Electoral Coup de Coeur

Françoise DavidThis week’s election campaign led to four televised debates, and if there were any surprises, few stood out quite as much as the performance Québec Solidaire’s co-spokesperson Françoise David delivered during the first debate, the only one in which she participated.

Everybody knows, including David and her co-spokesperson, Amar Khadir, that Québec Solidaire has no chance of forming the next government. However, with her performance, David may have ensured that the joke of calling QS “Québec Solitaire” due to having only member in the National Assembly could be naught in the next assembly.

Choosing David over Khadir to participate in the debate was a coup for QS. Although David is no less hard-line in her lefty and sovereignist positions than Khadir, she is far less acerbic and moralistic than he is. She held her own during the debate against the other three seasoned politicians, and was even commended by none other than incumbent Liberal premier Jean Charest.

Granted, she had nothing to lose and everything to gain, not to mention that she never held a seat in the Assembly which spared her from attacks from the other three. “L’effet David” in the debate may be that, this time, she received the exposure she needed in her own riding of Gouin to unseat the sitting Parti Québécois (PQ) MNA.

I don’t know if QS has a real chance in other ridings in Montréal’s east end aside from Mercier which is currently held by Khadir, but I certainly don’t expect that QS will make any significant headway in my own riding of Outremont, which has always been Liberal since its creation in 1966. If there is a challenge in my riding, it will likely come from François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), although that depends if the students, of which there are many in this riding, do indeed come out to vote AND choose to vote in this riding rather than their home riding.

Indeed, despite having Québec-wide aspirations, QS’s appeal is concentrated on the Island of Montréal and maybe Gatineau across the river from Ottawa. In fact, there are undeniably trends among the regions of Québec. The Québec City area, for instance, tends to lean more on the conservative side, the Island of Montréal on the progressive side, and everywhere else …well, it’s all over the map ranging from centre to centre-right (à la Québécoise, which now tends to be more like the rest of Canada’s centre). What will be interesting to watch on election day is how the CAQ will attract disappointed Liberals in the “450,” which is the telephone area code surrounding the Island of Montréal. Much of it surprisingly turned to the ADQ in 2007, although it reverted to its usual Liberal/PQ mix in the election held the next year.

I mentioned in my previous post about this election that, despite my reservations with Khadir and QS, I might vote for QS given that I’m in a hopelessly Liberal riding so it won’t make much difference in the end. However, David’s performance during the debate will bring me not to pinch my nose quite as hard when I do vote QS on September 4. I always knew that I would end up voting for a sovereignist party because all Québec parties on the left are sovereignist, but this will be my first time actually doing so …for indeed, I did manage to get on the voters’ list last Monday night. Maybe a PQ minority government with QS holding the real balance of power wouldn’t be such a bad thing as long as sterile talk of sovereignty doesn’t hijack the political discourse.

I say “sterile” because that’s the only point on which I agree with François Legault’s CAQ: there’s no appetite for it right now. However, this campaign has brought me to think a lot about something that isn’t on the radar, namely an “in-between” solution that I’ll timidly call autonomy. I have no idea how that would work or how it should be set up. All I can think of is that the Netherlands has actual autonomous countries within its own country, but then those are small and distant Caribeean islands while Québec has a population of 8 million…