Picture Quebec politics as a box of melted chocolates: no matter which piece you reach for, you know your hand is going to get dirty.
Quebec politics of the last forty years hasn’t been about left or right, instead it’s been about whether you would check the yes or no box during a referendum on Quebec independence. Voting along these lines for decades has led us to a 2012 election where you have fascists, separatists and French supremacists vying for the Quebec crown. Make no mistake; both the French and English are to blame.
Let’s start with the former federal PC leader turned Liberal Premier of Quebec Jean Charest. Since his election in 2003, Jean Charest has consistently garnered the criticism of the labour unions in the province thanks to his pro-business policies. In fact, with a full corruption investigation underway it may turn out that Charest and/or his Liberal Party was overly generous to the construction industry and possibly organized crime.
Charest has raised taxes every which way on ordinary Quebecers in order to increase government revenue. He raised Hydro rates, auto insurance premiums, most government fees, and he even raised the provincial sales tax by a full percent. The only tax Charest introduced on corporations was a carbon tax in which the fossil fuel industry pays less than a cent on every litre of gasoline it ships.
When budget time came last year, Charest decided that in order to tackle the provincial deficit he would raise student tuition fees by $1625 a year over five years rather than raising any corporate taxes which are among the lowest in North America. The students of Quebec didn’t take kindly to Charest’s policy and promptly acted.
The result was this past spring’s student strike that saw hundreds of protests throughout the province over a four month period which reaped international attention. Charest feeling the pressure, but unwilling to give in to student demands decided to suppress the student protesters by passing bill 78, one of the most anti-democratic laws the province has ever seen.
Despite Jean Charest’s possible corruption, pro-business views and draconian laws, Charest knows he can always count on the federalist vote thanks to the ever present fear of Quebec sovereignty. English voters in the province have blindly flocked to the Liberal Party for decades thinking they are the only Federalist Party around. I would bet, even if the Liberal Leader suddenly went on a deadly shooting rampage, he would still get the majority vote in Montreal’s West Island.
Option Nationale is a hardcore separatist party founded in 2011 by former PQ MNA Jean-Martin Aussant. The party says a vote for Option Nationale is an electoral decree for complete independence and would adopt the constitution of Quebec as an independent country even before a referendum was held. Option Nationale was recently indorsed by former PQ premier Jacques Parizeau.
Québec Solidaire represents the left wing of the separatist movement and is one of the newer party’s in the province formed only six years ago. QS shares many of the same principals as the federal New Democratic Party including social justice, environmentalism, aboriginal rights and proportional representation. If elected they would eliminate student tuition fees and raise corporate income taxes to more moderate levels—it’s just too bad they want to break up the country.
The conservative Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) leader François Legault claims his party is neither sovereignist nor federalist, but nationalist and has called for a ten-year moratorium on a new sovereignty referendum. Regardless, the party wants to decentralize healthcare, provide government resources to businesses, and they are a big advocate of austerity. Furthermore, they want to limit immigration and decrease the use of the English language in Montreal (making it easier to win a referendum down the line).
The French Supremacists
In a province where 95% of the populace speaks French fluently and less than 8% of the population speaks English, you have to wonder what PQ leader Pauline Marois has up her ass. Throughout her campaign she has repeatedly spoken of the need to toughen up on the already-ridiculous language laws in the province. Within 100 days of taking power, companies with between 11 and 50 employees would come under her revised French-language charter and needless to say, millions more in government funds will be spent on the language police.
Marois has also promised to bar non-francophone citizens from running for public office. If you’re an Anglophone from Montreal who wants to run for office you’ll be forced to pass a French exam beforehand, the same goes if you’re an Inuit running for a seat up north. Marois has since backpedaled on this issue, but only because of the outrage that it received.
A PQ government would also bar members of religious minorities working on the government payroll from wearing religious symbols such as Jewish kippahs or Muslim head scarves. Why? Because the French population is predominantly Catholic. The crucifix would still be permitted.
Since the 1970’s, there have been 244,000 Anglophones who have taken the “bon voyage” down the 401. They might have preferred to drive away than stand their ground, but at least the exodus has more or less stopped in recent years. The PQ knows that in order for a future referendum on independence to be successful, they must try something more than just chasing the immigrants and English out of the province.
Marois has promised to pick fights with the Canadian Government if she’s elected, but they will not be the typical battles we normally see between premiers and the Prime Minister’s Office. Marois knows that if she passes these “French Supremacist” laws, they will be overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada and she will then use it to her political and separatist advantage.
I have always placed great importance in voting, but nothing would make me happier to see these candidates end up with 0% of the vote. But since I live in the real world and I’ve never been a big fan of placing a “strategic” vote, I’ll still be voting, just not for a fascist, separatist or French supremacist.
Get up, get out and vote!