One For The Record Books

Something for everyone — even the Liberals — in the unforgettable election of 2011

OK, I think I get it now. Quebec is having a little fun at our expense.

For instance, did you hear the one about Ruth Ellen Brosseau, the assistant manager of a university pub in Ottawa?

She hardly speaks a word of French, and she ran as an NDP candidate in a central Quebec riding of Berthier-Maskinong that is 98-per-cent francophone. Her campaign consisted of taking a week off in Las Vegas. She wasn’t in the riding on election day.

She won by 6,000 votes. Good one, Quebec!

Then there were the three McGill University students (one of whom doesn’t own a cell phone, perhaps the only university student in the country without one) who agreed to allow their names to stand as NDP candidates in far-flung Quebec ridings. How nice of them. Now, the poor things will have to abandon their studies for their $157,731 a year jobs. The joke’s on us!

Anywhere else in Canada, a candidate that doesn’t a) live in your riding, b) speak your language, and c) doesn’t campaign, would have no chance of winning. But not in Quebec, where politics is apparently seen as some weird Radio Canada reality show. Talk about two solitudes.

Yes, it was that kind of election. The weirdest, most groundbreaking, most flat out shocking in my memory.

How weird was it? Well, Stephen Harper has won a majority government for the first time in four tries — and that’s not even the biggest story!

Harper’s majority was, if not entirely foreseen, at least a very real possibility. The size of it was a shocker. The bigger stories, at least in the post-election ‘what the hell happened’, hangover-like haze, was the rise of the NDP, the collapse of the Liberals, and the utter obliteration of the Bloc Quebecois, now just a lamentable footnote in Canadian history. Good riddance, or, as the French say, bon débarras!

Much is being made of the NDP’s rise to official Opposition status. Starry-eyed New Democrats no doubt went to bed last night with visions of marching to Ottawa and changing the system. Ah, the idealism of the ignorant.

The fact is, it doesn’t really matter who finishes second in a majority situation. The Opposition in a majority government is simply honorary, although worth a lot of money. The NDP will have no impact at all on the Harper government. Layton will be able to bluster all he likes and Harper will be able to just stare across the aisle with those cold, dead eyes of his, and ignore every word. While the NDP is no doubt excited about its new role, the simple fact is that when they had 37 seats they had power. Now that they have 104 seats, they have no power. Ironic, huh?

For the NDP, a real challenge awaits. First, Layton is going to have dozens of MPs who have never in their lives owned a suit or tie. Layton’s kindergarten caucus will, at least at first, be laughable. I speak from experience when I say that the learning curve in office is straight vertical. Worst, Layton made outrageous promises to Quebec to reopen the whole constitutional can of worms, and Quebec will expect him to deliver since they delivered themselves to the NDP. Ain’t gonna happen, mes amis. Quebec has traded being marginalized in the federal system by a separatist party for being marginalized in the federal system with a federalist party, just the way Albertans were always on the outs by voting Conservative when the Liberals had majorities.

As for the Liberals, they were administered an electoral colonic by voters.

Their leader not just repudiated across the country, but in his own riding. The public went all scorched earth on the Liberals, even defeating potential leadership candidates like Ken Dryden, Gerard Kennedy and Martha Hall Findlay to ensure the cleansing was complete. Justin Trudeau is the last man standing.

Funny thing (although I don’t hear Liberals laughing) is that the result isn’t entirely bad for the Grits.

The party has been at sea for years. Since the sponsorship scandal destroyed the party in its traditional base in Quebec, the Liberals have lost all focus. As Michael Ignatieff said in his extraordinarily gracious and articulate concession speech (where was that guy in the campaign?) the party can now stake out its claim in the centre, which is going to be more wide open than it has ever been in Canada. And it can take its time; four or five years to stay out of the shadows and rebuild from the ground up.

But forget about the collapse of the Liberals, the rise of the NDP, the obliteration of the Bloc. The real story, almost forgotten, is that Canadians have given Stephen Harper — a cold, calculating political animal, with all the warmth of an anaconda — carte blanche to do whatever he likes with Canada.

And that scares the living crap out of me. Enjoy your new country, Canada. You asked for it.


Comments: 1

pwopwo wrote:

The former French Canadian Maurice Tougas rides again and try to gain credibility by attacking Québec with all the condescending of an English supremacist. It is hard for you to tolerate that, Canada is not USA with a queen.

«Quebec is having a little fun at our expense» What !.. not their expense but YOUR expense !? Funny to see how much information you wrote about Québec ... you ... who knows nothing about it neither that there are Franco-Albertans who try to survive here.

You made joke about Radio-Canada ! What do you know about it ?... you who just watch american television.

This magazine is suppose to be tolerant, open minded. How come you don't work for the Sun ?

on May 9th, 2011 at 12:26am Report Abuse

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