In this episode of Another World, Quebec’s never-ending political soap opera, the Parti Québécois takes a long hard look in the mirror and is transfixed by its own reflection.
La Famille Péquiste gathers for a postelection potluck with all the usual fixings: backbiting, recrimination and score-settling, topped off by a heaping serving of wishful thinking. Jean-François accuses rival cousin Bernard of playing fast and loose with the truth, which puts a damper on dinner. The newest family member, Pierre Karl, plots in silence while the others break plates.
Even more undisciplined since matriarch Pauline flew the coop, those jockeying to take her place talk up strategies for resuscitating the teetering family business. They’re travel agents in an Expedia world. But all seem to believe there’s still a market for their product. They mull over Uncle Jacques’s advice – more aggressive sales tactics, cold calls – and many agree it has merit.
In the end, they all pose for a family photo, insisting that the bitterness and back-stabbing are over.
Interim leader Stéphane Bédard says this week’s PQ retreat in Scott, Que., was “full of serenity, clarity, openness and unity … There are no [rival] clans.”
Regular viewers know the truth. Serenity is just not this family’s thing. They’ve always been high-drama types and aren’t about to change now.
As soon as the ballots were counted in the April 7 election, when Pauline Marois’s PQ got a near-record low of 25 per cent of the vote, family members began attributing blame. Everyone agreed that the unofficial slogan – We’re not saying we’ll hold a referendum, but we’re not saying we won’t hold one, either – was a bit wordy. But they’re divided on which part of it needs to be scrapped.
Jacques Parizeau, one of the last original characters, would shorten the slogan to something like: Sovereignty Now. After all, he says, support for the PQ trails support for sovereignty by almost half. Hence, he reasons, the family business needs to burnish its separatist bona fides to fully capture its potential market.
“The country to build will be different than the one we aspired to 20 or 30 years ago, and the path to get there probably won’t be the same either,” Uncle Jacques wrote in a open letter this month.
Jean-François Lisée, the know-it-all cousin (every family has one), warned against that idea, hinting that the former patriarch may still favour the nuclear option – a unilateral declaration of independence. (Since he lost his cabinet post in the April 7 rout, Jean-François is spending more time on his first loves: blogging and stirring things up.)
For Uncle Jacques, “the referendum route was never more than a last resort for realizing independence. He would have preferred the parliamentary route or … a referendum on a [Quebec] constitution,” Jean-François wrote.
Jean-François never buries a relative without also praising them. (“My respect for [Mr. Parizeau] is total,” he wrote.) He also heaped praise on ex-minister Bernard Drainville’s handling of the failed Charter of Quebec Values, before adding that he pushed back in caucus against its blanket ban on the wearing of religious symbols by provincial employees.
Cousin Bernard is Jean-François’s rival to lead the family business. He is also in deep trouble. It turns out that the legal opinion he insisted he possessed, confirming the Charter’s constitutionality, doesn’t exist. He consulted government lawyers on “parts” of the Charter, but not the whole bill. When the Liberal minister now running the Justice Department released this news, Jean-François pounced.
“The most important principle in all this is to always tell the truth to Quebeckers and not be ambiguous in the truth one tells,” Jean-François told Le Devoir.
You can imagine how that went over at last week’s family dinner.
Meanwhile, like the family that embraced him, Pierre Karl Péladeau may be having second thoughts. They have nothing in common. PKP is used to giving orders; Péquistes are notoriously bad at following them. Besides, the distant cousin brought in to save the business has so far only deepened its losses.
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