QUEBEC CITY – Politics can be cruel. This week, Liberal leader Philippe Couillard earned himself a new nickname: “Philippe-flop Couillard”.
“I can’t wait to see your position (on autonomy insurance) compared to your leader’s.”
Maybe we’ll witness another one of those “Philippe-flops’,” said Health Minister Réjean Hébert during Question Period on Thursday.
“We’re getting used to ‘Philippe-flops’,” continued Finance Minister Nicolas Marceau. “On the chador, on the riding where he wants to run, fixed-date elections and now on balancing the budget.”
Nicknames of the sort are usually contested. But on Thursday Liberal House Leader Pierre Moreau did not object to his leader being called “Philippe-flop”.
In fact, everyone seemed to gang up on Philippe Couillard this week.
“Liberal MNAs are trying to repair the damage caused by the ‘Liberal Confusion Leader’,” said CAQ leader François Legault.
Couillard changed his position on the chador after an MNA publicly criticized her party’s tolerance for the cloak.
The Liberal leader now says he’ll consider banning religious symbols for some civil servants, specifying it would have to de done in total accordance with the charters of rights and freedoms. Up until then, Couillard had always defended absolute freedom of religion.
By Wednesday, another controversy had erupted. Couillard told reporters the PQ should work on a solid plan to balance the budget within the next few years, contradicting his MNAs who – at that precise moment – were calling on the PQ to achieve zero deficit by March.
“This year I don’t think it’s realistic,” said Couillard. “We have $2.3 billion in the red already. I don’t see how we can balance this year’s budget. It would be a desirable objective to balance it next year.”
Liberal parliamentary leader Jean-Marc Fournier spent the next 37 minutes trying to explain the nuances of Couillard’s position.
“So we said (to the PQ) please give us the plan so that we can reduce the pressure for the deficit this year and be balanced next year,” said Fournier. “I can tell you Mr. Couillard was clear with that.”
The CAQ thinks voters won’t be patient with Couillard much longer. The party expects its popularity to soar in the next public opinion polls.
“Philippe-flop Couillard said it would be acceptable to have a deficit that will end in 3-4 years. I hope that people, Quebecers will see that we are the party of the economy at the National Assembly and we’ll see at the next election, we’ll be ready to give a good shot at the next election,” said CAQ MNA François Bonnardel.
Couillard’s inner circle argued on Friday Quebecers are intelligent enough to understand the nuances. They said their leader may not always use the right media formulas but that’s because he’s trying to be a different kind of politician.