In Quebec, they call it the “third option.” The brainchild of a band of disgruntled former Liberals, it is a product of the increasing polarization of politics in the province. What it involves is the possible creation of an entirely new political party, tailored to occupy the middle ground between the avowedly separatist Parti Québécois and the equally committed federalist Liberals. And while it has not yet and may never progress beyond the point of being widely discussed, the concept has nevertheless reached the stage where it is attracting serious attention.
Two men are largely responsible, both of whom suffered a similar humiliation at the hands of the Liberals’ leadership last year. Mario Dumont, the principal proponent of the “third option” idea, was president of the Liberals’ youth wing until he ran afoul of the party hierarchy over his support for the proposals contained in the controversial Allaire report, which called for a massive transfer of powers from Ottawa to the provincial government in
Quebec City. The other leading sponsor of the idea is the nownotorious report’s author, Jean Allaire himself, a lawyer from Laval. Allaire and Dumont, along with several like-minded colleagues, were forced out of the party when they refused to support the Liberals’ decision to shelve Allaire’s recommendations.
Neither has remained idle since leaving the party late last year. Dumont presided over the formation of the Forum Option-Jeunesse, composed mainly of former Young Liberals who left the party at the same time and for the same reasons. Similarly, Allaire created Groupe Action-Québec, a think-tank aimed at sparking discussion of ideas and
proposals about the future political shape of Quebec. Both groups share the same general political philosophy, but precisely what that is is difficult to define. Allaire has described himself as “confederationist”— willing to keep Quebec in Canada but only on terms that bear a striking resemblance to René Lévesque’s old idea of sovereigntyassociation. Dumont appears to follow a harder line, closer to the sovereignty aims of the PQ.
Dumont, however, infuriated Péquistes only last month when he castigated the separatist party for advocating an independence referendum at a time when voters stand ready to reject the concept, a development that would set back the cause of Quebec independence. Not surprisingly, it is the PQ that most fears the advent of a new party inspired by Allaire and Dumont. Such a move could split the sovereigntist vote, allowing the Liberals to slip back into power for a third term.
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