When I was growing up in the eighties and nineties, I was taught that I had to get an education and that it didn’t matter what I studied so long as I got a DEC and a Bachelor’s degree. This seems to be the narrative Gen Xers and Yers were fed, and many of us went into debt trying to get that coveted degree that would allegedly guarantee us a job when we were ready to enter the market.

Sadly, the reality we encountered was very different when we started looking for work in the early 2000s. Employers questioned us on our degrees and why we chose to study a given subject. Unlike previous eras, many were unwilling to give us on-the-job training that would compensate for any specialized education, and many of us went back to school and into more debt hoping get another degree that would get us a job with a modicum of financial stability.

In spite of how highly educated many of us are, Canada, and especially Quebec, is suffering from a massive labour shortage. This article is going to discuss the labour shortage and why it has happened. Next week I will be going over the controversial issue of the recognition of foreign degrees and qualifications in Quebec.

Quebec needs workers.

During the Quebec election, Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume called for more immigration to fill the 17 000 jobs on the north and south shores of the city, telling the CBC he didn’t see any other way to find people for them. In October 2018, Montreal Board of Trade President Michel Leblanc expressed concern over the Coalition Avenir du Québec (CAQ) government’s plan to cut the number of immigrants saying “we need to have more.”

The newly-elected CAQ wants to cut immigration to Quebec by twenty percent – a clear indication that they feel the solution to the labour shortage is not to bring in more people from abroad. Their platform includes encouraging older workers to stay active as long as possible to address the fact that jobs are not being filled at the rate that the baby boomers are retiring. The boomers did not have as many children as their parents did and the result is fewer native-born people in the labour market.

The CAQ also wants to enhance vocational and technical training programs to fill labour market needs and offer more job-study programs. Whether the labour of students in job-study programs would be paid or not remains to be seen, but it must be addressed as people cannot live on “learning experience” and many young people are reluctant to do them because they cannot pay for living expenses at the same time. Another idea the CAQ has put forward is that of encouraging cooperation between businesses and universities to better tailor education programs to business needs.

Part of the labour problem lies in the mismatch between the degrees people in Quebec are getting and the jobs available. One of the clearest indications of this is the employment offered at Montreal’s most recent job fair.

On October 24th and 25th, 2018, JobBoom.com hosted a massive job fair at the Palais des Congrès in Montreal. The employers present were calling for two types of employees. On the one hand you had businesses calling for highly specialized workers like nurses, accident assessment specialists, engineers, chartered appraisers, accountants, industrial security and safety specialists and so on. On the other hand were employers calling for what my generation was taught were “survival jobs” such as retail, security guarding, telemarketing, customer service, and administrative support.

Employers wanting specialized workers are not seeking people with any old Bachelor’s degree or DEC, but rather people with specific degrees, certifications, and even memberships to professional orders. While there is demand for chartered appraisers, for example, in order to become one in Quebec you need a Bachelor of Commerce with a concentration in real estate, followed by a yearlong internship, interview, and entrance exam, all of which come with their own sets of tuition fees, stage fees, and administration and exam costs. This likely means copious amounts of debt given wage stagnation for survival jobs.

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to define a survival job as a low paying job in which little experience or education is required. Many born in Canada were taught that survival jobs were meant to be temporary – the kinds of jobs you took to get by until you found a job that fit your education and career aspirations given the low pay and the often mindless, unfulfilling nature of the work.

It must be said that there is no shame in working a survival job. Many of us do not have the luxury of being choosy in employment due to our financial situation and anyone who depends on us for the income we earn. The only thing that’s really shameful about a survival job is how impossible it is to actually survive on the wages they pay due to wage stagnation in Canada. They are also generally the kinds of jobs that immigrants are most willing to fill due to the adjustment period following their arrival as well as the difficulties having their education and credentials recognized in Quebec.

In conclusion, there are jobs to be had in Quebec, lots of them. If you want to invest in higher education to get a good job, in today’s market you need to be very specific about what you study and make sure the program you choose fits a job in demand. If you need to work to survive, there are jobs for that too; they probably won’t be very fulfilling but you might scrape by. Go get ’em!

* Featured image by Brenda Gottsabend, Creative Commons

Quebec City versus Ottawa. Quebec’s provincial government versus Canada’s federal one. It’s the sometimes amicable rivalry, sometimes bitter fight that has dominated our politics for the past fifty years or so.

Now, with the election of a Coalition Avenir du Québec (CAQ) government for the first time ever, it looks like things are going to change. While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may have already called out new Premier François Legault a couple of times, there’s only so much he can do without risking federal over-reach, which is never a good ideal in Quebec. Plus he will soon be busy fighting to keep his own job.

It looks like the next great intergovernmental battle, at least for the next three or four years, will be the National Assembly versus Montreal City Hall. Legault versus Plante. Here’s why:

From Side-Pander to Not Necessary

Back in the day, from the late 1960s to a few weeks ago, power always shifted between Liberal (PLQ) and Parti Québécois (PQ) governments. Both parties understood that Montreal votes were important enough for them to pander to us a bit during during election campaigns but not as important as votes off-island and across the rest of Quebec, which most of their policies were crafted to deliver.

Now, the governing party has almost no representation in Quebec’s largest city. They won only two seats here, Bourget and Pointe-aux-Trembles, both on the island’s eastern extremities. Flip them to any other party and the CAQ still has a strong majority.

The Island of Montreal and surrounding area as seen on the 2018 Quebec Election map

Legault has a mandate, but he didn’t get it from Montreal. He doesn’t even have to pretend to care about what Montrealers care about, he doesn’t need us to hold power. We’ve gone from a side-pander to not needed to win.

That doesn’t mean their policies won’t affect us. In fact, the most overtly reactionary will pretty much only affect us.

Montreal needs to stand up to the CAQ and, at least on a few issues, it looks like we already are or are prepared to.

Banning Religious Symbols

Legault has promised to strictly enforce Bill C-62 which bans those providing or using government services (teaching in a school or riding the metro, for example) from doing so while wearing religious symbols. He plans to use the Notwithstanding Clause if the courts stop him.

The PLQ,  who won the most seats in Montreal, are unlikely to fight against the implementation of a law they wrote and passed (sure, they probably thought they would get some votes on the right before the courts struck it down, but Legault won’t let the Canadian Charter stop him).  Québec Solidaire (QS), who came in second here, may help fight this, but they only have ten seats in a Majority Government.

Painting by Samantha Gold

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, on the other hand, has said she has no problem with civil servants wearing religious symbols, including police officers. She opposed Bill 62 as a candidate and while she said she will wait and see what the CAQ plan looks like, opposing it would just make sense.

The Greater Montreal area and the Island of Montreal are the most ethnically and culturally diverse parts of Quebec. It’s also where most immigrants live. Here, a Muslim woman wearing a hijab or a Jewish man wearing a kippah is not a strange sight, it’s part of daily life. They are members of our community with the same right to provide or avail themselves of government services as the rest of us.

Of course it’s like that. Montreal is a metropolis. Cultural, religious and ethnic diversity are essential parts of being and staying a world-class city, as important as a large population and a decent public transit system.

Close to two million people live on the Island of Montreal and over four million in the Greater Montreal area. The CAQ wants us to look as white and Christian as, say, Trois-Rivières with a population under 150 000. While he claims to be a Quebec nationalist, Legault’s attitude towards Quebec’s officially designated metropolis is not only bigoted, it’s also quite, um, provincial.

If Plante does ultimately end up refusing to implement the new Quebec Government’s plan when it comes to Montreal employees and people receiving services from the city, I don’t know what Legault could do to make her. Things could get interesting.

Implementing Cannabis Legalization

When it comes to legal weed, Plante isn’t taking a wait and see approach. In Montreal, you can smoke your legal cannabis anywhere you can smoke tobacco or vape, but you can’t spark a joint near schools, on a terasse, in hospitals, on a bus, or basically anywhere you can’t smoke a cigarette.

Legault, on the other hand, is considering a province-wide ban on smoking pot in public, such as on sidewalks or in parks. Basically he’s treating it like booze, while conveniently forgetting that there are public places called bars where you can legally consume alcohol and if you bring a sandwich to a park along with a bottle of wine, it’s a picnic.

Five Montreal boroughs, all held by the opposition party Ensemble Montréal (formerly Équipe Denis Coderre), are planning similar bylaws. While it’s a really out-of-touch idea, I understand how a borough can make such a regulation, just as I understand how a city can make an opposing regulation.

What I don’t get is how a provincial government can pass what should be a municipal zoning regulation to supersede existing zoning regulations. Pot smokers aren’t criminals anymore, just people facing fines if they light up in the wrong place.

If Plante tells the Montreal Police (SPVM) not to enforce provincial ban on smoking cannabis in public, except in the boroughs where it was banned, and they listen, would Legault send in the SQ to enforce it? Could that even work?

Public Transit

And then there’s the Pink Line. A Plante campaign promise that would see a new metro line run from Montreal North through Rosemont, the Plateau, Downtown and NDG, all the way to Lachine.

As bold as that is and as pie in the sky as it may sound, Plante already got the Federal Government to sign off on investing money in it. While QS fully incorporated it into their transit proposal, Plante decided to have a photo-op during the campaign with Liberal Premier Philippe Couillard who had only said he would consider it.

It’s clear her transit plan caused her to have an unofficial ABC (Anyone But CAQ) approach during the campaign. And with good reason: Legault had said his administration would oppose the new metro line.

Plan for the proposed Montreal Metro Pink Line

So, faced with the worst possible election outcome for the future of the project, Plante adopted a go big or go home approach and announced yesterday that she was moving ahead with the Pink Line and creating a project office to study the potential impact on urban development, mobility and socio-economic needs.  This office will compliment studies the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) is already doing and have a budget of $1 Million.

Basically, if project office determines that the Pink Line is feasible and shows how it can be done right, and two thirds of the money is already there, Legault, who will probably be sitting on a pile of legal cannabis sale revenues and tax money by then, will be boxed into a corner. It’s a bold strategy and one that may pay off.

Whether it does or not, prepare for a fight. Maybe a slow-moving, incredibly polite and bureaucratic one, but a fight nonetheless. A political fight on three, maybe more, fronts. Montreal versus Quebec has just begun.

It’s been over a week since the Quebec election and many people are still upset. There has already been one protest in Montreal with scores of people chanting “Legault has to go!”

Anglophones, Allophones, and many Francophones are saddened by the election of a government they consider to be racist and xenophobic, a reflection of the most abominable forces within Quebec society.

This article is not going to dispute or affirm that. I saved that for my previous article. In this bleak season plagued by lousy, unpredictable weather, and the ever-looming threat of catching a cold or flu at work or on public transit, I want to focus on the positives for a change. We need reasons to hope, so I’m going to try and give you some by pointing out all the positives that came out of this election.

A Good Election for Women

On October 1, 2018 a record number of female candidates were elected, taking up fifty-two seats, making up 41.6% of Quebec’s National Assembly. This is not to say that they will always act in women’s best interests.

Most of the women elected were white and secular and members of the Coalition Avenir du Québec (CAQ), so whether they will address the needs of women of colour and religious minority women in a way doesn’t scream of condescending white feminism remains to be seen. That said, representation matters and seeing more women in office will encourage others to run and tell more girls that they can pursue a political career in Quebec.

Possibly Killing the Sovereignty Debate

Quebec is a distinct society. We are distinct because the majority speak French and were oppressed by English speakers for a century. We are distinct because for a shameful period our in history, religious leaders actively cooperated with the government to keep the people meek.

Fear of assimilation into English speaking Canada is as Quebecois as the cuss word tabarnac. For the longest time, it was thought that the only way to avoid assimilation was for Quebec to secede from Canada. We’ve had two failed referenda and a Supreme Court decision about this (Google the “Secession Reference”). This election seems to prove what most Montrealers have known all along: that sovereignty is dead.

The Parti Québécois (PQ), Quebec’s main sovereigntist party, was decimated in this election. They were defeated mostly by the CAQ, which ran on a platform of more autonomy for Quebec, but within Canada. Though Québec Solidaire (QS) took the most seats from the PQ on the Island of Montreal,  the two parties with the most seats – the CAQ and the Liberals (PLQ), respectively, ran on platforms that Quebec should remain in confederation.

The Rise of QS

For the longest time the PQ seemed to be the only left-leaning voice in Quebec that had a shot at becoming our government. They campaigned on platforms of gradually introducing free post-secondary education and updating the Labour Code in favor of striking workers.

At they same time, they campaigned on right wing platforms like aggressive secularism, but shied away from a stance on immigration by saying they’d go with whatever the Auditor General recommended. Many PQ voters, feeling that the PQ didn’t go far enough in their hostility to immigration and religious minorities, took their votes elsewhere. left-leaning voters opted instead for Québec Solidaire.

QS is a leftist sovereigntist feminist party. They are the only main party to campaign on a platform that included fighting systemic racism and addressing discrimination in healthcare. Their environmental platform was the most complete of any of the four major parties.

During the debates, QS spokesperson Manon Massé rolled her eyes while the male candidates argued and when she spoke, she did so clearly but without pretension; many feel that her calm won the day. QS also made some of the greatest efforts to campaign on university campuses, getting disillusioned young people out to vote.

The PQ only recognized Québec Solidaire as a threat towards the end of their campaign and it cost them. On election night, QS got one seat more than the Parti Québécois in the National Assembly (they are now tied after recounts), and came in second in ridings like Notre-Dame-de Grace. While the Parti Québécois has lost official party status, Québec Solidaire has nowhere to go but up.

Some Parts of the CAQ Platform

Though there is well-deserved open hostility to the CAQ, especially in Montreal, I feel it is necessary to point out some of the better aspects of their platform.

First, with regards to healthcare, it is utterly ridiculous that in 2018 when we can order anything from donuts to computers online, we still have to navigate obnoxious phone systems just to get a doctor’s appointment. The CAQ’s healthcare platform includes making it so that we can make doctors’ appointments online. They also call for better access to first line healthcare to alleviate the burdens on emergency rooms, which currently have wait times of up to 30 hours.

The CAQ also wants to make conditions better for nurses, hiring more of them full-time, eliminating mandatory overtimes, and revising nurse-to-patient ratios. Since everything from blood taking to bandages to administering medication often falls to nurses, supporting them is key to improving the health care system.

The CAQ plan to invest more in our infrastructure. Anyone who drives knows our roads and highways are a disaster, so the ten billion they proposed over eleven years would give them a much-needed overhaul. They also want to invest in electrical transportation and innovation to create jobs and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

Things may look bleak right now, but it’s not all that bad. Keep hoping and keep fighting and we can build a better Quebec together.

* Featured image of Québec Solidaire co-spokespeople Manon Massé and Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois on election night via socialist.ca

The Quebec elections are over and we are about to have a new government. People fed up with Philippe Couillard and wary of the sovereigntist messages of Québec Solidaire and the Parti Québécois took their votes elsewhere, putting François Legault and his party, Coalition Avenir du Québec (CAQ), in office.

Many people are scared, and they have every reason to be. The CAQ ran on an aggressively secularist, anti-immigration, right-wing nationalist (within Canada) platform.

The day after the election, people’s worst fears were confirmed when Legault announced that he would use the Canadian constitution’s Notwithstanding Clause to bar civil servants from wearing religious symbols. To use a popular Quebecois expression, ça commence ben mal (we’re off to a bad start).

For all those in despair, I want to give reasons to hope. This article will look at a couple of the CAQ’s more controversial policies, the legality of them, and the ways we can fight back within the system.

Immigration

One of François Legault’s most controversial statements during the election was that he would expel any immigrants Quebec that failed to pass a French and “Quebec Values” test within three years of their arrival.

Here’s the thing: Quebec cannot legally do that.

The decision on whether or not to expel immigrants is federal jurisdiction. This is not to say that Quebec has no discretion in matters of immigration. One of the ways people can immigrate to Canada is via Quebec’s immigration programs such as Quebec Skilled Worker, Quebec Investor, or Quebec Experience, all of which have limits set by the provincial government on how many people they are willing to accept.

These programs do not guarantee you permanent residence (PR). Once you have a Quebec certificate via one of these programs, you can apply for permanent residence.

The application for PR will be assessed by a federal Citizenship and Immigration (CIC) officer and they get the final say as to whether or not you get permanent residency, not Quebec. It is also the CIC that has sole jurisdiction to issue expulsion orders.

Notwithstanding Clause

As previously stated, François Legault announced on Tuesday that he would be willing to invoke the Notwithstanding Clause to ban government employees from wearing religious symbols. In Quebec, that would apply to everyone from teachers to doctors to public transit workers, cops, and civil servants.

It should be said that if the new government is truly committed to secularism, they need to take down all the crosses in public buildings, a gruelling and expensive task given Quebec’s history with the Catholic Church. It must also be said that their rules should include forbidding anyone in civil service from wearing a cross or crucifix.

Fortunately for people whose faith dictates the wearing of visible symbols, the Notwithstanding Clause is not the magical failsafe Islamaphobes and anti-Semites seem to think it is and it will not allow a government to do what it wants indefinitely.

The Notwithstanding Clause is Section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It says:

“Parliament or the legislature of a province may expressly declare in an Act of Parliament or of the legislature, as the case may be, that the Act or a provision thereof shall operate notwithstanding a provision included in section 2 or sections 7 to 15 of this Charter.”

Section 2 of the Charter deals with freedom of religion, freedom of expression and the press, and freedom of association and peaceful assembly. Sections 7 to 15 deal with such rights as “life, liberty, and security of the person” and protection from arbitrary detention, search and seizures, and other rights in criminal and penal proceedings.

Most importantly in this case, article 15 entrenches the right to equality before and under the law “without discrimination and in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability.”

The Notwithstanding Clause allows governments to keep a law in place that violates these rights provided they expressly declare that the legislation in question applies notwithstanding the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

This declaration by a government would not apply indefinitely. According to paragraph three of the Clause, said declaration “will cease to have effect five years after it comes into force or such earlier date as may be specified in the declaration.”

There is good reason for this entrenched delay.

The Notwithstanding Clause is generally applied by provincial governments in the face of the courts striking down controversial legislation on constitutional grounds. The five-year delay allows said governments to rework the law so it conforms with the Charter in cases where the courts do not give them such a delay.

Quebec, for example, used the Clause to keep Bill 101 in place after the Supreme Court struck it down, using the five years to rewrite the law to fit the Charter. Once the five years is up, the government can choose to re-enact a declaration as per the Clause and the delay restarts.

That said, there is a catch, because guess what else happens every four to five years? Elections.

Using the Notwithstanding Clause is a hugely unpopular move. Canadians have embraced The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a way of using the courts to protect them from, for example, xenophobic laws enacted by governments.

A legal challenge to Bill 62, the law enacted by the Liberals barring the wearing of religious symbols by government employees and people using government services, is currently underway and will likely be struck down by the courts. The CAQ can use the Notwithstanding Clause to keep the law in place if they wish, but it might cost them a second term.

The CAQ officially take office once Quebec’s Lieutenant Governor, J. Michel Doyon swears them in and names François Legault as our Premier. Many of us are scared and angry so let’s turn this anger into action and use our power as the people to curb their worst ideas.

* Featured image of François Legault on election night via YouTube

If one could describe the Quebec Elections with one word, it would likely be disillusionment. Many voters agree that Premier Couillard has been doing a lousy job, but many within that camp will vote for him anyway due to fear of separatism and/or the exacerbation of ethnic and language tensions that would likely come from a Parti Québécois or Coalition Avenir du Québec government. Québec Solidaire is an appealing option for others, but their sovereigntist stance is a big turnoff for those of us tired of hearing it.

One could always vote for a smaller political party. It’s a risky move, not only because these parties are less likely to get seats in the National Assembly, but also because it takes votes and influence away from a major party which you might actually agree with on a few things. One could even argue that it’s throwing your vote away.

That said, it’s a free country, and knowledge is power so I’m going to give you a crash course on some of the smaller parties running in this election. There are lots of them, so for the purposes of this article, I will be talking about the three that are campaigning just as hard as the larger parties: the Quebec Conservatives, the Quebec NDP, the provincial Green Party. Plus I’ve included the Bloc Pot, as we are on the eve of marijuana legalization.

As per the previous article, I plan to focus on their positions on health care, the economy/education/employment, culture, and the environment.

Health Care

The Green Party of Quebec is distinct from the Federal party of the same name and identifies itself as Leftist Federalist. Their healthcare platform focuses on prevention. Here are some highlights of their plan:

  • Institute a province-wide campaign to reduce meat consumption given its effects on health
  • Encourage doctors and pharmacists to suggest physical activity and healthy eating instead of medication – a plan that has its merits but runs the risk of alienating and harming people with conditions that require regular medication
  • Reduce ER overcrowding by boosting walk-in clinics and hiring more staff for them
  • Faster access to psychiatric services and follow-ups and increased access to mental health services for First Nations

The Conservative Party of Quebec is also distinct from the federal party of a similar name and claims as its core value “the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual against the encroachments of the all-powerful State”. Here are some of their proposals for our struggling health care system:

  • Pay hospitals per treatment as per an activity-based funding model – with revenue depending on how many patients they attract
  • Allow doctors to work in the private sector provided they work a minimum of thirty five hours a week in the public healthcare system
  • Encourage new forms of hospital management and ownership including hospitals belonging to non-profit cooperatives or for-profit businesses
  • Establish a public ranking of hospitals to be published annually with performance indicators including clinical outcomes, quality of care and hospital services
  • Allow hospitals to sign contracts with their physicians to establish doctors fees and working conditions

The Bloc Pot is the political party calling for a sensible and comprehensive province wide drug policy. Here’s their stance on health:

  • Encourage research on the positive effects of medical marijuana and it’s legitimate medical uses
  • Recognize patients’ right to obtain cannabis to treat their illnesses even illegally

The NDPQ is another party separate from its federal counterpart, but like the Federal NDP, they are a social democratic party. Their healthcare platform is one of the most comprehensive, and includes:

  • Giving the CLSCs the means to be primary healthcare providers with their own programs developed to address the particular needs of their communities
  • Establish maximum wait times for receiving treatments for medical problems according to available scientific research
  • Make sure that medical services are available 24/7 in urban areas
  • Create multi-disciplinary teams to address chronic illnesses
  • Create a new hospital to serve the Nunavut and James Bay areas

Education, Employment, and the Economy

Green Party:

  • Free public education from preschool to university including school supplies for elementary and secondary school students
  • Guaranteed minimum income of $1200/month with a six-hundred-dollar exemption for people who want to work part time
  • Create a new CEGEP focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math with a requirement that fifty percent of its students be women
  • Increase the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour with laws forbidding employers from cutting benefits to finance the increase in wages

Quebec Conservative Party:

  • Gradually reduce payroll taxes to make the rates competitive with the rest of Canada
  • Create a public education funding method based on school vouchers worth the same amount of money per child that would allow parents to choose a public or private school in their district or a neighboring one
  • De-regulate tuition fees for all universities except the University of Quebec and any universities belonging to the reseau of the University of Quebec
  • Restrict welfare accessibility to a maximum period of five years
  • Eliminate “closed shop” provisions of the Labour Code that force employers to only hire unionized employees

NDPQ:

  • Invest four-hundred million dollars over five years to collective organizations and co-ops
    Create public companies charged with the planning and development of large infrastructure projects
  • Rewrite and merge the Quebec Labour Code, the Act Respecting Labour Standards, and the Act
  • Respecting Retraite in Quebec following consultations between the government, unions, and employees
  • End public subsidies and tax credits to private schools in Quebec
  • Free tuition for all levels of education

Bloc Pot:

  • Promote industrial production of hemp and hemp-based products
  • Judicial non-intervention for responsible marijuana users to eliminate employment and travel barriers

Environment

NDPQ:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by fifty percent in the transport sector by 2030
  • Prioritize areas of intervention that reduce the production of greenhouse gases such as industrial livestock production, electrification of transportation methods, and better waste management
  • Investing government funds in research projects such as developing clean energies, cleaner industrial practices, and agricultural methods with less environmental impact
  • Ban the building or expansion of any natural gas pipelines on Quebec territory
  • Work with municipalities to develop cleaner waste management strategies

Green Party:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by fifty percent by 2030
  • Construct a network of high speed electric trains to connect Gatineau, Laval, Montreal, Trois-Riveres, Quebec City, Sherbrooke, Saguenay, Matane, and Drummondville with low cost fares, thus reducing the need for cars to travel throughout Quebec
  • Discouraging the purchase and use of large vehicles such as vans and SUVs by making them more expensive and more difficult to register
  • Require car-free zones in the downtown core of Quebec’s 30 largest cities
  • Nationalize the logging industry and create Forests Quebec to run it

The Bloc Pot:

N/A – their platform revolves around better drug policies and therefore does not address environmental issues

Quebec Conservative Party:

  • Lift existing moratoriums on the exploration of minerals, gas, and oil resources in Quebec while using methods that minimize their effect on the environment
  • Make it easier for Quebec farmers to find new uses for their agricultural waste
  • Science-based environmental policies
  • End the QST on the sale of used consumer goods including automobiles to encourage their re-use
  • Abolish the refunds on bottles and cans to encourage Quebeckers to put them in the recycling bin – a move that would hurt many urban poor who collect and return cans to supplement their incomes

Language, Culture, and Environment

I have once again saved this topic for last because it is here that we hear terms like racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia get thrown around. What makes the smaller parties unique is that they all call for cultural changes, but not the changes one would expect to hear about during Quebec election season.

The Bloc Pot’s focus is on responsible drug strategies and proposes judicial non-intervention for cannabis users. Their goal is to be able to open discussion on cannabis without fear of repression. Their strategy has nothing to do with language or ethnicity but rather is about eliminating the cultural stigma associated with marijuana that can limit employment, travel, and research.

The Green Party’s cultural stance appears to be about righting past wrongs. Their platform includes the implementation of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to integrate the topics of colonialism and residential schools into Quebec’s high school history curriculum. They also seek to include historical information on genocide and the contributions of women and ethnic minorities in Quebec history classes. As for language, the Green Party supports existing language laws.

The Quebec Conservatives are the most right-wing of any of the parties discussed in this article. Their platform includes “welcoming policy” for immigrants to Quebec in which learning French, as well as Quebec history and traditions will be considered essential, though the primary factor in deciding eligibility will be their economic integration according to the needs of Quebec’s workforce. Their stance is strongly in favor of a secular state, but rather than a distinct charter of values, the Conservatives want the Canadian and Quebec Charters of Rights to be their guide. Though they call for reasonable accommodation conducted with “patience, education, and empathy” their platform also says that “there is no reason for us to encourage radical fundamentalism”, language that is generally associated with Islamophobia.

The NDPQ does not address the issue of culture directly among their platforms, limiting said platforms to the topics of agriculture, First Nations, the economy, education, the environment, health, and the LGBTQ++ community. Their policy with regards to LGBTQ++ community does call for a cultural change, but not with regards to ethnicity, religion, or language. Their platform involves fighting homophobia and transphobia and the stigma associated with HIV. They want to ban conversion therapy in Quebec, encourage the establishment of gay-straight alliances in schools, and publicly recognize sexual diversity. They also want to eliminate barriers to assisted procreation methods such as artificial insemination and In-Vitro Fertilization as well as surrogacy to allow LGBTQ++ to have children if they want them.

Election day is October 1. You have a say. Go vote.

Quebec provincial elections are less than two weeks away and there is a lot to learn before we go to the polls. There are four major political parties to choose from: the incumbent Liberal Party (PLQ), the Parti Québécois (PQ), Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), and Québec Solidaire (QS).

There are smaller parties running too and I’ll be writing about them next week, but today I’m focusing on the four parties that participate in the debates and the ones most likely to get seats in the National Assembly and therefore a say in how our province is governed at the top. That said, deciding on the party that will best suit your needs can be difficult.

I’m here to help.

This article will give you a rundown of where the four major political parties stand on some key issues. I’m going to limit this article to key aspects of their stances on healthcare, employment and education, the environment, and Quebec culture and how it fits into broader discourse about immigration, language, and secularism.

Let’s get started.

Healthcare

All four parties agree that something is amiss – a view that is shared by patients and workers within the provincial healthcare system. A social worker told me that resources are scarce. The news is filled with reports of insane wait times and nurses burning out due to mandatory overtime and ludicrous patient-to-nurse ratios.

The Liberals have sustained the brunt of the critiques and here’s how they plan to fix it:

  • Improve access to pharmacist services, particularly vaccines and consultation services
  • Open 25 more super clinics to offer primary health services that will be open twelve hours a day, seven days a week
  • Offer more health services via telecommunication such as teleconsultation and tele-support
  • “Take necessary measures” to help GPs and specialists meet patients needs and expectations

The Parti Québécois approach is a little different – their plan focuses on giving more autonomy to health professionals:

  • Giving more discretionary power to local health care professionals
  • Guaranteed access to nurse-practitioners in CLSCs seven days a week until 9 pm
  • Allow for autonomous clinics consisting solely of nurse-practitioners
  • More funding and support for community organizations dealing with health and social services

The Coalition Avenir Québec‘s plan is simpler but succinct in what they feel the province needs:

  • Allowing patients to make appointments online
  • Better access to first line care without appointment in CLSCs and clinics in the evenings and weekends to alleviate ER wait times
  • More full-time positions for nurses with no mandatory overtime and a revision of nurse to patient ratios
  • Deal with unnecessary medications and diagnoses – a possible attempt to address the opioid crisis

Québec Solidaire is  focused on prevention and fighting discrimination, including:

  • A mandatory study of the effects of mines and hydrocarbons on public health, the results of which will be publicly accessible
  • Fighting discrimination against those with HIV and Hepatitis C
  • Reinforce and increase financing to existing CLSCs to offer a complete network of multidisciplinary clinical services such as disability support, help with addiction, homelessness, and psychiatric care
  • Universal pharmaceutical coverage
  • Support research into women’s health care

Employment, Education, and the Economy

I lumped the three Es together because they are all linked. Quebec has a labour shortage that is only getting worse as the population ages and birth rates remain low.

In addition to a lack of natural growth, the province is failing to attract people due to fewer opportunities for professional and personal development, low growth prospects, a lack of flexibility in existing jobs, and a disparity between the available labour force and the kinds of jobs up for grabs.

Here is how the parties plan to deal with it:

CAQ:

  • Encourage older workers to stay active as long as possible and offer fiscal initiatives to support this
  • Reduce red tape for entrepreneurs and self-employed workers to get their activities off the ground
  • Promote cooperation between businesses and universities to create programs that better reflect the current job market
  • Introduce a policy that would promote private and foreign investment, innovation, and job creation

PLQ:

  • Abolish tuition fees for students registered in part-time professional training programs leading to a DEC
  • Create forty more workplace-based training programs over four years – whether or not students will be paid for their work is suspiciously absent given the growing concern about unpaid internships, something working-aged adults have rightfully identified as a form of slave labour abused by would-be employers
  • Adapt professional training programs to the modern workforce and regional needs
  • Provide the municipalités régionales de comté (MRCs) with funds and support to help them attract and retain foreign workers
  • Ten million annually to support francization services

PQ:

  • Gradually introduce free-post secondary education
  • Encourage “teletravail” which would allow more people to work from home
  • Updating the Labour Code to forbid employers from hiring external services or goods during strikes
  • Create a detailed national registry of the workforce needs of businesses according to their declaration of revenue

QS:

  • Free public education up to and including the first five years of university
  • Improving student financial aid and paid internships – of all the parties, QS is the only one to address this issue
  • Establishing a guaranteed basic income pilot project in several municipalities
  • Fight tax evasion and establish taxation that is more reflective of people’s income
  • Revise business taxation rules to make sure they are paying their fair share

The Environment

All the political parties agree that climate change is a problem and our reliance on fossil fuels is expensive and unsustainable. Sadly while all the parties address this issue, only Québec Solidaire does it in any detail.

QS:

  • Strive for a 95% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050
  • Improve public transport and the adoption of electric vehicles in public transit
  • Improve transportation between municipalities and in less populated areas – presumably to reduce the need for cars
  • Have Hydro Quebec spearhead programs for energy efficiency, the production and distribution of clean energy, and research
  • Institute a National Water policy to find and protect sources of freshwater
  • Investigate the risks of activities that affect water quality
  • Encourage the repairing of goods and equipment rather than throwing them away
  • Improve existing recycling practices in the province
  • Make the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) independent from the National Assembly
  • Give citizens are more participatory role in environmental policy

PLQ:

  • Provide financial incentives for people buying electric or hybrid vehicles and setting up home charging stations for them
  • Invest a hundred fifty-five million over three years to establish a fast public charging service for electric cars

CAQ:

  • Increase energy exports of clean hydroelectric power to the rest of Canada and the US to reduce their dependence on coal, gas, and nuclear power
  • Updating sorting and recycling plants to reduce waste with Recyc-Québec having a say
  • Revise the Provincial Building Code to ensure the use of energy saving products and methods
  • Promote the environmental sciences, green technologies, and the development of cleaner alternative energy sources

PQ:

  • Encourage the switch to electric forms of transportation
  • Encourage researchers and entrepreneurs via the « Baie James de la transition énergetique » project for green energy with the hope of not only improving the environment, but creating jobs
  • Cooperation with different industries to promote greener business practices

Quebec Culture, Immigration, Sovereignty and Language

I saved this topic for last because it is the one that distinguishes the parties the most. It is on these issues that words like racism, xenophobia, and Islamaphobia get thrown around so they need to be addressed. The parties’ attitudes about language can be seen in part in their websites.

Of the four major parties, only PLQ and CAQ have English translations of their platforms available online. Since all parties are courting the English vote to the point of sending their leaders to debate in English and clearly have the resources to pay for a translation, not doing so only hurts them.

Here is where all the parties stand.

Couillard’s Liberals have come out in support of encouraging people in Quebec to know French. With regards to immigration, they support the status quo of a fifty to fifty-three thousand limit on new arrivals. They have been mostly silent on the issue of identity, a fact that makes them attractive to voters that do not want a PQ or CAQ government. However, this is also the party that introduced Bill 62, a religious neutrality law that would forbid the wearing of religious symbols when receiving government services – a clear attempt to pander to PQ voters. The law is currently being challenged in the courts.

The Parti Québécois are sovereigntists and hardcore secularists. Though they are pushing for the rights of LGBTQ+ people, they are also pushing aggressive state secularism, a measure that cost them the last election. Their platform champions the arts, but they have also come out in support of Robert Lepage, whose latest works have outraged Quebec’s Indigenous and black communities with their whitewashing and cultural appropriation. With regards to immigration, they claim to want to depoliticize the issue and go with the recommendations of the Auditor General.

Coalition Avenir Québec is easily classified as the anti-immigration party. They want to see immigration to Quebec reduced by twenty percent and new arrivals evaluated on whether or not they adhere to “common values”. Though they want Quebec recognition as a nation, they want that recognition within Canada. Like the PQ, they are pushing for aggressive state secularism with the banning of religious symbols worn by people in positions of authority – a measure that will limit the job prospects as well as the societal integration of people whose faiths require wearing religious symbols.

Québec Solidaire is sovereigntist, and like the other three parties, they want people in the province to learn French. They are also the only party to call for the establishment of a commission to investigate systemic racism and want police statistics on hate crimes publicly accessible. They also want to improve conditions for migrant workers, domestic helpers, and other new arrivals in Quebec. Unfortunately, they also want to push French as the official language of signage in Quebec, a measure that usually comes at the expense of religious and cultural minority business owners.

The election is on October 1, 2018. Vote wisely.

* Featured image from Elections Quebec via YouTube screengrab

Michelle Blanc won’t win in Mercier and Parti Québécois (PQ) Leader Jean-François Lisée knows it. Keeping her on the ballot is all about how removing her would play outside of Montreal.

Mercier, which includes a large chunk of the Plateau and Mile End, is Amir Khadir’s riding, or at least it will be until he is replaced in this year’s Quebec Election (he’s not running again). It’s the first riding Québec Solidaire (QS) won (they took it from the PQ) and it remains a stronghold for them.

The prospect of the PQ reclaiming Mercier from QS was a longshot to begin with, even with Khadir gone. Running Blanc, a trans woman, as the candidate, might have seemed to the PQ brass like a shot in the dark that might just get some progressive voters to flip back to them.

The problem is Blanc turned out to be quite the racist and overall problematic candidate.

In late August, a since deleted tweet from earlier this year surfaced in which Blanc used a racial slur to complain about a Bell customer service agent:

“An employee insists on calling me ‘Sir’ because my voice is masculine. My response, your voice is African and I don’t call you my little (n-word).”

Lisée defended Blanc by arguing that she was a private citizen, not a candidate, when she wrote the tweet and we shouldn’t be judged by our past mistakes. The past, in this case, being six months earlier.

Around the same time, Blanc called philosophy professor and blogger Xavier Camus a pedophile in another tweet after Camus blogged about ties between the PQ and the far right. This time Blanc apologized herself and deleted the tweet after Camus filed a cease and desist order.

Then, a 2007 blog post surfaced in which Blanc complained about members of the Hasidic Jewish community not saying hello to her and wished that they would just “diappear” from her sight. This time there would be no apology from either Blanc or Lisée, instead she offered “no comment” and her party leader started talking about free speech.

So why doesn’t Lisée just drop Blanc as a candidate? Or, at the very least, why doesn’t he urge her to re-think alienating the Hasidic community, which makes up part of the riding she is running to represent?

That would be an easy calculation to make if the PQ’s goal was, in fact, to take back Mercier. While it may have been that originally, now the party’s biggest concern is not alienating voters who agree with Blanc’s bigoted statements in ridings where the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) is poised to win.

The PQ, over the past ten years at least, has really had two bases: progressive sovereignists in Montreal and Quebec City and right-leaning nationalists everywhere else. For the most part, they have managed to play to both of them, with a few notable exceptions like André Boisclair losing the right and Pauline Marois losing the left with her Charter debacle.

Now, a chief architect of the Charter is heading the party, looking at poll numbers and calculating that the only way the PQ can remain relevant is to give up on winning in Montreal and hope the right-leaning part of its base doesn’t think the party has turned its back on them. Keeping Blanc on the ticket in Mercier is a sure way to show them that they haven’t abandoned the bigots.

Blanc won’t re-take Mercier and Lisée may even lose his seat in Rosemont, but that doesn’t really matter to the PQ now

The late August heat may have you sweating like summer, but there is one sign that fall is just around the corner: election posters are everywhere. With the 2018 Quebec Election campaign in full swing, it’s time for another FTB Election Poll!

Just like the real election, it’s one vote per person, unlike the real election, you can change your vote as many times as you like right up until Thursday, September 27th at 11:59pm.

While the winner of the real election gets to form government, the winner of our poll gets an official endorsement article written on behalf of Forget the Box readers.

We’ve included all the major parties and a few of the more interesting options among the 21 officially registered provincial parties. If there’s one you would like to add, please feel free to do so.

One more thing to consider: we’re not asking who you think will win the election or even who you will actually be voting for, but rather who you want to win. So while you may plan on voting strategically on the first of October, in this poll we encourage you to vote with your heart.

You can vote below or in the sidebar of any site page:

Who would you like to win the 2018 Quebec Election?
  • Conservative Party of Québec 20%, 9 votes
    9 votes 20%
    9 votes - 20% of all votes
  • Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) 18%, 8 votes
    8 votes 18%
    8 votes - 18% of all votes
  • Québec Solidaire (QS) 16%, 7 votes
    7 votes 16%
    7 votes - 16% of all votes
  • Nouveau Parti Démocratique du Québec (NPDQ) 13%, 6 votes
    6 votes 13%
    6 votes - 13% of all votes
  • I Don't Live in Quebec 11%, 5 votes
    5 votes 11%
    5 votes - 11% of all votes
  • Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) 7%, 3 votes
    3 votes 7%
    3 votes - 7% of all votes
  • Green Party of Québec (PVQ) 4%, 2 votes
    2 votes 4%
    2 votes - 4% of all votes
  • Parti Nul 2%, 1 vote
    1 vote 2%
    1 vote - 2% of all votes
  • Parti Québécois (PQ) 2%, 1 vote
    1 vote 2%
    1 vote - 2% of all votes
  • None of the Above 2%, 1 vote
    1 vote 2%
    1 vote - 2% of all votes
  • Parti Culinaire du Québec 2%, 1 vote
    1 vote 2%
    1 vote - 2% of all votes
  • Parti Marxiste-Léniniste du Québec 2%, 1 vote
    1 vote 2%
    1 vote - 2% of all votes
  • Bloc Pot 0%, 0 votes
    0 votes
    0 votes - 0% of all votes
Total Votes: 45
Voters: 45
August 28, 2018 - October 2, 2018
Voting is closed

* Featured image by Tony Webster via WikiMedia Commons

It’s one of those headlines that sounds great: “Anglos, it’s time to get over the 1995 Quebec referendum.” Yes, it is. Glad The Montreal Gazette finally realized it.

However, the paper’s Facebook plug of the op-ed revealed what guest opinion writer Lise Ravary only got to at the end of her piece. That fear of another Quebec referendum was “a bad reason to spurn Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ)” this election.

Fine, sure, it’s not. By the same token, fear of a referendum is not a good reason to spurn Québec Solidaire either. But there are several good reasons not to vote CAQ this year or any year.

They’re not an alternative to Quebec’s two natural governing parties, the Liberals (PLQ) and the Parti Québécois (PQ). They’re the same, only meaner.

The PQ gave us the Charter of Quebec Values and lost, in large part, because of it. The PLQ, who had campaigned against the Charter, brought in the absurd Bill C-62, turning bus drivers and librarians into the Niqab police.

Not to be outdone, the CAQ is proposing that all prospective immigrants to Quebec have to pass a values test. Women who wear the Niqab would have to remove it while taking the test.

While a “values test” is, in and of itself, a huge red flag to anyone who believes in cultural diversity, tacking on the bit about the Niqab is a pander to the basest instincts of the far right. Sure, only 50-100 women in Quebec wear the Niqab out of a population of over eight million, but François Legault is on the case and will make sure another 10 or 20 don’t sneak in!

The non-cultural aspects of the CAQ policy doesn’t differ much from the status quo pro-corporate stance of their main rivals, which is probably why The Gazette has no problem easing the fears of Anglos considering them as an alternative. They’ve been leading in the overall polls, too, since last November.

For years, I have been waiting for the so-called “national question” not to be a factor in a Quebec election, especially for the Montreal Anglo community, my community. I’ve also been waiting for a break in the PLQ/PQ cycle of dominance that has lasted over 50 years.

But not like this.

The CAQ isn’t change. They’re more of the same with a different branding, one tweaked for the far right. They’re the bigots Anglos, most Anglos, don’t have to be afraid of.

Yes, we should get over the 1995 Referendum, but no, electoral xenophobes should not benefit.

Say what you will about Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante’s first eight months in office, when it comes to animals, her Projet Montréal administration has been doing exactly what they said they would. Even her staunchest opponents can’t argue that fact.

Soon after taking office, they scrapped former mayor Denis Coderre’s much-maligned pit bull ban and promised a new, thorough animal control bylaw based on research. This past Thursday, they delivered.

Here are some of the highlights of the proposed plan, already approved by Montreal’s Executive Committee and up for vote by the full City Council tomorrow:

Calèche Ban

Montreal has issued 24 permits for horse-drawn Calèches to operate this year and in 2019, but won’t be issuing any more. As of 2020, horses pulling tourists through the streets of Old Montreal in the hot sun will be a thing of the past.

This follows several videos in recent years of horses collapsing on the “job” as well as years of opposition to the practice from Plante’s party and over a century’s worth from the Montreal SPCA. The plan also involves:

  • A move towards electric-powered calèches
  • Funding renovations of the Griffintown Horse Palace and converting it into a museum and potential living space for horses (something started under Coderre)
  • Finding new homes for the horses currently being used, which counters the calèche industry’s claim that the horses will have to be slaughtered

Rescue Not Breeders

As of July 2019, pet stores in Montreal will only be permitted to sell dogs, cats and rabbits that come from animal shelters, not from breeders. This is certainly a bold move that will prompt resistance, mostly from pet stores, but the Plante Administration is surely prepared for that.

What’s really fascinating and encouraging here, though, is that Montreal is effectively turning adopting a rescue pet from an ethical choice many currently make into the most standard and efficient way to bring an animal home in the city.

It’s the Owner, Not the Breed

While Coderre’s Pit Bull Ban is now a thing of the past, the Plante Administration hasn’t forgotten about what prompted it in the first place: a woman who died because a dog attacked her. The new bylaw deals with dangerous dogs by focusing on specific dogs that are violent and their owners, not with blanket targeting of entire breeds.

Under the new plan, if a dog bites a human, the dog’s owner is required to report it within 72 hours and muzzle the dog when outside until experts trained by the city do their job. These inspectors will classify the dog as either normal, potentially dangerous or dangerous and determine what restrictions, if any, need to be applied. The owner pays for the evaluation.

This is clearly one area where Montreal’s new administration is sticking to their promises while backing them up with logic and research.

* Featured image by Jean Gagnon via WikiMedia Commons

A candidate for major office with policies that appeal to the most progressive elements of the political left who is also the safe choice for so-called centrist strategic voters is kind of like a unicorn. It seems like Ontario may have found their unicorn in provincial NDP leader Andrea Horwath.

According to a recent poll by Maclean’s and Pollara, Horwath and her party are in second place with 30% support. They trail frontrunner Doug Ford whose “Progressive” Conservatives are leading with 40% support, but are beating incumbent premier Kathleen Wynn whose Liberals are down to 23% support.

The writing is on the wall, or rather on everyone’s screens. Wynne can’t win. If you want to stop Ford Nation from taking over Queen’s Park, you have to vote NDP. Even right-leaning media are admitting Horwath won the first leaders’ debate.

Strategy Meets Solid Progressive Policy

So Horwath is the practical choice for those who don’t want to deal with a Ford at the provincial level. But what about those who see the Liberals as only a slightly less spiteful and ridiculous option than Doug?

Well, last time around, the NDP, under the same leader, desperately tried to position themselves as a watered-down version of the Liberals, to the chagrin of the party faithful. Now, the official ONDP Twitter account is posting stuff like this:

But they’re backing up the sassy tweets with a truly progressive platform that prioritizes universal dental and pharmacare, re-nationalizing Hydro One, turning student loans into grants, improving care for seniors by ending “hallway medicine” and raising taxes on the wealthiest people and corporations. Solid old-school NDP policies all, but the spin they put on some of them is just brilliant.

Bringing Hydro One “back into public hands” is coupled with an estimated 30% reduction in Hydro bills. Meanwhile, “creating thousands of student jobs” is the addendum to their plan to subsidize tuition.

But the best messaging, hands down, has got to be this:

“Protect middle class families by having the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations pay their fair share.”

They have successfully found a way to pitch a longstanding socialist solution to economic inequality as an appeal to the most coveted demographic for so-called moderates, the middle class.

More Left Through School and Weed

Another poll, this one by Forum Research, predicted a PC majority with the NDP as a “strong” Official Opposition. Since it doesn’t really matter how strong the opposition is in a Majority Government, the ONDP need to find a way to do just a bit better than predicted and overtake Ford or at least hold him to a Minority Government.

The only way for them to do that is to keep doing what they’ve been doing, just push a bit further. This is not the time to retreat back into old ways. Playing it safe, this time, means pushing the envelope more.

Horwath has her party’s traditional base back. Now she needs to mobilize new voters and get them excited enough not just to cast their ballot but to volunteer as well.

Proposing free tuition would be one way to do it. They could even announce how they plan to pay for it: with weed.

Seriously, I’m not kidding. Bear with me for a moment.

When cannabis becomes legal in Canada, Wynn plans to tightly control it through the LCBO. Ford, meanwhile, wants a free market, something that has garnered him support on the left.

The ONDP has remained pretty much silent on the subject and I understand why. Wynne’s position is extremely unpopular, especially among NDP supporters, but championing the free market just seems so un-NDP.

But in this case there is a third way. Have the government run medicinal marijuana and cover it as part of pharmacare but open up recreational pot sales to any business that successfully applies for a permit.

The government can regulate the product for quality and ensure proper labour standards and at the same time get a chunk of sales tax from all the places selling it, way more than they would from the mere handful of stores Wynn wants. Then they use the new revenues to pay for post-secondary education.

The spin is simple:

Wynn wants to privatize essential services like hydro and nationalize recreational products like pot with a plan that will make it unprofitable for Ontarians. Ford wants the Wild West. We see this as an opportunity to improve Ontario’s economy and provide a free education for all Ontarians.

It’s just one idea, but I’d hate to see the most left-leaning party that has a chance blow it and lose to Doug Ford over weed. The ONDP should really have a position on this issue which is currently wooing potential future hardcore supporters far to the right.

No matter what they decide to do on this front, though, Ontario New Democrats need to remember that their path to victory is keeping their traditional base and inspiring a new base with bold progressive and unabashedly socialist policy, pitching it in a way that doesn’t terrify suburbia, and driving the point home that Wynne can’t win and the only way to keep Ford Nation and all of their regressive social policies out of Queen’s Park is to vote NDP.

A unicorn is special because it’s a unicorn. If it tries to pretend it’s just a horse, then it loses any advantage it had.

* Featured image by E.K. Park via WikiMedia Commons

Are you excited for the 2018 Quebec Election? With the voting just under seven months away, my answer is maybe, and that’s huge for me.

I’m a political junkie. I closely follow all political races with gusto: federal, municipal, American, European, fictional (Bartlet 2020). Well, almost all races.

Quebec provincial politics have always failed to deliver for me. Sure, I’ll vote, watch the results pour in and even write an op-ed or five, but something is lacking.

It’s not that nothing changes, it’s that change doesn’t even seem like a far-fetched possibility.

Two Parties, Same Pander

It’s not just that we’re in a two party system that has been around since the 70s, it’s not even that the Quebec Liberals (PLQ) and the Parti Québécois (PQ) only differ on a handful of issues. It’s that they’re not even trying to appear different anymore and people keep voting them in.

Sure, the PQ did sink below Official Opposition status when Andre Boisclair was leader, but that was only due to homophobia in their base. They haven’t forgot to pander to bigots since.

When the 2012 student protests forced “Charest Dehors!” (and into a law firm, guess the protesters weren’t able to find him a “job dans le nord” after all), Pauline Marois wasted no time turning her back on the reasons she got the Premier job in the first place and went all-in on Islamophobia. The Charter of Quebec Values didn’t get her a majority and cost her re-election, but that hasn’t stopped the PQ from banging the hard-right war drum.

They have dropped all pretense of being interested in progressive votes and their pander to bigots isn’t even limited to attacking Muslims anymore. They even went so far as to mock the practice of declaring that an event is taking place on unceded native land.

Now, though, the PLQ are trying desperately to pander to the same xenophobic base. Bill C-62, the law that forces bus drivers and librarians to refuse service to anyone covering their face, wasn’t a PQ invention, but rather that of the party that won government by campaigning against the PQ’s Charter.

Both main parties in our two-party system already had a similar right-leaning approach to the economy, the environment and other important issues. Now they seem in lockstep on xenophobia, too and pretty much only differ on the federalism/sovereignty divide.

So why do I think this election may actually result in some change? There are a few reasons.

The PQ is Ready to Implode

Things aren’t looking good for the PQ:

  • They have only been in power for a brief time with a minority government in the past 15 years.
  • Their leader, Jean-François Lisée, is the guy who got the job only after the guy people actually knew quit after holding the position for less than a year.
  • Their attempt to form an alliance with smaller pro-sovereignty parties failed
  • Their federal ally the Bloc Québécois is in complete disarray
  • They are banking everything on getting the xenophobic vote. Not only did that fail them last election, but now the PLQ are targeting the same voters, as is the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ).

Put that all together and there is very real potential that the PQ will sink to third or maybe even fourth party status and never recover. Even if this means another Liberal government, ugh, with the CAQ in opposition, double ugh, it also means that the two party system we have had for over fourty years is done. One down, one to go.

QS Wants to Win

Québec Solidaire (QS) is entering a new phase in more ways than one. They have two new spokespeople: Sainte-Marie-Saint-Jacques MNA Manon Massé, who will run for Premier, and former student leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, who would be Vice-Premier in a QS administration.

The prospect of a QS administration, or rather the fact that they are talking about what that would look like, signals a new approach for the party that is far beyond a simple changing of the guard. They don’t just want to keep the three seats they have and maybe add a couple more, they want to win. Like really win. Form government win.

It’s a longshot and an extremely improbable one at that, but political shifts in Quebec happen en masse (think the NDP’s Orange Wave), so it’s not impossible. If the PQ was reduced to a handful of ridings with the CAQ picking up most of their far-right holdings, QS would still need almost all progressive sovereignists and enough progressive federalists to flip a few Liberal ridings to break for them to make it happen, but, again, this is Quebec.

Even if the perfect storm doesn’t happen for QS this election, their change in approach will at least win them more influence, especially in a minority government. It may land them opposition or third party status, which would be huge for them and even bigger for the future of Quebec politics.

While QS is the only left-leaning party currently represented in the National Assembly (with three seats), they’re not the only one hoping to make a dent in the Quebec political landscape by promoting progressive policies and values.

A Greener Political Left

The Quebec Green Party (PVQ) is the Quebec political outfit whose policies align closest with my own. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to vote for them last time as they weren’t fielding a candidate where I lived as well as in several other ridings.

Now, it looks like that is changing. Leader Alex Tyrrell hasn’t just been spending his time running personally in every by-election that popped up in order to ensure PVQ ideas are heard, he has been building a slate of candidates to give voters a Green option in as many parts of Quebec as possible.

So far, I’ve seen two people I know and respect throw their hats in the ring as PVQ candidates in what are undeniably Liberal strongholds. While these races will inevitably be uphill battles for the Green candidates, they could be where the PVQ breaks ground.

While ambiguous on the so-called national question in the past, under Tyrrell, the PVQ have declared themselves federalist. Voters who like almost all of QS’s policies and want to vote progressive but just can’t live with voting for a party that is sovereigntist may park their votes with the Greens and those voters can be found largely in Liberal ridings.

Well, It Worked for Jack

The Quebec Greens won’t be the only ones hoping to pick up some federalist lefty votes this October. There’s a new Quebec version of the NDP (NPDQ) running. And by new, I mean there was already a provincial NDP in Quebec up until a few decades ago and, long story short, the remnants of that party are currently part of QS.

Talk of a potential new Quebec party surfaced following the Orange Wave of 2011 when Jack Layton led the federal NDP to Official Opposition status for the first time in the party’s history thanks largely to a massive shift in Quebec votes. Initially, the Quebec wing of the federal party rejected the notion of a new NPDQ, but in 2014, they registered the name.

The NPDQ went public in 2016 and this past January elected Raphaël Fortin as leader. If they are thinking that the Orange Wave can be duplicated at the provincial level, they might be right, but if it happens this election, it likely won’t be with them.

Jack Layton having the perfect response to Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe’s bragging during a debate is what set the NDP Quebec landslide in motion in 2011. Fortin probably won’t get anywhere close to the debate stage.

A good chunk of people who vote NDP federally here vote QS provincially. So if there is any kind of leftist wave, it’s most likely to break for them.

If the NPDQ’s plans are more long term and involve becoming the progressive federalist alternative to the Liberals, then they better hope they get funding and support from the federal party. The Greens are going for the same voter base and have a significant headstart.

Might Be Exciting This Time

So when you consider the potential or, as I like to think of it, imminent implosion of the PQ and then factor in the strong push for leftist votes from three different parties, it looks like things may be changing in the Quebec political sphere. Throw in the recent election of Valérie Plante and Projet Montréal at the municipal level here in Montreal and it starts looking like we may be ready to scrap the status quo in Quebec City as well.

At least the 2018 Quebec Election may be exciting for a change.

 

 

 

One of the cornerstones of any liberal democracy is a judiciary that is independent, fair, and free from bias. Unfortunately, judges are human beings and therefore vulnerable to having the same prejudices many of us have.

An ideal government will name judges that can separate their own preconceptions from what is fundamentally right and legal in rendering their decisions. Unfortunately, this is not what happened in the case of former Alberta judge Robin Camp, and it is clearly not what happened in the case of Judge Eliana Marengo.

Her story is one that shows the dangers of aggressive Quebec Islamaphobia and racism masquerading as legal secularism.

In February 2015, Rania El-Alloul went to court to get her car back after it had been seized by the SAAQ. The issue was a simple one, but Judge Marengo turned a molehill into a mountain by refusing to hear El-Alloul’s case unless she took off her headscarf, inappropriately comparing the hijab to hats and sunglasses which are not permitted in court.

El-Alloul was not wearing a headscarf. She was wearing a hijab mandated by her faith, which she politely told the judge. Judge Marengo in a recording of the proceedings said that the court is a secular space, mentioning that there is no cross on the wall of the courtroom. She then reprimanded El-Alloul, refusing to hear her case because she was “not suitably dressed” as per the regulations of the Court of Quebec.

As there is no record of Judge Marengo denying others their day in court due to them wearing visible crosses, clergy collars, or a kipa, it is most likely she refused El-Alloul because she is Muslim.

Judge Marengo gave El-Alloul two options, she could take off her “headscarf” or request a postponement and consult a lawyer. El-Alloul refused to remove it and thus far, her case has yet to be heard.

When the story broke, numerous complaints were made to the Quebec Conseil de la Magistrature (“the Council”), the organization responsible for disciplining provincially appointed judges in Quebec. The complaints came not just from El-Alloul herself, but from many others unrelated to the case who felt the judge’s conduct was inappropriate of her high office.

Prime Justin Trudeau expressed his disapproval of Marengo on Twitter, saying:

In February 2016, the Council decided to form a committee to investigate Judge Marengo’s conduct. Marengo, for her part, tried to block the investigation into her conduct by challenging the legitimacy of the Council itself. She claimed that the refusal to hear El-Alloul amounted to a judicial decision that must be addressed in an appeal and that to investigate her via the Council would be a violation of judicial independence.

Fortunately, the Superior Court of Quebec sided with Council the following year. Marengo appealed the decision but the Quebec Court of Appeal agreed with the Superior Court.

An investigation into Judge Marengo’s conduct is now underway or will be soon.

How exactly does the Quebec Conseil de la Magistrature work?

It’s a lot like the Canadian Judicial Council responsible for investigating federal judges.

In addition to administrative duties and a general responsibility to improve the justice system in the province, the Quebec Conseil de la Magistrature is responsible for investigating the conduct of judges sitting on the Court of Quebec, the Professions Tribunal, and the Human Rights Tribunal. It has 16 members consisting of eleven judges, one justice of the peace, two lawyers, and two members of the general public.

They generally conduct investigations in response to complaints filed with them. Complaints to the Quebec Council can be filed online via their website.

Like their federal counterpart, the Conseil cannot overturn judicial decisions or verdicts as those have to go through the appeals process. All the Quebec Council can do is reprimand a judge or in the worst cases, recommend to the government that the judge be removed from the bench. In their investigations, the Council must consider the Judicial Code of Ethics, a set of rules governing the behavior of judges in Quebec.

Judge Marengo will likely be investigated with regards to whether her conduct violated articles two and eight of the Judicial Code of Ethics which have been used to reprimand the racist behavior of judges in the past. They read as follows:

  • 2. The judge should perform the duties of his office with integrity, dignity and honour.
  • 8. In public, the judge should act in a reserved, serene and courteous manner.”

Judge Eliana Marengo’s behavior towards Rania El-Alloul was unacceptable. Not only did it deny an innocent woman her day in court, but it is also against the values of diversity and freedom from discrimination Quebec supposedly embraces.

Here’s hoping the Council agrees.

* Featured image of the Palais de Justice in Montreal by Jeangagnon via Wikimedia Commons

The Plante Administration really isn’t wasting much time implementing their election promises. The pit bull ban is gone, so is the Formula E, and now cars won’t have a mountain shortcut to get from one side of Montreal to the other as part of a pilot project this spring and summer.

The city will close Camillien Houde to cars between Beaver Lake and Smith House (the big lookout) while allowing buses and bikes to pass. This stems from a promise to do something about bike safety on the mountain in the wake of the death of cyclist Clément Ouimet last summer.

Their strategy seems to be get as much done as possible early and let Montrealers grow to like the changes over the next few years. Since this is the first time Projet Montreal, or any left-of-centre political outsiders for that matter, find themselves in power here, it makes sense.

But is this particular plan a good idea? One that we will come to appreciate in four years’ time? Yes, but only if it goes further.

Winding Highway in the Middle of the City

Not everyone is happy with this pilot project, as expected. Even some Plante supporters aren’t for the plan. Some feel this was too hasty and decided without enough consultation while others wonder why they didn’t just make a separate bike path. Most criticism, though, centers around additional traffic on other routes.

Living in Montreal my whole life but not being a driver, I have traveled that stretch by car and taxi many times. It always felt like I was in a racing video game, even with cautious, responsible drivers behind the wheel.

The lack of stops turns it into a highway by default. And at that, it’s a highway that winds and curves its way up and down a mountain. It was a bad idea to begin with, albeit a convenient one.

Yes, this will mean more cars on other roads, but the safety concerns for both cyclists and drivers outweigh the inconvenience. Also, public transit users will still be able to take advantage of this shortcut as buses will still go through.

This is a needed move. My only concern, though, is that it doesn’t go far enough.

The Shortcut is Gone, But the Risk Remains

Blocking off a chunk of Camillien Houde will mean fewer cars, but not no cars. Now, all those who drive up the mountain will be doing so to visit a part of the mountain such as Smith House and then return.

Well, almost all. There will inevitably be those unaware of the change who will make their way up expecting to end up on the other side only to find out they have to turn back.

If this seems like just a minor problem, it won’t be. The only thing worse than drivers barreling down a winding pseudo-highway is frustrated drivers trying to make up lost time barreling down a winding pseudo-highway.

A Proposal

The #11 Bus at Parc and Mount Royal about to travel over the mountain

There is an easy fix, though, and it’s one I hope the Plante administration considers:

  1. Stop all car traffic at Parc and Mount-Royal on the eastern end and Beaver Lake in the west.
  2. Create two lanes, one in each direction, for city buses and emergency vehicles, two separate lanes for cyclists and, if possible, a space for pedestrians.
  3. Add more buses on the route and create stops: one at the Camillien Houde lookout midway up from the east, one at Smith House and one at Beaver Lake for now and maybe more later. All stops should be wheelchair accessible.

If people want to visit the mountain and are unable to do so on foot or by bike (or just don’t want to), they can do so by bus. There’s already a parking  lot at Beaver Lake. For this plan to really work, the city would need to make another one near Parc and Mount-Royal. You can drive to the mountain, but not over it.

If this seems like a permanent change, then good. A pilot project can only go so far and risks alienating people without fully showing the payoff.

Eliminating the mountain shortcut will draw the same ire if you cut cars at Smith House or at Parc and Mount-Royal, so why not go all the way and fully eliminate a pseudo-highway that was a bad idea to begin with.

* Featured image of the Camillien Houde lookout via WikiMedia Commons

Protest self serving so called feminists and end cultural appropriation NOW!

“My feminism will be intersectional or it is bullshit.” One of my favorite quotes from feminist blogger Flavia Dzodan in Tiger Beatdown. Her words were on many signs as well as the stolen beautiful feminist words from other people of color. The people carrying them do not even know her fucking name. Come on girls, we are better than this!

This brought me back to last year when I asked a girl about her sign at the Women’s March on DC. I was carrying the same sign, she got the idea from Pinterest. “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept!” She had no idea that her sign was actually a quote from Angela Davis, who was a feminist leader in the black panther movement, and that she was speaking THAT DAY at the historic march.

This one line from Flavia’s essay has been taken like many other appropriated work and put on t-shits and all kinds of marketing materials. She has not profited from them one bit. This is why we must listen to her!

People of color, especially women and transgender people have their work and words stolen all the time. That’s why they have been erased from history. That shit needs to stop! Fuck racism and capitalism. I am so over people stealing and appropriating everything. Just be original! Its easier to lift up others and celebrate their accomplishments than to demean them by ripping them off.

Let’s keep each other in check! Call girls out who are misguided. I wanted to grab a mic or a megaphone and turn this whole thing into a protest against shitty whitewashed feminism. We need to celebrate diversity and stop thinking about only the things that affect people of our skin tone and socioeconomic status.

I am a white woman and white feminism has historically pissed me off. Even from the time of the early suffragettes there has been a major disconnect. They sold black women down the river instead of fighting for equal rights for all humans. We need to fight for all humans, the rights of animals, and the earth!

If you don’t care about all of it you don’t care about any of it. Being an activist that doesn’t stand up for people who don’t look exactly like them is wrong and not activism, it is self serving. You can’t only fight for things that directly affect your life. There are so many more people who need your efforts! We need to hold each other up or we will crumble together in the rubble of this shithole time in history.

I march with my sisters not just my cisters, I march because I have feet and a voice, it felt like less this year. Sure, I was in Buffalo NY and not Washinton DC, but the entire vibe was less electric.

Trump has been in office for an entire calendar year and only bad has come of it. Same pink pussy hats, same fight. Again I noticed a large amount of white women carrying signs and taking selfies.

What exactly are we doing? I love bringing strong people out into the streets in masses. They need to have a message and know that the cops are not their friends. I see the police standing around the perimeters with their hands on their guns/dicks. Like this is a threat?

Grandmas and kids in pink knitted hats. I think it is important to have events like this that are accessible and low risk for all people, including children, the elderly, and differently abled folks.

One of my friends hurt her leg and she still made it! She was pushed in a wheelchair by comrades while carrying a red and black flag. It was a sight of pure loveliness. I am always the one who will drive all over town to pick up my friends for marches and protests.

Some things were incredible, but others were the same. I was again disappointed but not surprised by the mans-plaining and amount of cis gendered men that took the microphone in general. Just give us the women and trans humans!

Let us hear the voice of those fighting with us! Let our peers speak! It is the mother fucking women’s march and there is a man telling us to speak into the microphone. Shut up and let our voices be heard!

The day was sunny, cold, but nice. Thousands of women and those in solidarity took back the streets on a Sunday.

This year I did not even bring a sign. I marched for the first time with a partner, I held her hand as we navigated the crowd. It felt powerful to be holding my head high with someone I care about.

I saw a sign that said “If Hilary won we would be at brunch right now!” That made me sad, we need to march no matter who wins.

Hilary would have obviously been better than T-bag cheeto douche but she was not the answer. I don’t know who is the answer.

Maybe it’s Oprah, but probably not. It is some little kid who knows no evil. The hope of the world lies in our children.

The most magical moment of the day was when I saw a very little girl go up to her mom and say “I want to take this sign to show and tell.” It’s beautiful to think that activism has been activated in this child already. Hopefully she will look around at all the strong women and feel empowered to rise up. Good parenting right there.

I asked my mom to come and she said no, she wanted to watch football. I was disappointed. I would love to march with my mother by my side. I am so proud to be her daughter and wish she would feel the need to speak up.

I was upset when she felt like it didn’t matter. She burned her bra in the 70’s and now she won’t even take a walk on a Sunday.

Activists need to remain in practice always. We can’t give up the fight! We must stay active and be present forever.

It feels so good to be with a ton of powerful people, make plans, corroborate, say it out loud that we need to do this more often. Sure, you can wear the pink pussy hat again, but remember it’s not armor. We need to band together every damn day! It can’t be once a year.

Of course I think there are more direct ways to enact positive change then march. Peaceful protests in the way of work strikes, freeing animals from cages, being vegan, feeding people with food that would have been waste, shutting down streets with comrades, using eco glitter to glitter bomb terrible politicians, and participating in sit ins are all way more active ways to speak your mind and get shit done.

We all need to write blogs, write to the editor of your paper, make a zine, do anything to say how you feel and use your voice and talents for good! Please be original and real. You can and will change the world!

Think about others, spread kindness, be pissed off and lift up those that the rest of the world steps on. Be like the little girl who took her sign to show and tell, but this time you should show up and YELL!

The administration of newly elected mayor Valérie Plante is off to a good start. She cancelled the traffic-inducing ridiculously expensive publicity stunt called the “Formula E” races and in a move long overdue, has appointed an Indigenous Commissioner to the city’s administration. Her choice for the post is Cree lawyer Marie-Ève Bordeleau.

This article is about her, the importance of her appointment, and who she will help.

When people think of Montreal’s indigenous community, they unfortunately think of alcoholics and panhandlers that work primarily in the city’s downtown core.

Their stories are much more than that.

The city was founded by Indigenous people, and the suffering of much of the community is a direct result of the impact of colonialism. Though a 2015 survey indicates that Natives make up one-point six percent of Montreal’s population, they make up over ten percent of its homeless.

Indigenous Montrealers face discrimination at every level from accessing basic health care to finding a place to live. Many renters in the city refuse to lease to Indigenous Canadians and those who do are usually slumlords. Quebec police forces have earned a reputation for treating them more severely than whites, and the city’s Indigenous support groups have been calling on the municipal authorities to cooperate with them to make Montreal a better place for their people.

The idea of appointing an Indigenous Commissioner is not a new one. In January 2017 then-mayor Denis Coderre announced that he would appoint one following a meeting he had with aboriginal groups. At the same time, Coderre promised to run an aboriginal candidate in the upcoming election and have native staff members on his campaign.

The city’s indigenous groups were justifiably skeptical, as white politicians have a long history of promising action to Native communities with no follow-through. True to their skepticism, Coderre did none of this and thankfully Mayor Plante is working to fix it.

Montreal’s Indigenous Commissioner has a lot of work to do. Appointed for a term of three years, she is tasked with developing a reconciliation strategy for the city of Montreal with regards to its Indigenous population. She must also advise the mayor on the best ways of building bridges between the city’s administration, its indigenous population, and the rest of the citizenry. She must lead working groups consisting of representatives from municipal departments on how best to include indigenous perspectives in the drafting of laws and regulations.

On top of all that, the Indigenous Commissioner must address the issue of homelessness within the community. As the newly appointed commissioner has said, it’s really “a project of collective healing.”

The appointment of an Indigenous Commissioner to the municipal administration is a big deal as it is a recognition that Montreal cannot continue to neglect its Native population. It must, however, be stressed that the importance of this appointment goes beyond symbolism and one glance at Marie-Ève Bordeleau’s impressive resumé confirms this.

Who is Marie-Ève Bordeleau?

Marie-Ève Bordeleau is a lawyer from Senneterre who studied at Université Laval. Her father is Cree from Waswanipi and her mother is Quebecoise.

Marie-Ève Bordeleau (image via Facebook)

After graduating law school, she was selected by The Pacific Center for Public Integrity, a non-governmental organization, to work with Indigenous communities in Fiji. From there, Bordeleau worked at the firm of Morin and Murdoch where she worked Indigenous law cases that required her to travel throughout the reserves in the Baie James area. She was also involved the in 2015 Val D’Or crisis in which provincial police were accused of abusing indigenous people, especially women, in their custody.

Perhaps the most significant characteristic of our new Indigenous Commissioner’s career is the clear dedication to improving the lives of Indigenous people.

In 2016 she started a mobile mediation service for Indigenous communities with her colleague, Martha Montour. It’s office is located in Kahnawake and offers mediation services – a way for two parties in a conflict to work out their differences in a structured environment outside a courtroom – in the fields of family law, labour law, as well as between Indigenous organizations and tribal councils.

Bordeleau has also traveled across Canada consulting with those who run shelters for Indigenous women fleeing family violence and has met with their directors and aid workers in order to develop legal tools to best help them. In the interviews she’s given, she expresses her outrage at the discrimination faced by Native women.

In 2016 she told Droit Inc., an online legal journal, that she thinks the Commission on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women is a step in the right direction for the Federal government, but like all Indigenous people dealing with a mostly white government, she knows their intentions are good but they still must prove themselves through action.

What Bordeleau has constantly stressed is that Indigenous communities need more resources, including greater access to grants and subsidies and financing parity between the institutions and organizations of these communities. She has noted in the past that one key to healing relations between Indigenous communities and provincial and federal governments is that the latter formally recognize that the problems facing Canada’s Indigenous people are due to the impact of colonization.

Montreal’s new Commissioner of Indigenous Affairs is more than just a symbolic post. It is an indication that the city is truly committed to healing relations with its Native population and working actively to improve their lives. Mayor Plante could have appointed any Indigenous leader to the post, but instead she chose a woman whose career has been distinguished by its proven commitment to recognizing and fixing the problems facing her people.

If anyone can promote healing between Montreal and its Indigenous community, it’s Marie-Ève Bordeleau.

With her at the helm, there’s hope for the future.

Featured image: Facebook