Orford up for grabs - closest race in years
Signs that this electoral campaign is one of the closest to call in Orford abounds as the incumbent, Liberal Pierre Reid, in his weekly press conference, is forced to hit the same nail again and again. As in the great Democrat strategist James Carville’s phrase, coined in 1992, that got Bill Clinton elected: The economy is stupid! Part one of three themes, the other two being: “Change vs. more of the same” and “Don’t forget health care”, these two having been taken stock and barrel by the newly founded Coalition Avenir Québec. As if anything is new.
So week after week, the assembled press is bombarded by more numbers than Einstein could muster in a day’s work by Mr. Reid who, it should be remembered, is a mathematician. Still, it is when numbers are set aside that he shines, as was the case last week when he talked emotionally of his work on the Select Committee on Dying with Dignity, the shining light of the last Parliament, where every M.N.A. worked together in a show of dignity that was missing almost every day at the National Assembly for the last couple of years.
If Mr. Reid is in re-election mode, his main and only true opponent, PQ Michel Breton, is in election mode. Running for the third time, he told a small gathering of organizers and sympathizers last week-end that for the first time he is getting some recognition and is being stopped in the street by voters. “It’s not something that I saw during my previous campaign.” The gloomy look of the local péquistes, accustomed to losing at the start of every election for decades, is gone and replaced by a calmness and sense of purpose that was simply never there before. On that Saturday, Mr. Breton had two guests: Daniel Paillé, former PQ minister, and Bloc Québécois Chief and PQ star, former RadioCanada journalist Bernard Drainville, the pain in the backside of Madame Marois. Mr. Drainville imposed his idea of a California style referendum, except that his leader is not quite sure if it’s a California style democratic exercise or something else. Anyhow, the PQ who has always refused to abide to the Canadian constitution, is now relying on it to declare that a binding popular vote referendum would not be binding at the National Assembly. It would take 850,000 voters names to put a referendum in motion according to the PQ scheme. While Mrs. Marois has always talked of a register, Mr. Drainville, questioned by the Stanstead Journal, said that since everything is going electronic, an online register would also be acceptable.
We asked him the obvious question that no one had asked before: What if the federalist side decided to go through the process asking if Quebeckers wanted to remain in Canada? From the look on his face, the thought had never crossed his mind.
As the bridge school issue made the news last week, we asked him if his party wanted to disavow Bill 115 or only the part of that law that pertained to those schools. We had to explain that the law contained provisions pertaining to the pension funds of Bishop’s College School and Stanstead College. He was not aware of that and stated that he didn’t want anything taken from anyone. The Stanstead Journal asked for clarification that was supposed to be provided yesterday. None came.
And if the national debates were boisterous, the local one on the economy was a gentleman’s affair, with the ladies getting the laugh. Organized by the Magog – and now- Orford Chamber of Commerce, it was sparsely attended, with a third of the seats on the first floor of Le Vieux Clocher left empty. Mr. Reid, a study in composure usually, was a tad nervous, speaking faster than usual. Mr. Breton, on the other hand, was sure and his responses were tailored to a local audience. Mr. L’Écuyer of the CAQ
was a mix of standard party answers mixed with a bit of questioning in local issues such as the so-called Single Door for local entrepreneurs that is the forte of his party’s platform, both Mr. Reid and Mr. Breton replying almost together that the CLD was doing precisely that job. Both Option Nationale Marie-Hélène Martin and third time running Québec Solidaire Patricia Tremblay mouthed their parties’ platforms, the latter getting the first of two laughs of the rather boring debate when she said, talking about tourism: “You can see me coming…” and then went on to talk about the public transport part of her party platform.
Parti Quebecois candidate Michel Breton talks to an audience at a party, last Sunday, in Magog. Seen in the background are PQ star candidate Bernard Drainville and the president of the Bloc Quebecois, Daniel Paillé.