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Explaining the orange tide in Quebec

May 5th, 2011 · andrea

By Chris Alcantara

The NDP surge in Quebec was the key storyline of this election campaign, culminating in an unprecedented number of seats captured by the NDP on Monday.

Surprisingly, nobody has been able to provide a convincing explanation for why the NDP was so successful in Quebec this time around.

Many commentators seem to think that the performance of Jack Layton was key, pointing specifically to his positive demeanour, his appealing command of the French language, his love for the Montreal Canadiens, and the sympathy he received due to his health problems.

Others suggest that Quebecers finally realized that their views were in fact consistent with the social democratic values of the NDP.

Finally, others argue that the rise of the NDP had more to do with the campaigning failures of the Conservative, Liberal, Bloc Québécois, and Green parties of Canada.

All of these factors may collectively be true, but I think a different explanation is more convincing.

First, I think it’s accurate to say that much of the blame for the NDP’s surprising gains in Quebec should be placed at the feet of Gilles Duceppe and the Bloc Québécois.

But not for the reasons that are normally given.

Instead, the backlash toward the BQ had more to do with its changing role and status in Parliament.

In previous Parliaments, the other federal parties saw the BQ as a potential ally to pass or defeat legislation and even as a partner in a coalition government.

But these images of the BQ as ally and coalition partner are no longer politically acceptable in Canada.

Indeed, all of the major federal parties in this campaign went out of their way to accuse each other of cooperating with the BQ in the past to form some sort of coalition government.

The implication was that cooperating with the BQ was not what a federal political party should be doing.

As a result of these accusations, the main federal political parties can no longer cooperate with the BQ anytime in the near future, which means the ability of the BQ to represent the interests of Quebec in Ottawa are severely hindered.

Quebecers realized that this new reality existed and voted for the only party in Ottawa that was willing to address Quebec’s demands and had the power to turn them into policy.

Second, the surging support for the NDP in Quebec makes sense for another reason.

If Quebecers toss out Jean Charest and elect a PQ government in the upcoming provincial election, it makes even more sense that Quebecers voted for the only federal party that had expressed a willingness to reopen constitutional negotiations to restructure the Canadian federation.

As a result, history was made when Quebec went orange on Monday.

(Published in the Toronto Star on May 5, 2011.)

Christopher Alcantara is an assistant professor in the department of political science at Wilfrid Laurier University. His latest book, Negotiating the Deal: Comprehensive Land Claims Agreements in Canada, is forthcoming from University of Toronto Press.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 John Halonen // May 16, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    There may be some truth to what you indicate, however maybe individuals in Quebec were a little bit more aware that the Conservatives really care less about Canadian citizens and would rather concentrate on satisfying big business and the elite. As for the Liberals they thought like the rest of Canada.

  • 2 James Wolfe // May 16, 2011 at 11:13 am

    Its pretty simple really. Quebec did not vote for the Conservatives and do not deserve to be over-represented in cabinet. Only 6 seats from Kebec, don’t forget that Harper. We outside kebec gave you the majority, not Quebec!!!

    We can only hope that finally Quebec will be put in its place. You are just a province like Newfoundland, Alberta, Ontario…no different, nothing special other than the fact that you have spent the last 5 decades wiping out the English language and culture from the province with racist, anti-English language laws such as bill 22, 178, 101…This is a fact. Racism, intolerance, bigotry, ethnic language cleansing and human rights violations still going on in the province of Quebec.

    I love the fact that you can have a majority without Quebec. You do not need to pander to Quebec any longer. Enough is enough. This province can not be satisfied period. They are a drain on the country, socially and fiscally. No more pandering to this province period. We are watching.

    Majority rules ??? I guess we will see. Here is my wish list to fixing this country. Now let’s get to work repealing decades of bad expensive laws forced upon the country by tax and spend, scum bag, socialist, anti-English language, anti-BNA, bigoted, Quebecers. Repeal the charter, end forced phony expensive metis/french bilingualism, multiculturalism, lower/change immigration, eliminate equalization, ad the 30 new seats in Parliament (Ontario, Alberta, BC), reduce Kebecs seats, elected senate/or abolish – fixed terms (8 years max), fixed terms for MPs as well (8 year max), lower/reduce gold plated MP pensions, end subsidies to parties, lower all taxes, eliminate (not reduce) debt, reduce the size of government/RCMP…eliminate departments, public servant salary cap… Tell unions to rot in hell or Kebec. This would be nice start.

    Get to work Harper; you have a majority, do something with it or else…you will lose money, and our votes, I guarantee it.