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April 2, 2014
Peter Stockland

It’s hard to thinking your way around the last days of the Quebec election, which might not be so surprising. There hasn’t been much approaching thought on display throughout the entire campaign.

It’s not that there aren’t serious issues worthy of significant discussion. The economy is teetering on disaster. Religious freedom is under vicious assault from the so-called Charter of Values. Sovereignty lurks at the back of the collective consciousness. And, oh, yes, there’s a legislative plan that was almost past in the previous session to legalize euthanasia. Not a word of debate has been uttered about that, as if it’s verboten for a mature democracy to publicly discuss during an election campaign the morally perilous idea of using the health care system to kill people.

What the campaign descended into almost out of the gate was a round after round confusing - and depressing -  ad hominum obscurantism. It has been an endless round of personal attacks palmed off as ersatz public policy: Your mother wears army boots so we’re going to ban them to keep Islamic terrorists from impersonating her and leading Quebec out of Canada against its will. Or something like that. Who knows anymore? It all gets twisted up in the shouting. 

In fairness, there has been one leader who has tried to raise both the tone and the idea quotient of the election debate. Françoise David, leader of the fourth place rump party, Québec Solidaire, conducted herself through both television debates and on the hustings like a democrat’s dream. The problem is, for all her politeness, decency and refusal to play the part of character ninja, David’s ideas are gossamer fantasies of the left-wing variety. “Wealth redistribution is wealth creation,” she said at one point, bringing even Karl Marx out his grave, hands waving and beard flapping, to bring her in off the ledge.  

The frustrating part, apart from defeat of the desire to have actual sound political ideas offered up by intelligent people seeking high office, is that this is an election Quebec desperately needed to move ahead with the opportunities opening to it. For two generations since the euphoria of the 1960s, the province’s politics have been stuck in the sterile sovereigntist-federalist dichotomy to the point where two-thirds of Quebecers don’t even want to hear talk of it  anymore. 

As one young francophone woman put it to me recently:”It’s an idea that is an obsession with old rich people in the 50s and 60s who can’t stop thinking about. It’s not just a dead horse. The flesh is rotting off its bones. But they keep whipping it and telling it to get up. People my age don’t care. We want an economy that will provide us jobs. That’s what we care about.”

She plans to move to Newfoundland in the near future in pursuit of opportunities she doesn’t have in Quebec. Think about that. 


Peter Stockland is publisher of Convivium magazine, which is produced by the think tank Cardus. He also writes for the Catholic Register and sits on the boards of the English Speaking Catholic Council in Montreal as well as the Catholic Organization of Life and Family. He has a long career in Canadian newspaper and magazine journalism. 


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