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How Pauline Marois Fell Into Her Own Trap

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Pauline Marois, the premier of Quebec and leader of the Parti Québécois, had a carefully prepared recipe whose ingredients entailed calling early elections, handily winning the race and creating her party's first majority government in over a decade. Buoyed by positive poll numbers showing her in a commanding position, she confidently proclaimed April 7 election day, expecting to garner full power in the National Assembly.

At the outset, Marois touted her highly controversial Quebec Charter of Values, which aimed to abolish the wearing of religious symbols among select public officials in the line of duty, that was popular among the electorate as it encouraged the French-Canadians' historical march towards secularization. Already distant from the Catholic Church, this new charter was to accelerate Quebec's path toward secular status by diminishing the symbols of other religions and cultures, thereby creating the perfect scenario for a solid Parti Québécois victory.

However, a nonchalant Madame Marois, in an attempt to appease the radical hardcore of her party that continues to aspire for nationhood, began musing about another referendum aimed at independence for the province. Not only did she begin openly discussing the plebiscite as if the provincial election had already been won, but her controversial stance regarding the fait accompli of a majority government led her to announce to a disbelieving electorate that an independent Quebec would retain the Canadian dollar and a seat at the Bank of Canada as a sovereign nation in a political and economic union similar to that of the European Union.

Pauline Marois' election campaign was suddenly out of control. Instead of putting forth a plan for the future of the economy and a sound fiscal policy for the province, her focus resulted in a frenzy for Quebec independence.

As if the swirling rumours of an upcoming post-election referendum were not enough, the premier unveiled what she believed to be her ace in the hole in the name of star candidate and Quebecor media magnate Pierre Karl Peladeau who quickly proclaimed on air that Quebec was ready to claim its independence and that he desired that his children live in an independent Quebec.

Pauline Marois brought Monsieur Peladeau into the political game in a quest to inspire confidence among the business world for Quebec independence. However, this proved a fatal mistake as the Parti Québécois is a left-leaning political entity and the entry of Pierre Peladeau into the fray alienated many supporters who evidently did not take warmly to the inclusion of a tycoon among their ranks, especially one feigning social interventionism on behalf of the weak.

In fact, Pierre Peladeau's track record in his dealings with the unions at his media empire never endeared him with the voters of Quebec and the Parti Québécois' traditional blue collar base as he presided over a bitter, two-year lockout of his employees that ended with 75 per cent of those locked out eventually losing their jobs. The suspicion with which Peladeau was viewed peaked while at the same time exposing the premier, who refused to make the details of her personal wealth public by claiming that she had submitted copies of her tax returns to the National Assembly's ethics commissioner, as emanating from the same elite circles of Quebec's plutocracy.

But Pauline Marois lost the game to Philippe Couillard. By choosing to openly flaunt the card of an unwanted referendum and sovereign Quebec, she is caught in her own trap. And by inadvertently bringing to light the aspect of her privileged profile, she has fallen out among the province's populace.

Now the new premier will have a difficult task. For, Canada's French-speaking province is saddled with lower economic growth and higher unemployment than the rest of the country and is struggling with a huge debt load that continues to spiral out of control, swelling from 37.6-billion dollars in 1990 to 175.5 billion today and leaving no illusions about impending cutbacks to the bloated public sector and government spending.

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