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Media Bites: The Quebec Election in Four Acts

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Once in a while, whilst eagerly flipping channels in search of Big Brother 14, I'm sure you've been unfortunate enough to stumble upon a gang of Canadian political know-it-alls enthusiastically analyzing some looming provincial or federal election. Doubtless you've been momentarily star-struck by their impressive poise, confidence, vocabulary, and jowls. If only I could care hard enough to have such clever politiky things to say, you almost certainly pined, Smartfood cheese residue crumbling thoughtfully from your lips.

Well, luckily I'm here to help.

Truth is, there's basically only one way to analyze any Canadian election, be it federal, provincial, or Albertan, and it simply entails following the script of the world's least compelling four-act operetta.

Act one is the election call itself, which you must loudly assert is either outright pointless or just cynically timed. Then there'll be a few weeks of campaigning, during which you'll be expected to feign shock at just how "unexpectedly close" all the parties are polling, despite an absence, in your righteous opinion, of any "substantial debate" over "substantial issues" -- that's Act two.

The tight polling numbers will then provoke Act three -- crazed, "what-if" speculation about implausible coalition governments, collapsing political dynasties, and all other manner of frightening doomsday scenarios that aren't actually very likely to happen. (Act four, incidentally is when nothing interesting does happen, and everyone goes back to gossiping about Justin Trudeau.)

If you've been following the commentariat's coverage of the Quebec election lately, well, I'm sorry to hear that. But at least you're aware that we're pretty solidly in "act three" territory at the moment -- that twisted dimension of brain-bending speculation and avante-garde conclusions. Or as Pierre Martin at the Toronto Star calls it, the "Twilight Zone."

If you think the race has been hard to follow so far, says Pierre, rest assured "we ain't seen nothing yet."

Like most pundits, Pierre thinks Premier Charest is destined for the dustbin, but worries the ensuing "balkanization of the party system" -- with the Liberals, Parti Quebecois, and Coalition splitting seats more or less equally -- will yield an monstrously dysfunctional legislature thoroughly unable to "solve the major crises of the day" (unlike, say, now).

And what then? A separatist minority backed by the Liberals? A Coalition minority backed by the separatists? A dog minority supported by cats, pursuing a shared platform of living together?!

Fellow Star-child Chantal Hebert shares her buddy's belief that Charest is likely to lose this thing, but adds it's possible he'll lose so bad that the Liberal meltdown of 2012 "may be about to repeat itself provincially" -- with Jean playing the role of Iggy. And then the stage will be set for Tom Mulcair and his new-fangled provincial NDP to sweep in and fill "the vacuum that a historical Liberal defeat on Sept. 4 would create," but of course by then it'll be 2016 and humanity might be enslaved by martian ant people -- so who knows.

Writing in the Montreal Gazette, it's L. Ian MacDonald who presents the most horrifying post-election doomsday scenario of all, however.

It's possible, he says, that following September 4, the Parti Quebecois could take power in a minority government, only to have their inaugural address immediately vetoed by the plurality forces of the Coalition and Liberal opposition.

And that, says Ian, "would plunge Quebec into a second election."

***

Speaking of evil forces hell-bent on destroying the fragile unity of our nation, have you heard how racist Canada is? It's true! I mean, fine, no one's tromping around in ghost costumes setting astroturf on fire, but didn't you hear? Some randos in a Bank of Canada focus group were uncomfortable seeing an Asian scientist on our hundred-dollar bill!

Granted, some of them opposed the scientist because they thought such stereotypical typecasting was mean to Asians; others because the mere inclusion of a single nonwhite wasn't nearly multicultural enough. And at least one person thought the DNA double-helix that accompanied her was supposed to be a "sex toy," so clearly the Bank of Canada isn't exactly recruiting our best and brightest. But that's not to say we shouldn't draw sweeping sociological conclusions from their idle ramblings!

Minelle Mahtani, who, as she helpfully reminds, was one of the leading critics of that whole Maclean's "Too Asian" controversy a while back, had a thing in the Globe and Mail on Tuesday where she sighed a mighty sigh and noted that this country's "maelstrom" of anti-Asian hysteria has sadly not yet subsided.

"Our currency tells a story," she says. "That story, unfortunately, remains a white one." Though to be fair, until recently that story also involved something about the devil living in the Queen's hair.

The Ottawa Citizen has been all over this beat as well, churning out no less than three editorials since Friday comparing Asian-woman-on-the-$100-bill-gate to everything from Premier Duplessis' hounding of Jehovah's Witnesses in Depression-era Quebec to the Chinese exclusion acts of the late MacDonald administration.

Sure, writes Tim Stanley maybe no one's quite as openly racist as that big-nosed "white supremacist" on the sawbuck anymore, but the bigotry of John A. and friends "lives on in the mistaken assumption that whiteness is neutral and that an Asian cannot represent Canadians."

And right he is! The only critique I'd make is that Tim fails to mention the massive riots that accompanied the appointment of Adrienne Clarkson as governor general back in 1999. But I'm sure space was limited.