On March 5th, Quebec’s Premier called a provincial election to take place April 7th. Pauline Marois, leader of the Parti Québécois, and her advisors were making a calculated move to convert the minority government to a majority in the Quebec National Assembly. But their campaign is stumbling. WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley reports what happens in Quebec has implications for northern New York.
The Parti Quebecois is facing a strong challenge from the Liberal and two minor parties.
SUNY Plattsburgh Director for the Center for the Study of Canada and the Institute on Quebec Studies Dr. Christopher Kirkey says the PQ led during the initial phase of the campaign. “They began the election with a focus on promoting their economic record and promoting the Quebec Charter of Values and trying to advance and promote the centrality of the French language in Quebec.”
But Kirkey says not long after the campaign started, Marois introduced a star candidate for the Parti Quebecois, Pierre Karl Peladeau, a noted capitalist and centrist, and the campaign stumbled. “He immediately announced that he was running because he wanted to make Quebec a country. It was time for a country. So the Liberal party in particular, and to some degree the two other parties, smaller parties, everyone started to focus on this issue. And it’s clearly, the numbers suggest, has hurt the Parti Quebecois. Most recent public opinion polls show that if an election were to be held today the Liberals would not only win the election, but the Liberals under Philippe Couillard may even win a small majority. That remains to be seen of course because anything can happen over the course of the next two weeks.”
Over the last few days, Kirkey describes a campaign of political desperation as the Parti Quebecois questioned students’ eligibility to vote in the province. Liberal candidate Philippe Couillard plans to release his financial information, while Pauline Marois refuses. And meetings with top operatives within the Parti Quebecois have led to questions over possible financial irregularities. “The real test remains for the Parti Quebecois to once again manage to frame the issues in a way that they seem to be on top of things. They’re reacting as opposed to leading the pack right now.”
South of the Canadian border, New York and the U.S. are major trading partners with Quebec. SUNY Plattsburgh Department of Economics and Finance Chair Colin Read says Quebec’s governments have changed before, and trade will continue whatever happens in April. “We’ve actually gone through this in a couple of other previous votes. One that was quite close. I think the local communities are just really having a wait and see attitude right now and not getting particularly alarmed. Especially as the fortunes seem to be shifting a little bit in that upcoming election in early April. Certainly we want to make sure that Quebec recognizes that one of their major trading partners is New York State. But there’s also the realization that no matter which way that vote will go, it probably wouldn’t change the desire of Quebecers to trade with New York State.
The second and final leaders debate is scheduled for Thursday evening.