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The Rise of Francois Legault

The rise of Francois Legault’s Coalition for the Future of Québec in recent polls has once again changed the back and forth game that is Québec politics. Legault’s new party, which is a self-described centrist party that claims to have no place on the political spectrum, also seems to have no opinion on the endless battle of language politics in Québec. The Coalition’s sole aim is to “solidify the fundamentals of society” by ending Québec’s status as a have-not province – a situation that has plagued the province for decades, regardless of who is in power. The question now arises; what does all this mean for the Québec Anglophone community, and why is this new movement so popular in Québec?

Interestingly, it should be noted that Legault was originally a Parti Québecois (PQ) cabinet Minister of Education, and later Cabinet Minister of Health and Social Services under the government of Bernard Landry.  Those with a long memory of Québec politics might remember, amongst a series of ineffective PQ Cabinet Ministers of Education, Legault pushing towards reforming the CEGEP system. In recent statements, apart from his hostility to CEGEPs and the role they play in granting access to post-secondary education to the young adults of Québec, Legault has taken a shot at the school boards in Québec, calling for them to be abolished. To the detriment of many Anglo Québecers, the removal of English school boards would not only hurt the shrinking Anglophone community, but would also effectively remove the last remaining voice of the community that has been carefully eroded through Bill 101 and the endless fear of a vote for Québec sovereignty.

In a recent visit to his hometown of Saint-Anne de Bellevue, Legault spoke of the supposed platform of his non-existent party. The platform is based on a “four point priority plan”, focusing specifically on education, health care, the economy and Québec culture. Carefully wording his views on Québec culture, Legault hopes to do more to integrate recent immigrant communities who “choose not to use French” by keeping the current enforcement of Bill 101, while prudently ignoring the English speaking community in hopes of gaining a plurality of support in Québec. This can be seen as pandering to both sides, while trying to create a common enemy.

Despite Legault’s claim to be neither Sovereigntist or Federalist, much of the Québec Anglophone community are scratching their heads, wondering if Legault’s party is either a carbon-copy of the Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ), or a by-product of the toxic conditions caused by the other major political parties in Québec – namely the scandal marred Liberals under Jean Charest or self-destructive Parti Québecois under Pauline Marois.

So why is he so popular? Could it simply be the fatigue of the typical sovereignty-federalist divide in Québec, or is it a result of the past Federal election, which saw the unexpected rise of the Federalist New Democratic Party (NDP) over the Liberals, Conservatives and the dominant Bloc Québecois? In an familiar sense, the rise of Legault could possibly be attributed more to the persistent need of a “saviour” in Québec politics, which was seen with Lucien Bouchard in the early 90s and more recently with Jean Charest in the early 2000s. Also, the rise of “un bon Jack” can be attributed to this combination of frustrations with the status quo and the same old ways of established political, creating a political culture in Québec that seemingly emphasizes so-called new ideas from an old party, as seen with Legault and the Parti Québecois.  The question of whether this will significantly change the political landscape of Québec politics or will repeat the failure of other political movements in Québec is yet to be seen.

–  Cody Levine

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