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1 posts from août 2011


Un mauvais été pour le Parti québécois

Le texte ci-dessous a été publié par le Toronto Star dans son édition du vendredi, 19 août. En bref, les choses ne vont pas très bien pour le Parti québécois et pour le mouvement souverainiste au Québec, même si les conditions de base sur lesquelles repose l'appui à la souveraineté sont dans l'ensemble assez favorables. Que se passe-t-il? Je propose ici une petite partie de l'explication.
Sovereignty and its discontent
The sea is calm, the wind is favourable, the destination is distant but attainable. Yet no one seems to be holding the wheel and some crew members are jumping off the ship, apparently determined to sink it. Welcome aboard the Parti Québécois, flagship of the sovereignty movement.
Last May, despite the Bloc Québécois’ devastating defeat, the sovereignty movement still had many strengths. More Quebecers than ever self-identify primarily with Quebec, which should make them more receptive to sovereignist arguments, and every week Stephen Harper’s Conservative government finds ways to widen the gap between its self-proclaimed “Canadian values,” including its recent push to revive monarchism, and mainstream Quebec values.
Normally, this confluence of forces would help sovereignists rebuild on stronger foundations, but strong ideas or ideals are not enough. To achieve their vision, sovereignists also need to win at the real-world game of politics.
Like many other idealistic political movements, the Quebec sovereignty movement suffers from a chronic incapacity to find the proper balance between idealism and realism; conviction and pragmatism; rationality and emotion.
The PQ was successful in the past when its leaders and militants acknowledged that the average Quebecer is receptive but ambivalent toward independence. They knew that strategies or tactics designed to please their most loyal supporters would never allow them to win the moderate voters needed to push them toward a recount-proof majority.
For Quebecers who see themselves as a distinct society or nation, sovereignty is the obvious way to achieve autonomy and recognition, but some remain willing to give federalism another chance — which was why many sovereignists voted for the NDP last May.
Like Canadians, however, Quebecers also want peace, order and good government, and realists within the PQ have always known that the only way they could demonstrate that a sovereign Quebec could be well governed was by showing that sovereignists could govern well.
In all mass movements for change, true believers provide vital energy, but they often are viscerally incapable of understanding the hesitations of those they wish to rally to their cause. This is why many rock-solid independentists always distrusted the professional politicians who stepped forward in their name to run a “mere province” or to fill seats in a “foreign” parliament.
Some of the sovereignists who have been jumping off the PQ ship in recent days appear to live in a parallel universe where the merits of sovereignty are so obvious that they cannot conceive of any reason why a political party should tailor its strategy around the ambivalence of average voters — as most parties with any intention of winning elections typically do.
To win, political leaders need to connect both with their core militants and with the elusive average voter. That’s what made the Parizeau-Bouchard tandem so effective in 1995. The radical Jacques Parizeau appealed to idealists, but he also was a consummate rationalist who looked like a pragmatist without losing sight of his convictions. Lucien Bouchard, who embodied the ambivalence of Quebecers, appealed effectively to their emotions and, as the good lawyer he is, projected a sense of conviction while defending his cause.
That was a rare and ephemeral combination. Parizeau now serves as a constant reminder of how the radical wing of the sovereignty movement has lost any trace of pragmatic political realism, while Bouchard’s obstinate silence on the national question is a reminder of how difficult it will be to re-engage the average Quebecer emotionally in support of sovereignty.
The PQ’s recent strategy of “sovereignist governance,” which was grudgingly accepted by militants, was an attempt to redefine a path through these apparent contradictions. As an attempt to find a politically realistic way to move toward independence it was no worse than the alternatives, but few radicals recognized their own views in this mixed strategy.
Militants gave a tentative nod to Pauline Marois in April, hoping she would lead with enough conviction to keep the ship firmly on course to their objective and not meander in the muddy waters of compromise and pandering for easy electoral gains.
Things snapped when Marois unilaterally backed a dubious resolution to suspend the rules in granting construction contracts for a new Quebec City hockey arena. Instead of using this issue to showcase her resolve in defending her party’s demands for tighter rules for public construction, she pandered in order to gain the votes of a few Nordiques fans.
Marois lost a chance to demonstrate leadership and that was enough to convince many of her reluctant supporters that she doesn’t have what it takes to lead the sovereignty movement to its goal fast enough. But those militants in a hurry probably have only managed to push their long-sought destination even further into the future.
Pierre Martin is a professor of political science at the Université de Montréal.