Duhaime and the contradictions of the Conservative Party on the nationalist chessboard

Duhaime and the contradictions of the Conservative Party on the nationalist chessboard

Anne Casabonne and Éric Duhaime

ANALYSIS – General elections will be held in Quebec on October 3. The election campaign will be the time to measure the political divisions on the national question. It will also be an opportunity to see how the Conservative Party of Quebec (PCQ) led by Éric Duhaime is trying to position itself on this issue.

Duhaime and the contradictions of the Conservative Party on the nationalist chessboard

By: Frédérick Guillaume Dufour, (UQAM) and François Tanguay, UDM

Between 1976 and 2018, Quebec elections were structured by the split between federalists and sovereignists. This cleavage was reflected in the alternation between the Liberal Party of Quebec and the Parti Québécois. The seizure of power by the Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) in 2018 has blurred the cards with regard to the persistence of this divide.

What will be the role of the PCQ in this campaign? And how does he fit on the right-wing political spectrum? Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Quebec in Montreal, my current research focuses on nationalisms and populism in Canada, Quebec and Germany.

A nationalism without a quest for a state…

If the national question no longer structures the same divide and no longer puts the same two formations in the foreground, the last four years have shown that it is premature to announce the end of nationalist dynamics in Quebec politics.

These dynamics will certainly structure the next electoral campaign. With the decline of the sovereigntist option, it is nationalism in search of a state, historically associated with the Parti Québécois, but also associated with Québec Solidaire, which is experiencing a decline in the electorate. Although many CAQ voters still call themselves sovereignists, they do not vote for a political party that openly promotes this type of nationalism.

The strength of the nationalist mobilization strategy of the CAQ is to join at the same time a part of the economic nationalists, the republican nationalists, the autonomist nationalists, and the national-populists under the same tent. The party quite skilfully seizes the opportunities to retain these currents by playing on several legal and symbolic tables, but without arousing the fears often associated with the referendum option and the sovereignist horizon.

The CAQ does not hesitate to provoke conflicts with the federal Liberal government. This strategy has so far been relatively profitable for him, with the exception of the support that François Legault gave to the Conservative Party during the last federal election.

Otherwise, the CAQ tries to provoke situations from which it can win out in two ways. Either she gets what she wants, or she can easily denounce the interference of the federal government or of Canada outside Quebec in Quebec politics. We think of the ongoing challenge to Bill 96, for example. Many Quebec voters, even if they oppose Bill 21 or 96, are equally opposed to federal intervention against a bill passed by the National Assembly of Quebec.

If the PQ, QS and the CAQ occupy familiar ground on the nationalist rink, it remains to be seen what place the PCQ and its new leader Éric Duhaime will seek to occupy.

Where is the PCQ on the quebecois chessboard ?

Duhaime's training has been galvanized by opposition to health measures linked to the Covid-19 pandemic. His libertarian and convoluted stance on the issue of vaccination helped the party rack up a protest vote. She has also won the loyalty of a base that often flirts with conspiratorial ideas in a context of strong distrust of the media in Quebec.

Members of the Conservative team – up to 30% of nominations according to a CBC survey – shared misinformation about vaccines and other treatments related to Covid-19. Research shows a correlation between opposition to health measures, voting for populist right-wing parties and conspiratorial thinking.

The party places its pawns in a box very to the right on economic issues, thus occupying a space neglected by the centre-right governance of the CAQ. In a context where young voters are faced with inflation, the carrot of the tax cut – also proposed by its Liberal and CAQ competitors – could pay off. With this tax cut and its proposal to suspend the provincial gas tax, the PCQ is thus trying to position itself as the party of the reduction of the tax burden of taxpayers.

Socio-demographically, the party has significant appeal among young voters, and especially among young men. Some polls measured a disparity between voting intentions by gender of up to 8 percentage points among men. This gap has narrowed recently. The PCQ now overtakes the Parti Québécois in voting intentions.

The PCQ's strategy on the national question can be drawn from two clear sources, the electoral platform and the program, and from two other sources grey, the leader's public statements and the Québec Fier platform.

The program contains the fundamental positions of the party, the platform contains the strategic and tactical repertoire that will be mobilized within the framework of the electoral campaign, which Duhaime describes as priority issues. Among these are the privatization of health and the exploitation of hydrocarbons.

National-populist and libertarian-themes< /h3>

The electoral platform presented on August 14 is silent on nationalist issues. It does not include any reference to secularism, immigration or the protection of French. However, this is not the case with the party program, nor with Duhaime's public statements. The program claims to want to protect French, “the most important vector of the national identity and the uniqueness of the Quebec people in Canada and in America”.

He campaigns for a drop in immigration and repeatedly introduces the notion of “civilizational compatibility”. as a principle that should structure immigration policy. The program also aspires to a pronatalist policy without detailing its content. The family, explains the electoral platform, is “the primordial institution of our society and the bedrock of our nation”.

These themes position the party in the semantic and programmatic universe of the national-populist right, but within a clearly federalist horizon. According to Duhaime himself, this program shares several points in common with the nationalism of the CAQ. He could therefore seduce part of the electorate who had supported Legault in 2018. is also in line with the party's program.

Beyond the general statements, the PCQ's concrete position on language issues is less clear. The PCQ seeks both to present itself as a defender of the French language, and as a representative of libertarian positions opposed to Quebec's language laws. On the one hand, he seeks to defend an identity centered around language, family and civilization and to seduce a jaded English-speaking electorate from the Liberal Party of Quebec. These are tensions that are difficult to reconcile in Quebec politics. It is difficult to see how libertarians can commit themselves to supporting Quebec culture, if they systematically oppose the institutional and cultural instruments of the state that allow it to subsidize, disseminate and promote it. /p>

This wide-ranging position could end up arousing the mistrust of some nationalists as well as some federalists, who are worried about the situation of French in Quebec as much as in the rest of Canada.< /p>

The awkward-support from the Alberta-hydrocarbon-industry

If ambiguities remain around identity issues, the PCQ does not do half measures with regard to the exploitation of Quebec's energy resources, including natural gas. Here, petropopulism complements national-populism.

Duhaime is a strong supporter of the exploitation of these resources, and his group maintains links with oil and gas interest groups in Western Canada. The Québec Fier Facebook page, the French-language counterpart of Canada Proud, was recently described as a content factory for Duhaime's training. It constitutes a relay, according to Radio-Canada, between the hydrocarbon industry in the west and the PCQ. The Québec Fier group was recently subsidized by the Canada Strong and Free network. The Modern Miracle Network, an organization for the defense of hydrocarbons, also describes Québec proud as a group in defense of the fossil industries.

This support could be dangerous for the PCQ. If the party gives the impression of being a Quebec branch of an Alberta formation, it could drive away voters who had been seduced by the CAQ's separatist positions and economic nationalism.

In other words , it will be difficult to present the party as sovereign over its own economic policies if it is perceived as the lackey of Albertan interests.

Frédérick Guillaume Dufour, Professor of Political Sociology, University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM) and François Tanguay, PhD student, University of Montreal

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Duhaime and the contradictions of the Conservative Party on the nationalist chessboard

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