The Rise of the Ideological Question in Quebec

Travis Fast

For the first time in almost three decades Quebec politics is being driven not by the national question but the ideological question. That is, instead of the nationalist question driving, with the ideological question as the passenger, the provincial election demonstrates the reverse is now the central dynamic in Quebec politics. In their rush to celebrate the waning of the PQ, which was falsely interpreted as the last gasp of the Sovereignty in Quebec, the English Canadian media (and the blog world) overlooked the fact that the ADQ is a nationalist party. What we have been witnessing in Quebec is a relative re-ranking of priorities.

The slam delivered to the PQ was not on the nationalist question, but, rather, on the question of the future direction and form of the Quebec state. When the PQ attempted to hush this issue by promising a vote on separation they were hoping to force the nationalist question to the fore and forestall the ideological question. As I read it the question of sovereignty is not dead per se, what is dying, however, is the presumption that an independent Quebec will be a social democratic Quebec. The rise of ADQ represents nothing less than a civil war between nationalists over what a future Quebec state will look like. The PQ is going to stare at the results and realize that the growth in the nationalist vote is decidedly on the right wing.

Over the next decade or so I predict we are going to watch the PQ tear itself a part from the inside out. If they lurch further to the right they are going to alienate their left wing activist cadres including many powerfull unions. If they lurch to the left they are going to bolster the ADQ. The debate over sovereignty forestalled the very question that left social democrats demoralized and tattered across western Europe and North America during the late 80s and early 1990s: which way do we go and what is our programme given the current structural constraints?

The ideological question is now out in the open in Quebec and it will not easily be made to play second fiddle to the question of nationalism in the near future.

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