Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Legault raises the notwithstanding clause

This may sow some sober second thoughts during the last week of this Quebec campaign: "Quebec party mulls notwithstanding clause to retain MDs." One of CAQ leader Francois Legault's major promises in the election campaign is to ensure that all Quebecers have a family doctor within a year of the election. That's a sweeping promise that many are having trouble believing and may have driven him to say this in an editorial meeting with Le Devoir:
"I won't rule out, if necessary, using the notwithstanding clause to be able to keep more doctors who are studying at McGill," Legault told the Montreal-based daily. "It doesn't make sense that from McGill, after five years, half the doctors have left Quebec."
He raised the possibility of having medical graduates who opt to leave the province being required to repay the amount of money it has cost Quebec taxpayers to educate them in Quebec. The figures cited are about $160,000 plus to educate a doctor. Legault also spoke to the Montreal Gazette editorial board today and maintained the use of the notwithstanding clause as an option to deal with the problem, but seemed to tone it down a bit:"“Honestly, that would be a last option,” Legault said."

Nevertheless, you have to think this will give some voters pause this week.

That's very controversial terrain he is on and he likely knows it. Thus the subtle walk back. Invoking the notwithstanding clause to restrain anyone's mobility rights has got to raise a feeling of uneasiness about Legault's leadership instincts and choices he is prepared to make. To send such a signal about restraining people's livelihood decisions in this way is particularly intrusive in its message.

The notwithstanding clause is not a casual option. It's rarely been used and there is history and sensitivity in Quebec over its usage. More sensitivity in the anglophone community, for sure. But great awareness in the population as well over its historical use by the PQ. So it may resonate.

There is a common sense appeal Legault has made in this election. He's the practical guy, the post-politics guy. He's different from the rest of them. But this doesn't have that ring to it. He's the same old PQ pol is what this type of solution suggests. He may have undercut his campaign themes.

By singling out McGill in particular in connection with this issue, he's likely succeeded in perking up the anglophone community's attention once again during this final last week. It can't help with their votes.

I find it hard to predict how this crazy campaign will go. The rhetoric has been so heated. But this, I think, cannot help him with a last push.