Pauline Marois and the Parti Québécois have a very bad day

It’s hard to feel much sympathy for PQ leader Pauline Marois. It was an absolutely terrible idea for the PQ to support bill 204, which would immunize Quebecor’s arena rental deal with Quebec City from being tested before the province’s courts. It was an even worse idea for her to be petty and belligerent about it. The word ‘comeuppance’ keeps coming to mind.

At the same time, the PQ’s plight has become so pathetic as to be pitiable. Marois, you’ll recall, was already looking for ways to patch her battered caucus this morning after three party super-heavyweights—Louise Beaudoin, Pierre Curzi, and Lisette Lapointe—bolted yesterday. But that’s when Jean-Martin Aussant abruptly quit, giving the impression a full-blown mutiny was underway. In fact, Marois’s downfall is exactly what Aussant had in mind, telling reporters the PQ leader should resign.

Jean Charest drove in the final stake this afternoon when he announced the vote on bill 204 would be postponed until the fall. All that infighting inside the PQ, all that strategizing about how to win a vote that was threatening to derail Marois’s political career? Useless—all of it.

It seems equally likely Charest did this out of fear than spite—after all, there are persistent whispers that, like their PQ counterparts, Liberals MNAs aren’t entirely onboard with bill 204. But either way, Charest has a lot to be happy about. Marois’s leadership has been permanently—perhaps fatally—weakened; the opposition benches are suddenly a whole lot less intimidating than they were just last week; the Liberals have gained an extra couple of months to sort themselves out; and, perhaps most importantly, it means the PQ, which has already soaked up virtually all the criticism for bill 204, will continue to do so through the end of the summer at least.

Marois, meanwhile, must start all over again. Her 93 per cent approval rating at this past spring’s party convention, in case it wasn’t clear already, was utterly meaningless. (Which raises the question: was the apparently inadequate score that prompted Bernard Landry to leave just as meaningless? I wonder how he feels about that now.) The good news is that the problems inside the party are relatively easy to diagnose. Her critics haven’t been shy about letting their feelings show. The bad news, however, is that it’s not clear how to solve them without shedding even more supporters. Moreover, it’s even less clear who’s still on her side.

Charest hasn’t had much to celebrate in a long while, but a glass will surely be raised in the premier’s office tonight.

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