Doing business in Quebec requires sensitive touch

Mark Lovell
Lovell Group

The province of Quebec is currently recovering from a provincial election. Many wonder why the Parti Québécois was swept out of power by the Quebec Liberals: the reverse had happened only 19 months previously. Back then, the Liberals were tainted with allegations of corruption. Some die-hard sovereignists expressed hope for another referendum on separation from Canada 'when Quebeckers are ready for it'. The PQ leader, Pauline Marois, brandished a new 'Charter of Values' based on secularism and equal rights for men and women, then called an unpopular election in a bid to turn the PQ's minority government into a majority one. This became an act of political hara-kiri. Not only did the PQ lose seats across the province, but its leader lost hers as well.

There are two reasons for the result. The charter disturbed voters because it proposed a ban on hijabs (and other religious indicators) for anyone working in the public domain, ie the government, hospitals and schools. In Montreal, this seemed unfair and divisive. The second reason is that few people can stomach another referendum on sovereignty. Not for nothing is it sometimes called a 'neverendum'.