A new Parti Quebecois government in Quebec has got people asking questions as to what comes next. Naturally, perhaps, the prevailing questions have been about sovereignty.
But the sovereignty issue will not likely dominate the reign of Quebec’s first female premier. First, because Pauline Marois has no majority to make it happen and no ability to push it by coalescing with Quebec Solidaire (the other separatist party, which won 2 seats). Second, the Coalition Avenir Quebec, CAQ (the new arrival that won 19 seats and nipped with their vote share at the statistical heels of the two large parties), ran explicitly on deferring constitutional questions in Quebec for a decade. Third, PM Stephen Harper is not likely going to allow Marois to draw him into constitutional squabbles and derail his government agenda. That means the PQ will find few partners to kick sand at in the constitutional sandbox.
As an Albertan, the question as to what the Quebec-Alberta relation will look like is more pressing in my mind.
Alberta governments have traditionally played well with Quebec separatists in power. Largely, that’s because Alberta governments easily find much common ground with provinces seeking more robust provincial power in areas of provincial jurisdiction. Rene Levesque and Peter Lougheed were good allies in trying to keep Trudeau from imposing his centralising view of the country, for example.
Marois does not have the same conditions that Levesque and the other separatist premiers (Pierre-Marc Johnson, Jacques Parizeau, Lucien Bouchard, and Bernard Landry) had. The Trudeauvian vision of imposing the Ottawa way on provinces is not there. On the contrary, the present prime minister of Canada is a strong supporter of provincial rights. Second, there isn’t a strong provincial rights government in Edmonton this time around. Alison Redford’s ambition to become PM one day brings her ideas closer to Trudeau’s centralising pancanadianism than to a Peter Lougheed (“not your parents’ PC party’).
Even if Marois doesn’t have much room to stir the sovereignist pot, however, she will likely not want to align with Redford’s centralist, pancanadianism. Why support a Canadian Energy Strategy, for example, when your raison d’etre is to push for an independent state with an energy strategy of its own?
Last but not least, whether fuelled by envy or by demagoguery, displaying some measure of antagonism against Alberta has been good for Quebec politicians lately. Marois has so far been very good at borrowing from Thomas Mulcair, who has borrowed liberally from Gilles Duceppe.
All while revving up a rhetoric against Ottawa, I would expect that the Marois government will continue that trend of belligerence against Alberta in her search to become more popular in Quebec, and in terms of seeking to create the “winning conditions” for a future referendum.
I see another Christy Clark coming, beating on Alberta for the sake of political gain.