Quebec's CAQ: New kids on the block?

Posted 10.15.18

SHAWVILLE, QC | With the groaning following Quebec's October 1st election dying down, where's the thoughtful consideration of what just happened and why it did? Post-election analysis is an integral part of the election process -- if only to help us understand what voters really heard and wanted.

Yes, there are many who don't vote at all, or who vote the old standard, as though voting's a sporting event and we favour our teams. Maybe they're right, but this seems a cynical approach -- as if everything is going to continue automatically.

More interesting is to ask what we are facing, with an untested political party in power, not even calling itself a party but a coalition working toward common goals. We have an untested premier, Mr. Legault, although he is a genuine veteran, having served several cabinet posts. He's also a hard-nosed realist, I assume, because a) he has survived this long, b) he's put together a coalition in a divided province, and c) he has business smarts, as the founder of Air Transat. Those things might work against us, the voters, but, given the platform his coalition has proposed, he seems less an ideologue than a pragmatist. Contrary, say, to Mr. Harper.

Harper is an apt comparison, since the CAQ is called a conservative party, even racist and "populist." If the CAQ is conservative, few American conservatives would identify with it. Yes, the CAQ played the anti-bureaucracy card -- as did Ford in Ontario -- but this is Quebec, where the civil service and bureaucratic thinking do need trimming.

The question of school boards falls here, and the CAQ's pledge to do away with them is presented as an anti-bureaucratic measure. Anglophones are touchy on this subject, as we value our constitutional right to our own school system, but this is no threat to that -- yet -- nor is it clear that local school boards ever did protect that right.

Local school administration is one thing, but the elected commissioners always seemed limited to housekeeping matters, not the weighty issues of curriculum content or language of instruction -- these are Quebec City's. Just as municipal consolidation offers efficiencies, consolidated school "centres" might be efficient, especially under a bureaucracy-hostile government.

In social issues, Legault is more liberal than many Liberals. It is not flippant to rank the Liberal Party of Quebec as a conservative party -- like the BC Liberals. The CAQ is closer to Quebec's traditional concern for health care, education, child care and early education, and, especially for this government, with seniors, their care and quality of life. Little "austerity" here.

The CAQ's new Gatineau MNA, ex-mayor Bussières, has said that dismantling the Liberals' concentration of decision-making in the cities, especially Gatineau, is his first order of business. Returning management to Pontiac's high-quality health care will be welcomed all around -- including local management of the CLSC network -- and is not the direction Doug Ford, Jason Kenney, or other Conservatives would take. Add this to Legault's promise to shrink the civil service through retirement and attrition -- why complain here about budget-cutting conservatives?

Astoundingly, Legault insists he will honour his promise to end first-past-the-post elections. The Liberals folded on this, and the Conservatives were never interested. We are to get voting-reform proposals in the first year.

Legault also says he supports cap and trade carbon tax plans -- meaning he takes climate change seriously, contrary to most Conservative governments. Here he'll be an ally of the besieged Trudeau -- against Conservatives.

The immigrant question is more complex than usually presented, but CAQ is not Trump-calling immigrants rapists and thieves, nor the Hungarians and Poles refusing all Muslims. CAQ also faces a pumped-up QS which would make racist measures costly.

This is not to suggest that Pontiac voters voted unwisely. Mr. Fortin did lose a big percentage of his past majority, which ought to give pause for thought. Did he communicate well? And here's a test for the Liberal party: will they pressure Dr. Coullliard to pay for the by-election his petulant resignation has caused. Why should you and I be billed $500,000-plus because their leader has left the building?


Copyright © 2018 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/10.15.18