Walt here, back home after five days touring (not tearing) through les Cantons de l'Est du Québec. It's good to be back in a place where I don't have to think before I speak [or write! Ed.]. How I envy people like my guide, Poor Len Canayen, who can switch effortlessly from French to English and back again.
Another person who can do that is Chantal Hébert, a columnist for the Toronto Red Star and regular guest on the "At Issue" segment of CBC's The National. Around the middle of September, in the middle of the Québec provincial election campaign, Mme Hébert told Agent 3 that immigration to la Belle Province and the resultant anti-immigrant backlash was a non-issue in this election. She called it "the dog that didn't bark."
The issue was raised by the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) led by millionaire businessman François Legault, who promised that his party would cut the number of immigrants coming into the province from 50,000 to 40,000 per year. And it would force them to take an assessment of their knowledge of the French language and of Québec values within three years in order to obtain a Quebec Selection Certificate, which they need in order to get permanent residency from the federal government.
Those vows brought M Legault into conflict other provincial party leaders. The Liberals predictably accused him of not respecting diversity and stirring up divisions. The Parti Québécois accused him of not going far enough.
The lamestream media dismissed the idea of a values and language test as a warmed-up version of the proposed Charter of Québec Values which (they told us) cost the Parti Québécois the provincial election of 2014, won by the moderately progressive Liberals. There's no anti-immigrant sentiment in Québec, they told us. Québécois are just as tolerant as other Canadians, who, as is well known, love immigrants, espeically the bogus "refugees" and asylum-seekers who are crossing the border between Vermont and Québec illegally, at St-Bernard-de-Lacolle, at the rate of over 1000 per month, assisted by the Mounties who carry their bags and direct them to the welfare office. It was to that part of Québec -- the Eastern Townships -- that we went to gauge the sentiment of real habitants, not the chattering classes of Montréal.
In our travels through the ridings (electoral districts, for our American readers) of Brome-Mississquoi, Orford, Sherbrooke, Granby, Saint-François and Mégantic, we saw lots of signs and posters for the CAQ, some for the other parties (notably Québec Solidaire in Sherbrooke) and very few for the Liberals. The people we talked to -- no taxi drivers or media types! -- were surprisingly unemotional, but pretty sure that change was coming, in the form of a CAQ government.
Why? Not because of the economy, which several told us was doing well enough, under the Liberals, but because of "the values thing". No-one actually said "Québec aux Québécois!", but that was the underlying sentiment, as I read it. That part of Québec, sometimes called l'Estrie, went solidly Liberal in 2014. It contains the largest percentage of anglophones (English speakers) outside of Montréal's west island, but even they seemed in the mood for change, so much so that we couldn't even start an argument, let alone get some bets down!
So... it came as no surprise to Poor Len and yr obdt servant that the CAQ swept l'Estrie and virtually all of Québec, apart from the aforesaid west island. There are 125 seats in the Québec Assemblée Nationale. Final count (as of this writing, subject to a couple of recounts): CAQ 74 (a comfortable majority); Liberals 32; Québec Solidaire 10; Parti Québécois (the former separatists) 9. Turns out the dog that didn't bark chose to bite instead!
As with the American election of 2016 and the Ontario election of this past June, the pollsters and meeja pundits got it WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! They were so sure, right through mid-day yesterday, that the "divisive" CAQ, led by a millionaire businessman (cf. Donald Trump and Doug Ford) couldn't win, that their wildest prediction was that the Liberals might be reduced to a minority government.
The looks on the "experts"' faces reminded me of nothing so much as the long pusses displayed by Joy Behar and all the rest on American TV on The Night of the Trump. I hope someone is putting together a highlight reel showing the moment when the CBC realized the CAQ was going to win. It was at 8:19 PM EDT -- 19 minutes after the polls closed. Just In Trudeau and federal Liberals take note -- YOU'RE NEXT!