By Jon Roe
The election of Andre Boisclair as leader of the Parti Quebecois marks the first time in North America that an openly gay man has led a major political party. Boisclair also admitted to experimenting with cocaine when he was a cabinet minister in Lucien Bouchard’s government in the early 90s. This reflects well on the population of Quebec, as they appear far more socially liberal, tolerant and progressive than the rest of Canada.
There have been openly gay MPs in Canada, Svend Robinson to name one, but never has one led a major political party. Perhaps, despite our general acceptance shown in laws such as legalized same-sex marriage, we’re not prepared to accept a person with an alternative life-style leading the country. The PQ will win the next provincial election against Premier Jean Charest’s hugely unpopular Quebec Liberals. When the PQ wins, they are promising to call another referendum on Quebec sovereignty within two years. Likely to follow is the separation of Quebec with said referendum; support for a separate Quebec is at a high due to the sponsorship scandal and the strong support in Quebec’s youth. With the separation of Quebec, Boisclair will become the first openly gay man elected as leader of a nation. Knowing this probable chain of events, les Quebecoises have still put their support and acceptance behind Boisclair and his past.
Cocaine is by no means a soft drug and using cocaine while in a position of power should sink a career. Reporters continuously badgered Boisclair about his alleged cocaine use before he finally admitted it and instead of sinking his chances, Boisclair saw a rise in his popularity. The people of Quebec have let the past be the past in favour of looking to the future. This is not a unique case; Alberta experienced a similar incident a few years ago when Ralph Klein admitted to alcohol abuse. Klein experienced a similar rise in popularity, though it is doubtful if Klein had admitted to his alcoholism when he was initially running for Premier he would’ve garnered the same support.
Boisclair won the PQ leadership nomination with 50 per cent of his party’s vote, against opponent, Pauline Morois, who received 30 per cent of the vote. In Canada there haven’t been many women coming close to leadership since Kim Campbell’s abrupt stint as Prime Minister in the early 90s. The most recent would be Belinda Stronach running for Conservative Party leadership and losing to Steven Harper. Though she also received 30 per cent of her party’s vote, Stronach drew more attention as an attractive female than as a strong political candidate. Quebec, as a province, seems to have an environment that’s conducive for women taking a larger role in politics. La Belle Provence leads the country by having 30 per cent of the MPs in its legislature being female, compared with only 20 per cent in Ottawa.
Andre Boisclair is on track to become one of the first openly gay men elected as a national leader. His shady past would’ve lowered his chances, rather than increase his popularity in any other province in Canada. Quebec has shown unrivalled acceptance and tolerance in choosing its potential leader. Something the rest of Canada could do with.