This is a special edition of a series of opinion columns written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN.
Two things are absolutely crystal clear about the Quebec election, even to an outsider like myself.
First: We have a premier, and a party, with a crushing majority of political power, who are absolutely fixated on creating and maintaining an unequal society.
Second: Everyone outside the premier’s group are too busy spluttering about the unfairness of it all to actually do something about the situation.
As I write this on election night, the various losers are crying on social media about how it would’ve been a different story if we had a different voting system. Sure. And if frogs had wings, they wouldn’t hit their behinds on the ground when they hopped.
I was raised on tales of bold federalist warriors who routed individuals like François Legault on the regular without worrying about whose feelings they hurt. They did what was necessary to keep illiberal forces at bay.
Now the province has an undistinguished collection of slightly-less offensive alternatives parties (many of whom can’t make it through an election without their own candidates uttering similarly dreckish slurs) who concern themselves with finding marginal differences in tone and policy between the CAQ party and themselves.
Now, all we can sum up is a collective shudder when rumours are spread about another referendum call, as was the case some months back when the Jean Charest camp went back to that old well during the federal Conservative leadership race.
Because, you see, the top political minds in this country haven’t moved on from the separatist-federalist battles of yore, battles they could win and imagine they could win again. Even if Quebec itself has moved on to taking all the benefits of being de jure within the federation while de facto acting as an autonomous Quebeckistan.
Premier Doug Ford calls Legault his friend. And why shouldn’t he? The two preems have in common the fact that they were easily re-elected due to their rivals playing it safe. COVID deaths? Institutional failures? Labour shortages? Somehow, the opposition parties thought power would fall into their own laps without making serious hay about any of the above.
Ford and the other premiers will be more than happy to promote their respective home territories as attractive destinations for any minorities, Jews or otherwise, who wish to pack up their belongings and flee. Wait a few months and it’ll be safe to call out Quebec once again. To call for more meaningless denunciations, to obsess over the language used and whether it went too far or not far enough, to theatrically insist that there is no place in Canada for this sort of thing and that this isn’t “who we are.”
And there’s nothing we as Canadians love to do more than pretend that this is an aberration, and that voters would support serious, balanced, thoughtful, considered, moderate politicians if only they could just get that darn messaging on track.
But if anyone has gotten their message on track, it’s François Legault. The message is that there’s a hierarchy of life in this province, and that hierarchy benefits me and mine first, and if your feelings are hurt by that, too bad!
He has finally realized that the frantic hurrying to call this and that statement offside is nothing more than a hollow, empty ritual. As we read on Yom Kippur, it’s only a day for us to humble ourselves, to bow our heads like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes. Surely, this is the fast that we Canadians desire!
Don’t worry though. As ever, this is all for show. Legault is just doing this to keep a hold on his voters. In 20 years the centrists will be in charge of Quebec once again, we’ll all look back on this period and be grateful that we emerged from it with our humanity intact. And so long as Legault keeps apologizing for any hurt feelings, nobody is going to get seriously hurt or anything.
Josh Lieblein can be reached at [email protected] for your response to Doorstep Postings.