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 Concordias 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 Salées 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
Salée recently wrote an essay for editors Hamish Telford and Harvey
Lazar, of the Institute of Intergovernmental Relations at Queens
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 Quebecs 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 Quebecs linguistic wars seem petty by comparison,
Weve realized that if we want to be a player on the world
stage, we have to be involved in those issues. Also, weve gained
a great deal of self-confidence in recent years.
As for this springs election, Salée said its hard to
read. Despite some recent faux pas by Premier Bernard Landry, the Parti
Québécoiss 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 Dumonts 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 doesnt sell well. The problem
is linked to Charest, but its also related to the Liberal Party
Salée observed that the Liberals platform hasnt 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. Its 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
havent 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.