Samer Majzoub, President, Canadian Muslim Forum
The first question that struck my mind after the elections was why Parti Québécois was defeated. Observers and analysts came up with various theories and conclusions for the crushing loss of the PQ. However, the fact of the matter is that until a few days before elections call, the polls were showing a comfortable lead for Mrs. Marois and more so large support for her campaign.
One of the detrimental pitfalls of the PQ during their short stay in office has been their misinterpretation of the backing of the controversial Quebec Charter of Values by the francophone population of Quebec as a general backing of the PQ and its government. This misunderstanding in reading the general public opinion led Mrs. Marois to call for an election in the hopes of winning a majority.
Quebec’s demographics can be divided into three “categories”: Francophone majority, whose mother tongue is French, Anglophone minority whose mother tongue is English and a larger minority, Allophones whose mother tongue is neither French nor English. Since taking power in 2012, the PQ has failed miserably in appealing to the latter two categories. Indeed, the elections proved that even among Francophones, support for the sovereignist party was on very weak ground.
Presenting the “charter of values” in early Sept 2013 by Mrs. Marois’s government has sent shockwaves across the Quebec and rest of Canada social fabric. For many, it was considered an attempt by Mrs. Marois to legitimize discrimination and promote xenophobia through the proposed “charter”. The proposed charter had Quebec allophones, in particular, feel being targeted. All forms of discrimination witnessed a surge in Quebec following the government’s insistence to “legalize” intolerance and stereotyping under the excuse of protecting secularism.
Islamphobic remarks, became part of the discourse of many PQist and their supporters. In addition, anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant comments added to the soaring tension in Quebec society. Fear and anger on PQ’s government human rights policies were shared by increasing segments of Quebec society including all “cultural and faith” groups and the elite of Quebec francophone population.
During the course of the 33 days election campaign, the PQ sank into another deep current of mishaps which increased nervousness among the Anglophone community. Many of the PQ’s promises during the election campaign focused on toughening existing language laws in addition to the constant talk of separation from Canada.
The most important swing that pushed the PQ into deep hole came from the core of Quebec francophone majority who were anxiously following the overzealous and fanatical PQ media statements on how the newly elected government will apply “the charter of values” by infringing the basic human rights of considerable number of Quebecers. Added up to the dissatisfaction was the increase talk on separation and on referendum. Both subjects are disliked by the majority of Quebecers.
Many unions which supported the PQ expressed anger over the candidacy of Outremont born Pierre Karl Péladeau. Mr. Péladeau has been a businessman icon of Quebec for many years. The PQ, considered to be on the left of the political spectrum, drew lots of criticism in this respect.
We believe that PQ policies have led to a deep division in the society into good and bad Quebecers, into lines of faith, ethnic and language backgrounds. Moreover, the failure of Mrs. Marois to address the true concerns of Quebecers for a good economy, health and education services, have all led to the PQ’s devastating defeat which will need a long period of time to heal and recuperate.