Is Premier François Legault trying to outpace the PQ with his nationalistic proclamations?
Regardless of where the shifting political layout may go heading towards next year’s Quebec provincial election, Sainte-Rose MNA Christopher Skeete says he isn’t a bit worried about the Parti Québécois or the Liberals nipping at the heels of the CAQ.
Leastways, not with the Coalition Avenir Québec still riding high on the cresting wave of its popularity.
CAQ’s ongoing popularity
Although the Quebec Liberals are the official opposition, they remain buried in a deep valley of unpopularity among Quebec’s voters. The PLQ currently holds just 27 seats, compared to the governing CAQ’s 74 in the 125-seat National Assembly.
And while Québec Solidaire has made great strides in its 15-year history to achieve an all-time high 10-seat standing, they are still regarded in many people’s minds as not much more than a peripheral party that answers mostly to the needs of the province’s marginal classes.
In the meantime, the Parti Québécois, which last formed a government in 2012 – and a minority one at that – currently has just seven seats in the provincial parliament.
CAQ’s ‘economic nationalism’
Although the CAQ has largely succeeded in winning the hearts of a majority of French-speaking Quebecers through its own distinctive brand of Quebec “economic” nationalism, Skeete – the lone Anglophone in the CAQ government – distinguishes between his party’s nationalistic spin, and the sovereignty-centered approach favoured by the Parti Québécois.
Still, as political trends in recent years in the province have demonstrated (the election of the CAQ four years ago being a case in point), the political wind in Quebec can be unpredictable. So, the idea of the Parti Québécois surging back into an influential position, while riding an even greater surge of Quebec nationalism, can not be ruled out.
Bill 22 and surging nationalism
Another case in point. In 1976, two years after Robert Bourassa’s Liberals passed Bill 22 – Quebec’s first comprehensive language law, responding to a rising tide of nationalism among Francophone Quebecers – the Liberal government, although expecting a relatively easy win, was defeated by the Parti Québécois, largely, analysts later concluded, because Bill 22 didn’t go far enough as far as the French-speaking majority was concerned.
‘We need to replace maybe the PQ, but not become the PQ,’ Skeete says, comparing the CAQ with the sovereignist party
Today, looking back, it would almost seem that the CAQ government and its leader, Premier François Legault, are playing a similar game: Trying to keep pace or trying to outpace the latter-day Parti Québécois with his increasingly nationalistic proclamations that fall just short of the PQ’s sovereignist rhetoric. None of this worries Skeete a bit, though.
Comparing CAQ and PLQ
“We’ve shown that it’s possible to be a proud nationalist government and be strong in the economy,” he said in an interview with the Laval News at his Vieux Sainte-Rose office.
“As for the PQ, the only thing that’s left for the PQ then is sovereignty. And, well, that’s been tried and people said no. Twice. So, can the PQ really make a gain? Possibly. I think there will always be separatists in Quebec.”
However, Skeete dismisses the comparison between today’s political landscape and the scenario involving the Liberals and the PQ back in the mid-1970s. “I get the comparison, but history will tell us who’s right,” he said. “But for me, though, that argument underestimates where we are today versus where we were then.
Replacing the PQ, not becoming
“We’ve already tried the PQ. We’ve already tried the sovereignist movement in Quebec, and Quebecers have said no. My take is Quebecers have said, you know, we want a strong Quebec, but we don’t want to leave Canada. What they’re looking for is a way of being and assuring another 400 years of French in North America without leaving.
“And I think that’s the strength that the CAQ brings,” he added. “Which is why I think the PQ is off-base because I think they go too far. So, sure we feel pressure in the sense that we need to give Quebecers that comfort that the language and the culture will continue. But to say that the PQ is what we’re looking at I think is simplistic. We need to replace maybe the PQ, but not become the PQ.”