In the last few weeks, in Quebec, we have been reading many articles explaining how a vote for the Bloc or for the NDP is a vote for Harper. The underlying assumption is that the Quebec vote can be directly relevant in the choice of Canada's next government. This is magical thinking. Harper was chosen and will be either chosen or rejected entirely by the vote in the ROC, mainly in Ontario. Electoral results of the last 50 years clearly show that Quebec's vote was mostly decisive for 30 years, followed by 20 years of almost no influence at all.
In six of the nine elections from 1965 to 1993, without Quebec's vote, the majority government would have been a minority government or not at all, or the minority government would not have governed. Strangely, most Quebecois falsely believe that they helped put the Conservatives in power in 1984 and defeat them in 1993. In 1984 the government obtained a majority of 140 seats which would have been reduced to a very comfortable 82 without the 58 elected in Quebec. In 1993 the Liberal government would have seen its majority of 59 seats reduced to 40 without Quebec's 19. All of Canada wanted a PC government in 1984, and all of Canada wanted them out in 1993. Quebec voters were of the same opinion, but the results were inevitable even without them. For all other elections, the Quebec vote was determining.
Since 1993 there were five elections, only one of which was determined by Quebec's participation. The Quebecois vote has been meaningless federally for a long time. In 2011 Harper had only five members elected in Quebec, having had 10 in each of the previous two elections, and he still obtained a strong majority. All this discussion about whether voting for the Bloc or the NDP, or even the Liberals could help Harper squeak through is pointless except for one little thing...
Quebec, by itself, has completely transformed Canada's electoral landscape, changing the NDP's status from perpetual caboose on the train to potential front runner. For the first time Canada can contemplate the real possibility that the NDP could form the government. All Quebec can do is keep the door open. It is up to the ROC, and mainly Ontario, to enter. The situation is temporary as Quebec's vote will one day turn like the wind in another direction.
Quebec's interests can only be materialized at the federal level by having a strong presence in the cabinet, and preferably having a prime minister coming from Quebec. Many people dream of a better world in an independent Quebec, but meanwhile things are as they are and nothing better can be obtained. All provinces are minority voices at the federal level. Each one has its grievances and feels ill treated to some degree in the federation. We all learn to live with it.
If the NDP form the next government, Quebec will certainly have an enviable place in it, but it is the ROC's choice to make.
An earlier version of this story contained incorrect election years. They have been changed.
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