The New Democrats are understandably furious at Lise St. Denis. But, as Chantal Hebert points out, her decision was hardly self serving:
Lise St-Denis could easily have continued to collect her pay as the MP for Saint-Maurice—Champlain on the NDP benches for the foreseeable future. Battling cancer at 71, the retired teacher could have bided her time before quietly going home. That would have been the path of least resistance.
The truth is that -- having been abandoned by the Conservatives, mortified by the Liberals and isolated by the Bloc Quebecois -- Quebecers parked their votes with the New Democrats in the last election. True, Quebec politics have been left of center for a long time; and the NDP platform was a good fit. But more than anything else, Quebecers voted for Jack Layton.
Many Canadians had forgotten -- or simply did not know -- that, despite all his time on Toronto City Council, Jack Layton was a native son, who moved as effortlessly between French and English as Pierre Trudeau and Brian Mulroney did before him.
On top of all that, St. Denis occupies Jean Chretien's old seat, which the old fox occupied -- except for a brief hiatus -- for nearly forty years. If she has had her ear to the ground, she knows that her constituents are not rock solid Dippers.
It's beginning to look like the Liberals and the New Democrats are preparing for an ugly battle in Quebec. That would be a mistake for both parties. Hebert correctly notes that:
The problem is that precious few Quebecers signed up for a fight to the finish between the Liberals and the NDP or for a left-wing crusade last May. More than a third of the party’s 2011 supporters voted for Jean Chrétien in 2000. A significant number are poised to vote for the new right-of-centre Coalition Avenir Québec in the next provincial election.
It was Layton’s ecumenical approach to politics that drew so many Quebec voters to the NDP. Based on his 2008 advocacy of a governing arrangement with the Liberals, he seemed best placed to reach out of the partisan box and build a progressive coalition sturdy enough to take on the Conservatives.
The next time around, both parties would do well to follow Nathan Cullen's advice and form a strategic alliance. The Harper Conservatives will -- you'll excuse the pun -- turn blue. But they will not be able to claim that the opposition is a "separatist coalition."
In the end, it will take such a coalition to stop the Conservative juggernaut.