Monday, March 26, 2007

Counting Ballots is Hard: The 2007 Quebec Provincial Election

It was being reported for hours by all available media outlets that Quebec Premier Jean Charest had lost his seat in Sherbrooke; the ramifications of this vis a vis the outcome of the election would have been both earthshaking and hilarious, and I was eager to fire up some good ol'-fashioned schadenfreude for this post. Turns out -- whoops! The story being put forward now is that the election officials somehow completely forgot to include the advance votes, almost all of which went to Charest, and go figure ha ha he actually won the riding. Lucky him! He gets to keep his position after all.

For now, that is. After tonight's election, the Liberals in Quebec have been reduced to a minority government -- and when I say reduced, I mean reduced. In 2003, the Liberals won 76 of the 125 seats; that number dropped by almost thirty (!) this year. Jean Charest just barely kept his riding, so he's still the Premier -- chances are high that he wouldn't be, had he lost -- but after a showing that comparatively dismal, especially after he had expected a majority victory, the ice he's skating on seems even thinner than usual for him. Even after the Federal Budget gave him free tax cut promises to hand out, he and his party still got hammered.

I don't think I can properly express just how unpopular Jean Charest can be in Quebec, but I'll give it a shot: damn that guy's unpopular sometimes. Wow. I almost feel bad for the guy sometimes. (This usually passes quickly.)

Meanwhile, Parti Quebecois leader Andre Boisclair also won his seat -- and he's actually more likely to lose his leadership position. The Parti Quebecois has a long and storied history of fragging its lieutenants, if you will, and most of the leaders they turfed were doing better than Boisclair is doing. Separatism isn't dead (it never is; Rasputin was easier to kill), it's just... er... sleeping. Sleeping really, really deeply.

The ADQ is the big story, and obviously so; up 37 (!!) seats from last election, Mario Dumont's hastily assembled peanut gallery of ragtag amateurs is now the official opposition in Quebec. Prior to this election, they'd never even held enough seats for official party status. They've never held more than five seats, their nominally conservative platform actually involves a staggering whackload of social spending ('conservative' is a deceptive term in Canadian politics), and their logo looks like they stole it from some airline -- but they're the official opposition, now, and damned if that doesn't shake everything up in Quebec. The PQ has been shunted down to third place, for the first time in 34 years; I don't know about you, but I'm totally willing to take conservatives (such as they are) over separatists. And Quebec voters are, too, apparently!

So what does all of this mean for us in Manitoba? Very little, except to say that Ottawa is going to ignore us as usual. I mean, let's not be naive, here. As for what it means for Canada -- it means everybody can ignore the separatist question for a while, which is nice, and it means Stephen Harper may or may not call a federal election as soon as possible, which we already knew anyway.

The news fallout will be fun (expect the words 'protest vote' to run free and plentiful through the media fields), especially given the vast potential for ensuing nastiness in the coming weeks, so keep an eye open. Things are different in Quebec, now. But not as different as things would have been if Charest had actually lost. (Man, that would have been funny. Ah, well.)

Canadian politics! Whee!

No comments: