Monday, April 25, 2011

Are the Political Planets Re-aligning in Quebec?

Elsewhere in Canada, the political continuum is from right to left. Here in Quebec, the parties have been aligned on the basis of a federalist-nationalist allegiance for more than 30 years. The question on everyone's mind within the political class is whether the rise of the NDP signals a rupture with our recent political past.

Considering the current state of affairs in Quebec, accusations of corruption abound, it's not that surprising that Quebecers are seeking an exit strategy from the way politics are usually done. Essentially, the Liberals both at the provincial and federal level have been the default option for those who don't support the sovereignty movement. The Conservatives don't have much appeal for the vast majority of voters.

However, successive scandals involving the Liberal Party of Canada and the Quebec Liberal Party have rendered the Liberal brand toxic. At the same time, the fervor for sovereignty has waned. Consequently, the third federalist option, the NDP, has gained much in the way of support.

What is significant in the rise of the NDP is that the party attracts voters from both the federalist and the sovereignist camps. The party's left-of-center policies are in keeping with the political values of Quebec society. Yet for the last twenty years, the sovereignist Bloc Quebecois has been able to position itself as the protector of Quebec's social democracy. But will that tendency continue?

Perhaps, what we are witnessing is a demographic shift in political power in Quebec. Those born before the war are apt to continue in the Roman Catholic tradition of supporting the Liberals. The Quebec baby boomers defied their parents by supporting the sovereignist parties. Today, it's generations x,y, and zed's turn to define their political identity by rejecting the federalist-nationalist dichotomy altogether.

Certainly, it will take more than just one election to see how this plays out, but I have the feeling that we are at the beginning of the Internet generation's emergence as a political power.

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