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Quebec election shows we all want the same thing

Two Solitudes, but perhaps a little bit closer this week.

The result of Monday’s provincial election would indicate Quebecers are pretty much like the rest of us: they want a government that concentrates on what’s important to them, not politicians focused on pet projects and pipedreams – and certainly not at the expense of practical matters … and their wallets.

In turfing the Parti Québécois in favour of a renewed Liberal party, voters in that province sent a firm message about the decades-old separatist debate and, to a lesser extent, disavowed the PQ’s divisive charter of values.

On the sovereignty issue, polls have shown Quebecers to be increasingly disinterested in the idea, which is why the PQ had been trying to downplay the issue – a familiar tactic. That went out the window with the ill-considered recruitment of media mogul Pierre Karl Péladeau, who immediately brought the prospect of a referendum back into the limelight, essentially dooming the 18-month-old minority government.

Likewise, the values charter – a document trying to pass off the positive concept of secularism as cover for playing up fear of immigrants, particularly Muslims – made Quebecers uncomfortable the more desperately the péquistes tried to drive home the wedge.

Nowhere is the issue of immigration and accommodation more volatile than with Muslims and Islam. It’s that group of immigrants that prompted the government to consider banning overtly religious symbols from the ranks of the public sector. Not able to simply banish burkas and niqabs, the PQ included turbans, kippas and even crosses as a way of seeming to apply the rules to everyone.

The idea resonated with Francophones, but many balked at the hard-line implementation proposed as more details became available.

Its two main issues withering under scrutiny and the poll numbers falling, the PQ attempted to sling the mud of corruption on the Liberals, who left under a cloud. Even that went sideways, as the worst of it literally came home to Premier Pauline Marois.

Corruption is no small matter in the province, as ongoing investigations continue to reveal. Longstanding systemic corruption, particularly in the construction industry, are surely high priorities for Premier-designate Philippe Couillard. More pressing, though somewhat related, is dealing with Quebec’s economy. In that, potholes certainly trump sovereignty.

The most avowed federalist leader Quebec has had at the helm in decades, Couillard will certainly bring change to the relationship with Ottawa, focusing on what can be done to deal with problem areas familiar to residents of every province: employment, health care, education and crumbling infrastructure. While some matters are strictly provincial jurisdiction, more can be done with a cooperative approach rather than the divisive policies and tactics of the PQ.

Certainly linguistic issues and the desire to protect the French language will never go away in Quebec, but at the end of the day people there want good jobs, a better future for their kids, a strong health care system and bridges that don’t collapse, the very things we here want. The very things that are top of mind from coast to coast, in fact.

With this week’s election, Quebecers now seem to share something else with the rest of us: they’re also tired of the Constitutional squabbles and the neverendum.

 

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