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Bob Rae (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Bob Rae

(Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

BOB RAE

This is Philippe Couillard’s moment – but don’t pretend it will be easy Add to ...

“Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.” Many thousand would-be parents will be insisting they foresaw the result all along, or were always confident in the victory for Philippe Couillard and his Liberal Party.

Let me be the first to say I didn’t see it coming when the election was called, and only saw a window of opportunity with the coronation of Crown Prince Pierre Karl. That Pauline Marois would run such an arrogant, inept campaign could hardly have been guessed. The lobster-trap strategy exploded in her face, but it might be a good idea, in the name of honesty, at least to have a look at some of the commentary that first week of the campaign, and just how wrong it was.

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Wiser souls know that defeat and victory are both impostors. Those who want to rub the PQ’s nose in the dirt and proclaim the end of sovereignty forever are just as wrong as those who thought Philippe Couillard a hopeless politician who would lead the Liberal Party to oblivion.

The Liberal win is Mr. Couillards first and foremost – and more power to him. But governing Quebec at this moment will not be easy, and he will have his work cut out for him. We no longer live in a time of political honeymoons, and more than one crisis – the economy, public finances, the Charbonneau Commission – will quickly be on his desk. Let him enjoy these first few days. It won’t get any better than this.

He also needs to put the constitutional genie back in the bottle, if only because by raising hopes of some other “deal” to be had, he is embarking on a quixotic journey. True, the constitutional door is never closed. But given that Quebec is not alone in its demands, that many other provinces have referendum legislation, and the fact that most members of the public cringe at the simple mention of the word “constitution,” this is not a time to be raising any expectations. Quebec has much autonomy, it has its distinctiveness, and the federation is decentralized. To spend much valuable effort trying to formalize this once again is simply unwise.

What of the Parti Québécois? Is sovereignty “dead?” Would that it were so, but it’s not that easy. There will always be a body of opinion in Quebec that wants an independent country, and it will not disappear. Pierre Karl Péladeau didn’t run to become second in command, and he will try to fashion a party around himself. The old social democratic nationalist left will be unhappy, and will gather around Québec Solidaire. But Quebec politics will never be dull, and it would be a foolish to believe that the dream of independence is completely dead. It’s been given a good whack, because of an incompetent campaign and a visibly dishonest strategy, but it has shown resilience before and it will again.

So there’s no rest, for the virtuous or for the wicked. Ms. Marois told those of us who took an interest in the Quebec election to “mind our own business.” Canada is our business, Madame, and do not ask us to be indifferent to the fate of our country. Vive le Canada.

Bob Rae is a former member of Parliament and former premier of Ontario.

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