14 February 2015

Chris Selley: The PQ’s limitless capacity for self-delusion


But these voices of reason have some fairly major blind spots. Mr. Drainville seems to have a handle on one obvious reason the PQ botched the campaign. But when it comes to another highly divisive issue that very few Quebecers prioritize — the PQ’s secularism or “values” charter — he doesn’t seem to have learned anything. His recently unveiled Charter 2.0 is predicated on the (correct, baffling) notion that while Quebecers say they don’t want civil servants wearing religious garb, they also don’t want such civil servants to lose their jobs if they won’t desist. Some politicians would see that for what it is, a no-win situation, and back away slowly. Mr. Drainville instead proposes a grandfather clause: Hijab-wearing teachers would be left alone, but hijab-wearing daughters they might have would be barred from the civil service. Is he quite sure that’s controversy-proof?
The values charter is more popular than sovereignty, at least. A SOM poll conducted last month found 59% of Quebecers think they need one. But that’s what they said a year ago, too, and it didn’t help the PQ one little bit, for the simple reason that almost all of those people care about the economy, jobs, health care, education and government corruption vastly more. Mr. Lisée, meanwhile, who dropped out of the race last month citing the inevitability of Mr. Péladeau’s win, claimed in his book that he wouldn’t even have voted for the Charter he so passionately defended. It was too harsh, he declared, not at all in a timely fashion.
To be fair, 2018 is a long way away. Just because Mr. Péladeau says he’s all about sovereignty now doesn’t mean the PQ couldn’t mount a reasonably compelling campaign under his leadership that doesn’t rest on issues that Quebecers consider irrelevant. For example, if the Liberals keep their nerve on their current economic policies, the PQ could theoretically compete with an anti-austerity message. A notoriously anti-union strike-breaking billionaire plutocrat like Mr. Péladeau would be a very odd choice to lead said campaign. But it makes a lot more sense than sovereignty-and-values approach the party thus far seems determined — doomed — to repeat.

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