How bad is the election of Mario Beaulieu to lead the Bloc Quebecois over the weekend? The reviews are in, and they ain’t glowing. Gilles Duceppe, the man who led the party for most of its 20 year history, basically disowned his successor after the new guy whipped the crowd into a frenzy by joining them in a rousing homage to the FLQ, chanting “NOUS VAINCRONS!!! (WE WILL OVERCOME!),” a slogan often associated with the terrorist cells that kidnapped British diplomat James Cross and executed Government Minister Pierre Laporte, back in the crazy 70’s.
Beaulieu had also slammed the party for accomplishing very little over the past two decades. An undeniable fact when you consider the party has only ever passed a handful of bills in its entire parliamentary life. In Quebec politics the definition of a mistake is telling the truth, I guess.
The party’s former Lieutenant in Montreal and President of the Hochelaga Riding Association, Jerry Beaudoin, had supported Beaulieu’s main rival MP André Bellavance. Beaudoin publicly resigned after the new leader won and alluded to his disapproval of the new party boss on his Facebook page, indirectly calling Beaulieu’s brand of nationalism ”folkloric and archaic” ( you’ll notice that much of the communiqués released by the Bloc’s top brass is done using social networks these days, probably due to a lack of resources for proper press releases).
Bruno Grenier, former executive of the Bloc’s Riding Association in Laurier St. Marie (formerly a Bloc fortress that Duceppe represented for ages), was even more blunt in his criticism of the new leader accusing him of anglo-bashing and calling him a “clown.”
Even worse was the reaction of the rump party that Super Mario will now be in charge of. The elected Bloc caucus (four MPs) had put their confidence in Bellevance and were openly disappointed with the results of the election. Party stalwart and longest serving member of the House of Commons (strange but true!), Louis Plamadon, basically pointed to the narrow margin of Beaulieu’s victory suggesting that this did not give him much of mandate to lead and that he must respect the wishes of the large minority of members who didn’t support his campaign.
Incredibly, these critics are all self-confessed dyed in the wool separatists! With friends like these, Beaulieu must be thinking, he doesn’t need enemies.
But, whether he likes it or not, he will have many. None more formidable than the Quebec NDP, a party that reaped the rewards of the total collapse of the Bloc in the last election much more than any other, due to its socially democratic values and vaguely nationalist pro-Quebec platform. With this latest move, the NDP’s eclipse of the Bloc as the party that speaks for Quebeckers in Ottawa, especially francophones, should now be complete.
The other parties will no doubt be stealing some of the Bloc’s former voters in the next federal election, when they realize the disenchantment among the parties mainstream left and right wing support are being driven away by the diehard stance of its new leader.
In hindsight, the decline and fall of the Bloc in 2011 was a foreshadowing of the disastrous results of the last provincial election for the Marois led PQ. The Bloc had for years been hindered by a schism between right and left wing factions of its impossibly big tent. As long as Duceppe was in charge, though, they would remain united. But matters came to a head in the last federal election when Jack Layton came along and blindsided them with a pitch to their leftish base, while Duceppe was foolishly waging a campaign designed to shut down what his strategists told him was the greatest threat, a conservative breakthrough in certain regions of Quebec. By the time Gilles woke up to what was happening (remember his Napoleonic quote “I don’t fear the NDP?”) it was too late, and he had to fall on his sword.
When the issue of the so called “Charter of Quebec Values” was recklessly foisted on the party by the PQ in the months leading up to the provincial election, the fractious Bloc was the first to implode over the issue. The Bloc lost Maria Mourani, one of their most accomplished MPs, in the ensuing debacle that left the party reeling. It also meant that the party had zero chance of wooing the younger, multicultural and progressive Quebec nationalists, a segment of the voters the party desperately needs in order to regain its place in Quebec politics.
This leadership election has shown the Bloc’s true colours. The radical separatist and nationalist element in the party has finally managed to take control of the party, with none of the moderates left to temper their zeal for pursing a political strategy that will alienate an increasingly reluctant majority of Quebecker who don’t want to discuss independence.
To make matters worse, Beaulieu is unelected at the moment meaning he faces the same handicap that his predecessor Daniel “invisible man” Paillé did. Basically even the French media ignored him because he wasn’t on the floor of the House day in day out, railing against the tyranny of Canada.
Beaulieu may prove his detractors (like me) wrong, in the long run. But it seems far more likely that the he will preside over the funeral of what is left of the once proud Bloc Quebecois.
Other articles by David DesBaillets
Bedford 2: This time it’s personal!
Supreme Court Chief latest victim of the Harper shoot-the-messenger policy
Chickens coming home to roost on “open nominations” promise
What’s really behind the silence of Harper on the trial of Fahmy in Egypt
Harper has a bad day in court
Follow David DesBaillets on twitter @DDesBaillets