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Didn't follow the â€œOld-timers' Guide to Politicsâ€
September 2, 2012
Yet, as I watched the Parti Quebecois (PQ), the Liberals and the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) squabble amongst themselves like hens in a hen house, I have come to have new respect for the new parties.
Both became more than mere afterthoughts. Option Nationale, especially, ran a very innovative, honest, open and forward thinking campaign, one that was, in my eyes, the best of the whole race.
For starters, Option Nationale’s leader and founder, Jean-Martin Aussant – who is in a tight race in his riding of Nicolet Becancour – is as different from the other party leaders in Quebec as Quebec is different from each and every other province in Canada. A doctor in economics and erstwhile vice president for Morgan Stanley Capital International in London, Aussant is a hybrid, an intellectual and a man of action. He prefers to speak plainly and directly about an issue rather than to follow the ‘Old-timers’ Guide to Politics’ and avoid or talk around it. He also speaks to people’s intelligence, instead of treating them like clients in a used car lot, something rather rare in politics.
Futhermore, ON is not your typical, run of the mill, political party. No more than 10 months old, the vast majority of its candidates are young political rookies who believe in the party and its message more than in a limousine and a ministerial seat. From all walks of life, this youthful and idea-driven group produced a much different message for their campaign.
That message was built on a vision of an independent and more modern Quebec. ON presented its platform based on six simple themes: 1) Independence, 2) Stronger Quebec economy, 3) Education, 4) Healthcare, 5) Language and Culture and 6) Modernizing political institutions. This straight-forward manner allowed it to expand on each of of the six themes coherently and intelligently, in stark contrast to the old parties which, predictably, tried to prey on voters emotions and fears. This message struck a chord with young voters who make up the vast majority of ONs’ support.
Fortunately, ON didn’t stop there.
Because the mainstream media ignored the party and its leader, ON fought back with a new weapon in the Quebec political arsenal – social media.
Catherine Dorion, the genial beauty running for election in downtown Quebec City, started things off with a Youtube video in which she presented herself, her ideas, and her reasons for joining ON and entering politics. Her video quickly went viral and was posted all over Facebookistan and the tweetosphere. The media were forced to break their own ban and cover the story, since Mme Dorion was such a ‘hit’.
And during the leaders’ debate held on August 19, ON used Twitter and its blog to ensure it participated, even though it had been denied the right to participate. Its Twitter account was so active with an incessant flow of tweets commenting on what was being said that Twitter decided to shut it down for a few hours. Once again, the media was forced to cover the story.
The party also hosted a live Internet debate with Aussant on its blog during the leaders’ debate, during which Aussant both delivered his party’s arguments against the other parties’ positions and promises and hammered out ON’s solutions to Quebec most immediate problems. The video is still on the ON website and was circulated on Facebook and Twitter.
The party continues to be active via social media. It has posted numerous articles written by its candidates on its Facebook page as well as on its website and blog, along with videos and comments from party members.
For such a young party, to be faced which such an evident and what looked like an organized ban of its campaign by the media, ON and Jean-Martin Aussant can be proud of the work they have accomplished. Through their creativity and their will to innovate, the party and its leader have shown Quebecers a new type of political campaign. They have shown that social media can give even the most neophyte politicians a voice and a means to debate.
Finally, ON and Jean-Martin Aussant have also shown us all what an honest, positive and intelligent message can do: attract the disinterested, young people. And that is why, in my eyes, Option Nationale has run the best campaign of Quebec 2012 elections.
Hugo Mathieu is a Political Science and Law school graduate, a former Liberal party of Canada riding President and Vice-President for the Association des Ã‰tudiants en Droit de l’Universite Laval.
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