L’effet Trump redux

Parti Québecois leader Jean-François Lisée, above, could take a page from the Trump playbook and reawaken Quebec’s latent xenophobia in the leadup to the next provincial election.

But but why would he, with the also-ran CAQ yapping at the bumbling Couillard Liberals over the government’s incoherence on the deadly race-and-identity file?

Quebec ex-premier Pauline Marois, on this week’s 40th anniversary of the Nov. 15/76 PQ election victory (my rough translation):

Our refusal to rule out an eventual referendum on independence sank us, not our policies, not even our proposed Charte des valeurs.
The polls revealed widespread support. Jean-François Lisée, the PQ’s current leader may have shelved the secularism issue, but he’s talking about language, also an identity issue.
I’m not suggesting we follow Donald Trump, but it’s worth noting that the U.S. election highlighted a problem we don’t have the right to ignore.
A deep fault line has opened up between those who represent power and those who have lost hope in the face of a deteriorating economic situation and whose identity concerns have been ignored. 

Marois’s incompetence as premier cost the PQ their last mandate but she still carries weight among Quebeckers. The Couillard Liberals, beset with internal communication problems and the impression they don’t know what they’re doing, continue to sink in the polls. At 31 per cent they’re closing in on the 28 per cent that ousted the PQ.

The only wild card is whether François Legault’s CAQ can do as well as it did in 2014. Lisée, surely one of the most capable, devious political schemers in Quebec today, appears to be letting Legault and others do his dirty work when it comes to the laicity minefield. The Couillard government was slow and reluctant to table Bill 62, the draft legislation enacting the compromise suggested by the Bouchard/Taylor Commission on religious accommodation.

After its adoption in principle this week, the bill moves to legislative study and hearing stages.

There’s little doubt in my mind we’ll be hearing more extremist talk in the hearings. Truth is, Quebec is moving past Bill 62’s proposal to make it illegal to give or receive public service with one’s face covered. There’s widespread and growing support for a total ban on the public wearing of full cover — hijab and burka. Polls have shown a majority of Quebeckers support a reduction in the number of immigrants. Popular support for a hardening of attitudes is returning to the levels we saw with the Herouxville Manifesto.

Will the Couillard Liberals maintain their principled position? Or will they bend and harden Bill 62 in the face of looming defeat?

It’s not just provincial politics. The Trump effect threatens to become the wedge that splits the federal Liberals from the Quebec vote that got Trudeau elected, opening a corridor of opportunity for both the Conservatives and the New Democrats. It depends on whether there’s as great a sense of disenfranchisement in the Canadian heartland as there was in the U.S.

The mainstream Canadian media has learned nothing from the failure of the American media to see what was coming. Again this week, their entrenched mindset features rants against Kellie Leitch, a former minister in Harper’s last cabinet running for the Conservative leadership. Leitch, a paediatric surgeon, got things going with her proposal to require immigrants to profess their support for Canadian values. The sunny-days Liberal left risks dismissing Leitch’s populist appeal at their peril.

There’s bedrock rejection of the positivist worldview in both official languages and yes, it CAN happen in Canada.

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