Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Hope for Conservativism in Quebec?

It would seem there is a glimmer of hope that Stephen Harper has a devilishly accute means of divining the way the political wind is blowing. He's been roundly criticized by pundits for his "high risk" strategy of trying to woo voters in Quebec as opposed to the more "hospitable" voters of Atlantic Canada and Ontario. It would seem that Harper at least has an identifiable and perhaps growing constituency to make his case too.

Surprisingly this relevation comes from Maclean's magazine? That burning beckon of good hope and cheer for conservatism? (Yes dear readers I'm puzzled too, if it was the Star I'd swear they were just trying to get our hopes up)

'Les X' revolt
A new conservative wave has the old-timers worried

Take a federal elephant, send it through a cultural minefield in Quebec, and enjoy the view as the explosions light up a new political scene.

In this instance, the elephant was the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the minefield the radio-crazed, French-speaking bastion of Quebec City, and the kaboom came when the CRTC tried to shut down a local radio station. Six months later, CHOI-FM is thriving like never before and Jeff Filion, the shock-jock at the heart of the controversy, is enjoying some newfound clout. The incident has brought to light a new political landscape that has been quietly taking shape in the Quebec capital and its outlying regions. Filion has emerged as a key mouthpiece for a right-wing political stream, the likes of which Quebec has not seen in a long time.

Filion himself describes les X as follows. "They're an interesting animal -- you can't describe them by their look or their age, though there are a lot of thirtysomethings among them. It's more an attitude. They're people who have become allergic to the sacrosanct consensus, they're fed up with the inertia and the complacency, they're people who have realized the years ahead will be a load of shit and they're the ones who'll have to clean up the mess. They're people who are fed up with the Péquiste view of the world, tired of living in a society where the real premier is union leader Henri Massé, no matter who gets elected. Tired of a society where I can take my dog to a private clinic, but not my mom. If the old gang that lives in the past with retrograde ideas and referendums could go away, we'd be a bit less angry already."

That line is priceless..I can take my dog to a private clinic but not my mom.

It's true that today's young people are more conservative and less optimistic than previous generations, says Têtu. "To understand why," he adds, "you have to take a look at demographics." Quebec City has stayed afloat mainly by attracting young people from the outlying regions, who go to the capital to study. "These kids see their communities dwindle and die in the Gaspé, or Lac-St-Jean," Têtu explains. "For 30 years, la question nationale -- nation-building in Quebec -- has dominated the agenda. But for the younger ones, an aging, decreasing population is the key issue. Like -- where will the money come from to support our society's lifestyle? They don't really buy into the PQ's anthem about a shining tomorrow."

Sadly that could readily describe the state of most of Canada, except possibly Alberta. Somehow I feel vindicated that other people might be waking up to the diseased nature of the current conventional wisdom.

Not good news for the PQ -- which finished third, behind the ADQ, in half of the 12 ridings in the region -- and perplexing news for the ruling Liberals as they grapple with voter dissatisfaction. New alliances are forming. Jean-Luc Benoit, Dumont's press attaché through the last election, is now CHOI's communications director. Filion's support helped the ADQ win a September by-election in Vanier, a working-class Quebec City neighborhood. Têtu volunteered with the ADQ in that campaign -- and is now advising Stephen Harper's Conservative party on a Quebec strategy. In a gesture aimed at capturing the hearts of Quebec voters, the Tories have decided to hold their national convention in Montreal next spring. Maybe they would have found a ready home in Quebec City

I'd dearly like to see Harper's gamble pay off, simple to watch the hysterical reaction of the punditry in the Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal axis as their beloved status quo would be turned on its head, and they would be entirely blind sided.


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