The Bloc Québécois has elected a new leader named Mario Beaulieu, a development which shouldn’t go undiscussed in the Canadian media. Now before I start, I must disclose my bias: Mr Beaulieu isn’t a fan of me, nor I of him. As president of the fundamentalist Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Beaulieu released a report on “Francophobia” in the media, targeting among others myself and Jackson Doughart as Quebec-bashers based on articles that appeared in the Prince Arthur Herald. In reality, the report was a typo-filled manifesto against any Canadian journalist who dared to criticize Quebec in any manner. Yet the childishness of the SSJB’s shenanigans is what we can expect from the Bloc in the future, as Beaulieu takes the party in a more radical direction.
And it won’t just be federalists who will be alienated by the new leader. The Bloc’s base of Quebec separatists won’t be lured back by Beaulieu’s new direction, especially after shifting their loyalties in 2011. In his first speech as leader, he made remarks that were associated with the rhetoric of the FLQ, the group responsible for bombings in Quebec in the 1960s and the murder and kidnapping of government officials in 1970. If furthering the separatist cause is truly in Beaulieu’s interest, linking himself to the darkest periods in Quebec history is probably not the way to do it.
The backlash began immediately after his election. Former Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe distanced himself from Beaulieu, who received 53% of the vote during the leadership contest (very few members actually voted) claiming that he couldn’t associate himself with people like that. None of the four sitting Bloc MPs voted for Beaulieu, and two of them have threatened to quit. High-ranking individuals in the party have already left, with one calling the new leader a “clown”.
While Jack Layton and the NDP trounced the Bloc in 2011, the party won’t need much outside help to destroy itself in 2015. For starters, Beaulieu is a nobody in Quebec. A recent SOM survey found that only 20 per cent of Quebecers knew who he was before becoming leader. Even fewer people believed that it’s necessary to have a separatist party in Ottawa.
The Bloc is going to have a difficult time proving its relevance in the next election, especially with the Beaulieu gong-show front and centre. With Quebecers electing a large Liberal majority in the last provincial election, it’s hard to see how the Bloc will even survive.
I do, however, look forward to cringe-worthy Leaders Debates in 2015.
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