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Quebec Premier Francois Legault speaks at a news conference prior to Question Period, Oct. 17, at the legislature in Quebec City.Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

If you’re in the business world, you’re probably familiar with the project management technique known as Six Sigma.

Developed in the 1980s, it uses statistical tools to improve business processes. According to the Council for Six Sigma Certification, the technique “helps reduce defects and improve profits. … The goal is to do away with inconsistency, waste, and defects that challenge customer loyalty.”

Let’s meet its equivalent in the world of politics and government. Its full name is PPPPPP: Public Policy Perverted by Performative Political Posturing. You can call it Six P for short.

Six P involves boosting a government’s political fortunes by identifying an unpopular opponent, formulating a strategy for targeting that opponent and then coming up with a policy to bash them. Its success is measured by a statistical methodology known as PinP: Performance in Polls.

Those who gain the highest level of mastery of the management performance method earn the designation “Six Sigma Black Belt.” Those who master the political performance method get a Six P Black Belt.

Two provincials governments have recently demonstrated excellence in putting Six P into action.

First up, Premier Danielle Smith of Alberta. She wants to pull out of the Canada Pension Plan, replacing it with an Alberta pension plan.

Why? Because Ms. Smith has a political need to be seen fighting against Ottawa. The fact that the government in Ottawa is Liberal makes the need, and the benefits, all the greater for Alberta’s United Conservative Party leader.

By the rules that created the CPP nearly 60 years ago, such a transformation is technically possible. Quebec has had its own pension plan, closely related to the CPP and following almost exactly the practices, since the beginning.

But anyone with even passing familiarity with Six P knows what’s really going on here. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week sent the Alberta Premier a letter earlier arguing strongly against the move – which is exactly what Ms. Smith wanted.

Trevor Tombe: Alberta’s pension plan idea is full of holes

Being seen to be arguing with Ottawa, about anything, helps Ms. Smith shore up her right flank, and wards off the danger of the UCP and its voters splintering back into the two parties. If all goes well, this fight will go on for years.

However, a large share of the Alberta electorate isn’t much interested in performative fights with Ottawa and does not reflexively buy into the idea that something good for Canada must be bad for Alberta, or vice versa. As such, the long-term PinP of Ms. Smith’s Six P pension manoeuvre is still uncertain.

But in Quebec, the government of Premier François Legault has shown, once again, why it deserves the highest level of Six P accreditation.

On Oct. 2, Mr. Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec lost a by-election in the riding of Jean-Talon. The CAQ holds a comfortable majority in the National Assembly and won’t face a general election until the fall of 2026, but the defeat nevertheless sowed panic in the governing party.

That’s because the by-election was won by the Parti Québécois. A lot of CAQ voters used to be PQ voters, and if the PQ makes even a small a comeback, the CAQ is in big trouble.

Like a man shocked awake by a clanging alarm clock, Mr. Legault reached for a Six P solution. He fumbled for the first thing at hand.

He announced that he would consider restarting the so-called third link project under the St. Lawrence River at Quebec City. The thin plan for a commuter tunnel, costing at least $10-billion, had long been promoted by the government, which saw it as a suburban vote-getter and symbol of pro-car politics.

Earlier this year, faced with growing opposition and high costs, Mr. Legault had abruptly cancelled the project – but now, he was musing about reversing the reversal.

This was Six P, just not good Six P. The third link has as many opponents as supporters and could wreck the province’s finances.

A few days later, the government hit on a better idea: Undergraduate tuition for out-of-province students at Quebec’s three English language universities would be doubled, going from the Canadian average to roughly twice that amount.

On social media, the Premier described it as “a gesture to reduce the decline of the French language.” That was the Six P message track.

Konrad Yakabuski: François Legault’s shakedown of McGill and Concordia will not save cash-starved francophone universities

Jean-Francois Roberge, Minister of the French Language, explained that the presence in Montreal of English-speaking students from the rest of Canada is one of “the reasons for the decline of the French language in Quebec, as “it’s obvious that this can have an anglicizing effect on the metropolis.”

All of which is expert-level Six P. First, you identify a political problem – losing nationalist voters to the PQ. Next, you identify politically-unpopular targets – the English language, English universities, the rest of Canada. Then, you craft a policy placing you in performative opposition to them.

It does not have to be beneficial to voters, nor does it even have to do much in the real world. It’s about the outcome of the political performance with the public, not the actual performance of the public policy.

For example, Montreal welcomes more than 11 million tourists a year – including millions from the rest of Canada, and more than two million from the United States. They vastly outnumber out-of-province students at McGill and Concordia. But there’s no plan to limit English-speaking tourism. Obviously not.

The genius of Mr. Legault’s Six P move is that it has outflanked the PQ on one side, while simultaneously forcing the Quebec Liberal Party – the other party whose demise is essential to CAQ survival – to take the other side of the issue.

It’s a political win-win-win. It’s Black Belt Six P.

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