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

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.

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.

 

 

 

Four months after Françoise David resigned from all of her political functions, it is time for the people of Gouin to choose her successor. The by-election in this riding which contains parts of Rosemont and La Petite-Patrie has been followed with extraordinary attention by Quebeckers of all political stripes, as it served up one wild card after another.

There are now no less than 13 names on the ballot and none of them are from the Parti Québécois.  Although all candidates seek to make their mark, the stakes are incomparably high for Québec Solidaire, who risks losing one of their three seats at the National Assembly.

Forget the Box spoke with the main contenders.  Can you guess which candidate said what? Here are some quotes. Make your guess and then click to find out if you were correct and read more about that candidate:

“When Thomas Mulcair won, that’s when I switched to provincial politics, because the NDP had clearly taken a turn towards the center of Canadian politics and I’m not someone who is interested in being in a centrist party.”

 

“I identify a lot with Mme David, and also Mr Gerard – a veteran from the student movement- and Mr Boisclair, who never hesitated to bring new ideas to his party, a bit like me.”

 

“It’s harder and harder to get affordable housing in the neighbourhood and, of course, it’s people with lower incomes who are suffering for it.”

 

“The Energy East pipeline: we have no jurisdiction on that. It’s gonna go through 800 of our rivers and the question is not is it going to leak, but when is it going to leak.”

 

“Most people want to overthrow the liberal government. People are sick of the current corruption, so I think their priority is to have an alternative.”

 

The Gouin by-election is Monday, May 29, 2017 and advance voting is already underway. Voting info is available at monvote.qc.ca

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