By Jason Menard
In la belle province for a vacation, I decided to take the opportunity to go hunting for an almost-extinct breed of political animal, of which I had heard was making a stunning resurgence with this federal election.
Yes, in the best spirit of Marlon Perkins I am in hunt of the Quebec Conservative.
With Bloc fever raging and disenchantment over the sponsorship scandal sending Liberal support plummeting to new depths, the popular idea is that the Conservative party may be the option of choice when it’s time for federalist Quebecers to head to the polls.
Since the rise of the Bloc, Quebec’s federal and provincial political worlds have been polarized into two distinct camps, not separated by parties but rather by ideologies. One’s answer to the question of Quebec’s place in Canada is the deciding factor as to whom you choose to vote. Separatists find a haven with the Bloc and Parti Quebecois parties respectively, while those of a federalist mindset have chosen the Liberal Party exclusively.
While the federal elections are ostensibly a four-party race – the fact of the matter is that there have been only two horses worth putting your money behind. Nervous federalists, regardless of which side of the political spectrum they fall on, have found refuge in the Liberal Party of Canada. Choosing to avoid vote splitting, the Liberals have remained a solid foil to the separatist forces of Quebec, to the point where federalist forces have elected a Liberal provincial party.
Yet with so much displeasure over the ruling Liberal Party, have Quebec Conservatives stepped back from the brink? If they are, they’re doing a good job of hiding. Perhaps they’re preparing for an electoral sneak attack, but in the game of politics visibility is the key.
Traversing the island of Montreal and making forays onto the neighbouring shores, there is a definite trend towards a Blue/Red political mosaic. Unfortunately for Stephen Harper’s troops, that shade of blue belongs to the Bloc. A simple search of signs reveals that Conservative supporters appear to either be continuing to hedge their bets with the Liberals, or remaining in hiding.
Oh sure, there is some Conservative signage here and there – but only on public lands, where everybody’s free to put their placards. Private property, where the signs actually matter and indicate someone’s personal preference, remains remarkably devoid of Tory support.
Of course, some of the difficulty in finding signs of the elusive Conservative may be due to their ability to blend in with the competition. While camouflage may be an acceptable way to survive in the wild, it ’s a questionable tactic when trying to stand out from the crowd. Yet, one would be hard pressed, from a distance, to differentiate between Bloc signage and Conservative signage. And at the speed that Montreal drivers travel, there’s no way to tell which blur belongs to which party. Politics is a game of visibility, and blending in with the opposition may not be the best way to get the name out.
No, it appears the federal race is still being run by two horses — despite the best efforts of the politicos and the pundits alike. In Quebec politics is a serious sport and there’s no time to back a lame horse when there are proven stallions willing to charge to the finish line. And it appears that even if one of those stallions has been rolling around in the mud and still reeks of dirty play, Quebecers feel that it’s better to back the steed that knows how to run instead of the horse that’s still looking for its footing.
So the hunt goes on and I will continue my search. While the Quebec Conservative may actually no longer be on the endangered species list, until they leave the safety of their refuges and spread among the population, they’ll continue to suffer a political fate worse than extinction – they’ll continue to simply be irrelevant.
And in the game of federal politics, that’s truly a fate worse than death.
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