When the Quebec election got underway and it looked like a Parti Québecois majority was very possible some pundits argued such a result would be good for the federal Liberals and their leader Justin Trudeau.
It would allow the son of Pierre Elliott Trudeau to play the role of an unabashed Captain Canada, much as his father did almost 25 years ago.
Now that the Quebec Liberals and their leader Philippe Couillard have won a majority, don’t be surprised if those same pundits describe that result, too, as good news for Trudeau and his federal party.
The two Liberal parties, they will say, may not be fraternal twins, but they are kissing cousins. Quebec Premier-elect Philippe Couillard’s success, they will argue, will rub off on his federal cousins.
For whatever that logic is worth, Trudeau was the first of the federal parties out of the gate with a statement on Couillard’s victory. It won’t come as surprise that the federal Liberal leader chose to celebrate his Quebec cousins’ win as a victory for policies focused on — you guessed it — the “middle class.”
“Liberals in Quebec and across the country are focused on jobs, the economy and growing the middle class,” Trudeau said, “It is clear that Quebecers share this view.”
As for Prime Minister Harper — one cannot be sure whether he is breathing a sigh of relief that the national unity issue is off the table, for now and maybe for a long time, or whether those who believe he secretly wants Quebec to leave the federation are right. That Machiavellian theory has it that Harper would be glad to be rid of Quebec because that would make it easier for his party to win elections in what remained of Canada.
Let’s give the Prime Minister some credit, and assume that he — being at least somewhat sane and rational — knows that another national unity crisis is something this country needs like a bad case of gastroenteritis.
Harper should be at least moderately content with Couillard’s majority victory. One has to assume he is relieved he won’t have to deal with an unpredictable, sabre-rattling, sovereigntist Quebec government in the run-up to the next federal election.
The federal party with the most at stake in the Quebec election, however, is the one that now has the lion’s share of federal seats from that province, the NDP.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair is, as almost everyone knows, a former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister, and he chose to highlight that fact in his missive on Couillard’s majority victory, issued just a few moments after Trudeau’s.
“The NDP has taken note of the people’s desire to end the old quarrels,” Mulcair’s note began, and then continued: “The new Premier can count on us to promote Quebec’s interests in Ottawa, as part of our effort to build a more just and prosperous Canada for all. Having sat alongside Mr. Couillard in cabinet, I can attest to his competence and his commitment to Quebec and its institutions.”
Whatever the Quebec election results portend for the next federal election, one can be sure that the NDP is breathing a huge sigh of relief that Couillard is the winner.
Having a federalist, majority government in Quebec City means that not only will there not be another referendum any time soon, but that the NDP’s controversial (if eminently defensible) position on a “clear question and a clear majority” is now of merely hypothetical interest.
As we have said in this space on other occasions, the other federal parties’ attacks on Mulcair and his troops for being “ready to allow the break-up of Canada on the basis of one vote” have been unfair and demagogic.
Unfortunately, in the rough and tumble world of politics simplistic demagogy often works better than reason, facts or logic.
Mulcair and his colleagues are no doubt very pleased that the Quebec election result — so unexpected even as recently as a month ago — will pretty much take that demagogic weapon out of the hands of their opponents.