National Post With so many new political parties in Quebec, why not one more?


National Post - Wednesday January 25th, 2012

With no fanfare whatsoever, the Parti Conservateur du Québec (PCQ) was launched this week in Montreal.

Its chief, Luc Harvey, whom I have never heard of before, says his provincial party will serve to remind people that “the government is at the service of its citizens and not the reverse, and that it is high time to retain what’s good and to clean up what is corrupt.”

Good for them. I wish them luck. But the first thing they might want to do is to change their name. The acronym PCQ is not a felicitous one. When I Googled “PCQ, Quebec,” I was directed to the website for the “Parti Communiste du Québec.”

Once there, I perused their mission statement. Seems the PCQ (commie version) is pretty feisty in its ambitions, too. One rallying cry is, “No to submission to the CAQ” — this being a reference to the pragmatic, ideologically murky Coalition Avenir du Québec, a recently-formed party under the leadership of former-cabinet minister François Legault.

Having failed to make much headway thus far, the Communists are not averse to forming a coalition with yet another separatist and very left-wing party, Québec Solidaire, founded in 2006. Québec Solidaire has one elected MNA, Amir Khadir. His main claim to fame is the obsessional, unrelenting harassment of a shoe store owner in his riding who has the temerity to sell Israeli shoes.

What’s with all the political parties in Quebec? I think this is what you get when political instability and divisiveness are a constant fact of life. There’s always the smell of political blood in the air, and it creates temptations that political junkies can’t resist.

I never personally wanted to lead a new party, but like all Quebecers, I share the same impulse to think one up when my interests are being neglected. In fact, I did think one up. And even though the idea is now almost 14 years old, I believe my concept for a “Bloc Montréal” still holds up.

I also feel nostalgic about the idea because it was the theme of the first unsolicited op-ed I ever had accepted by the then-fledgling National Post — on December 15, 1998, to be precise.

My op-ed was entitled, “It’s time for a Bloc Montréal.” At that time, post-referendum tensions were still running high. Ardent sovereigntists, viewing their razor-thin loss in the 1995 referendum very much like Gore supporters were to feel after Bush “stole” their 2000 election, were clamouring for a third.

Anglo Montrealers anguished as political insecurity and economic flight pitched their beloved city into peril. Montrealers had, of course, voted heavily against independence, as it was not in the city’s interest. So here we were, one third of Quebec’s voters, representing more than half of the province’s economic output, in the classic colonial predicament of being taxed without adequate representation and politically and economically beholden to leaders who either took us for granted (Liberals) or ignored us (Péquistes).

I proposed that we take a leaf from the Bloc Québécois book. Just as the BQ was founded to represent Quebec’s interests in Ottawa, so Montrealers would have the Bloc Montréal to represent their interests in Quebec City.

In fact, a Bloc Montréal was more urgently needed than the existing Bloc, because while Quebec has always profited from being part of a federation, the opposite is true of Montreal. The city is a bilingual, multicultural window on the world, an indispensable island in a sea of monoculturalism, accounting for all its knowledge-based industry and a full 75% of its exports, yet it only has a quarter of the seats in Quebec’s National Assembly and has no power to ensure it gets its rightful share of the collective pot.

Business people oppose sovereignty. The Bloc Montréal would primarily fight for Montreal’s economic interests, I argued, but it would also represent Montreal’s federalist majority in all sovereignty debates. It could never aspire to form a government — just like the Bloc Québécois in Ottawa — but it could form a coalition with whatever party agreed to its terms.

I still think a Bloc Montréal is a great idea, but nobody picked up on it, and I certainly wasn’t prepared to go into politics myself. I can see I was a little over-ambitious. And yet micro-parties are still part of my Quebecer persona.

So I am now contemplating a proposal for a “Bloc Westmount” — Westmount being the particular Montreal neighbourhood in which I happen to live.

But the Bloc Westmount would represent only those people who live below Sherbrooke St., which divides lower and upper Westmount (the snooty people live on the mountain and the unpretentious people like me live “on the flat”). So, in fact, it would be called Bloc Westmount-on-the-flat.

Or, to be more concise, “Bloc WTF.” At the very least, the name seems to capture the current political mood in the province.

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