Shed no tears for Mario Dumont, the demagogic Action Démocratique du Québec Leader, who appears set to take a pounding in the forthcoming provincial election.
It would be a fitting result for a nakedly opportunistic career politician whose party vaulted to Official Opposition status 19 months ago largely by exploiting a wave of xenophobia.
But spare a thought for the good that could have come if a more serious leader had been granted the same opportunity as Mr. Dumont.
That the ADQ has maintained a significant presence in provincial politics for more than a decade is a testament to Quebeckers’ desire for an evolution of their politics beyond a stale back-and-forth between the federalist Liberals and the sovereigntist Parti Québécois.
Mr. Dumont has been given every chance to capitalize on that desire, and his combination of soft nationalism and fiscal conservatism could have been moulded into a reasonable alternative. But that would require much greater depth - and much greater patience - than he has shown.
Fourteen years into its existence, the ADQ remains less a party than a platform from which Mr. Dumont spews whatever populist slogans he thinks will win him votes. It has few other prominent members, minimal organizational structure and little plan for government beyond providing the province with greater "autonomy" (Mr. Dumont’s vague, favourite buzzword). Apart from its leader’s charisma, youth and good looks, it has little going for it.
The ADQ’s shortcomings were overlooked by too many Quebeckers in 2006, when Mr. Dumont played to their worst instincts by helping steer the province’s "reasonable accommodation" debate into an exercise in anti-immigrant cultural nationalism.
But as the main opposition party in a minority legislature, the ADQ has been revealed for what it is. Surrounded by a cast of amateurs so unqualified that most of them are rarely seen in public, continuing to beat the same anti-immigrant drums instead of offering anything resembling a serious vision for his province, Mr. Dumont is back to being a distant third in the polls.
Mr. Dumont has been counted out before, and managed to reinvent himself. But Quebeckers should not be fooled again. It will require a leader of much greater substance to provide them a real third option.