I used to write a lot more about this sort of thing, but real-life demands and the fact that, well, I live mostly in the USA has reduced my output rate on this topic; but I thought I'd make a brief comment on today/yesterday's federal by-election victory of Thomas Mulcair, the NDP candidate in the Québec riding of Outremont, over all the other candidates, most especially the Liberal candidate. For my US readers, the NDP is the most left of the federal parties that can get significant numbers of seats in the Canadian House of Commons, but has never formed a government and is mostly the vehicle of anglophone labour and other left-associated anglo activists. This victory is historic, because it is only the second time ever that an NDP candidate has won in a riding in Québec.
Most of the Canadian media is predictably fixated on the failure of the Liberal Party to keep a traditional stronghold, as this will reverbrate through the structure of the party that is currently the main opposition party, but usually the governing party. It calls into question the competence of its leader, a man who is, in his policy positions and history, hardly the Liberals' worst chief. That and other losses by the Liberal Party may lead to an election in a few months.
But I think the Idealistic Pragmatist is correct in her belief that there is much more to the story. Political savvy, effort, and good fortune on the part of the NDP are and will be downplayed. Yes, it's true that Mulcair had a history in Québec that made it more likely for him to win---but that's politics. The NDP was able to seize the moment.
More importantly, there's another story underlying this that is worth mentioning. That the NDP can win now, in a race against the Liberals---and that it might even be possible for the NDP to keep this seat in a general election, as well as the poor showing of the Bloc Québecois, the sovereigntist party that is also the place where the Québec left tends to park its vote, is to me further evidence of the political shift that's taking place in the province. The sovereigntist movement made a critical mistake over the past several years, in which it became apparent that it was possible to decouple leftist and socialist politics from the liberatory movement of Québec nationalism. This undermines a philosophical and electoral mainstay of the movement to independence---the promise that sovereignty also poses an opportunity for progress in economic equality.