The 2006 election was a surprise to Quebecers as it brought several Conservative/Reform/Alliance MPs to Parliament.
Of course at the time they weren't aware of the alleged money laundering scheme that could cut short the political careers of several, not that they have much chance in Quebec now anyway. (nothing has been proven in court and won't be until this matter is allowed to be heard in court. The Conservatives still declare they did nothing wrong)
After the horrendous attack on Francophones during the Parliamentary crisis, that further divided the country, I think the bridges have been burned.
But in 2006, they were flying high. Promises made by Stephen Harper in Quebec City, and the naivete of some candidates who really thought that this new Conservative Party was going to clean up government, had an affect on voters willing to give this new party a chance.
What, I won? Quebec City results surprise everyone
The Montreal Gazette
January 25, 2006
Call them accidental Tories.
They are Sylvie Boucher, Daniel Petit and Luc Harvey, three Conservative candidates who were as surprised as anyone Monday night when they overcame strong Bloc Quebecois incumbents to win their Quebec City seats.
"I had a terrific team," Boucher, the new MP of Beauport-Limoilou, said when her win over Bloc MP Christian Simard was confirmed shortly after midnight.
"It consisted of my two daughters and a family friend."
Entering the election campaign, Stephen Harper's Conservatives counted on winning Quebec ridings where star candidates Josee Verner, Lawrence Cannon, Maxime Bernier and Jean-Pierre Blackburn were running. Then, as Tory poll numbers began to rise, they started to talk about a breakthrough in three more ridings south of Quebec City.
That's a best-case scenario of seven wins in Quebec, but someone forgot to tell those casting the ballots. On Monday, they voted in a total of 10 Conservatives.
Two of them - Cannon in Pontiac and Jean-Pierre Blackburn in Jonquiere-Alma - have some experience in government and are probably on their way into the new Harper cabinet. But the others are virtual unknowns outside their ridings, and no one knows what they might say or do in office.
That could represent a risk to Stephen Harper, according to Christian Dufour, a political scientist at the Ecole d'administration publique.
Still, the election of Conservative MPs in traditional Bloc ridings represents a major breakthrough for the Tories and shows Harper's decision to reach out to the province has paid off.
"I don't think they expected to play such a big role in the Canadian victory," Dufour said.
Sure enough, Petit said he realized he might win Charlesbourg-Haute-Saint-Charles only around 3 p.m. on Monday.
The lawyer, who was a Conservative candidate and organizer in the 1980s, was shaking hands with some of his backers outside polling stations when voters he did not know came up to shake his hand.
Petit defeated Richard Marceau, the Bloc's justice critic.
In the 2004 election, Marceau won with 52 per cent of the vote and the Conservative candidate placed third with 16 per cent.
Petit confessed the Conservative Party was shooting for second place in his riding, hoping to make gains from the Bloc and the Liberals. In the end, "we had 1,000 votes more," he noted.
Dufour said one of the Bloc's big mistakes in the campaign was to assume it could roll to victory on the anger over the sponsorship scandal.
Another mistake was to assume the only federalist voters left in Quebec are anglophones. The proof is that the 10 MPs were elected in francophone ridings.
Harvey defeated Bloc incumbent Roger Clavet in Louis-Hebert riding by 103 votes. "I was the last one elected," he said, adding his organization was minor league compared with the Bloc machine.
Harvey is a strategic business planner for a Quebec City financial services boutique. As of Monday night, the new MP had no plans to move to Ottawa. "Tomorrow, I go back to the office," he said. "I have been away and there are some files I absolutely have to deal with." Ultimately, the Conservative performance shows there is still some interest in federalism in Quebec, Dufour said.
"There's a part of the Quebec population that is again playing the Canada game." But he warned that Harper must deliver on his promises. "He has a historic challenge. He is under tight surveillance."
What's interesting is that all three of these 'winners' were involved in the money laundering scheme dubbed the "In and Out", and could face criminal charges when this case is finally allowed to go to court.
But did someone mention promises? It didn't take long for Harper to prove to the people of Quebec City that he was all talk and no action.
When the kangaroo goes, so does the love
Tories under fire for refusing to save Quebec City zoo
March 28, 2006
It was one of the prettiest love stories in modern political literature. Stephen Harper went to Quebec City in mid-December and captivated his audience with his vision of an Ottawa that would take Quebec's needs more seriously and a Quebec that would be better-represented in Ottawa. Quebecers were enchanted and the city voted in six Conservatives.
The assumption, at least in English Canada, has been that Quebec City's fervour would persuade other cities across the province to swoon before the Conservatives at the next election -- and so it may prove. But it is not a foregone conclusion and there are signs of tension in the relationship already.
Quebec City's zoo, opened in 1931 and long a symbol of civic pride, is slated to close this Friday and the federal government is getting at least part of the blame. Thousands of Quebecers, including Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe, protested the closure outside the zoo at the weekend and the letters page of the local papers have been full of condemnation for politicians of all stripes.
"You are a minority government but you won't be there for long, believe me," wrote one correspondent to Le Soleil, referring to the Harper government. "The population will remember the little interest you brought to our region. Ever since the election, there has been silence, total silence."
The city's federalist mayor, Andree Boucher, has also been critical of Ottawa, saying Conservative MPs must "do what they were elected to do on the issue." Ottawa claims it never committed cash to keep the zoo open, privately pointing out that to do so would prompt a flood of requests from ailing zoos across the country.
The Jardin Zoologique de Quebec is provincially owned and the feds point out that the province has not stepped in with a rescue package. The Prime Minister's Office says it has committed to providing $110-million to help the city celebrate its 400th anniversary in 2008 and is looking at ways of upgrading the city's airport.
"No one expects the government to say yes to everything. Our commitments are clear in Quebec City and the zoo is not one of them," said a spokesman.
All of which would be fair enough, had the Conservative MP for Charlesbourg-Jacques Cartier, Daniel Petit, not pledged 22 million federal dollars to help save the zoo during the election campaign.
The Bloc has leapt on the commitment -- and on statements by Josee Verner, the regional minister -- that she'd like to keep the zoo open. "What is Josee Verner doing now we know it's going to be closed? She's not saying anything," Mr. Duceppe said.
Richard Marceau, the charismatic young Bloc MP whose defeat by Mr. Petit was one of the biggest shocks on election night, said Quebec City is a test case for the Conservatives. "They have almost every seat in the city but if they cannot deliver there, what does it say for the rest of the province they want to win?"
This remains very much a local difficulty for the Conservatives. Mr. Duceppe's tub-thumping is unlikely to deflect him from propping up Mr. Harper's government in the House of Commons, at least until the Quebec provincial election. But it will be a concern to the Prime Minister that such a key electoral battleground has become mired in controversy.
When the first shipping crates carrying away sorry-looking tree kangaroos, lemurs and bearded dragons, hit the evening newscasts, the honeymoon will be officially over.
Back to - The Daniel Petit Story: When Ignorance is Bliss