Is anyone else starting to notice a familiar aura settling around Quebec politics?
It seems that ever since the late '60s, Quebec's political and cultural concerns have been among the great dilemmas for that province and the country. In the beginning it was frightening and at times riveting, but lately it just seems to be stuck in the same gear.
Amidst a sea of intense national media scrutiny, on Monday night the people of Quebec once again opted for the services of the Parti-Quebecois. Yet despite the presence of two new and high profile leaders, this election's result did not differ greatly from the province's last election.
The PQ, once a feared and dreaded party, have become a group which most people have gotten used to. While sovereignty might be an underlying and founding principle of the PQ, most have realized their victory is no longer directly equated with doom for a united Canada.
The party's charismatic leader, Lucien Bouchard, is well aware of this. While his party managed to pull off an expected victory, it was certainly not as convincing as the party had hoped for. The Liberals, fronted by Canada's federalist savior Jean Charest, managed to actually squeak ahead of the PQ in the popular vote. At this point, Bouchard couldn't think of calling a referendum, as he lacks the support needed for a victory.
This election, much like other provincial elections across the country, came down to some captivating politicians arguing the merits of their policies on budget balancing, health care and possible tax cuts. On average, the people of Quebec voted for the party which they felt would best represent the needs of the province. The PQ have proven themselves capable of doing this in the past and clearly Quebecers hope they will continue to improve on this.
By no means, however, should this victory be taken lightly. Despite what many in other parts of the country will choose to believe, Quebec has been quite patient in dealing with Canada's inability to provide them with an acceptable constitutional offer. If the country hopes to allow this union to continue, Canada must step back into the constitutional ring with Quebec. This issue will not go away.
While issues of economic concern currently weigh a little heavier on the minds of most Quebecers, the continual election of sovereigntist governments in the province is still an area of serious concern. While a referendum may not currently be at hand, Bouchard will be more than ready to pounce on the opportunity if he senses the time is right. Canada must continue to work with the PQ and Quebec, in order to reach some sort of resolution.
The issue may lie dormant for now, but like any sleeping animal, it can reawaken when you least expect it.