From the Grand Bibliotheque in Montreal
The weather isn`t the only thing heating up in Quebec. Just as I arrived last night, I heard word that Quebec Premier Jean Charest has called a provincial election, and unlike American election which seem to take forever, this one will be held September 5.
Charest`s government is riddled by scandal, and voters haven`t kept the same in party power for more than nine years since 1960, and this is Charest`s ninth year. However his Liberals are only two points (33-31) behind the separatist Party Quebecois in the latest polls. A third party polls 21 percent, and a fourth party (described as Marxist by the Gazette which is already providing excellent election coverage) comes in at seven percent.
That Marxist party could prove to be Charest`s salvation since it also favors Quebec leaving Canada.
Charest`s Liberals trail by 15 points among French speakers, but they get nearly all the votes from English speaking Quebecers, and the Premier is warning the English today that if they don`t get out to vote (for his party), they can expect another separtist vote.
Interesting, the national parties are staying completely out of this Quebec. Steve Harper`s Conservatives would probably prefer the Liberals to win (there is no Conservative option in Quebec; the ultra Liberal NDP swept the province in the most recent national elections).
Politics is even more fun in Quebec than back in the U.S.
For example, PQ leader Pauline Marois (Quebec has never elected a woman premier) notes that Canada`s first four medals in the Olympics were all won by Quebecers, yet another reason for Quebec becoming its own country.
I don`t follow the logic, but then I`m not a Quebecer.
Charest is counting on what he calls a silent majority to return him to power. The streets are hardly quiet here. Ten were arrested as riot police were called out just last night as college students resumed what is known as a pots and pans protest. They`ve been taking to the streets for more than 100 days protesting an $1800 rise in college tuition. At the border, I menitoned the "riot" to the woman who was checking my papers. "Oh yes, they`ve been doing that since March," she responded as if it was no big deal.
The PQ is siding with the students; Charest hopes voters will go against them.
As in England, elections are not set in stone in Canada. Charest has until Decmeber of 2013 to call one, but apparently he`s afraid a probe into scandals will worsen his position in coming months.
There will be three debates on Quebec TV in August, a round robin with the three major candidates squaring off in a a series of one-on-one encounters.
The fourth candidate, the Marxist (apparently) Amir Khadir is his his party`s only member of the legislature. He was recently arrested for blocking traffic during a protest.
That sounds like a rather minor offense compared to charges against Manchester politicians like Mike Garrity and Russ Ouellette.
I brought a camera with me and hope to get some good riot footage tonight.
Wish me well.
The Gazette, by the way, is available at montrealgazette.com. It`s far superior to any New Hampshire paper, and I dare say, to any American paper anywhere. "BATTLE WILL BE FIERCE" was today`s headline with a subhead "Quebecers are in a dark mood and analysts say the elction is too close, too volatile to call." It reports that Charest starts with 30 seats (from English areas) but getting the majority (there are 125 seats in the legislature here) is no done deal.
Prior to nine years of Liberal rule, the PQ was in power for nine years. My guess is that even if the PQ wins, separatism will not happen.
By the way, the Gazette featured nearly a half page obituary of Gore Vidal including the tidbit (from his memoir) that he had sex with more than 1000 people, presumably men. The paper doesn`t say he was gay but it notes he was never married and lived with a long-time companion in Italy. He also didn`t believe in the afterlife. "There is nothing else. This is it," he said.