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POLITICAL' PARTIES IN QUEBEC Gerard Bergeron Almost nothing has been written on this subject. M. Ostrogorski and R. Michels, have had, in contemporary political science, but late disciples. In Canada, the "party" phenomenon has received only a few chapters of rapid summary in textbooks such as those of Dawson and Corry, or historical monographs of the type of those by Morton, Mallory, and Williams.' All this constitutes a mass of usefnl information, but nothing which resembles an analytical framework to which one might usefully refer for specific studies of our parties. Since 1950, French Canada, ordinarily circumscribed by its provincial frontiers, has become the subject of various essays classified under the title of "industrialisation in Quebec" or "the crisis of French Canada's conscience."2 But it is already significant that none of these essayists has been tempted to centre his view on the phenomenon "political parties." Making a rather "impressionistic" or intuitive study of the undercurrents of a society no longer stable in appearance, few of these essayists have had a scientific and analytical approach in studying a social condition which, at the same time as it integrates them, makes them manifestly dissatisfied. Whoever is concerned with political parties in Quebec starts off absolutely from zero. The Union Nationale party gives the impression of having invincible strength. Except for an interval between 1939 and 1944, it has been in power since 1936. With his new victory in 1956, M. Duplessis has beaten successively all the records of the other "strong man," M. Taschereau, whom he defeated in 1936. The last twenty years reveal a parallel continuance of Liberal successes in Ottawa (the Quebec vote in the federal election of 1957 remained faithfnl to the Liberals, though a little less 352 POLITICAL PARTIES IN QUEBEC 353 than in the past) and conservative successes in Quebec. In terms of electoral statistics the federal Liberal hold in Quebec has always been much stronger than the proviucial conservative one. Since 1944, M. Duplessis' party has won an absolute majority of votes: 1948, 51 per cent; 1952,50 per cent; 1956, 52 per cent. In 1944, it secured a minority of votes although it had a majority of seats in parliament (38 per cent and 45 seats as against 47 per cent and 37 Liberal seats). The great stability of these majorities is striking. But a very weak numerical majority is involved especially if one takes into consideration the negligible power-except in 1944----Df the third parties. (We are not concerned here with showing the distortions ariSing from the single-ballot uninominal voting and the sub-representation of urban ridings: such a situation is not characteristic of Quebec alone. But it must be pointed out, once and for all, that the 75 or 80 per cent of parliamentary seats held by M. Duplessis' party should not delude us; since 1948 they have been supported by only about 50 per cent of the popular vote.) The strength of the Union Nationale is marginal: with the exception of ahout 4 or 5 per cent of the votes, which go to Independents or third parties, the Liberals receive almost as many votes as does M. Duplessis' party. This fine majority is insecure. The contradictory voting in Quebec and in Ottawa is often explained by the desire of the French Canadians to reach a federative balance between federal and provincial allegiances. This is too simple and too brief an explanation; it is also too ingenious and too clever, since such an explanation would presuppose at least a summary knowledge of the play of federative balance and therefore a minimum of political maturity. In my opinion, it is a clear but unsound idea arising from an a posteriori rationalization. Because of the ideolojrlcal vacuity of our politics, such a rational explanation seems artificial. Quebec electors vote according to a reflex, which in the last twenty years has become conditioned. This primary reflex is not a desire to effect a balance within the Canadian federation or a desire to achieve autonomy, which would be its essential corollary and its immediate political application , but indeed conservatism. "Why change, since, on the whole, things are going well'" At the turning point...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 352-368
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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