Commentary with Geoff deGannes
Quebec Premier Pauline Marois had hoped her controversial Charter of Values would be the cornerstone of her campaign for a majority government as voters in that province head to the polls in a crucial provincial election April 7. However, in the back of the minds of many Quebecers was another issue â€“ the so-called elephant in the room. Would Madame Marois pull out the sovereignty card if she managed to get her majority and take Quebecers into yet another referendum? She downplayed that possible scenario until her star candidate, powerful Quebec media baron Pierre Marc Peladeau was introduced at the start of the campaign.
You might recall his passionate appeal for independence from Canada with fist raised in the presence of his leader and how that single gesture turned the PQ campaign strategy on its head.
At a subsequent news conference when he was asked about a possible referendum, Paledeau was shoved away from the microphone by Premier Marois. That one image seen on newscasts around the country spoke volumes about just where the PQ election campaign was headed.
The governing party in now in damage control and when Marois does find herself thrown off topic with questions about another referendum, she attempts to soft peddle its impact, if in fact it ever happens.
To her way of thinking, nothing much would change. There would be no borders, no tolls and Quebecers would continue to use the Canadian currency and passports and would operate much like the European union. As if a sovereign Quebec could have it both ways and could set its own terms. As one editorialist recently quipped, Ms. Marois is obviously dreaming in technocolour.
Unlike the 80s or 90s, the independence issue in Quebec is just not very appealing to the majority of Quebecers today. More than two-thirds of those polled are against independence. The shift toward discussion of sovereignty has certainly bolstered the fortunes of Philippe Coulliard and his Liberal Party.
Coulliardâ€™s constant message that a referendum will happen if the PQ is re-elected with a majority is now resonating with voters. In recent days one poll shows of the 1,650 respondents, 45 per cent said they intended to vote for the provincial Liberals compared to just 32 per cent for Pauline Maroisâ€™ PQ. The Coalition Avenir QuÃ©bec was in a distant third place with 13 per cent of the potential voters and the left-wing sovereigntist part QuÃ©bec Solidaire garnered 7 per cent support.
An election campaign can seem like an eternity, but if the current numbers hold, it appears Quebecers arenâ€™t prepared to give the PQ their desired mandate come April 7 and that would be good news for not just Quebec, but Canada as a whole.
Geoff deGannes is the past chairman of the Tantramar Radio Society. His daily commentaries can be heard on 107.9 CFTA.