Quebec finds its corruption fighter
By Bruce A Stewart
Jacques Duchesneau is not a name many Canadians outside Quebec know. Yet.
Over the weekend, François Légault, the leader of Quebec’s new third party, the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ), announced Duchesneau as a star candidate (he will contest St-Jérôme, north of Montréal).
Légault has also been willing to make clear who’s headed to what ministries in a CAQ government. In Duchesneau’s case, it’ll be Deputy Premier and a super-minister, with all of the aspects of law enforcement and prosecution under his control.
After all, why waste the man considered the scourge of corruption and the most incorruptible enforcer of the law in Quebec on something small?
This plays to the findings of Léger Marketing, in an issues poll (no questions about “which party would best handle the issue” were asked, just ones to find the issues voters are thinking about this summer) published yesterday.
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70 per cent of Quebeckers and Québécois alike answered “corruption” as the number one issue.
That — if you’re not keeping count — is a number big enough to encompass voters from all parties, even if you go in assuming that 100 per cent of a party’s backers would favour that issue.
Despite economic worries galore, corruption outranked any other issue by a substantial margin.
That’s not surprising. Corruption in Quebec governmental affairs is a long standing issue.
A young Montréal labour lawyer named Brian Mulroney, you may remember, served on the Cliche Commission back in the early 1970s, looking at corruption in Québec’s construction industry on government projects. (He made his first run for leader of the Progressive Conservatives in 1976 based on that.)
One of the key reasons Quebeckers vote on September 4 is that, in mid-September, the inquiry into corruption in Québec’s construction industry on government projects resumes. Premier Jean Charest didn’t want to face the voters next year after months of testimony had been heard.
Both Liberal governments and Péquiste governments alike can be tarred by the brush of corruption. (Not, of course, that the PQ is going to admit that: their leader, Pauline Marois, is too busy painting the Liberals black with it right now in her effort to unseat them.)
The people of Quebec are tired of been seen as “Canada’s most corrupt province.” The intelligensia and the pundits in the province may have risen up in the usual righteous anger when Maclean’s put that on their front cover, but within the province it was well known that the charges were right on the money.
Remember what happened federally in Quebec after Gomery? The only federal Liberals that survived — or can be elected to this day — are either personally so popular they could run on the Dogcatcher Party in their riding and win the day, or its one of the very few ridings left that votes for the party reflexively, even when it runs a cardboard box painted red.
There are a very few ridings in Quebec that are PQ blue that way. A few have personally popular PQ members. So, too, for Charest’s Liberals: a few that would vote PLQ even if the party didn’t exist, and a few personally popular MNAs.
But Duchesneau has just put the rest into play for the CAQ. With three-way races across the province, the polling models just broke, big time.
Duchesneau also nicely balances out the charge laid against Légault, that as a former PQ cabinet minister the CAQ is really just “another separatist party”.
Duchesneau is an unabashed federalist, far less nationalist that Charest is.
Corruption as the number one issue just found its champion. This race just became unpredictably wide open.
Légault, Duchesneau and their colleagues may just become names we all know in another month.