The Parti Québécois saw its Charter of Values a vote-getter, a popular measure intended to help it win the next election. Well, obviously it didn’t. The conventional wisdom during the campaign was that the electorate was more in favour of the Charter than against it, but the Charter was well down on the list of priorities. Since the PQ’s rout at the polls earlier this month, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Charter did the PQ more harm than good.
Sure, the people who bitterly and vehemently opposed the Charter were never going to vote PQ, but that didn’t mean that the Charter’s opponents didn’t matter. For one thing, as Claire Durand points out in La Presse, the Charter drove up voter turnout among non-francophone voters. While overall turnout was down a few points over 2012, turnout was up significantly in places like West Island Montréal and the Pontiac. And the non-francophone vote tipped massively toward the Liberals: 93 percent, up 17 points since 2012. Durand notes three electoral districts in the Montreal area with significant non-francophone populations that flipped from the PQ to the Liberals. (Meanwhile, the PQ appears to have narrowly won the francophone vote, but its share dropped six points since 2012.)
Less quantifiable is the Charter’s effect in mobilizing not just voters, but activists. The Charter was sufficient, Martin Patriquin writes in Maclean’s, to get former Quebec premier Daniel Johnson Jr. off the bench and working behind the scenes for the Liberal campaign’s war room.
The PQ’s brain trust was too clever by half; they thought the reaction they’d be provoking was in the rest of Canada, not Quebec. And they forgot that intensity matters. The debate over gun control is a textbook example: gun control has more people in favour than against it in Canada, but its opponents are really opposed to it, and are willing to back that opposition with donations, activism and other means.
The lesson should be clear enough: don’t motivate your opponents more than your supporters.