Des centaines d'indépendantistes ont entrepris de démêler les enjeux reliés à l'indépendance samedi dans un brassage d'idées hors du commun. Avec des panels en avant-midi et des discussions en après-midi, le congrès de Convergence nationale a donné lieu à de vifs échanges sur l’avenir du Québec.Essentially, there's been a big convention in Montréal this past weekend where most of the bigwigs in the Québec sovereigntiste movement came together to call for "unity" in the face of the growing popularity of the Québec Liberal's Philippe Couillard, and also the lesser threat posed by former-seperatist-cum-sort-of-not-anymore-but-still-kinda-is Coalition avenir leader François Legault.
Les anciens Partenaires pour la Souveraineté se sont réunis à nouveau pour faire l'état des lieux. Selon Jacques Létourneau, président de la CSN, il faut faire le pont entre les indépendantistes qui ont vécu les deux référendums et ceux d'aujourd'hui. Dans un panel ultérieur, l'ex-présidente de la Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Nicole Boudreau, a réitéré l'importance de passer le flambeau indépendantiste aux jeunes leaders.
While I obviously didn't watch the convention, the gist behind Convergence nationale as I understand it (and any Québécois, feel free to correct me) is that the separatists could be in a dominate position right now, had voters of the minor parties Québec solidaire and Option nationale, who together managed around 8% in the 2012 election (6.0% and 1.8% respectively), stuck with the now-governing Parti Québécois under Pauline Marois. Thus, its time to put aside their partisan differences and come together to destroy a threat that only exists hypothetically right now so voters of Québec have a singular sovereigntist/separatist option.
One of the ways of accomplishing this that I've heard so far is bringing in the ideas of BC politicians Nathan Cullen and Joyce Murray about electoral co-operation, whereby in certain ridings there will be French-style primaries where voters will choose the singular sovereigntist option.
Now, I have no clue if any resolution was passed urging this, because my French is poor enough to begin with and I'm not doing a web search on it, but its a really bad idea for the smaller parties to get involved with.
Essentially, Québec solidaire would be limited to only its two current ridings in Mercier and Gouin, as those are the only ridings where they are the stronger option than the péquistes. The other ridings where QS candidates come in second are Hochelaga and Saint-Marie--Saint-Jacques, both held by péquistes, with their next best showing in Laurier-Dorion, a Liberal riding but where the péquistes came in second in 2012.
For Option nationale, this scheme could maybe work out to allow them to win in Nicolet-Bécancour, but apparently Jean-Martin Aussant, the ON leader and former péquiste MNA, isn't interested in running there in the next election.
So what is in it for the smaller parties? And really, what would be in it for the PQ? While the voters from the QS and ON could have made the difference for the péquistes in a few ridings, like with the federal scene there is no guarantee those voters would move their support over. Québec solidaire, a small ultra-left-wing outfit that derides neo-liberalism, and the Parti Québécois, a broader big-tent party that has governed from the left and right throughout its history, a are vastly different parties, as much as they try to pretend they aren't; and there is apparently a lot of bad blood between the péquistes and Aussant, so I've heard. He didn't even show up for the majority of the convention.
This still continues to miss much of the point anyways. One has to ask, where the hell did all the péquiste voters go, and why?
We can guess quite well where quite a bit of the péquiste support drifted, given that Legault's Coalition avenir is popular in most of the places where the péquistes are. Yes, they have that somewhat-federalist base in the Capitale-nationale region, but the CAQ support is also strong in the francophone Montréal suburbs (which is also where Legault is from), where the péquistes dominate traditionally but had to deal with Legault's party in 2012. The péquiste strategy of earning strong support among francophones has been cut into because Legault represents a non-Liberal option for francophones hostile to or apathetic about the péquiste's sovereigntist agenda to go to.
Now, ask yourself if holding a big gathering of sovereigntist minds is going to solve this problem? Of course not. As far as I can tell, nothing except the vaguest of policy points came out of Convergence nationale. The sovereigntists, and specifically the péquistes, will not win by harping on this point, which these idiots-in-denial do not seem to understand.
Part of the problem is also Pauline Marois, who hardly represents a step in the right direction for the movement. She is a multi-millionaire, former cabinet member-cum-première-ministre with ties to the old boys club of sovereigntists, and is the cause of a major division among her party's own ranks. One of the reasons for the poor showing in 2012, and the poor hypothetical match-ups versus Couillard right now, is because Marois is a total dud as a leader.
And while yes, the convention featured some new faces, they are hardly an improvement. Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois is a popular but polarizing presence, while the host of former and current union leaders in Québec are hardly the inspiring new crop of young faces the movement needs.
What these people need to do is move away from this talk and offer a palatable choice that takes back voters from the CAQ. Québécois are apathetic of the tired fights of federalist/sovereigntist, with a core of *maybe* 25% still interested. That may be a good base to build off of, but if you constrict yourself so much you will leave yourself open to attacks from parties that know how to capitalize on people worried or apathetic about your agenda. In other words, you'll stay at 25%.
The entire province (and, ironically, Canada) would be much better off if these people decided to pay attention to real issues, such as the mounting deficit, creating jobs, and social unrest. Instead, what was the biggest thing to come out of this government so far? Pastagate.
Listen, I'm not going to pretend I completely understand Québec politics - hell, I'm still trying to figure out the first election in the province during a much simpler time - but as a voting citizen who pays taxes, I do understand how frustrating it is to see politicians focus on side issues, things or questions that don't matter right now and maybe never will. It is a waste of everyone's time.
Keep in mind as well that these people are the ones behind the scenes of the government right now. That is plenty scary, for federalists and sovereigntists alike, as Convergence nationale showcases how little these people are interested in governing. Its just all a big game for them, armchair politicians interested in flogging a dead horse. No wonder Québec seems like such a mess these days, when these people end up in charge.