Ever been asked if you’d rather contract herpes, gonorrhoea or crabs? That’s pretty much the question facing progressive Quebec voters on September 4th, at least when it comes to what the mainstream media (and TVA in particular) see as the three main parties. I’m beginning to understand why so many politically active students are considering not voting.
First we have Jean Charest’s Liberals (PLQ). If this election is about anything, it’s a referendum on Bill 78, Charest’s handling of the student strike and corruption in the construction industry.
Unless you’re a supporter of one or more of those things, then one thing is crystal clear: everything else aside, Jean Charest has got to go. But you replace him with who or rather what?
The PQ? True, Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois was really playing to progressives a few months ago. Her MNAs were passionately speaking out against Bill 78 and she seemed to be stepping away from the PQ boilerplates of sovereignty and language towards more socially-driven causes. She even wore a red square.
Now in campaign mode, her red square is gone and that boilerplate is back on the table. Just a reminder that today’s PQ and PLQ are essentially the same corporate party, with minor philosophical differences. Voting PQ to get rid of Charest is like banging a nail through your thumb with a hammer to take away the pain from the brick you just dropped on your toe.
That brings us to the Coalition de l’Avenir du Quebec or CAQ (most unfortunate acronym when said as a word in English, ever). François Legault left the PQ, hooked up with some Adequistes and formed a new party. Well, new if you’re talking dates, ideas are a different story.
This is basically the ADQ all over again. While they’re making a big deal about cleaning up corruption and have a better track record in that department than the PLQ or PQ (not hard given they’ve only existed since last year) their platform includes some right-leaning gems like exploring the idea of a two-tiered healthcare system.
They originally voted for Bill 78, but now are suggesting that they would eliminate some of the law’s provisions. I’m not usually one to champion a black or white approach to politics, but the unconstitutional suspension of basic rights and freedoms is a pretty cut and dry topic.
It’s something you really should be either for or against. There are fences you can sit on. This one, they’ll find, is particularly uncomfortable.
All this is not to say that there aren’t choices out there that lean left or are full-on progressive. In fact there are three.
Option Nationale is interesting. They’re advocating two things primarily: free tuition and sovereignty.
While I support the former wholeheartedly, the latter really isn’t my cup of tea (not a fan of any type of nationalism: Canadian, American or Quebec) and is something that has been played to death in Quebec.
What’s interesting, though, about ON, is their marketing approach. They released a video in French talking about the tuition issue and one in English talking about sovereignty.
It’s rare for a Quebec party to make ads in English in general, but aiming a separation pitch squarely at anglos is a unique approach to say the least. Can’t quite tell if it signifies a bold new way of doing politics or that they sent the wrong script to the translator by mistake
There’s also the Quebec Green Party. Not usually a ballot box favourite anywhere in North America, these Greens seem particularly confused.
First they made former MERSQ (a group for the tuition increase) president Karolane Baillargeon their candidate in Outremont. Then, after news of her recent job spread in the media, they backpedaled and announced that she wouldn’t be their candidate.
While Green squares apparently aren’t a great fit in the Quebec Green Party, I doubt any of them would have even thought of approaching Québec Solidaire to run. Party co-leader Amir Khadir was, after all, arrested at a casseroles demonstration and was very vocal against Bill 78, urging civil disobedience shortly after it was passed.
I like QS. That is to say I like most of their ideas. I’m not too fond of their insistence on sovereignty, but at least their vision for it is an inclusive one that goes beyond one dominant culture seceding. They even got slammed by former Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe, you know, the guy who oversaw the decimation of his party when the Orange Wave hit last year.
Will there be a Vague Solidaire sweeping Quebec in September? Well, while I admit that it’s not likely, stranger things have happened in Quebec. QS is the one left-leaning party with a chance (albeit a small one) of winning. Maybe the climate is right.
If not, then we can all go back to protesting and demanding real change out of whatever “major” party takes or keeps power in hopes of washing the bad taste out of our mouths.
* photo by Iana Kazakova