Monday, January 23, 2012

All the action is in Quebec

If you're like me these days, when you see a story involving the Bloc, you might yawn a little bit and gloss over it. Is it more infighting in the sovereignty movement, things not moving fast enough, yadda yadda. But this one from the weekend could make waves: "Fonds publics: Gilles Duceppe dans l'embarras." (Translation) La Presse ran a blockbuster of a story, pardon the pun, which could prove serious.

Apparently party personnel were paid, over many years, with parliamentary funds that were not to be used for partisan purposes. The sum involved is said to be about $1,000,000. If the Bloc (or Duceppe) has to repay that sum, it's not going to be that easy. There is legal advice being sought at the internal Commons committee that governs these issues. It should also be noted that Duceppe states that everything was done properly, on advice.

Nevertheless, Duceppe has been forced to back away from any intention of moving in on the PQ leadership of Pauline Marois, something he had just stepped up in recent weeks. So what incredible timing that La Presse story on Saturday had. Can you say intrigue with a capital i?

What does this mean in Quebec? The Bloc might be in more trouble than they already are, financially. They take a real credibility hit due to the severity of these allegations. They always seem to have made a strong moral appeal to their cause and that is punctured. Further, there seems to be a rift in the party. Daniel Paille fired the Duceppe holdover staff at issue on becoming leader in early December and the La Presse report became public a month later at a very well timed moment.

This is more fuel for the anti-politician mood in Quebec. In the wake of the Charest difficulties, it will likely add to public cynicism.

Pauline Marois is probably left to solidify her PQ leadership now, but given how weakened she's become, her principal rival Duceppe exiting in this manner might not make a difference to her fortunes. Charest might benefit if the PQ continue to reel, particularly if it truly becomes a two way race toward a 2013 election now. The ADQ has just folded itself into the CAQ, showing that the forces of change are still on the move in the province, manifesting themselves in the form of the CAQ.

Federally in Quebec, we see these continued troubles for the Bloc, we saw the floor crosser from the NDP. Then, this week, we see the Conservatives doing a bit of a circular firing squad thing where a Conservative organizer decried the lack of attention by the party in the province and noted "...there is an opportunity for the Liberals to retake a fair bit of ground in the province,particularly if the party goes through with the democratic renewal measures under consideration at its convention." Well, Liberals have taken some of those steps, i.e., the supporters resolution and possibly with a few policy measures that will be of interest to Quebecers (marijuana legalization, preferential balloting).

So many moving pieces! Lots going on in that province, no easy answers or conclusions. Situation: fluid.