Federal elections: Quebec’s interest

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The shortcomings attributed to minority governments are well known: instability, incessant parliamentary quarrels, painful bargaining with opposition parties, etc. It is easy to understand Justin Trudeau to want to regain a majority in the House of Commons, but the question is to know where the interest of Quebec lies.

Historically, the presence of a minority government in Ottawa, Liberal or Conservative, has had advantages clearly greater than its disadvantages, while a majority government, especially Liberal, has systematically placed Quebec on the defensive.

Admittedly, not all of them showed the same openness as the minority governments led by Lester B. Pearson in the 1960s, when Ottawa had authorized Quebec to create its own pension plan, had allowed the creation of the Caisse de deposit and had transferred many tax points to him. On the international scene, Quebec was granted unprecedented latitude despite the annoyance that this caused many in the federal capital.

If the concept of “cooperative federalism” already made sense, it was during this period. The creation of the Laurendeau-Dunton commission could even give hope that it would be embodied in a constitution respectful of the two “founding peoples”. Elected at the head of a majority government, Trudeau Sr. quickly put an end to what appeared to him to be a dangerous drift.

It is true that the minority government of Stephen Harper has not kept the promises it made in the speech to the Quebec Chamber of Commerce in December 2005, when it promised a new era in federal-provincial relations. , the regulation of the “spending power” of Ottawa, the elimination of the fiscal imbalance and the adoption of a “charter of open federalism”. Even Jacques Parizeau had been impressed.

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All the same, he had the House of Commons vote a motion recognizing Quebec as a nation “within Canada” and granted it a statutory seat on the Canadian delegation to UNESCO. At the request of Jean Charest, worried about his own re-election, he had also increased the equalization by 700 million.

When he managed to get a majority elected in the Commons, the tone changed dramatically. Frictions with the Charest government have increased. We even had to go to court to prevent Mr. Harper from destroying the Quebec gun registry data.

Over the past two years, Justin Trudeau has certainly not taken Canadian federalism down the path of decentralization, far from it, but he has nonetheless made some efforts to make it less hateful. The reception he gave to Bill 96 on the French language surprised many and the $ 6 billion that Quebec will receive as compensation for the creation of a pan-Canadian network of daycare centers will be welcome.

Everyone understood that this kindness had deep electoral motivations, but we will not prevent a politician from playing politics. The idea is not to punish Mr. Trudeau, but to ensure that these good provisions do not disappear once he has regained a parliamentary majority.

As was the case in 2019 with Andrew Scheer, the even often evasive positions of Erin O’Toole correspond better to the autonomist claims of François Legault. Mr. O’Toole himself may be a bit more frequentable than his predecessor, but his party still and more and more resembles a Jurassic Park which can only frighten a majority of Quebecers, who would misunderstand their Prime Minister shows him some support.

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Moreover, it is not the Conservatives who can prevent the Liberal Party from increasing its membership in Quebec, but the Bloc Québécois. Yves-François Blanchet undoubtedly dreams in color when he mentions a harvest of 40 seats, but maintaining most of his achievements in 2019 would already be a serious blow to Mr. Trudeau’s ambitions.

At the point where the PQ is at, Mr. Legault need not fear that the support of the Bloc will allow him to cause serious trouble for the CAQ in the Quebec election next year. Beyond a certain moral support, it would also be ill advised for the Bloc to put all its weight behind a party whose existence seems so uncertain.

Mr. Blanchet surely does not expect Mr. Legault to openly support him. A benevolent neutrality will be more than enough for him. Everyone would find their account, Quebec first and foremost.

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