Au revoir, separatists. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.
OK, OK, we know. We shouldn’t get too cocky about the Parti Quebecois’ decisive loss in Monday night’s Quebec election. The so-called “sovereigntists” have been here before, in 2007, and they came back. Like a stain in the carpet that won’t go away, they’ll return to bedevil Canada, eventually.
But they lost! The separatists lost, and they weren’t supposed to! A month ago, an arrogant, detestable, smirking Pauline Marois called an election, because she (and everyone else) was convinced the PQ was an election away from a majority government. And then, a campaign happened.
Campaigns matter, I always like to say, because they do.
When distilled down to its base elements, a campaign is just a great big job interview. You put on some nice clothes, you get a haircut, and you go out with a CV touting your accomplishments. And at the job interview, you talk about the stuff you think your employer wants to hear.
That’s why the Parti Quebecois lost on a historic scale: they talked about stuff Quebec voters didn’t want to hear. Another referendum? Non, merci. A racist “values charter?” Laisse tomber! The conspiracy to assist a few hundred McGill students vote in the provincial election? Vous etes fou! [Ed. That’s “no thanks,” “drop it!” and “you’re crazy,” in that order, folks. You’re welcome.]
The problem, for Marois and her hapless gang of Canada-wreckers, wasn’t so much that the Liberals’ Philippe Couillard ran a great campaign. He didn’t, really; he oversaw a competent, workman-like campaign. The separatists’ problem was they didn’t talk about the issues important to Quebecers.
To wit: the last Ipsos poll issued before Monday night’s vote. Ipsos is a real, reputable polling firm (unlike that shall-not-be-named bucket shop that gets covered in the media a lot, but also gets things wrong a lot).
“What Quebecers want,” Ipsos wrote, “are bread and butter issues to lead the way. [They want Quebec’s government to] roll up their sleeves and get to work.”
And what the vast majority of Quebecers wanted – nearly 80% of them, like every other Canadian – was a focus on jobs, the economy and health care. A referendum, a values charter and Manchurian Candidate-like McGill students didn’t even make the list. Said Ipsos: “The top four [issues] are creating a better economy and jobs (41%), followed by providing better health care (36%), ensuring debt repayment and balancing the budget (24%) and lowering taxes (23%).”
See that? What Marois and her cabal were talking about incessantly didn’t even make the list. Couillard, on the other hand, was so message track he could talk about the economy and health care in his sleep, and probably did.
A few other things helped, along the way. No idiots in Brockville wiped their feet on Quebec flag. No federalists provided “humiliation” fodder. And the three federal leaders – Messrs. Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau – smartly kept a low profile during the campaign. Way to go, boys.
Campaigns matter. So, too, talking about the things that matter to voters.
Couillard did, Marois didn’t. Voila!