Reine Johnson confronts a particular quandary in Monday's Quebec Province election.
Her younger son Pierre Marc is fighting an uphill battle to hold onto his newly won position as premier of the province. But if, as widely predicted, his Parti Quebecois is ousted from power, Mrs. Johnson's older son, Daniel Jr., who is running for the provincial assembly on the opposition ticket, would be likely to become a key minister in a Liberal Party government.
Monday's election will be something of a family affair, and a comparatively polite and subdued one at that. For the first time in more than a decade, the emotional and bitterly divisive question of whether French-speaking Quebec should separate from English-speaking Canada is not at issue.
The two Johnson brothers and their political parties are stressing the bread-and-butter concerns of how to revive Quebec's ailing economy and create more jobs in a province where the unemployment rate is stuck at 11.3 percent.
Quebec residents say the brief fall political campaign has been a rather dull affair.
There is much more passionate feeling expressed when they consider with bursting pride the success of 24-year-old Quebec City singer-entertainer Andre-Philippe Gagnon, who hit the big time and appeared on Johnny Carson's "Tonight" show two weeks ago, or when they contemplate the possibility that the lingering strike at liquor stores here might drag on into the Christmas season.
But the election does present a dilemma. All the polls have indicated that voters are more fond of Pierre Marc Johnson, 39, a lawyer and doctor, than they are of Liberal economist Robert Bourassa, 56, a former premier himself who was driven from office in 1976 as nationalist sentiment in the province swelled and his government found itself wracked by scandal.
On the other hand, the polls also reveal a widespread desire of voters to kick out the Parti Quebecois, which has been in power for nine years. Although the party began a year ago to shift its focus away from the sovereignty issue, at the urging of Johnson and others, it has yet to define any clear new identity. Dropping the sovereignty issue prompted several key party members to resign, leaving the political organization in some disarray.
Johnson only took control of the party in October following the resignation of its founder, Rene Levesque, after polls indicated that he enjoyed the support of less than a quarter of the electorate.
The Liberal Party under Bourassa has attracted a number of popular and respected figures to its upper ranks, including Daniel Johnson Jr., who would be likely to become finance minister in a Liberal Party government.
The two brothers' father, Daniel Johnson Sr., was premier of the province from 1966 to 1968. The sons tell questioners that they remain close as brothers although they differ on politics. Their father was the son of Irish Catholic immigrants who chose to ally himself with the cause of French speakers and married a French Canadian.
Political observers here say that the Parti Quebecois may be, in part, the victim of its own success. Although voters ultimately rejected the party's proposal for sovereignty, the laws enacted ensured the primacy of the French language in Quebec and opened up lucrative jobs in business for French Canadians that had been held by the English-speaking minority.
Many English-speaking Canadians, especially in Toronto, now express worry about their cultural identity in the shadow of the United States, especially as cable television brings a score or more American stations into their homes. French Canadians often appear quite secure and argue that they are what makes Canada unique.
"Canada without Quebec is very boring -- 3 million square miles of Indiana," said Montreal radio broadcaster Pierre Duhamel.
Jean-Louis Roy, editor of Montreal's influential Le Devoir newspaper, which had supported the Parti Quebecois in 1976 and 1981, in this election has favored Bourassa's Liberals, as have other major newspapers in the province.
"There is this notion that after so long a period of time, the policy must be reexamined by another political family," Roy said, explaining his paper's decision to switch.
"We have had flamboyant strategies in the last decades," he said. "It is not a question of changing allegiances. It's a question of strategy. For some years, we have to be careful. We have to make gains, small gains because we have lost tremendously in the last decades."