcair is the one to beat in Québec.
During the questions, Trudeau reminded reporters of Mulcair's promise to balance the budget. But what he said in French was different than what he said in English.
"I wonder how Quebecers will react when they realize that Mulcair is promising cuts and austerity," Trudeau said in French. Then, to respond to a different question, in English he repeated his message box: "Mr. Mulcair is promising the same approach as Mr. Harper... he's going to have to make cuts."
See the difference?
Fighting austerity is mainstream in Québec. The broad left, from unions to social movement organizations, is engaged in an intense campaign to confront the government's austerity agenda.
Nearly every sector in Québec that receives government funding has been touched by cuts. When Trudeau uses the word "austerity" he knows that he's tapping into a collective, popular sentiment that opposes austerity.
In English, the word doesn't nearly hold as much weight. It's used by organizations and people who are fighting cuts to public services, but it's much less popularized.
Will Trudeau's rhetorical use of the word "austerity" work?
It might, but it's a gamble. It's not hard to see that the Liberal Party of Québec, the party of austerity, isn't too far from their federal cousins. And, to say that Mulcair wants to usher in an age of austerity and hope it drives supporters to the Liberals, requires people to hate on a party that has been as effective as possible as opposition to a majority government.
The Liberals are the old party of federalism while the NDP has allowed sovereigntists and federalists alike to unite to take down Harper while sidestepping questions of sovereignty. And, with Mulcair, centre-right Québecers get their Québec Liberal, centre-left Québecers get a party that's willing to defend social programs and nearly all Québecers will have the chance to get rid of Harper. Trying to link austerity to Mulcair is an interesting political strategy that might, though probably wont, pay off.
Regardless of the words chosen, Trudeau's assertion isn't rooted in fact. None of the parties have released fully costed platforms so it's not true to say that Mulcair will bring in austerity. He might, but the Liberals might too.
Photo: flickr/ Canada 2020
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