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PREFACE: I wrote another post on Julie Snyder, complete with videos, which traces how she has gone from a show-biz celebrity to a de facto politician for sovereignty. You can read that post here: Québec’s 20 most trusted individuals: 14th and 15th positions [post 8 of 11] (#263)
We’re now half way through the group of 12 famous Quebec personalities who most Anglophones could not identify when polled (see the previous post “The Poll that Shocked”). We’ll continue with the remaining 6 personalities mentioned in the polls.
Julie Snyder, like Guy Lepage (earlier post), is a well-known interviewer and TV show producer, but the nature of her productions are quite different.
I particularly remember growing up in rural Alberta, watching Julie Snyder’s show L’enfer c’est nous autres after school on Radio-Canada in the early / mid-90s — light-hearted TV variety show in which she conducted amusing interviews, or took part in various events. She always wore eccentric-themed dresses (flower bouquets glued on her dresses, a working water-fountain dress, a dress in the shape of unlikely objects like a guitar, bowling pin, etc, etc.). Her wacky clothes became her trademark of sorts and added to the fun atmosphere of her shows. If one of your friends was wearing any piece of flashy clothing, you could joke with them that they looked like a “Julie, in the flesh” (the uniting factor of pop-culture).
Born in 1967, she’s been on and off the TV since age 18 (more “on” than off). A couple of generations have grown up watching her on television.
Her interviewing style matured into a more conventional manner with the inception of her show Le Poing J on the TVA TV network in the latter half of the 1990s. Her interviewees were newsmakers in cultural spheres (singers, actors), and she also brought on various controversial figures as well. Her handling of controversial topics earned her a new respect, and her style as an advocate for numerous societal issues began to define her in the eyes of the public.
After hosting her own interview show in France for a couple of years, she returned to Québec and galvanized her name (and career) into the history books as the TV producer and host of the wildly popular, weekly reality TV singing competition Star Académie which aired on TVA for 10 years until 2012 (you’ll recall from an earlier post that Marie-Mai’s career was launched on Star Académie – with Julie having played a direct hand in the launch of Marie-Mai’s career, as well as those of many others). Because of her show helped to launch so many singing careers, the ampler, popularity and impact of her show on the Québec singing industry cannot be underestimated (in terms of artistic contribution, as well as pure economics). Closely resembling Canadian Idol in style, but with a much deeper concentration of viewer penetration, Star Académie repetitively drew in over 2 million viewers, breaking records for viewership for a Canadian television program.
Snyder put Star Académie on hold in 2012 and concentrated on other matters, while continuing to develop, produce and host the television game show Le Banquier on TVA (a show similar to “Deal or No Deal”). Because the prize stakes are so high (prizes climbing as high as $1,000,000), the show attracts record audiences (exceeding 2 million viewers – again, record breaking territory for Québec and Canadian television).
Being a central figure in the star-culture of Québec, some of her best known friends are amongst some of the biggest stars and icons in Québec, as well as the francophone world in general. Her friendship with Céline Dion is particularly prominent. It’s often a publicly shared friendship, and Julie and Céline are regularly seen together on television, with Céline having been featured in Julie’s numerous shows.
Pop-culture in Québec often crosses paths with politics. While most celebrities do remain politically neutral on the public stage, the political opinions of many well-known artists and icons are sometimes thinly veiled and can often discerned by the public (after all, 1+1 always equals 2). But only a handful of celebrities venture to publicly endorse specific political parties, ideologies, or people in an overt manner. Snyder’s personal integrity for standing up for issues she feels strongly about is well-known, and she by no means has hidden her political inclinations — throwing her support behind the Parti Québécois and sovereignty.
[Note: The purpose of this blog is not to politicize celebrities — even if they politicize themselves in the grandest of ways. So I’ll leave it to the readers to do their own research if further interest exists. However, from time to time, I may bring up political affiliations if it may provide depth of context for the topic being discussed.]
Apart from her political activism, Julie Snyder is also a staunch advocate of several issues, including gender equality, specific health-related matters, and state secularism in Québec (with the latter having been a hotly debated issue in the last provincial election – further defining Snyder’s political activism).
Much of her career has developed and continues to be featured on TVA (you’ll recall the last post highlighted Pierre Bruneau’s career on TVA). Snyder’s spouse of almost 15 years, Pierre Karl Péladeau (often simply referred to as PKP), is the former CEO of Québecor, the communications company which owns TVA. The Péladeau family continues to run Québecor. Pierre Péladeau is now a Parti Québécois MNA in the Québec legislature (the equivalent of an MLA, MPP, or MNL). They have children together.
Julie’s career continues to flourish, and it is certain that her influence, popularity, and causes close to her heart will continue to leave their mark on Québec society and culture as a whole.
Suggestions for additional research:
- Star Académie
- Le Poing J
- Le Banquier
Please only view non-pirated content through official websites when conducting web-searches for content. Songs featured on Star Académie are available for purchase through legal venues (please do not pirate – the hard work of artists form part of our cultural fabric).
Continue to refer back to this post every few of months (I may update it periodically). Snyder’s political engagement has become more and more public and more frequent since initially writing this post. She makes regular political on-air statements, and in late 2014 engaged in a battle of words (a very bitter, personal and public one at that) with the CAQ leader, François Legault (and Snyder has in the past lambasted Premier Couillard when he was a former Health Minister in Jean Charest’s cabinet).
Without having been elected, her political self styling and her use of a very large public microphone is beginning to show traits of morphing into a de facto politician, without a seat or portofolio of course. As Québec’s most watched person on television, she is using her role to compliment and back-up the political campaigning and positions of her husband, the billionaire media-mogul, Pierre Karl Péladeau (who is expected to become the leader of the Parti Québécois, lest the tide unseeingly turns against him in the run-up to the PQ leadership convention in May, 2015).
It is quite interesting, and considering this very different and new “business empire”-cum-“media-star” political partnership, neither Québec, nor Canada has ever seen something quite like this before (the Snyder-PKP political team). It could possibly lead to one of the most significant political shake-ups and show-downs in Québec’s and Canada’s history.
Without wanting to overplay it, only time will tell if it goes down this road.
A four to eight year chess-table is being slowly laid out. However, we are only at the very beginning of this game, and not nearly enough moves on that chess table have been made yet to tell what direction it will take. Syder’s and PKP’s ultimate goal is Québec’s sovereignty – full stop, period! And for them, the faster the better (PKP has said in the last few weeks that he has zero interest in governing Québec. He wants to get in, hold a referendum, win it, and then get out).
But because the chess moves are only starting to be made, there are way too many factors to tell what will happen. Some of the unknowns:
- Couillard’s government still has four years to govern. At the end of those four years, will he be more popular than PKP, and if so, will that thwart PKP’s hopes of becoming Premier in the next government mandate? If not, will PKP be interested in sticking around for a whole “eight years” for the second general election if he can’t win the next one? Will his party tolerate such a situation?
- The “Conflict-of-interest wildcard”: Will he be allowed to keep his media fortune without being forced to sell it off? Many believe he would never HAVE made it this far if it wasn’t for his and Snyder’s fame, money and influence convincing decision makers to day to put their confidence in PKP (ie: people in the party and PKP’s riding voted for him because of his stature). But many feel this gives an unequal and unfair advantage, and thus are advocating for him to be forced to sell his media empire.
There is also a fear (even in certain aspects of the sovereignist movement, that the TVA/Canoe/newspaper news & commentary segment of his media empire will not challenge him, for fear of what happens when he returns to the CEO seat after politics). It becomes extremely complicated and interwoven with so many other aspects: His wife, Snyder, is the most watched person in Québec media – either on stage or as the creator of Québec’s most popular programs – and she is given free reign because here projects are all on her PKP’s personally owned networks – and thus that holds huge influence over the electorate. Also refer to the prior post No Way, Le Figaro! for poignant examples of other complicated twists this whole rigmarole is taking — to the point that it is now reaching as far away as Alberta.
With this being said, there’s also another Julie Snyder association to the whole “conflict-of-interest” conundrum. In Québec, to ensure all candidates and parties are on equal footing and nobody has more of an advatage than others (either for party positions, or elected positions), there are very strict spending laws with respect to campaigning and advertising. Travel and paid television airtime is included in this equation. Those with the most media expoure often tend to have a leg up anytime there are party votes or electorate votes. Spending caps are designed to even out the amount of media exposure any one candidate can get. BUT it has the appearance of a conflict of interest when PKP has the money to pull “personal” media attention-getters, and when Snyder has the television programming power with which to air those activities as a “private family affair” (rather than a politcial one).
It’s seemlingly an important possible loophole which other politicans (foes or friendly) cannot compete with. I’ll give you a couple of examples. A couple of months there was the ice-bucket challenge. Snyder and PKP went on a “family vacation” to the Madeleine Islands where they participated in the ice-bucket challenges as a “family.” Snyder was interviewed and was part of a great deal of media appearances (both live, and as repeat feeds), with her husband standing in the background, just “tagging along” (I watched it live on TVA Salut Bonjour). It was not considered a political campaiging expenditure in the legal sense, but it had all the allures of campaigning to far off regions of Québec, raising PKP’s profile in those regions, and then broadcast repeatedly across the province through Snyder’s own “private” media appearances. How can other politicans compete with this?
The same thing happened with their “family” jaunts to Scotland and Barcelona to be present for their respective referendums. In many ways, the Snyder-PKP self-paid family vacation became just as much the news story as the referendums themselves. PKP spends the money, and Snyder pulls in the television appearances. It’s an issue – and this is why attempts have been made to come up with some sort of binding parliamentary resolution requiring that Party heads (ie: PKP, should he win the PQ party leadership) “and” their immediate relatives (ie: Julie Snyder) must sell all shares which they hold in any media company (rather than just restricting it to Party heads). PKP already said there’s no hope in hell that he will do that.
He states his ownership of Québecor was inherited from his father, and he has every intention to pass it to his own children when they become adults (they’re young children right now). (Note: Snyder owns Productions J, which produces all of her shows – much like Oprah’s company “Harpo”… and then Productions J sells them to or cooperates with Québecor and its media affiliates to air her programs – which in turn, owing to the fact that they constitute some of the most successful TV programs in Québec’s and Canada’s history, bring in Québecor’s/TVA’s/QMI’s ratings – and thus a huge chunk of PKP’s sorce of cash. It’s complicated, but can you follow?).
Will attempts to restrict politicians from owing media companies be successful, and can such a resolution be passed? I don’t know. Due to the complexity of the matter, many people have their doubts (there are major legal, and possible constitutional implications). Laval University, which Couillard requested to produce a research paper and recommendations on the issue, declined due to the politicization of the topic. But what happens if such a binding resolution can be attained? And what happens if it cannot? Both answers have major implications.
- IF PKP does become Premier in 4 years time (and, of course, there is no way of knowing), who will be in power in Ottawa to face him down in a possible referendum? Will it be Harper? (with a minority or majority government?), Trudeau? (with a minority or majority government?). What will they be able to bring to the table to counter PKP? Harper has never been popular in Québec, and his French is not good enough to carry on any type of major debate in French (imagine what would have happened in the 1995 referendum if Canada’s Prime Minister at the time was rock bottom in the polls in Québec and could not have debated or carried any make-in-or-break-it speeches or arguments in French!!).
What about Trudeau? PKP is arguing that Trudeau’s father (Pierre) is responsible for all of Québec’s woes. Will PKP-Snyder use the media to try to transform that into some type of provocative public anger against Trudeau, leading to Trudeau having to enter a referendum fight with low popularity? Will Justin Trudeau be able to counter other Snyder-PKP societal connections in Québec’s media? (Snyder is well connected with Québec’s media, and there is a possibility she could organize a large segment of Québec’s media against who ever is in power in Ottawa. Imagine what would happen in 10 or 20 of Québec’s most popular and influential celebrities and television figures all publicly turned against Ottawa at once – be it Harper or Trudeau. Read the post Le Plateau for a bit more insight into this card).
- PKP is not immune to ideological criticism. He is currently campaigning as a left-of-centre politician to rally the PQ’s traditional base, but many people are pointing out that his past actions as a major business figure fly in the face of this (ie: his past as a union buster, fiscal conservative, and numerous other associations indicate he has right-right ideologies). This has divided many people who support the Parti Québecois. He needs a united supporter base with which to advance any agenda (either prior to or after any PQ leadership campaign). Will he be able to move forward if that base is fractured regarding their take on him? Is this where Snyder will try to intervene to consolidate that base via her position as a powerful media figure?
- But, with all this said… Québec’s public today is VERY DIFFERENT than Québec’s public in 1995 and 1980. There is no longer life-long loyalty to any one party, and dare I say to any one ideology in Québec. In very general terms, Québec’s electorate is very much like electorates elsewhere in Canada (it’s no longer the odd-sheep out in that asepect – and is very much a Canadian electorate in form and substance). It seems that Québec’s public votes based on “feelings”, the “personality” of party leaders (with less emphasis on party platforms or a party’s ideology than what existed 20 years ago), and they they vote more and more in “pragmatic” rather than ideological terms (ie: how will their vote affect their wallet and services — and in particular, retirement.
Remember, Québec’s population is getting older). PKP’s life has been devoted to business (the Snyder-PKP team are billionaires)… and will he be able to win over such an electorate considering his platform is ideological? Will he be able to use his and Snyder’s media and business history to shift what is essentially an ideological argument to one which can be viewed as a practical one? That’s a major shift, and if has never been tried before in the sovereignty sense… at least not to the extent it will have to be tried if he wishes to win a referendum.
- Will Snyder be able to use her media profile to isolate Ottawa and wrestle away the hearts and minds of Québec? (She is already producing some popular programs, which happen to also be quite nationalistic).
- What happens if Couillard shows that his fiscal cut-backs were good for Québec in four years time? Will PKP be able to win based on the economy-card if Couillard takes the wind out of his sails.
- We’re heading into possible turbulent times with the drop in oil prices… but it could be good for Québec’s export sector, and could keep Couillard in power in four years time. What will PKP do then?
- On the reverse side, what happens if oil prices rebound, even to record heights, in four years’ time? If the dollar goes through the roof, it could spell dark days for Québec’s manufacturing, exports, and thus any ruling party. Will that be a god-send for PKP to defeat Couillard? Will the Snyder-PKP team pounce on the opportunity through the media and consolidate their chances?
- If there is a new Printemps Érable in the spring of 2015 in protest regarding Couillard Liberal budget cuts (right around the time of the PQ convention – which is possibly why the PQ leadership convention was delayed until May 2015), how much momentum and ammunition will that give to PKP? And will it have a tangible effect he can carry with him for 3-4 years until the next general election? Keep in mind that Snyder was a major figure in the Jeannettes movement of the last Printemps Érable in 2012… and she could use her media position to build it into a downhill rolling snowball (which has to crash into something at some point). Just how long can they keep that snowball rolling?
Can Léo Bureau-Drouin, Martine Desjardins, and Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois be rallied to support any stances PKP or Snyder may take in any future Printemps Érable? (They were key figures, and arguably the success-drivers of the last Printemps érable. Their notariety and inclusion in any future Printemps érable may be a necessity, but which may come with a double-edged sword for Snyder-PKP). Whereas Bureau-Drouin’s and Desjardin’s support can almost be guaranteed (with them both having respectively been a former PQ MNA and defeated PQ MNA cadidate), Nadeau-Dubois may prove to be a thorn in the side of any Snyder-PKP attempts to fuel, fan, or even organize a new Printemps Érable. Nadeau-Dubois is already giving clear signals that he is not a fan of PKP, let along a supporter. Lise Payette even tried to convince him in late 2014 to at least support PKP in principle for the sake of sovereignty, if for nothing else, but he wouldn’t hear any of it.
Seeing as Nadeau-Dubois is the most publicly followed of the three “Érabliers-à-trois” (for lack of a better term for these three individuals), what will happen if he denounces PKP (or Snyder) in any new Printemps érable, either in spring 2015, or any time after that? There’s a possibilty it could fracture the PQ, and sovereignists in general, even more than what they already are.
- As you can see above, there are a number of bumps in the road, and mini-hurdles which would have to be overcome, one-by-one, step-by-step, for the Snyder-PKP team to achieve their goal. In the behind-the-scenes strategy rooms of the Parti Québécois (and perhaps more relevant, in PKP’s own office), they would have to lay out a road map… a long scroll with a beginning (now) and and end (sovereignty), and every step, as well as every hurdle which could come along between those two points. So as to stay on track, they would have to take their best guesses as to how they would chronologically play out.
What not many in the media have picked up upon is that Couillard, to date, seems to be a “silent” strategist. I get the impression he’s not thinking one step ahead, but perhaps 10 or 20 steps ahead (I could give numerous examples, but I won’t go into that here). Bottom line, I’m guessing he probably has the ability to also draw out a mirror image of the same political strategy the PKP team has drawn for themselves, and he’s likely to try to thwart off in advance (quite possibly with large degrees of success) numerous necessary steps in the Snyder-PKP strategy road map… perhaps so far in advance, and to such a degree of effectiveness, that it could make it so the Snyder-PKP team can’t even find the anticipated foot-holds they were hoping and planning for (simply because Couillard was able to anticipate them in advance, and remove those footholds). This is pure conjecture on my part, but Couillard is a brain surgeon by profession, and he has an extremely analytical mind. He’s shown this with numerous decisions he has made.
- And then, probably the most import factor, what about Québec’s general lack of appetite for a referendum or hard sovereignty stances (which is very different from soft nationalism, or even a soft sovereignty position). The hard sovereignty advocates of yesteryear (much of the generation from the 1970s) are now going into retirement, if they’re not already there. It takes public support to win a political battle.
Has the PKP-Snyder team taken up the torch too late? The younger generations and immigrant 1st & 2nd generation Québécois, those which more economic room to risk, have a much more “global outlook” on life and their place in the world (as opposed to a “nationalistic inward outlook”, which has always been needed in the past in order to consolidate mass support for sovereignty.
The last attempt to foster this type of “nationalistic inward outlook”, La Charte des valeurs, didn’t exactly go very far, and even backfired to a large degree). Perhaps the Snyder-PKP team may simply be too late for the times, and perhaps, if for nothing else, this could already predetermine the destiny of their efforts. But we will not know this until a good number of chess moves are played in the coming months, and possibly coming years.
As you can see… there are a million different things which could happen. But if you follow things (and you can only really do so in French if you wish to get a true “feel” for what is happening – which is the reason why Anglophone media hasn’t seemed to clue in to any of this), you can see the starting point of strategies and various plans (A, B, C, D, etc.) taking form by way of subtle statements and stances in the media.
It’s really anybody’s guess. But I guarantee you, the run-up to the next provincial election in four years time will be anything but dull. Stay tuned.
ADDENDUM 2015-04-01: A few updates…
- PKP sold off Sun News TV, but still owns all the rest
- PKP’s campaign transportation (charting airplanes) will be accounted for as campaign expenses
- The 2012 student protest leaders (Desjardins, Bureau-Drouin, Nadeau-Dubois) are nowhere to be seen during the renewed (but sputtering) 2015 spring student protests. The rest pretty much remains the same (for now).
- The spring student protests were a total flop. They sputtered, then their leadership started to in-fight, they then became the laughing stock of all, then they died. The super-hero trio of 2012 (Nadeau-Dubois, Bureau-Drouin, and Déjardins) was nowhere to be seen. Instead, the leadership consisted of no-name and incoherent unknowns.
- Unlike 2012, there was nothing Snyder could have involved herself in, protest-wise, without looking like she would be involving herself in something foolish. So that was out of the cards for her this time around.
- Yesterday Dominic Maurais of Radio-X interviewed Vincent Marissal, a well-known newspaper columnist. Marissal wrote a column in which he touched upon a massive star-studded rally Snyder is trying to put together for the crowining of PKP as head of the PQ.
- Marissal states that he has inside info that Snyder is wielding her influence as one of Québec’s best connected media and cultural personalities to call in favours from many in the artistic world her owe her one (singers, artists, TV personalities, etc.). She is trying to get 101 personalities to appear in a massive show to support PKP on May 8th.
- Marissal asserts that this has left many artists uncomfortable, but many owe her for past favours. It is a conundrum for many artists. In addition, many fear being damage to their careers if they refuse to Snyder’s call, and subsequently find themselves locked out of Québecor’s (TVA, and by extension Productions J) media sphere (which controls 40% of Québec’s media).
- Later on the same interview show, Pierre Céré, one of those running for the head of the PQ, insinuated that Vincent Marissal’s assessment is not necessarily wrote. He stated that it worries him, That is big news – and it is going over the head of most people.
- To add to all of this, the purported rally is to take place in Québec City’s new Ampithéatre ($90 million hockey & multi-purpose stadium) owned by Vidéotron, which is owned by Québecor, and thus owned by PKP. It may take the defacto form of a giant “Thank-you PKP” festival (after all, Québec City die-hard hockey fan residents have been desperate for the construction of a new stadium with which to try to attract the Nordiques back to the city). The rally’s goals would thus be to win the hearts and minds in the Québec City region, and turn them to PKP, AKA Jesus — all in a region where PKP and the PQ desperately need votes.
- If people were only aware…
- My thoughts: An extremely dangerous situation, if it’s true. What single other politician (provincial or federal) can compete with such Snyder-PKP tactics. Whether it works or not will be whether people manage to see through it.
From here on in, for the sake of simplicity and efficiency, anything political to do with the PKP-Snyder-PQ ménage à trois will be written as addendums to the post No Way, Le Figaro! (#76) (Click the preceding link to access that post).
I also wrote a piece on her background and how it fits into her officially becoming the unofficial (or unofficially becoming the official) one-woman communications / publicity / marketing department of the entire Parti Québécois and Bloc Québécois political machine.
You can read it here in the post Québec’s 20 most trusted individuals: 14th and 15th positions [post 8 of 11] (#263)
——————– FIN ——————–
The following is a commentary I wrote, in conjunction with consultations and discussions with Andrew Griffith of the widely read blog Multicultural Meanderings.
It is a blog worth following (it’s very unique and insightful).
It has been a week since the Federal election (although it feels like more). Stephen Harper is Prime Minster for a few more days.
It is not unreasonable to ask what has changed, in particular in Québec. Although Prime Minister-Elect Justin Trudeau will not assume office until November 4th, the answer is that actually quite a lot has changed.
In fact, everything.
This week we are seeing the convergence of two very important events in Canadian history. Their importance is not to be underestimated. How these two events are being viewed in Québec constitutes an earthquake of change.
First, the obvious event which everyone is talking about in Québec is how a Liberal government, headed by a new leader who appears to embrace a new spirit of openness (relative to the outgoing Prime Minister), embodies a focal point for cohesiveness in both a pan-Canadian and Québec societal sense, rather than regional or partisan divisiveness.
Second, and perhaps more profound, is that this week marks the 20th anniversary of the 1995 referendum for Québec independence. Yet, the manner in which this week is already unfolding, being talked about, and “felt” with the backdrop of a newly elected Trudeau-led government is something I would not have fathomed only a year ago.
Political commentators in Canada’s English media often report on events in Québec from the perspective of being “outside the fish-bowl looking in”. Sure, they can tell you which direction the fish are swimming, as well as the colour of the fish and the pebbles.
However, how the water tastes, the suitability of its temperature, and how the fish feel about each other (and how they feel about those peering in at them from outside the bowl) can only be told from the perspective of the fish themselves.
I’m going to take a crack at describing the tone in Québec from the perspective of the fish (ignoring the colours of the pebbles and the likes).
Let’s back up to a year ago.
Trudeau had already been head of the Liberal party for more than a year. Not only was his party in third place in terms of physical seat counts, but in the minds of Québécois, he might have well been in fifth place. The Liberals were stagnant from a legacy going back to the 1990s, years of leadership gaffes, and a lack of innovative policy.
For the longest time, Trudeau was not making decisions which demarcated himself as a credible replacement to Stephen Harper, and was viewed in Québec as the greater of the two evils.
A large part of the reason was that in the minds of Québécois, he was viewed as “the son of…”. To many Francophones in Québec, Pierre Trudeau (Justin’s father) is still viewed as the man who forced a constitution down the throats of Québec rather than finding common ground which could have seen Québec otherwise sign it. To this day, the constitution is regarded by Québec’s baby-boomer generation as being an illegitimate document, and by some as a reason to withdraw from Canada.
This all played against Trudeau (Jr.) for the longest time in Québec. He was viewed as leader who was set to go nowhere (another in a long line of Liberal Martins, Dions and Ignatiefs).
Let’s move forward by a few months to the winter of 2015 and what happened on the provincial political scene.
Pierre Karl Péladeau (PKP) was campaigning hard for the leadership of the Parti Québécois (PQ). With Harper at the helm of Canada, those in the sovereigntist camp saw PKP as the man to take on the Federal government and achieve sovereignty. He was a successful billionaire, he was business-friendy (able to connect with a new demographic) and he was viewed a potential “saviour” (to quote an often-used word in sovereignist circles last winter). The optimism towards PKP from both soft and hard sovereigntists alike had not been seen since the days of Lucien Bouchard.
Add to this mix that PKP’s wife, Julie Snyder, is Québec’s #2 pop-culture superstar, only eclipsed by Céline Dion. Thus, the PKP/Snyder power-couple was viewed as a potentially unstoppable force to woo the masses and lead Québec to sovereignty.
But starting last April, PKP proved to be awkward in his speeches. His stances on critically important issues were incoherent. For example, one day he would say the Bloc Québecois was utterly useless in Ottawa, and the next day he would say it was as important as oxygen is to life. He would attack immigrants as being detrimental to the sovereignty movement on one day, and then the next day he would say that he loves them and that they’re family.
It was clear that PKP was testing the waters in every direction to see what issues might find traction with the public rather than speak from consensus-reached convictions. It showed a side of him the public did not like. In the end he began to develop an aura of “playing” the public. It diminished his credibly, and prevented support from ever coalescing on a massive scale (he ended up winning the PQ leadership with only 58% of the membership vote, and he and his party have only ever hovered in the 32%-35% percentile range of public approval since his accession as party leader).
In addition, Julie Snyder’s injection of “showmanship” into sovereignist politics (using her TV programs to drum up nationalism, and even going so far as to give autographs in exchange for PQ membership cards at the subway entrances) has been viewed with more and more cynicism on the part of the public. The Julie card appears to have backfired, and her Princess Diana styled wedding in August seemed to be the straw that broke the back of a camel named “credibility”.
This past summer, the PKP/Snyder duo flopped faster than an ice-cream cone melts in the August sun. In Québec, you often hear the phrase “There was no PKP effect” (let alone any political honeymoon) when political commentators talk of the new PKP era of sovereigntist politics. The provincial Liberal government in Québec City has managed to remain at the top of the polls (although their overall polling numbers are not sky-high either).
Fast forward to the present and back to federal politics.
Three weeks before the Federal election the Trudeau Liberals attracted the public’s attention in both Québec and English Canada.
The Liberals developed a wide-range of policy proposals, and famously broke the mould needing to avoid deficits. They were able to position themselves as the ‘change’ option. This shift saw their “no-harm, broad-range middle-ground” brand positioned to the left of the Conservatives.
The NDP — hemmed in by fears they would constitute being irresponsible spenders — adhered to deficit-avoiding orthodoxy (in itself less distinct from the Conservatives). Given the NDP orthodoxy on avoiding deficits allowed the Liberals to carve a platform niche.
In Québec, a lack of enthusiasm for the PQ translated into a lack of enthusiasm for the Bloc Québécois. The Bloc was already dealing with a troubled recent past. It was not viewed as being organized (several months ago it voted in a highly unpopular leader, Mario Beaulieu, who was to be booted out a short while later and succeeded by a recycled Gilles Duceppe).
The Bloc was simply not viewed as a viable contender (the PQ and the Bloc were both riding on the same sinking ship – leaving the public to ask “Why bother?”). On election night, the Bloc had the lowest percent of the popular vote in the history of any sovereignist party in Québec (and only gained new seats through a division of the popular vote, which saw the majority of the popular vote in those same ridings go to the Liberals and NDP – and not to the Bloc).
Yes, the Conservatives played up the Niqab issue in Québec, and kept it front-and-centre. In past elections, the Conservatives’ success hinged on being able to play to their base. They believed the PQ’s 2013/2014 hijab/secular debate in Québec ignited the same base they were looking for. Many of the niqab announcements were made in Quebec..
Even if the public shared the view that the niqab should not be worn during citizenship ceremonies or in the public civil service, Québec’s and Canada’s public showed that they have a greater distaste for “wedge politics”.
Ultimately, the public proved they would rather vote against wedge politics than for policies invoked by such politics. In nutshell, the Conservatives overplayed their card. The tipping point perhaps came with the ‘snitch-line’ announcement (a new government hotline to denounce barbaric cultural practices) by Ministers Leitch and Alexander.
Combined with a lack of enthusiasm for Harper-style politics in many other areas of governance, it is noteworthy that the Conservative gains in Québec were with moderate Clark/Mulroney PC-styled MP’s, and not Harper-style MP’s (the Conservatives increased their seat count to 12 from 5 in Québec, however their share of the popular vote in Quebec only increased to 16.7 compared to 16.5 percent in the previous election).
The Bloc and the Conservatives both played politics on the “extreme ends” of the political spectrum. It left a bad taste in the mouths of both English and French Canada.
On the other end of the political spectrum was the NDP. Traditionally another “extreme end” party, Mulcair tried to moderate the NDP’s tone, pulling it towards the centre on many issues.
However, the feeling in Québec (and seemingly elsewhere in Canada) was that Muclair was trying to bring the party towards the centre on one hand, yet trying not to alienate his own far-left base on the other. It left room for vast amounts of doubt and uncertainty in the minds of the electorate. Not wanting to risk another bout of “extreme end politics”, the public quickly jumped off the NDP ship.
The niqab issue also played a role. Mulcair’s defence of the niqab was framed in legal terms in the context of the Charter and Constitution, a sore point with many in Quebec. In contrast, while having the same substantive position, Trudeau spoke in terms of values, a softer way of making the same point.
Who did this leave as the first choice for Québec and English Canada? The Trudeau Liberals.
Talk radio and TV interview programs tend to reflect a wide spectrum of the public’s thoughts towards issues of the day. What I find fascinating in all of this is that during the past week, Québec’s talk radio (even those commentators and radio hosts who have been cozy with the Conservatives / NDP / Bloc, or vehement anti-Liberals in the past) all seem optimistic — or at the minimum, comfortable — about Trudeau’s victory.
You get the sense that many are even relieved that there is finally middle ground which is finding broad-range consensus. It is a new middle-ground which has the allures of being acceptable to both the left and right elements in Québec’s society, in addition to Atlantic Canada, Ontario, the Prairies, and BC.
The newly elected Conservatives MP’s in Québec and elsewhere in Canada appear to be more moderate than Conservatives of the past. The NDP members who won their seats are more centrist than those who were voted out. All of this is resonating in Québec.
Many sovereignists for the first time are not sad to see the end of the BQ (that’s new). Yet this week in sovereignist camps, there has been quite a bit of talk about how they can learn from the federal Conservatives’ mistakes (as well as the mistakes of the Marois era).
There is now talk that the PQ may want to consider abandoning nationalist identity policies, and embrace all-inclusive (ie: a “multicultural’ish” but labelled as interculturalism, of course) style of sovereigntist policies in order to try to woo the youth and the electorate in the 2018 provincial election. The PQ may be looking for ways to capitalize the public’s sentiment enough is enough with divisive politics based on ethno-religious grounds (ie: the niqab and state secularism).
In this same vein, the BQ looks as if it may be trying to quickly create their own “Trudeau” by having 24 year-old (and defeated BQ candidate) Catherine Fournier slipped into presidency of the BQ. Fournier has been front-and-centre in Québec’s talk-show and panel circuit for about 6 months now.
She has taken many by surprise with her maturity and insight, and people are saying she’s a real change from the old guard. I don’t have any idea if she would be able to woo the youth to the sovereignist cause. However, she’s getting noticed, and she may be just the type to introduce a style of “multicultural’ish” sovereignty.
Yet, if open-style politics led to Trudeau’s election win, he may have already taken the sail out of the sovereigntist movement’s countermeasures (it is difficult for an opposition party to re-invent itself on a new platform when their number one challenger already owns that platform).
The question will be if he can avoid a Federal-Provincial clash of ideologies and values with Québec leading up to the 2018 provincial election (Harper managed to take the wind out of the sails of Québec’s sovereignist politics by staying out of matters of provincial jurisdiction and keeping a tight rein on what issues his MP’s were allowed to comment on… It remains to be seen how Trudeau will manage to juggle similar issues).
For the first time after a federal election, people on the street and in the media in Québec are no longer referring to the Canadian West as the “Conservative base” or the “Conservative West”. Yes, the majority of the Prairie ridings have gone Conservative, yet Québec’s political commentators are emphasizing the fact that that a large chunk of the Prairie’s Conservative ridings only saw Conservatives elected through vote splitting, with the majority of the popular vote in many ridings going to the Liberals/NDP – especially in cities which make up the bulk of the Prairie’s population and decision-making base: Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Saskatoon and Winnipeg.
That’s a big change in the conversation in Québec, and an even larger change in how Québec views the rest of Canada.
To see almost no federalism-bashing or Canada-bashing in Québec following a very long and hotly (even venomously) contested election — even from those in the sovereignist camp who traditionally love to Canada bash — is quite a game-changer.
To think that we’re seeing this change in tone during the week of the 20th anniversary of the 1995 referendum makes it even more significant.
People are still talking about the Gémeaux awards (the subject of the last post).
Usually the Gémeaux awards is an event which comes and goes in the same night, and then nobody gives it any thought until the following year.
But this years’ Gémeaux seems a little different – and I wonder if it is morphing as a new focus on Québec’s cultural scene in general.
A few things which have captured the public’s attention:
- This is perhaps the only (or one of the only) Gémeaux gala events which was co-hosted by two people. The dynamics between the TV hosts and comedians Véronique Cloutier and Éric Salvail just keep getting quirkier – and they took that quirkiness to the Gémeaux.
Below is an earlier video of the two of them seemingly getting a little smashed, tipsy and a little loose-lipped (??) together on TV…
Here is a cultural difference between Anglophone and Francophone Canada if I’ve ever seen one:
How many shooters of Smirnoff Vodka did you count them down during the taping of the episode???
Despite francophone and anglophone TV sharing the same CRTC with the same TV rules, I often get the feeling francophone TV can – and does – get a away with waaaaay more on air, including on-air drinking and profanity…
If you’re wondering what the heck crazy-ass show this is, it is called “Les recettes Pompettes” (Translation: “Recipes with a Buzz”) with Éric Salvail as the host.
His job is to basically get every celebrity in Québec (minus Celine Dion) as drunk as a skunk… and I suppose perhaps make food while they’re at it — if they can still see clearly by the time it’s ready to put in the oven).
It airs on “V” television station. The show’s website is http://vtele.ca/emissions/les-recettes-pompettes/
- This year’s awards also included comedic sketches pertaining to many well-known cultural references, including this one which has gone down as somewhat of a classic in Québec television (images are self-explanatory)…
- And then there is the one “thing” which has caused the radio-waves to light up for the past 24 hours and tongues to wave non-stop all over Québec… People are asking what is happening to Julie Snyder and if there is reason for concern. Sometimes people are being sympathetic, but others are being downright nasty… very very nasty:
Politics and entertainment is never a good mix… And the cameras are bringing this mix straight to us on our screens – right in our faces, right in our homes.
With all of Québec’s cultural who’s who finally reunited at the Gémeaux awards for the first time in 10 years, I have a feeling that this event will continue to grow as a cultural (and perhaps off-stage controversial) highlight in Québec’s annual calendar.