It's been five gruelling weeks of symptoms and suffering but Canada's lengthy bout of Quebec Election Fever is set to finally break. And not a moment too soon, either -- I'm getting a finger cramp from typing all these accent aigus.
As we may recall, Battle for Quebec '012 began last month amid a flurry of ostentatiously cynical editorials from the brightest bulbs of the Canadian punditocracy, all of whom were eager to spout various exasperated theories about why there were no good choices in this race between three equally hopeless parties led by three equally loser dinguses. Debt! Incompetence! Dubious loyalty to Canada! It matters not who you vote for, puny Quebeckers, either way your province is doomed, dooooomed!
Now that some time has passed, however, and the members of the chattering class have had ample opportunity to move beyond their initial hasty generalizations and rash assumptions and actually analyze, in-depth, the speeches, proposals, and visions of Quebec's wannabe-leaders... they're still convinced everything's terrible.
Premier Charest is still considered a corrupt, directionless, flip-floppin', Anglo-ignorin 'hack well past his expiry date; Coalition party boss Francois Legault is still deemed too naive, soft-spined, and Pollyannish for prime time, and Parti Quebecois head Pauline Marois is still, well, literal Nazis have been portrayed less Nazi-like.
If only we lived in a world where newspaper editorial boards weren't expected to make tired, ineffective, perfunctory partisan endorsements that serve no purpose other than to further legitimize the appalling buffet of conformist non-choices offered by the empty ritualistic sham we dare to call a democracy! But too bad -- we don't! So let the pain begin!
Ugh, fine, says the Montreal Gazette. If I had to choose, I guess I'd say I kinda like the Coalition party best. I mean, obviously the separatists "have run a despicable campaign" of evil racism "designed to appeal to the most culturally intolerant and xenophobic elements of Quebec society," and obviously ol' man Charest has "notably failed to deliver on promises" of elections past while his government "appears to have irretrievably undermined public trust in its ethics" through its bumbled handling of corruption probes and whatnot. And obviously the Coalition party has a "glaring lack of governmental experience" and "worrisome" policies and -- wait, who are we endorsing again?
A bit more robust in their pro-Coalition sentiment is the National Post (maybe too robust, in fact, since the PQ has now used the nod as one more push-pin in their elaborate Glen Beck-style flow chart linking the just barely right-of-centre party to Stephen Harper). Unlike the jokers running against him, the Posties proclaim, Monsieur Legault "emphasizes nuts-and-bolts policy issues" like fixing health care, curbing the power of unions, and "generally turning Quebec from a have-not province into a have province." Granted, his caucus is also probably full of "unvetted oddballs," but coming from the paper that endorsed the Wildrose Alliance, you can't expect that to be too much of deal-breaker.
The Toronto Star "does not routinely offer advice to voters in other provinces," writes that paper's editorial board before weighing in and making an endorsement anyway (being Torontonians, I imagine it was not a particularly hard impulse to fight). Among the nation's major papers, they stand alone in throwing their lefty weight solidly behind Premier Charest's Liberals, the only party, they say, with a proven track record of "political stability and prosperity," so long as you define "stability" as "not actively leading a secessionist movement" and "prosperity" as "maintaining a credit rating at least as good as s0me of the more promising nations of the former Soviet bloc."
'Course, for some papers endorsements are like potato chips or mistresses -- you can't stop at just one! The Globe and Mail, for instance, wants to endorse both the Liberals and the Coalition, or, more specifically a "minority alliance" between the two that " melds experience, daring and willingness to work with the rest of Canada on our shared challenges that lie ahead." Lofty language perhaps, but you have to remember that this is coming from a bunch of guys who live in Ontario, a place which has clearly demonstrated just how inspiring and productive minority governments can be.
Needless to say, no one is endorsing Pauline Marois, what with all her racist racism and Canada-hating and all.
A "truly demagogic politician," scoffs the Post. Under her leadership the separatist movement has "sunk very low" indeed, agrees the Star. A truly awful woman with "irrational, extreme, even perverse views" adds the Globe. Certainly no right-thinking Quebeckers would ever place such a monster in charge of their beautiful province, they all weep.
All of this might be good to keep in mind if you're the gambling type.
After all, to paraphrase H.L Mencken, no one ever lost money betting against optimistic fantasies of the the Canadian press.
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