Pubdate: Wed, 28 Sep 2005
Source: Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph (CN QU)
Copyright: 2005 Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph
Author: Peter Black
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Andre Boisclair has taken a lot of heat for his criminal substance abuse 
while serving as a minister of the crown. While questions remain about the 
circumstances of his cocaine consumption - which biker gang was his dealer, 
for one - some critics are saying the young pretender to the Parti 
Quebecois throne is just as guilty of lacking substance in terms of policy.

He's been called a "cliche factory" by one veteran pundit, a "power junkie" 
by another sage of journalism. He's been hounding by a salivating media 
pack for days. Yet it is all like gentle water slipping off the proverbial 

According to the polls - which actually show an increase in his already 
enormous lead in the wake of the snow-snorting affair - Andre Boisclair can 
do no wrong.

Hey, things do seem to go better with coke.

How does one explain the hold the 39-year-old politician has over the PQ 
and many Quebecers, an appeal so strong it is blind to the kind of serious 
breach of ministerial conduct that would send another politician into 
permanent exile?

One theory that leaps readily to mind is that Boisclair represents a new 
generation of PQ warriors, ready to accept the torch from the PQ old guard. 
Boisclair was all of 10 years old when the PQ under Rene Levesque first 
came to power. He would not have been old enough to vote in the 1980 

He has spent his entire life either as a student politician or as a member 
of the National Assembly, where he was first elected at age 23. Being such 
a precocious politician, and one with an exceptional ability to expound 
with practiced sincerity upon whatever issue happens to be at hand, the PQ 
brass pegged him as The One to bridge the generations.

Therefore, like Paul Martin Sr. with the federal Liberals back in the 
1960s, Pauline Marois, far and away the most experienced and qualified 
candidate, is considered yesterday's woman, at age 56.

Marois ran for the leadership against Pierre-Marc Johnson in 1985 and 
finished a respectable second, and had it not been for Jacques Parizeau's 
purge in 1988, Lucien Bouchard's coronation in 1995 or Bernard Landry's 
gangland takeover in 2001, the PQ leadership by rights should have been the 
former senior minister's for the taking.

What his supporters in the PQ rank and file evidently see in Boisclair is a 
leader who will appeal to Quebec youth who have become bored with the old 
to and fro between federalist and separatist of the Trudeau-Levesque 

The PQ also needs to attract more supporters in multicultural Montreal if 
it wants to win an eventual referendum. Boisclair has that hip urban flair 
that promises to make inroads with certain demographic groups.

One letter to the editor of Le Devoir from a young person claiming to be 
neither a supporter of the PQ nor necessarily a sovereignist captures the 
Boisclair allure, in spite of the drug controversy: "I feel insulted by 
this attitude towards Mr. Boisclair because for me, it is reassuring to see 
a man who knows how to live and have fun be involved in politics. Among my 
group of friends this man has the effect of a breath of fresh air and 
renewal of confidence in the political class."

As for what Boisclair actually stands for is another question. At the 
moment all that really matters for the PQ is that he can win the next 
election and will make the pursuit of sovereignty a top priority. For the 
record, in speeches so far in the campaign, Boisclair has said "sovereignty 
is urgent" and, conforming to the party platform, he is dedicated to 
launching a referendum "as soon as possible" and at the "beginning of a 

The PQ is holding seven debates each Wednesday during the campaign until 
the November 13-15 telephone vote, on topics ranging from "solidarity and 
public finances" to "the territory" and "sovereignty and leadership."

During these sessions, where the nine candidates are split into groups of 
three, Boisclair's rivals will have a chance to smoke him out on matters of 
policy. But, short of advocating supplying school children with crack 
cocaine, it probably doesn't matter what Boisclair says, he seems to be 
cruising to an easy win anyway.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D