If the PQ disappeared, would Quebecers care?

2012 - Crise au PQ - leadership

By all appearances, Bernard Drainville was verging on emotional meltdown in a session with Le Devoir’s editorial board last week when he delivered the money line that the paper subsequently trumpeted on its front page: “The PQ could disappear!”
The high-profile Parti Québécois MNA was described as being “visibly moved and troubled” by the party’s current state of disintegration. The accompanying photo was telling of his mood, showing him with eyes closed and hands held together as if in fervent prayer.
Tempting as it might be to think “If only” at the suggestion of the PQ’s imminent disappearance, that would be fantasizing. But the prospect envisaged by Drainville when he was in a more collected frame of mind, that the PQ could be reduced to a rump in the National Assembly by the next election – sort of like what happened to the Bloc Québécois at the federal level last spring – is not beyond possibility in light of the party’s current dysfunctional state.
Floating the idea that the PQ might disappear is, these days, less of a wake-up call (which presumably is how Drainville intended it, trying to be helpful) than he might have imagined. Polls suggest that an increasing number – verging on a clear majority – of Quebecers are coming around to the idea that this would be no great loss.
If anything, Drainville’s comment ratcheted up the internal tensions that are tearing apart the party.
Subsequent developments this week suggest that Pauline Marois’s leadership of the PQ is nearing a tipping point, though she is putting up feisty resistance for the time being, at least.
There was the frontal attack from the leader of an influential faction within the PQ, who brutally equated Marois’s situation with that of someone falling off the roof of a skyscraper while assuring people on the way down not to worry, everything’s fine. Meanwhile, behind her back was the stiletto hint by Gilles Duceppe that the party has the option of dumping her and in that case he’ll be taking calls.
It might be true that Marois is a millstone for the PQ. For some time polls have shown it running third in voter esteem, behind the newly minted but as-yet-untried François Legault-CAQ concoction, and even the tried but widely found wanting Charest Liberals. Marois is persistently ranked a distant last among the three major contenders on the best-for-premier scale, and her personal support lags glaringly behind the party’s.
But public-opinion readings also show that Marois is not the biggest drag on the PQ’s popular support. A recent Léger sounding found that more than one-third of respondents were primarily put off by all the talk of pushing for separation by fomenting constitutional squabbles and talking of holding another referendum. Another quarter cited the party’s persistent internal squabbling as reason to write it off. It might be of comfort to Marois, however cold, that concerns about her leadership come in third on this count, too.
Even if Marois is dumped, or if she comes to the rational conclusion in the days to come that she can do without this grief and steps down, the PQ will find itself a hard sell in the election that could come this year, perhaps sooner rather than later.
It would stand as a party that in schizoid frenzy turned on its leader less than a year after according her a historic vote of confidence. A party rent by factionalism and defections, when its imperative was to present itself as a credible alternative government. A party whose prime concern is pushing sovereignty, something most Quebecers not only don’t want but are tired of listening to babble about. A party in such a desperate flailing state that an alliance with the crackpot-left Québec solidaire is being seriously considered. A party contemplating the notion of giving the vote to children of 16.
This clunking political contraption would probably be led by Duceppe. A poll some weeks ago suggested his investiture would vault the PQ to the top of the polls. But keep in mind that this is the same Gilles Duceppe whose party was routed to near-oblivion in the federal election last spring, who was hammered in his own riding, and who was the biggest political loser in the province last year.
It is the same Duceppe who has zero experience in governance beyond running his own party with a tight fist, a tendency that would be bound to sow yet more dissension in the freewheeling Péquiste ranks.
In light of this and much more, it’s tempting to think that in just disappearing, the PQ would be doing itself, along with the rest of us, a blessed favour.

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