As a Globe and Mail op-ed piece asked the morning after the April 7, 2014 Quebec provincial election, “Who would have bet, just 33 days ago, that Philippe Couillard would become the 31st premier of Quebec?” Couillard, for those of you who sensibly don’t follow these matters with bated breath, is the head of la belle province’s Liberal Party, which sent former Quebec Premier Pauline Marois and her independence-minded Parti Quebecois to a crushing defeat. The Liberals ended up with a solid majority government, Marois lost her seat and promptly resigned as PQ party leader, and the possibility of yet another overheated referendum on the question of Quebec independence recedes from view once more.
As almost all observers (including Dooney’s Election Central/Election Centrale) noted, it was hard to find any clearcut issues or vital principles that the election was about. Alternative parties to the PQ/Liberal binary, such as the Coalition Avenir Quebec, picked up a full 25 per cent of the vote, but we have no idea what they stand for, either.
Naturally, the Liberals sought to make fear of separatism the issue. Premier Marois dutifully produced an alleged all-star candidate, Quebec media mogul Pierre Karl Peladeau, who immediately called for a free Quebec while wiggling his fists or his fingers in the air. It did not help the cause (however, running in a safe riding, M. Peladeau now has a legislative seat — Bonne chance et bonne nuit!, as fellow journalist Edward R. Murrow used to like to say). [Click here for Google translation. Just kidding.]
There was one interesting issue. The PQ government proposed a “Quebec Charter of Values” that would prevent state employees from wearing or displaying conspicuous religious symbols, such as Jewish kippahs, Sikh turbans, hijabs, niqabs and other Muslim face and body coverings, or dragging a heavy wooden cross to work if you were feeling especially weighed down that day. However, the bill exempted the large Christian crucifix on display in the Quebec National Assembly as an item of cultural heritage. (Are we making this up? No, we are not making this up.)
Although the charter was offered as a response to the “reasonable accomodation” controversy in Quebec (usually in reference to Muslim believers in the province), most people saw the proposal as a convoluted bit of anti-Muslim discrimination. Matters weren’t helped when a prominent supporter of the charter, famous tv host Janette Bertrand, voiced fears that Muslim men would have turned her away from her apartment building’s swimming pool. That didn’t help the cause, either.
We confess to a secret liking for the now d0rmant charter. It would certainly be nice to get rid of all that public junk by which religiously-inclined people shove their beliefs down your throat. If their beliefs were true, we wouldn’t mind it so much. But it’s unlikely that they are true. There’s only one problem with getting rid of conspicuous religious display. It’s illegal in a country that protects religious freedom, free speech and other good things. And anyway, this is Canada, where we tend to put up with lots of stuff we don’t necessarily agree with, simply because we believe in tolerance, equality, being nice, and all the rest. It seems to work.
As for the Charter, as we say in legal lingo, Adjourned sine die. Or, like, later dude.