As a political junkie I suppose I should be stoked about the potential founding of a new political party in Québec, but I’m really not. The first mistake this group of mutineers in the Nouveau Mouvement pour Québec (NMQ) from various other political outfits is making, is timing. There has never been a time in my life when there has been a more fragmented provincial political scene, especially on the sovereigntist side of the equation. With Québec Solidaire, and, of course, the old war horse that seems bound for the glue factory, Partie Québecois, all competing for the same stagnate segment of hardcore/soft separatists. Blind to this undeniable political reality, NMQ vows to press on with their unpopular agenda.
According to reports, 400 odd people turned up to their event on Saturday. Impressive, considering that the 4 MNAs who ditched the PQ like a bad girlfriend, including former actor and rising political star Pierre Curzi (Borduas), were still too ambivalent to unequivocally get on board with the movement being spearheaded by former GreenPeace activist and Québec leader Jocelyn Desjardin.
They touched on all the tired themes of Québec sovereignty over the past 60 years. Among other things, they claimed that the sovereignty option needs to be revived and explained properly to the electorate (as though that’s never been tried before!) and argued for the highly dubious, legally at least, concept, of an “election réferendaire” (basically, dispensing with the well-established practice of holding a referendum in order to determine if people want to separate) which would, of course, fly in the face of the Supreme Court of Canada’s opinion on the matter.
More tellingly, the NMQ takes the other quasi-sovereigntists to task for betraying the cause (although they apparently can’t find any fault with QS!??). Ironically, their beef with the PQ is that their party program belongs to a different era! One does wonder if they realize how ridiculous they sound essentially proposing a slightly more nationalistic and harder version of that very program to Quebeckers? Further, they criticize Legault and his as yet unofficial party, the CAQ, for essentially failing to offer a proper sovereigntist option to voters. This is rather like criticizing Stephen Harper for being a conservative douchebag! In other words, his greatest strength (don’t take my word for it, look at the latest Crop-Léger poll that has him at 38% in voter intentions, ahead of the PQ and the Grits) is being recast as some sort of weakness! Although lately, predicting the ever-changing moods of Québec’s volatile voters seemingly requires the help of a crystal ball, it’s safe to say that the NMQ got the wrong end of the stick in its assessment of the public mood.
Instead of trying to eulogize the man, a task best left to those with more poetry and better insights into what made this political legend tick, I will instead recount a revealing anecdote that yours truly was fortunate enough to witness firsthand while canvassing with Jack in Montreal back in ’08. As we made our way down the street looking for chances to glad-hand the voters on Parc Ave., a heckler who identified himself to me as a Green voter began shouting at Jack “you’re through Jack, your done!” (Note that even his critics ironically referred to him affectionately by his first name). Without skipping a beat, Jack replied with a smile “I like a challenge!” That was the guy in a nutshell: unfailingly polite, even when faced with obnoxiousness, but with a fiercely competitive streak in him that would not be denied. On va lui manqué, notre bon Jack!
The concept of “election referendaire” was never part of the NMQ’s agenda; neither is it part of the manifest. It has been proposed by an ordinary citizen speaking on the open mike, and that’s about it. In fact, people came there to discuss and bring up ideas, some of which are good/acceptable, and some of which aren’t.
As a loosely-knit group, we all have our personal priorities and agendas (for instance, I don’t care much about “immediate” independance, my main interest is in a reform of the election law, and in the prospect of a reform in Quebec’s institutions, for example finding counterpowers to the prime minister’s role).
The NMQ’s core principles are the following:
1. Let the people speak to the politicians, and speak freely. Organize citizen assemblies and give them visibility.
2. Energy sovereingty (especially reforming the Quebec Mining Act).
3. A Constitution for Quebec (any Canadian province can write its own constitution, and B.C. has already).
4. Electoral reform (currently, a party can form the government even though it is elected by an absolute minority of the electors, and with a minority of MPs).
5. Organize the Estates General of sovereignty, to bring together all sovereigntist, autonomist and reformist groups and give new orientations to the movement.
(Translation if approximate)
Thanks for your interest,
Member of the NMQ