Election Post-Mortem: The Bloc
I was tempted to just post a snide comment along the lines of "don't let the door hit you on the way out" and leave it at that for the Bloc post-mortem. But their collapse may very well be the most sudden and shocking in the history of Canadian politics, so it deserves more than 10 words. Not much more, mind you, since I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on Quebec politics.
Before we jump in, it should be noted that Quebec has a history of swinging wildly from one party to the next, so maybe we shouldn't be too surprise by what happened. They'd tried every flavour but orange, so it may be as simple as that. Still, it's hard not to be taken aback by a 20 year old party collapsing from 50 seats to virtually nothing in the span of a few weeks.
So what went wrong?
The Bloc came to Ottawa with a clear raison d'etre, but that's been lacking for a decade. They were given a jolt of life thanks to the sponsorship scandal, but in recent years they've had little to latch on to. Sure, Gilles Duceppe was there to make sure Team Canada didn't name the wrong captain in 2007. He was there to stand up for the many who were outraged at the idea of Paul McCartney playing a concert on the Plains of Abraham (Quebecers are notorious Ringo fans). He was there to make sure Quebecers were not forced to choose between hockey and the French language debates.
Quite simply, the Bloc had lost relevancy, and anyone who has listened to Gilles Duceppe over the past 3 or 4 years would realize that.
So what went wrong for the Bloc is very similar to what went through for the Liberals. Duceppe did a great job telling Quebecers why they shouldn't vote for Stephen Harper, but he didn't give them a reason to vote Bloc - other than them being the default alternative. He waxed on about issues no one really cared out - the amount of time he spent talking about the 2004 coalition letter was baffling. He said nothing about how he would make the lives of Quebecers better.
When a more charismatic leader came along, Quebecers really had no good reason to stay with the Bloc, outside of nostalgia.
So what now?
For starters, the idea that separatism is dead is just absurd. The Bloc hasn't been about separatism for a decade and the party with the power to make a referendum happen is poised to win the next Quebec election. I'm not saying they will, but let's not read something into these results that isn't there.
It's also premature to write off a Bloc resurgence if they can find an issue to call their own. Jack Layton basically co-opted most of the Bloc's nationalist rhetoric this campaign, leaving Duceppe with little ground to occupy. If nationalists feel Layton has sold them out, or a new issue emerges that he refuses to take their side on, there will be an opening. As Paul Wells mused, it's not unfathomable to see 10 or 20 NDP MPs crossing the floor to join the Bloc down the road. All it really takes is one legitimate issue, and the Bloc could rise again.
Beyond that, I won't waste any more virtual ink on a party that has done nothing for Parliament or for Canada during its wasted 20 year existence. Enjoy your pensions and don't let the door hit you on the way out.