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

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

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.

 

 

 

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois officially confirmed he intends to run both as Québec Solidaire’s candidate in the Gouin by-election and to become the party’s spokesperson.

“Because I am a leftist, because I am a sovereignist and because it’s time, really time, to put an end to the political impasse in Quebec, I am joining Quebec Solidaire,” he announced during his long-awaited and entirely expected press conference on Thursday morning.

He used the opportunity to call for both a fusion with Option Nationale and for the ousting of Quebec’s ruling political class as a whole.

The political class has betrayed Quebec

“I am joining a political party because I believe the political class that has ruled us, in Quebec, for 30 years must be removed from power” was the first thing out of his mouth. The new candidate did not mince his words regarding the Liberal Party of Quebec and the Parti Québécois.

“This political class has betrayed Quebec. It always puts its friends – the big corporations, the engineering firms, the doctors’ lobby – before the people of Quebec,” he accused. “Whether in power or not, whether red or blue, it always makes the same choices.”

Although he stated that he believes Quebec Solidaire could collaborate with the PQ, he made it clear that a merger between the two parties was not on the table. He made subtle jabs at Jean-François Lisée’s focus on identity politics and the party’s position on the secularism debate.

Courting parties and militants

“Québec Solidaire can and must become a leading political force,” claimed Nadeau-Dubois. He believes that Quebec Solidaire can rally the people who are interested in a sovereign, progressive Quebec, but not in identity politics.

According to him, the first step on that path is to negotiate a fusion with Option Nationale, which he called the “only party that shared our vision for a society that is progressive, independent and inclusive.”

The new leader of ON, Sol Zanetti, welcomed this overture in a prudently worded press release immediately after. It said that ON was open to the possibility of negotiating and that it could represent an “important, exciting and mobilising step for Quebec.” However, it also stated that any fusion of ON with another political party must be voted on by its members at a national congress.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois also wants to put more efforts into recruiting interesting candidates for QS. He admitted that he would love for some of his colleagues on the recent Quebec tour Faut qu’on se parle (We need to talk) to join the ranks.
Furthermore, he called on every QS supporter to get directly involved in the party.

“I am calling on everyone from my generation, in fact on everyone who still believes, to join, like me, the ranks of Québec Solidaire,” he urged, “It is still possible to do big things. I believe in it, but we will have to do it together. Come work with us to change Quebec.”

* Photos by Mirna Djukic

A few months after claiming that the PQ “will survive the storm,” Bernard Drainville is jumping ship. The Parti Québécois representative in Marie-Victorin officially confirmed he was resigning from all political functions on Tuesday. As if the news of his departure weren’t bewildering enough, he also announced that he would replace Nathalie Normandeau as a co-host on Éric Duhaime’s salacious lunch hour program on FM 93.

Tuesday morning, Drainville claimed that his decision had been well thought through since the party’s last chief, Pierre-Karl Péladeau, resigned in May. “I won’t deny that Pierre-Karl’s departure was a hard blow,” he said, “it cut my legs out from underneath me.”

Drainville has been Marie-Victorin’s MNA since 2007. He also handled the Ministry of Democratic Institutions under Pauline Marois and held the role of parliamentary leader. He was a candidate to be Marois’ successor in 2014, but abandoned the race in favour of supporting Pierre-Karl Péladeau’s campaign. Péladeau’s resignation after barely a few months at the head of the PQ left Drainville at a dead end.

Bernard Drainville is most remembered for pushing the controversial Charte des valeurs, but during his brief time as a minister, he also fathered several democratic reforms. Most notably, he allowed students to vote on campus and restricted the funding of political parties to $100 per person.

Shock in the PQ

While the party is in the middle of another leadership race, Bernard Drainville quit halfway through the mandate he was elected for. There is certain irony there, considering how vehemently he reprimanded those who did the same throughout the years. In his own words, “a representative who chooses to resign before his mandate is fulfilled does not respect the moral contract he signed with his electors.”

Agnès Maltais, another Parti Québecois MNA, expressed similar sentiment to Énergie Québec 98,3 on Monday: “he is leaving mid-term. I’ve never liked that.” Even if Maltais is apparently the only member to express anything more than deep respect and regret at Drainville’s decision, she certainly isn’t the only one to feel that way. The partial elections in Marie-Victorin will cost $500 000$ in public funds.

To his credit, Drainville won’t receive any severance bonus. This is thanks to a law banning bonuses for MNAs who resign mid-term which Drainville championed and the assembly finally passed last year.

The loss of one of its most prominent figures is bleak news for a party that is struggling to convince the population that it isn’t agonizingly decomposing. It has indeed been a rough couple of years for the PQ, starting with a brutal electoral defeat after only six months in office. Pauline Marois, Pierre-Karl Péladeau and Stéphane Bédard have all resigned since then.

Although there is no denying Drainville’s influential role in the past, his future in the party didn’t hold much promise. He didn’t enter the current leadership race (reportedly for family reasons) and none of the candidates aligned naturally with his views like Péladeau did.

Drainville on FM 93

Maybe the end of Drainville’s political career shouldn’t have been so surprising, but his next step was rightly met with more than a few raised eyebrows.

A politician recycling himself as a commentator or host is hardly a shock. What is bewildering is that Drainville chose to do so on Quebec City’s infamous “Radio-poubelles” in the company of an icon of aggressive right rhetoric.

Duhaime’s lunch hour program, like most of FM 93 shows, is notorious for its routine attacks on immigrants, unemployed citizens, students, feminists and just about every minority. During the last few months for example, Duhaime’s favourite topics included how feminism oppressed men, how state-funded kindergartens were a communist plot and why Marine Le Pen is an outstanding politician.

What makes the whole thing even more ridiculous is that Bernard Drainville will not be the first politician to take on the job. In fact, liberal ex-minister Nathalie Normandeau co-hosted Duhaime, le midi right up until she was arrested by the Permanent Anti-Corruption Unit (UPAC) in March. She is currently facing charges for fraud, corruption and breach of trust for her actions as a minister under Jean Charest.

For decades, the political scene in Quebec has been in a quagmire. The national question has dominated the discourse, replacing the left-right axis found almost everywhere else with a sovereigntist/federalist one.

Two parties have benefited both greatly and equally from this setup – The Parti-Quebecois (PQ) and the Liberal Party of Quebec (PLQ) have been in power since the 1960s.

At first, many progressives felt they had no choice but to park their vote with the PQ, knowing that a better and more just world would always take a backseat to sovereignty, language and national identity. Federalist progressives, on the other hand, could either vote PQ and hope there wasn’t a referendum or hold their nose, push their ideals to the side, and vote Liberal.

Recently, other options have emerged, most notably Quebec Solidaire (QS) and a re-born provincial Green Party. Unfortunately, the two-party system seems too powerful to break. If there was ever a time for someone to come along and prove, once and for all, that the PLQ and PQ were just two sides of the same coin, neither being a place for progressives to park their vote, now would be that time.

Looks like the savior of Quebec politics may have just arrived. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Pierre-Karl Péladeau, or PKP as his friends, enemies and pretty much everyone else knows him.

A Short Honeymoon

Since becoming PQ leader, at least officially (as if it was really a contest), PKP has enjoyed some positive numbers. Support for the PQ is up and so is support for sovereignty.

Not surprising, really. A party that was down in the dumps after losing badly now has a leader with name recognition beyond the political sphere. He’s an avowed sovereigntist, too.

pkp je veut un pays

Who can forget him almost shouting “Je veux un pays!” It is, after all, the moment that pretty much derailed the Marois campaign.

He is a businessman, known for getting what he wants. He wanted a national right-wing cable news network, he got one. He wanted to raise our cable and internet rates, he did that, too.

You can see how some have faith that this businessman who wants to make Quebec a country can achieve that goal, too. They can ignore the fact that their new savior of Quebec is famous for creating a network accused of Quebec bashing on many occasions as long as he gets the job done.

The honeymoon, however, may be short-lived, and cracks in his armour may begin to show sooner rather than later.

Not a Great Business Man

One of the issues the PQ has had to deal with constantly over the decades is that their nationalist ideals were out of touch with economic reality. And an independent Quebec would spell financial catastrophe. In the early days, the party took an approach that opposed the capitalist system, so unconventional economic ideas were possible. Things have changed.

The PQ now wants to show that separating from Canada is possible and good for business. Who better to lead this initiative than a businessman with a proven track record, right?

pkp sun news canadian flags

Well, if you look at PKP’s track record as a businessman, it’s really not that great. Sure, Quebecor is a powerhouse, but it’s the house Pierre Péladeau, PKP’s father built. Since PKP took over, Quebecor has underperformed most major media companies in Canada and failed at international expansion with Quebecor World. Not to mention the fact that Sun News is no more, after just under four years in operation.

Is this what the PQ is basing their pro-business future on? At this rate, he’ll get his country, but it will only last three years and a bit.

Not a Union Man

The PQ has always relied on union support to win power. Not only does their new leader lack any pro-union cred, his name is as reviled in union circles as the Trudeau name is hated in sovereigntist ones.

No matter how corrupt Quebec politics may be, selling the man who locked out workers for over a year to union membership is just a non-starter. This is when the recognition factor starts to work against Péladeau.

The unions really don’t have many other options. The Liberals, the party of austerity and pension cuts are out of the question. Will they actually bite the bullet and back QS, a party with only three seats? Time will tell.

Without union support, the PQ will be desperate to pull any type of progressive allies they can. PKP is also the man who directed his media outlets to discredit the student protests in 2012. So a Marois-style appeal to more radical elements of Quebec society is out of the question.

One Issue Party

René Lévesque was first elected on two promises: to make Quebec a better place to live through progressive social policies and to hold a referendum. He delivered on both.

rene levesque

He wanted to show just what kind of a country Quebec could be before giving people the chance to make it his dream a reality. Lévesque must now be rolling over a homeless man in his grave.

PKP wants a country, too, but it’s the same sort of country Quebecers already have through Harper. His nationalism is purely ethnic and linguistic with no hint at being progressive on any other fronts.

A Smaller Base

The PQ has always had two main bases of support: progressive sovereigntists and conservative nationalists. Marois clearly favoured the latter and risked alienating the former, but PKP has no chance with the former to begin with. The only support he will get from progressives will come from those who want a country at all costs.

It is a much smaller base to pull from. If the union support is out, he’ll just have to wrap himself in the Quebec flag and pray for a miracle. The best he can hope for is opposition or maybe a minority government if the Liberals really screw up bad.

But where will all that formerly potential PQ support go? It won’t be to the Liberals for sure. Progressives may just not turn up to vote, or possibly it will galvanize behind another party, one that puts actual societal change at the forefront, leaving the national question on the backburner.

If that happens, and the discourse in Quebec politics shifts to a new axis, people will have one man to thank: Pierre-Karl Péladeau.

A wise man once spoke ill of political parties. He suggested that they should exist only for as long as it takes to accomplish their goals, and that once this is done they disband, for they tend not to age very well. The longer a political party continues to amble along, the higher the chance it will grow inept and corrupt. It will lose sight of its original purpose and become increasingly defensive in trying to justify its existence. Given enough time it will become the personification of all the errors that it originally sought to correct.

The wise man that I’m paraphrasing is none other than René Lévesque, and he was speaking specifically of the future of the Parti Québécois from around the time he resigned as premier back in 1985.

Much to ‘Oncle René’s’ likely chagrin, the PQ has become the tired old party of Quebec politics and the 2014 election has demonstrated their current incarnation is wholly unfit to govern the province because of how it chooses to self-identify. Marois made the decision to make this election about institutionalizing discriminatory hiring practices and running headlong into another interminable round of go-nowhere constitutional negotiations. I cannot recall another instance in Canadian politics in which a major political party has been so thoroughly out of touch with the population it represents; and therein lies the problem.

The PQ has demonstrated, unequivocally, that they call the shots on who they consider to be Québécois. They, somewhat like the federal Tories, are disinterested in appealing to anyone ‘outside the tribe’, anyone who isn’t already a diehard supporter and, as such, narrowed the margins on who will vote for them by a considerable degree. In sum, those who will vote PQ will have had their minds made up well before the writ was dropped. How anyone in the PQ camp could have thought this was a good idea is beyond me. Perhaps it proves the point – the Parti Québécois is so convinced of the justness of their cause they’re completely blind to how they’re perceived by the public they ostensibly hope to represent.

And so today we pull the trigger, but let’s face it: the decision has already been made. Philippe Couillard will be the next premier of Quebec and it’s entirely possible he’ll win enough seats to form a majority government.

This reality is not a consequence of any grand vision or sensible plan on the part of the Quebec Liberal Party or its leader, but entirely as a result of how they responded to the unmitigated political disaster of a campaign put on the Parti Québécois.

In boxing it’s called ‘rope-a-dope’ and Muhammad Ali used it to successfully defeat George Foreman in the 1974 Rumble in the Jungle bout held in Kinshasa. The technique involves one man taking a defensive position from the outset and letting his opponent flail away until exhaustion, at which point the defender begins exploiting the inevitable mistakes and subsequent weaknesses until overcoming his opponent. By propping himself against the edge of the ring, Ali was able to transfer the shock of Foreman’s repeated blows onto the elasticity of the ropes rather than his own body. All of Foreman’s effort was for naught, and the more frantically he tried to land the perfect punch the more he opened himself up to increasingly debilitating strikes.

Forty years later the same basic concept may have been used by Couillard and his tacticians to expose the xenophobic, intolerant and unreservedly opportunistic péquiste government for what it truly is. And frankly, we’re better off for it. Everyone who ever questioned the PQ’s social-democratic and progressive integrity has been vindicated. We now have actual proof the PQ is more concerned about correcting imagined threats to our culture and bickering with the federal and other provincial governments than it is with the well-being of the people of Quebec.

QC_polling_campaign_2014

In 2013-14 the PQ sold out its base. First they rammed through austerity measures and increases to tuition, alienating itself from the student movement that played an important role in getting Jean Charest evicted from power. Then they proposed a Machiavellian charter ostensibly designed to ensure men and women are equal in our province and that secularism reigns in the civil service, but in reality effectively institutionalizing discriminatory hiring practices and forcing religious minorities – a significant number of whom are women – from their jobs.

So much for social democracy and progressivism.

And then, just when you thought the PQ couldn’t make any more appallingly foolish political decisions, they turn around and hire the union-busting C. Montgomery Burns of Quebec media, Pierre-Karl Péladeau. The man who owns Quebecor and Sun Media/Sun News Network, the media conglomerate nearly single-handedly responsible for all the yellow journalism, anti-Quebec, anti-Canadian and general anti-immigrant sentiment in the whole country, this was to be the economic wizard of a newly independent Quebec.

Needless to say all of this didn’t sit very well with Quebec voters. On the idea of a referendum Quebecers of all languages, religions and cultural backgrounds are emphatically opposed. The simple reality is that we’re poor, a have-not province, and independence isn’t going to change that (other than eliminating equalization payments and creating a lot more debt). The people of Quebec want jobs, good jobs, jobs they can work until they retire that will afford them a modest middle class lifestyle and the means to raise a family. Dreams of independence went over like a lead zeppelin – what are the people here to dream of when their bread and butter concerns aren’t being addressed? And the more Pauline Marois or Françoise David pushed the dream of an independent country, the more they pushed themselves away from a sizable group of people in this province who are savvy enough to question the near fanatical devotion of separatist politicians to the cause.

We’ve been preached to enough. The people of Quebec have toiled for many generations under those who proselytised to the masses with ideas of future paradise in exchange for present-day suffering.

By the end of the day we may have four years of uninterrupted Liberal governance to look forward to and a neurosurgeon for a premier. We’ll have a man who got his start under Charest but has so far managed to keep his name out of Charbonneau Commission hearings. We’ll have a man who doesn’t believe multi-lingualism will threaten the sanctity of Quebec culture. We’ll have a man who was either in cahoots with or was duped by Arthur Porter (and I’ll add the list of names in the latter camp is far longer than those in the former) and who made the choice to legally deposit his earnings from some years working in Saudi Arabia into an offshore tax haven, rather than his home province where he’d lose about half to the state. Perhaps most importantly, we’ll have a man with enough political intelligence to be against another referendum and virulently opposed to the very essence of Bill 60. In my opinion, given the poverty of our provincial politics, this is the lesser evil, the best-case scenario.

But don’t take this as any kind of personal endorsement either. I’m not impressed across the board, and haven’t yet decided whether or not I’ll spoil my ballot. This is merely an opinion on the campaign and what I believe to be the likely outcome, no more or less.

The worst kept secret in Quebec is now public knowledge. Premier Pauline Marois confirmed this morning that there will be a Quebec election on April 7th.

Since the start of the polarizing debate about the Quebec Charter of Values, the Parti Quebecois has never been stronger and it seemed to be gaining strength in the lead-up to the election announcement. It also seems like many pundits, political commentators and some of the PQ’s rivals have accepted the fact that the PQ will come out of this election in a stronger position, many dare to say they might even win a majority.

quebec liberal party free education ad 1960
Quebec Liberal Party ad from 1960 promoting free education (including university)

One thing is certain: if the PQ does win a majority it’s because they succeeded in framing a divisive debate revolving around supposedly “Quebec Values” without ever defining what these values are. Not to mention almost every single political party expect Québec Solidaire in la chambre bleue let them get away with it because they too have turned their backs on the values of Quebec.

So what are the values of Quebec? Did they just suddenly appear in the past six months, a by-product of the PQ’s agenda of xenophobic and ethnic nationalism? Are they values that could fit into an extreme laissez-faire economic agenda? Are these values compatible with the values of austerity? To all of the above the answer is NO!

The values of Quebec that all of the political parties claim to represent are the values that were brought about by the Quiet Revolution: the values of solidarity, of inclusiveness, the fight against obscurantism (the grip that the Catholic Church had on Quebec society), the values of economic equality through welfare redistribution.

During this time, the PLQ fought for free education. The PQ itself was born out of this radical redrawing of the boarders of Quebec society.

From its inception, the PQ was nothing more than the political representation of la Révolution Tranquille, a movement that wanted to transcend the barriers of the Duplessis era. An era which had pitted Quebeckers against one another, and instead create a country in which all Quebeckers, all residents of Quebec no matter their creed, primary language or vestimentary habits, would be “maîtres chez nous” (in English “masters of their own house”), of our common house. We would be masters together or not masters at all.

In the past weeks, I’ve heard a lot of criticism of the PQ pinning them down as  “traitors” because of Anticosti Island and their green light to hydraulic fracturing, or because of their decision to raise the cost of daycare. The truth is far more bitter, today the PQ, by aborting it’s initial blueprint to build a progressive sovereignist movement, has become it’s worst enemy, it’s own antithesis, its own archenemy, the PQ has become the biggest obstacle to independence-more on this in the upcoming weeks-.

Without a doubt, the PQ has betrayed Quebec, but instead of focusing on a panoply of individual events, we should take into account the broader context. Once you connect the dots, an irrefutable fact appears, the PQ has betrayed la Révolution Tranquille and thus has betrayed the principals and values that gave it birth.

When these recent events are viewed in the historical context of the past forty years of Quebec, René Lévesque’s caution that a political party, such as the PQ, should only be around for twenty years is materializing before our eyes. The PQ is nothing more than a political machine, its sole function is to gain and maintain power and thus the PQ has lost its raison d’être.

The difference between the PQ and l’Union Nationale, the right-wing nationalistic party of Maurice Duplessis and the instigator of la Révolution Tranquille, is slim, if not non-existent. This polarizing debate about Quebec values has served its purpose: to allow the PQ to keep power through the normal divide and conquer device.

marois levesque

And in the long run it has hurt Quebec society in substantial ways. It has rolled back the progress gained during the Quite Revolution, given a stage to extremist, nationalist, xenophobic and even some openly racist groups. Unfortunately for everyone, if the pundits are right and the PQ does win a majority, it’s back into the darkness of la Grande Noirceur.

In the past week, an interesting article was published in Jacobin magazine by Mike Gonzalez: Is Venezuela Burning? The author argued that only a deepening of the Bolivarian Revolution would save Venezuela. Here in Quebec only a deepening of la Révolution Tranquille will save us.

We must remember the legacy of the Quite Revolution, which the PQ has shamelessly abandoned. La Révolution Tranquille is far from over and it is our responsibility to ensure that the struggle of Lévesque and Bourgault, of Godin and Miron was not in vein, because the PQ will not.

On lâche rien!

Provincial Democratic Institutions Minister Bernard Drainville commenced public hearings into the proposed Charter of Quebec Values by asking that the impending debate remain respectful.

Respectful?

The charter is disrespectful in and of itself. That the separatists are wasting precious public funds to have a public debate only adds insult to injury. It reminds of me of when Ahmadinejad would convene conferences denying the existence of the Holocaust. It’s the premise that’s fucked.

The problem the charter intends to solve doesn’t really exist. The culture of Québec is not threatened, never was, least of all by a few members of various religious minorities with public-sector jobs.

That this charter will result in people, citizens, taxpayers, having to choose between their faith and their jobs, all the while entrenching ‘overt public displays’ of Catholicism as an apparently crucial component of Québec’s cultural identity is incredibly hypocritical. It’s obscene.

Quebec Values Charter,

Moreover, it’s unnecessary. All Canadians are already protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the Charter specifically states we have the right to be free of religious persecution.

Telling civil servants they can’t keep their jobs if they continue to wear a hijab, a turban or a yarmulke is religious persecution. Telling the people their culture is more-or-less doomed to extinction unless everyone blindly goes along with a plan to institutionalize racism is damn near fascistic. Suffice it to say I can’t imagine the charter in its current form would survive a Supreme Court challenge…

But therein lies the rub.

After it’s ruled as unconstitutional, the péquistes in government can invoke the notwithstanding clause and go ahead with it anyways. That or the PQ will simply say that because Lévesque stubbornly refused to sign the Constitution Act they’re not bound by it anyways and can do as they please.

Meanwhile, unemployment continues to rise, Northern economic development is stillborn, infrastructure crumbles and the people of Québec are asked, as we’ve grown accustomed, to do more with less and settle into a lower standard of living. The charter hearings serve merely to distract the public from the PQ’s consistently reprehensible economic and social records. Not to say the Quebec Liberals are much of a better option, but at least they generally have the sense not to stir up trouble for short-term political gains. In any event, an election is expected this year, and you better believe the PQ is going to do just about everything they can to keep attention focused on the problems they’ve created or invented.

marois press conference

It’s gutter politics really – a party acts as spokesperson for a vaguely defined ‘silent majority’ whose core values are threatened simply because they say so. This majority for whom the party speaks is silent for a reason. It is ultimately the illusion of an exclusive club and the message is always party, not people, driven. The message is always the same: the minorities are a threat to the sanctity of the majority’s identity and something in turn must be done.

In Israel, far-right anti-immigrant parties hold rallies where hysterical women wail at the microphone about how they fear being raped ‘by packs of wild Africans,’ or relate completely groundless anecdotes to the same point. Members of this party, if you can believe it, actually favour rounding up all African immigrants in Israel and sticking them in concentration camps.

In Eastern Europe, far-right ultra-nationalist parties preaching even more violent means of eliminating undesirable ethnic minorities (notably the Roma) use much the same rhetoric as their Israeli counterparts to justify their own hate and prejudice.

Granted, Bill 60 isn’t as bad as all that, but the it’s rooted in the same kind of hate, ignorance and shitty populism.

The PQ defines who is and who isn’t Québécois and they only ever represent the Québécois who fit their narrow description. Anyone who questions the legitimacy of the party or its purpose, anyone who criticizes the leadership, anyone who refuses to support needlessly divisive legislation such as Bill 60 – these people are not Québécois in the PQ’s eyes, they are obstacles on the road to independence.

When ethno-nationalist governments run out of any kind of political legitimacy they create social panics concerning a potential loss of cultural identity, typically resulting in punitive social policy that aims to further marginalize minorities while claiming they represent a clear and present public danger.

Québec, in this particular case, is very much like a host of small, impotent nations driven pointlessly into national (but not economic) sovereignty as a consequence of invented ethno-nationalist panics. As a proud Québécois, I want my ‘nation’ to aspire to be greater than Serbia, Croatia or Uzbekistan.

charter of quebec values protestWhat’s particularly onerous is that the bill, ostensibly designed in part to protect women from various abuses (real and imagined) in conservative, male-dominated religiously observant households, will in fact put working women out of their jobs: nurses, doctors, teachers, social workers, early childhood educators, government employees of all kinds, these are precisely the kinds of jobs that can help entrench a family in the local middle class.

It’s hard enough to integrate into Québécois society and culture. What does it say of the PQ when they’re proposing we ‘respectfully’ discuss throwing religious minorities out of their rightfully earned jobs?

I’ll have none of it.

I want out of this discussion because I fail to see any reason to have it in the first place. The proposal is flawed, politically expedient by appealing to base populism and motivated by a desire to define the forthcoming election in terms of whose better suited to protect Québécois against the threats dreamt up by the PQ.

I can’t respectfully abide any of this. I don’t think we’ve seen obscenely manipulative politics like this in our province since the Duplessis Era.

This post originally appeared on thepoliticalbouillon.com, republished with permission from the author

Not so unlike the story of the fall of Troy, this is the story of the fall of the social-democratic Parti-Québécois. Unlike the story of Troy, there is neither heroism nor bravery in this tale.

This is the story of an amnesiac party. They were once the sole voice of the social-democratic aspirations of the people of Quebec, but the story now is how the pillar values of this movement crumbled. Within the hallways of the National Assembly you will not hear this story, nor in the PQ’s caucus meetings, but the fact is that Le Parti Québécois now seems to be a “progressive” option only in name.

In the days of the student strike the party of Pauline Marois had fashioned itself as the “pragmatic” left-of-centre alternative to the assault of the PLQ, a party that had just spent nine years strangling the Quebec left’s lifeblood and sense of hope. Marois and her shadow cabinet rode the wave of popular protest and discontent, allowing them to shore-up in the rows of government in Quebec City.

The winds of change soon enough started blowing and from the first minutes of this new reign, the newly elected administration was engulfed by the storm of global austerity. The choice the PQ cabinet was faced was with was a stark one: defaulting on the ideology of austerity or making debt reduction the main focus of their mandate. And so began the infernal dance of cuts and hikes, and on this quintessential note the three main parties (PQ, PLQ, and CAQ) were in symphonic harmony.

Pauline Marois back when she still wore a red square (photo Canadian Press)
Pauline Marois back when she still wore a red square (photo Canadian Press)

The tragedy is that for the first time in a decade, the PQ had a shot at pushing the public debate within the province to the left. Lest we forget that beyond the social movements that had shook the province, it was also the first provincial election in the post orange wave era; in a strategic sense the time was ripe to reinvigorate the social-democratic heritage of the founding fathers of the PQ.

After tragedy came farce. The Parti Quebecois was as usual at swords drawn with the Harper administration but basically followed suit with their cuts to E.I. and made sure that the money flow towards corporate welfare was well and healthy. One would have expected the words of austerity to be expelled from la chambre bleue, and one would have expected the use of special laws or right to work legislation to be non-existent, and yet they were omnipresent.

This begged the question – how do you enhance the quest for independence by taking the same line as one of the most unpopular federal governments in history among Quebeckers? And when it seemed like nothing could save the PQ movement from the game of musical chairs in the upcoming election, the box of ethnic nationalism was opened.

In his book The Darker Nations: a people’s history of the third world, Vijay Prashad states that: “Globalization and cultural nationalism are not opposites or irreconcilable doubles; they exist together, they feed off each other. Indeed, cultural nationalism is the Trojan horse of IMF-driven globalization.”

Put this quote in the perspective of our provincial situation and it becomes obvious; the charter is but a distraction, now that all our forces are put into fighting against this charter of institutionalized discrimination, we forget all together about the past year of PQ governance, their broken promises and their ardent application of Chicago School economics (read economic liberalism and free markets) to the line. But most importantly we forget about what should be the real issue, institutionalized economic and social discrimination which has been implemented by the neo-liberal agenda defended by the CAQ and implemented by both the PQ and the PLQ while in government.

So it is my humble belief that the Charter of values should be seen for what it is, a Trojan horse. On the surface there are differences between the three main parties represented in the National Assembly but in depth, none. This false debate gives them the chance to amplify these “differences,” the bigger the debate, the better; the only winner is neo-liberalism.

Unfortunately this debate is a farce and the epitome of hypocrisy. How can one claim to be the soul defender of civil liberties and yet deny one of the fundamental human rights, universal access to health care services? How can you be for equality and women’s rights when you cut the help that single mothers receive?

If we want to live in a society in which the values of equality and equity are upheld, we must first tackle economical and social discrimination.

Asbestos mine

Asbestos mine

Canada will finally be reversing its controversial status on asbestos, thanks in part to the PQ’s new anti-asbestos policy. What this means in terms of actual exports though, is less certain.

During the recent election, the PQ said they would cancel a $58 million loan promised to the Jeffrey asbestos mine, the last of its kind in Canada, promised by the Charest government. After closing its doors in 2010, the mine looked like it would not reopen without a government loan.

The federal government is now following suit as well, saying they won’t block the addition of asbestos to the United Nations Rotterdam Convention, a “global list of hazardous substances.”

However, investors in the Jeffrey Mine told the Montreal Gazette today that the mine would reopen, despite their failure to receive a government loan. Mine executives were also critical that the federal government might be motivated by more than a desire to compromise with the PQ or become more green friendly.

Bernard Coulombe, a top executive at the Jeffrey mine, suggested the Harper government has made a U-turn on asbestos to help secure a free-trade agreement with the European Union. Negotiators will meet in Ottawa Sept. 17 to 21.

Nevertheless, should the mine reopen, its owners may find themselves in a different political and economic climate with new limits on exports.

Asbestos quebecCanada’s historical defense of the asbestos industry has been seen as a black mark on the country’s health record within the international community. The cancer causing material has been linked to cancer and other health related problems, and is only mined in a handful of countries like Kazakhstan and Russia.

The Globe and Mail explains:

“As recently as 2010, Canada was producing 150,000 tonnes of asbestos annually, all of it in Quebec, and exporting 90 per cent — worth about $90 million — to developing countries. More than 50 countries ban the mining and use of asbestos because it causes cancer, but Canada, traditionally a major exporter, has successfully lobbied in the past to keep it off a UN list of hazardous substances.”

The federal government has also promised Asbestos, Quebec $50 million in recovery funds – in addition to funding from provincial government. Between 400-500 workers will not get their jobs back if the mine fails to reopen.

Top image: (Canadian Press)