Monday, December 8, 2008

Goodbye "Super" Mario

The first candidate for whom I ever campaigned, gave money, supported, and believed in as an adult retired tonight after a disappointing electoral result. He was re-elected a 4th time but his party stumbled badly. No, you probably didn't hear about it, because he's not a Democrat. Or even an American.

My first candidate was Mario Dumont, the leader of the Action démocratique du Québec, in English the "Democratic Action of Quebec". During the mid-90s and afterward, the debate in Quebec had calcified between sovereigntists (the PQ) who wanted to leave Canada no matter what, to raise taxes and to spend millions on one side, and federalist Liberals who wanted to stay in Canada no matter what, to raise taxes, and to spend millions. I liked Dumont for offering ideas of fiscal responsibility for the province of Quebec and the people of Quebec. He wasn't afraid to stand on his beliefs (he was a major presence for sovereignty in 1995), but he wasn't bound to the debates of the past. While the Liberals and Parti Quebecois seemed happy to have the same arguments every time, Mario Dumont was one of the few ready to move on. He created the ADQ as his rather small vehicle to advance his point of view, though it took quite some time to grow. I was in Montreal for the Quebec campaign of 1998, a campaign where the ADQ won one seat of 129 -- that of Mario Dumont. You can read his biography ici/ here.

The ADQ grew since then, and may well have faded since then, and the light may have gone out tonight. In 2007, the ADQ won 41 seats, vaulting into second place, and just seven seats out of government. It also has lost its way. The other parties stole the ADQ's platform of clear debate and calm approach to Quebec's relations with the rest of Canada, and both major parties moved to the idea of fiscal responsibility, and away from socialism. In effect, the ADQ found its ideological turf overcrowded. Between presenting an unprepared team in opposition, and losing its place in the conversation, the ADQ was reduced to 7 seats tonight.

The ADQ and Dumont lost their way, turning too much to religion and "identity" in what seemed uncomfortably close to an appeal to nativism. In fact, had I the vote this past election, I'd have not voted for Dumont's party.

The party proved unready and unable to govern and offer an alternative. The fresh wind that Dumont represented in the late 90s has become stale. Seeing the writing on the wall, Dumont announced his retirement tonight, and his party may not last too long afterward. Despite my misgivings about his most recent choices, I will miss the man affably called "Super Mario" by the Québécois.

Merci, Mario, le premier chef dans lequel j'ai pu croire. Comme on dit au Québec, à la prochain.

(updated: head of the Opposition "Thank you for your dedication to the people of Quebec. History will recognize you for it.")


Ryan said...

I had no idea you were from/lived in Canada.

Quriltai said...

Yep...spent 6 years in Montreal. Loved it, Immigration Canada and I didn't always see eye to eye, however.