It will be difficult to temper the passions of the hardliners, whose ranks have swelled with the arrival of star recruits such as former journalists Pierre Duchesne and Jean-François Lisée. “That’s the only reason Lisée (adviser to PQ premiers Jacques Parizeau and Lucien Bouchard) came back to politics,” notes one well-connected Péquiste.
Even Ms. Marois admits this: “I won’t stop people who want to have a referendum,” she said during her one-on-one debate with the CAQ’s Mr. Legault. “It almost goes without saying,” she says from her bus, before adding that the National Assembly will have the final word.
In what circumstances would she go against the will of 850,000 Quebeckers? “Only for a question of national interest,” she says, offering no more explanation.
One thing is certain: The federalist forces are weak in Quebec – and can’t count on Mr. Legault, a former separatist. He now says he will vote against Quebec’s independence. In his debate with Ms. Marois he stated: “I will neither promote sovereignty, nor defend Canadian unity.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper will have a hard time seducing Quebeckers with his social and environmental policies (on young offenders, the gun registry and fast-tracked environmental-impact studies), which clash with their beliefs. Opposition leader Thomas Mulcair is in a better position, and is toying with the idea of launching a provincial New Democratic Party.
The federal Liberal Party is still under reconstruction. Denis Coderre, one of its more visible leaders, is eying Montreal’s city hall. And the possible leadership of Justin Trudeau may galvanize sovereigntists who recall their rivalry with his father.
Ms. Marois is well aware of the vacuum. “What Quebeckers are seeing in Ottawa might bring them to think about it,” she says of independence. “But then, we still have to convince them.”
And given Quebeckers’ referendum fatigue, that will be no easy feat.