Tom Mulcair: Report card on Quebec's political parties

Who makes the grade? As MNAs head toward the summer break, it’s time to take stock before the home stretch to the next election.

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As the National Assembly session draws to a close next week, we’re getting to the halfway mark of Premier François Legault’s second mandate.  

Let’s look at the midterm report card for the five parties and see what their prospects are for the home stretch to the next election.  

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Coalition Avenir Québec  

Legault has had an abysmal year. His boldfaced reversal on the promised third link between Quebec City and its south shore was, in my estimation, one of the most costly miscalculations in the history of Quebec politics.  

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Legault flushed the project just as Joëlle Boutin, the highly capable MNA from Jean-Talon riding in Quebec City, was resigning her seat and quitting the CAQ. That broken promise was the ballot box issue in the ensuing byelection, and voters of every political stripe strategically rallied to the Parti Québécois and clobbered Legault.  

That brutal loss clearly affected Legault, whose decision-making seemed to become more erratic. It appears his communication plan for most of the current session has been to disappear from public view.  

It’s clear to me the CAQ itself is a Potemkin village of a political party. At its most recent convention, one of the big issues was supposed to be protecting youth from online harm. Unfortunately, journalists found out that the CAQ’s youth wing had been warned, in writing, not to speak with journalists!  

With Legault in apparent self-imposed isolation, polls have shown his one-man party in free fall.   

Despite his considerable skills, Legault’s grand coalition is showing signs it is falling apart at the seams as Quebecers return to a familiar separatist-federalist divide.  

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Grade: C-  

Liberal Party of Quebec  

Still leaderless, the official opposition Liberals are the Rodney Dangerfield of Quebec politics — they can’t get no respect!  

They have made valid critiques of the numerous CAQ faux pas, including the attacks by some ministers against a teachers’ union that had the courage to join the fight against Bill 21. I find it incredible that ministers would attack citizens defending rights can even happen in the first place.

Now that we know the dates of their leadership race — candidates have until April 11, 2025 to file their documents, with the winner revealed June 14 — it will be interesting to see who gets the nod. The race itself will propel the moribund party back into the spotlight. With the right person, the Liberals could rapidly return to being a contender for power.  

One thing to watch is the number of small-c conservatives who seem to want the top job. Perhaps it’s time for the Liberals to elect … a liberal!  

Grade: D

Québec solidaire 

    Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois has my full sympathy as he tries to drag his party, kicking and screaming, into the real world of power politics.  

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What’s the point of devoting your life to politics if your party can never aspire to becoming the opposition, much less the government?  

Modernizing the ideologically driven QS is a herculean task, but GND is showing exceptional skills that will allow him to present a far more credible offer to voters in the next campaign. He’s one to watch.  

Grade: B+  

Parti Québécois 

Paul St-Pierre Plamondon is one of the slickest politicians we have seen in a generation.  

He took the PQ off life support, and with only four MNAs, he is able to score more points than all of the rival opposition parties combined.  

He’s having trouble defining where, other than to the nirvana of independence, he wants to take his party.  

He has a checkered balance sheet, whether it’s on gender issues or “law and order.” Showing up near the site where a group of young people had a tragic fight that ended with deaths seems to me opportunistic and undignified for someone who aspires to govern.  

Until PSPP figures out who he is politically, voters won’t know whether they’re getting René Lévesque or “Poilievre Light.”  

Grade: B-  

Conservative Party of Quebec 

With zero elected members, the provincial Conservatives remain an irrelevant sideshow.  

If, as is speculated, leader Éric Duhaime runs with Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives in the next federal election, the provincial wing can be expected to return to its familiar two-per-cent niche.  

Grade: F  

Tom Mulcair, a former leader of the federal NDP, served as minister of the environment in the Quebec Liberal government of Jean Charest.

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