The delegates at the last general council of the PQ voted Aug. 29, largely against the launching of a new leadership race in which Bernard Landry would be challenged as the PQ leader. That is not necessarily good news for the separatist party and its renewal. Bernard Landry, 67, was close to René Lévesque at the foundation of the PQ more than 35 years ago. He was a minister in countless cabinets and premier. He studied economics and politics in France at a time when socialist ideas were dominant. When he was premier, he chastised his young minister, Joseph Facal, because he challenged the socialist “modèle québécois” of the Quiet Revolution. As Lise Payette, his colleague in the first René Lévesque cabinet, wrote in Le Journal de Montréal: “He does not represent renewal anymore.” That is clear.

Meanwhile, Landry is still talking about the demagogic “season of ideas” to renew the PQ. How can an old man with old ideas like Landry renew the party and the separatist program? It is a comedy. The only important new idea during that long season was presented in August by the “young” Jacques Parizeau. What a renewal with new militants.

Parizeau, the loser of the 1995 referendum, now thinks that it is impossible to win a future referendum on independence because of a federalist plot against Quebec. This was demonstrated by the recent testimony of Charles Guité about the sponsorship scandal. Having taken that into account, Parizeau wants to go back 30 years to 1973 when the PQ, under René Lévesque and Claude Morin, adopted the referendum strategy, or the “statégie étapiste” (strategy by steps). Parizeau would like an election-referendum; with less that 40 per cent of the vote, the PQ could declare Quebec independent with a majority of MNAs. The Parizeau proposition, published in two long pages in La Presse in August, was rejected as anti-democratic by the leaders of the PQ, including Landry, and the majority of PQ supporters. This recent episode in the internal PQ crisis just shows the stagnation, or even the regression, of the party.

The PQ was founded by baby-boomers and is still controlled by them. Even the challengers of Landry come from that generation: Pauline Marois and François Legault. Marois has been a MNA for more than 20 years and like Landry, has been a minister in many PQ governments. This is not exactly what we could call a renewal. During the “season of ideas,” she was not able to present a single new idea, even though she created a formal association to promote her ideas and political ambitions. She just wants power. Her ideas are not different in any way from Landry. She has no strategy to lead Quebec into independence, which is still the first article of the PQ program. On top of that, she has no charisma, no serious education and surely does not have the stature of a head of state, unlike Lucien Bouchard or Jacques Parizeau, or even, to a lesser degree, Bernard Landry.

The other challenger, François Legault, is younger, but he is seen as an opportunist. It is not clear why he is in the PQ. After a successful career in business, this accountant became a minister in Lucien Bouchard’s cabinet in 1998. Many militants do not believe in his separatist convictions. At the same time, he could support the Parizeau proposition, but not clearly. In Bouchard’s cabinet, he was considered a soft nationalist. He has no great charisma and no precise program. With such weak challengers, we understand why Landry still wants to remain leader. It seems that he thinks none of them deserve to succeed him at the head of the party.

The PQ is still locked in the old socialist conceptions of the 1960s, when it was founded. When Landry wants to broaden the party, he still tries to attract left-wing militants of the UFP (Union des forces progressistes), whereas the last general election was lost by the PQ because of the moderately more conservative ADQ, which got almost 20 per cent, mostly from young people whom the PQ is not able to reach anymore. In the last general election, the PQ reluctantly addressed the problem of the low birthrate in Quebec, but just to find stupid old socialist ideas like more money for the daycare program and subsidies from the government for family vacations. The PQ is stuck in the old faith in the omnipotent state.

It will not, of course, address the responsibility of abortion in the demographically catastrophic situation – feminism is a part of the “modèle québécois.” A new generation will come and the PQ will disappear, that will be the beginning of real renewal in Quebec.