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October 24, 2002 Global movements impact Quebec politics: Daniel Salée



Daniel Salée

Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

by Julie Demers

Political scientist Daniel Salée thinks the fun has hardly begun, as the party leaders stake out their territory for the Quebec election.

Salée is principal of Concordia’s School of Community and Public Affairs and a professor of political science. He has been teaching at Concordia since 1985. This year, he is also a guest professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM) in the sociology department.

Quebec versus Canada has been Salée’s main interest for more than 20 years, since his doctorate. His research includes related topics, such as citizenship and identity politics, inter-ethnic relations, nationalism, aboriginal politics, and the relationship between the state and civil society.

Salée recently wrote an essay for editors Hamish Telford and Harvey Lazar, of the Institute of Intergovernmental Relations at Queen’s University, for their publication Canada: The State of the Federation. He participated in the last book of this series, released in November 2002 and entitled Canada: The State of the Federation 2001. Canadian Political Culture(s) in Transition. It probed beneath the surface to determine if Canadian political culture is changing, and how.

In a chapter called “Quebec’s Changing Political Culture and the future of Federal-Provincial Relations in Canada,” Salée said that the push for sovereignty has been deeply affected by political currents in the greater society. Social trends such as the anti-globalization movement make Quebec’s linguistic wars seem petty by comparison, he said.

“We’ve realized that if we want to be a player on the world stage, we have to be involved in those issues. Also, we’ve gained a great deal of self-confidence in recent years.”

As for this spring’s election, Salée said it’s hard to read. Despite some recent faux pas by Premier Bernard Landry, the Parti Québécois’s popularity continues to be rise in the polls from the low esteem in which it was held last year.

For the first time in a long time, this will be a three-way race, thanks to the rise of the Action démocratique du Québec, led by Concordia alumnus Mario Dumont. Salée remains perplexed by ADQ leader Mario Dumont’s recent popularity.

“His proposals on health care privatization and on school vouchers are scaring a lot of people,” he said. Nor has Dumont done a good job of explaining these ideas. It seems that if he hears something negative about one of his ideas, he modifies it the next day.

Still, Salée thinks the electoral campaign might become a two-way competition between the Parti Québécois and the ADQ, because Liberal leader Jean Charest doesn’t sell well. “The problem is linked to Charest, but it’s also related to the Liberal Party of Quebec.”

Salée observed that the Liberals’ platform hasn’t changed much in years, even after a change of leader. The PLQ has always been a right-wing party, he said, and most of these right-wing ideas have been articulated more clearly by the ADQ.

Charest has also been talking about the constitution. It’s not a topic that people want to hear about, and “at least with the ADQ, you know where you stand.” Recent resignations from the Liberals haven’t helped, either.

All this is idle speculation, Salée said, because elections are hard to call this far in advance.

“The electorate is quite volatile. What will prompt someone to vote for one party or another is quite often what was said or done in the week prior to election day.”