The Parti Québécois’s continuing flame-out over leadership and sovereignty is an opportunity not to be missed. So roll out the welcome mat for any new political party that can attract both sovereigntist and federalist votes while shelving any talk of independence. But if it aspires to change politics in Quebec, the Coalition pour l’avenir du Québec first needs to put forward a more serious platform.
The Coalition’s leader, the popular former PQ minister François Legault, was essentially correct in his diagnosis of the main problem in Quebec politics: “For more than 40 years the context has forced us to define ourselves first and foremost as either sovereigntist or federalist.”
If Mr. Legault can overturn those entrenched positions, it would be a major achievement for Quebec, and for Canada. The party is still in its infancy and therefore can’t be expected to be ready to govern yet – but its platform needs work.
A lot of its simple promises don’t add up. Mr. Legault is right to promote an Alberta Heritage Fund-style vehicle to save natural-resource revenues. But it’s hard to imagine him doing that, while raising teacher salaries by 20 per cent, spending more on universities, ensuring that every Quebecker has a family doctor – and balancing the budget. At the same time, Mr. Legault backed away from more private-sector delivery in health care – a natural opportunity for cost savings.
And on language and culture, the Coalition’s platform flirts with radical PQ positions. The Coalition wants to flatline immigration targets “in order to allow time for the integration policies to be redeployed,” and to go further in “applying” the French language Charter – despite the growing strength of French in Quebec.
Parties cannot win in Quebec only by putting sovereignty on the backburner, as the ADQ, the Liberals and even the Parti Québécois have learned. And a party needs a broad base of supporters and activists to be viable. There is a hunger for change in Quebec, but the party best able to deliver change has yet to emerge.