The votes are in and Québec solidaire (QS) has won our 2022 Quebec Election readers’ poll and therefore an endorsement article written on behalf of FTB readers.

Before we get into it, though, I think it’s important to mention that only a handful of people voted in this poll, way down from just about every other FTB election poll. Whether that’s a sign of lack of interest in this election or a feeling of Montreal only being in a position to choose second place or something else, I’m not sure.

Also, the margins were narrower than they usually are. QS won with 29% support followed by (ugh) The Conservative Party of Quebec (PCQ) at 19%. I’m seriously hoping these people saw their vocal and advertised Bill 96 opposition then stopped reading the rest of their platform, ’cause it’s scary.

Bloc Montréal, Balarama Holness’ new Montreal-focused party tied for third with the Not Legault! option (more on that later), winning 14% each. The Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) and the Green Party of Quebec (PVQ) each placed fourth with 10% of the vote.

4% were undecided while the governing Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) and the Parti Québécois (PQ) each got zero votes. One thing I love about small polls is being able to say that no one in our readership supports the current government.

Clearly Not Legault

Yes, we had Not Legault! as an option, sort of an Undecided Plus, as in “I’m not sure who I like, but definitely not him!” And if you crunch the numbers a different way, 96% of respondents confirmed that they will vote for someone other than CAQ Leader and Incumbent Premier François Legault.

Also, if you remove the Conservative number, you get 77% of respondents looking for a progressive (or progressive-sounding) alternative to Legault. Seriously, once you get past the CPQ pledge to eliminate Bill 96, they’re as bad as Legault (privatization of healthcare) and in some cases worse (think trucker convoy, anti-vax and far right, the original reasons the party got traction).

So if not Legault, then who? Well, FTB readers have selected Québec solidaire. While I know that not everyone in our readership, or our editorial team, supports them, I voted for them both in this poll and in reality, last week in advanced polls.

There are things not to like about them, like voting for Bill 96, co-spokesperson and Premier candidate Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois letting PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon bully him into saying teh n-word during a debate and, for some, their pro-sovereignty stance. But there are quite a few positives.

Why QS?

So why vote QS? Why did our readers pick them? I can’t really answer that for you, but I can answer that for me. Here are just a few reasons why I think Québec solidaire is the right choice this time around:

  • Environment: QS will ban the transport of hydrocarbons on Quebec territory, pass a law against food waste, financially and technically help farms transition to sustainable agriculture, refuse new road projects and strive to balance car travel with public transit.
  • Public Transit: Speaking of public transit, QS has a very ambitious Quebec Rail and Quebec Bus inter-city transit proposal but also wants to improve transit in the Greater Montreal Area which includes extending the Metro’s Orange Line west, the Green Line east and a Purple Line going from Laval East to Downtown.
  • Housing: QS plans to fight the housing crisis by stopping abusive rent increases and building 50 000 affordable residences.
  • Healthcare: They are promising 24/7 CLSCs, double the homecare for seniors and public dental care.
  • Systemic Racism: QS admits it’s real, which, surprisingly in Quebec, is a big thing. They plan to listen to affected communities to fight it, in particular indigenous communities.
  • Bill 21: They stood up and voted against Bill 21 and pledge to dismantle it if elected.
  • Contraception and the “Pink Tax”: Under a QS Government, contraceptive products will be covered my RAMQ, menstrual products will be free in schools and the “pink tax” that makes products more expensive for women will be a thing of the past.
  • French: Despite voting for Bill 96, QS is advocating for the carrot approach, rather than the stick, when it comes to promoting French: New immigrants will be offered free on-the-job French courses and $500 vouchers for French cultural events.

While some of the smaller progressive parties echo these platform points, QS is the only one that has them and also has a good chance of winning several seats. And while the Liberal platform might sound progressive, they have a track record of veering right once elected.

With that in mind, Québec solidaire is both a principled choice and a strategic one. Which is why, I think, it got our readers’ endorsement.

Drawings by Samantha Gold @samiamart on Facebook & @samiamartistmtl on Instagram

With the Quebec Elections coming on October 3rd, this week’s Riding to Watch is one I’ve lived in more or less my whole life: Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (NDG).

NDG is one of the larger ridings in Montreal and has been a Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) stronghold for decades. However, as in many other ridings, the PLQ MNA, Kathleen Weil, has decided not to run again, creating an opening for new blood in the seat.

Why is NDG a riding to watch?

Here’s why:

Riding Breakdown

  • Location and Boundaries: Notre-Dame-de-Grace is comprised of Montreal West and part of the NDG/Côte-des-Neiges borough of Montreal.
  • Population: 72 520 with 46 268 electors
  • Language: 48.3% Anglophone, 24.2% Francophone, and 19.5% Allophone
  • Age: The two largest groups are the 30-39 (15.6%) and 20-29 (14.6%)
  • Average Income: With 17.7 % of the population in the >$9,999 and $19,999 annual household income range, NDG is one of the poorest districts on the Island of Montreal.

This is a borough to watch because it contains 34.2 percent visible minorities, compared to just 13 percent in all of Quebec. It is one to watch as the PLQ’s Kathleen Weil has been in power since 2008 and is choosing not to run again.

The PLQ’s replacement candidate, Désirée McGraw, was former Federal Prime Minister Paul Martin’s senior policy advisor from 2003 to 2006. She also has lots of experience fighting for environmental causes and is clearly one of the more experienced candidates.

In the 2018 provincial election, Québec solidaire (QS) came in second in NDG. While much of Québec solidaire’s platform, such as opposition to Bill 21 and fighting climate change, is ideologically in line with the values of the people of Notre-Dame-de-Grace, their refusal to oppose the aggressive language law, Bill 96, has left a sour note in the mouths of the district’s majority Anglophone population. It is no help to their cause that their candidate, Élisabeth Labelle is fresh out of university and has little to no political experience.

Photo by Samantha Gold

The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) candidate is Geneviève Lemay, who has a certificate in Diversity and Inclusion from Cornell University. The party clearly chose her for her bilingualism and education in an attempt to mollify the riding’s Anglophone and ethnically diverse population. She unlikely to win because despite the deep-seated cynicism of much of the riding’s population, Notre-Dame-de-Grace embraces ethnic and linguistic diversity and social justice in a way wholly incompatible with CAQ’s assimilationist xenophobic rhetoric.

The Conservative Party of Quebec (CPQ) candidate is Dr. Roy Eappen, an endocrinologist. Much like his party, he believes the solution to Quebec’s ailing public healthcare system is to lean more heavily on privatization, a solution that would likely create two-tier system in which the super-rich get better quality healthcare than most Quebeckers. Though Eappen himself immigrated to Canada from Kerala, India, he seems to take no issue with his party’s determination to slash immigration to Quebec.

There are two party leaders running for a seat in Notre-Dame-de-Grace. The first is the Green Party of Quebec (PVQ) Leader Alex Tyrrell, who has led the party since 2013. In the 2018 elections Green Party candidate Chad Walcott came in fourth after the Coalition Avenir Québec candidate in the riding. As it stands, the Green Party has yet to win a seat in the National Assembly and is unlikely to do so this time around.

Former Canadian Football League player Balarama Holness is the other party leader running in Notre-Dame-de-Grace. His party is one of his own creation, called Bloc Montreal. His party is all about ensuring that Montreal’s interests are properly represented in the National Assembly and their platforms begin with a recognition that Montreal represents fifty percent of the Quebec population and fifty percent of the province’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The party opposes Bills 21 (the secularism law) and 96 as being harmful to Montrealers. Though much of the party’s platform is meant for all of Quebec, the perception that they stand for Montreal and only Montreal will likely cost the party in this election.

No word on how this could play out locally for Holness, so NDG remains a riding to watch.

Map and stats from Elections Quebec

It’s been a busy few days in Quebec politics, as is to be expected in such a short election season. Let’s start with some observations on the Face a Face leader’s debate Thursday night (it was in French, so all quotes are translated):

  • Best line of the night goes to Québec solidaire (QS)’s Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, when speaking to Premier François Legault of the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ): “You’re proposing managing the climate crisis a bit like Mr. Duhaime would have managed the pandemic.” A reference to Conservative Party of Quebec (CPQ) Leader Éric Duhaime opposition to pretty much any health restrictions.
  • Biggest screwup also goes to Nadeau-Dubois, for when he let Parti Québécois (PQ) Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon goad him into saying a racial slur which is part of the title of a book considered by some to be a seminal part of Quebec literature. While many voters might not care, the QS base who do the door-knocking, phone banking and signage surely do. And there’s no political upside for QS, as the ‘right to racism’ (or ‘anti-woke above all’) crowd won’t vote for a party that opposed Bill 21 (nor the PQ, for that matter, Legault and Duhaime have that vote sown up), regardless of whether Nadeau-Dubois had said the word or refused to.
  • Overall, though, Nadeau-Dubois gave a strong performance. He was confident and reserved most of his attacks for Legault. He also clearly articulated the party’s message of changing times with respect for “the generation that built Quebec”. It’s unfortunate that his screwup might detract from that strength and his message.
  • Quebec Liberal (PLQ) Leader Dominique Anglade did better than I, or the polling, expected her to. She came across as an earnest underdog and I almost forgot that she was representing one of the
  • Duhaime, as opponents jokingly suggested, is looking to win some votes on the West Island. With COVID restrictions and Vaccine Passports now months in the past (for now), railing against them won’t bring the electoral bounty he once thought it would. And he knows he can’t beat Legault on general right-wing issues, so why not try and reach out to right-leaning anglos. His vocal opposition to Bill 96 played like a last-minute switch, albeit a bold one to make in a French debate.
  • If St-Pierre Plamondon’s goal was to weaken QS with progressives without taking back the votes they lost to them last time, mission accomplished. If it was to win back relevancy and maybe power, his debate performance was a total failure.
  • As for Legault, he came across as, well, Legault, which is all he needed to do, really.
  • On systemic racism, Anglade, the only person of colour (and the only woman) on stage, came out strong against the myth, or the spin, that it doesn’t exist. Duhaime and St-Pierre Plamondon towed the “racism is bad, but let’s not say it’s baked into the system, it’s just words, let’s all get along” (not a direct quote) line.
  • Legault tried to make the argument that the “problems in Joliette” (where Atikamekw mother Joyce Echaquan recorded racial slurs by hospital staff before dying) were resolved (more on this later) and therefore no systemic racism. Nadeau-Dubois countered that Legault wasn’t Premier of Joliette and the problem still exists across Quebec.
  • Anglade attacked Nadeau-Dubois for voting for Bill 96 (something QS has tried to distance themselves from) and Nadeau-Dubois attacked Anglade for waffling on the same bill (first trying to toughen it, then voting against it because it was too tough).
  • On protecting the French language, four of the five leaders argued for some variation of the “stick” approach: the stick, or Bill 96 (Legault), a bigger stick, or a tougher Bill 96 (St-Pierre Plamondon), a smaller stick, or Bill 96 lite (Anglade), and a different stick, a law that left the historic anglos out of it and focused on immigrants (Duhaime). Nadeau-Dubois opted for the “carrot” approach, or free on-the-job French courses and a $500 voucher for French music, theatre and cultural production for all new immigrants.

Whether or not this debate swayed any voters has yet to be seen. But the campaigning continued.

Problem Not Solved in Joliette According to Atikamekw Community

Remember how François Legault argued during the debate that changes made at the Joliette hospital where Atikamekw mother Joyce Echaquan died were proof that the problem was solved in Joliette and that there was no systemic racism in Quebec? Well, the Manawan Atikamekw Council, the Atikamekw Nation Council and Joyce Echaquan’s spouse, Carol Dubé, released a statement saying that the situation had not been fixed, even in Joliette.

Dubé also sent a letter, through his lawyer, stating that “if the premier had bothered to meet with Ms. Echaquan’s family over the past two years, or if he had simply taken the time to read the report of coroner Gehane Kamel tabled in September 2021, he would have realized that the systemic problems that led to Ms. Echaquan’s death are not of a nature that can be ‘solved’ by essentially cosmetic changes.”

Legault responded on Saturday, saying that: “They want to come back to the issue of systemic racism…they want to make a debate of words instead of ensuring that we solve the problems on the ground.”

So it’s now not just Nadeau-Dubois and Anglade that the Premier is arguing with about systemic racism, but a victim’s family and community as well.

QS’s Rail and Bus Proposal

On Friday, Québec solidaire unveiled what could be its most ambitious proposal this election season: a $13 billion investment in public inter-city train and bus transit. Here is what it would look like:

  • Two new public bodies will be created to administer it: Québec-Rail and Québec-Bus.
  • The rail network will be comprised of five lines: Matane-Quebec, Quebec-Montreal, Quebec-Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke-Montreal and Montreal-Gatineau.
  • Existing rail lines would be used, three of them are currently under provincial jurisdiction and two are federal. Some tracks would need to be doubled and some passenger cars constructed and a deal worked out with CN.
  • The bus network would cover 4000 kilometers not served by the train network.
  • The initial investment would be $2 billion a year and there would need to be investment from a different level of government.

One of the things we know QS would cut, even before announcing this project, is the Legault-backed Third Link tunnel project for the Quebec City region. So we have two different transit visions as well as two different takes on systemic racism.

The debate may have ended, but the debating continues, as do the various campaigns. Until next time.

François Legault has shoehorned his foot into his mouth, yet again. Last week it was his claim – in response to the growing affordable housing crisis – that the average rent in metropolitan areas in Quebec was $500-$600 a month. This week, it’s his inflexibility on pay raises for public sector workers.

In Quebec, we have an expression “Au Quebec, on syndique!” in other words, “In Quebec we unionize”. We are also in a pandemic where the gap between rich and poor is clearer than ever, and the definition of who counts as an essential worker is all the more obvious as a result.

It therefore came as a slap in the face to those same workers that Legault told government worker unions there is no money left to pay for pay raises. The Quebec government’s current offer to healthcare workers – called “guardian angels” by Legault – is a five percent pay raise over five years with an option for a further three percent if inflation exceeds the amount they’re offering. Higher pay raises are being offered to patient attendants in long-term care homes and first year teachers in an attempt to lure more people to these professions that are facing severe staffing shortages in Quebec.

The unions have said government offers are too little to accept, and Legault’s response is to cite pandemic-related public spending as grounds for the claim that his government cannot offer them more. In an age where unions are more important than ever in the face of mounting corporate greed, his remarks come as particularly insulting when he himself owns a multimillion dollar home in Outremont.

Since Legault’s callous remarks around residential renting costs, his government and the Coaltion Avenir du Quebec has been engaging in damage control. This can be seen in the Premier’s conspicuous absence from the press conference announcing the expansion of eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Every time Legault goes public on financial matters, his wealth and privilege shine through. This is a man who claims that he will do what the majority of Quebeckers want, yet his responses to issues surrounding poverty and people’s value stinks of the arrogance that comes with extreme wealth.

While I have zero interest in saving the Quebec premier’s reputation, I do have a suggestion of how Francois Legault and his party can save his ass from political blunders that have finally alienated their base:

Francois Legault should take a pay cut.

He should accept a reduction in his salary as premier and that amount should go straight into an offer of increased salaries for essential workers. A simple Google search reveals that Legault’s approximate net worth is about ten million dollars, so he clearly doesn’t need the money.

He wants to be a man of the people? He needs to prove it, and he needs to do it now!

Now I could bring up that since Quebec is already facing teaching shortages, suspending Bill 21 would be a fantastic way to attract more staff, but that’s not what this article is about. It’s about the population of Quebec facing mounting financial strain due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s about nurses, nurses’ aides, and other front line workers fed up with a rich man telling them what they can and cannot afford when they put themselves at risk of contracting the virus while he remains in safety. It’s about the fact that while homelessness is on the rise and buying a home is so far out of reach for most people, he owns a multimillion dollar home.

That said, I believe I speak on behalf of everyone in Quebec when I make this challenge to our illustrious premier:

Are you truly a man of the people? Prove it, Monsieur Legault, take a pay cut.

On April 20, 2021 the Superior Court of Quebec issued a ruling on Bill 21, Quebec’s Secularism law which many Canadians were awaiting with baited breath. It was a victory for some, and a tragedy for others.

In its decision, it upholds the Quebec Secularism law with the exception of English schools in Quebec, and the Coalition Avenir du Quebec government under Premier François Legault has already announced its plans to appeal. This article will give a rundown of the ruling itself, the response by those affected, and what it represents to the people of Quebec and Canada.

I’m not going to go into all the nuances of Quebec’s Secularism Law, hereafter Bill 21. I gave a full and detailed rundown in multiple articles when the law was forced through the National Assembly in 2019.

In a nutshell, it severely limits employment in most of Quebec’s public sector as well as access to certain government services for anyone who wears religious symbols, including crosses, hijabs, headscarves, and kipas/yarmulkes. At the time, the government claimed the law would unite Quebeckers, but it has made us more divided than ever. Hate crimes and harassment of Muslim women are on the rise, something experts tried to warn the government about prior to the law’s passing.

The government knew that the law would never survive a legal challenge based on constitutional rights so they wrote in the Notwithstanding Clause, a clause written into Canada’s constitution to allow discriminatory rules to remain in effect for five years notwithstanding certain articles in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is largely the court’s measure of the effect of the Notwithstanding Clause that decided the outcome of the case.

I knew that no matter WHAT the court’s ruling, someone would appeal the decision. That someone is the Quebec government and it is unfortunate because for the most part, the Quebec government won the case.

Bill 21 is still in effect, and teachers and other people hoping for the stability that comes with public employment have had their hopes dashed, with one exception. The court decided that Bill 21 remains valid due to the province’s use of the Notwithstanding Clause, with the exception of English schools, which are constitutionally protected by a clause in the constitution that isn’t covered by the Notwithstanding Clause, as well as the National Assembly. It is this aspect that the government plans to appeal, claiming that this exception divides Quebec when the province’s society should be united.

William Korbatly, a lawyer, feels the government’s claim that the judge’s ruling split Quebec is erroneous and dishonest.

“[I]t’s the law 21 that did that by making some Quebeckers lesser citizens than those who think of themselves (as) superior or have more privileges just because they are part of the cultural majority. That being said, we cannot deny that a large part of Quebeckers have serious problems and are very allergic to any religious manifestation in public spaces. Thus, politically speaking, that law should be put to the courts’ authorities and they will decide what is constitutional and what is not.”

Unfortunately despite Quebec’s ongoing teacher shortage, English schools in the province will still be subjected to Bill 21 pending appeal.

Carolyn Gehr, an Orthodox Jewish woman and teacher with the Montreal English School Board who wears and headscarf and submitted an affidavit with the other plaintiffs had some choice words about the legal decision keeping the law in force for now.

“I feel horrible for the prospective teachers who enthusiastically applied to the English school boards who desperately need them, only to find out in a day or two that their hopes were dashed yet again, and that this ruling does nothing for them for the foreseeable future. The fact that the government is fighting this so vociferously reinforces in me the idea that I’m not really wanted here, especially in that I’m only allowed in my job as I am because ‘Oncle Francois’ magnanimously grandfathered me in so as not to offend the sensibilities of people who don’t like to see someone fired for no reason.”

M. I. a Muslim teacher working in the private sector who no longer wears her hijab for personal reasons spoke of why she chose to take it off.

“I grew up in a moderately conservative Muslim family and the choice to wear the hijab was mine to make and I chose to wear it until about a year ago. Why I chose to take it off was a completely personal choice because I was no longer wearing it for religious reasons. It just provided me with a sense of comfort and not wearing it felt like going out without my pants on since I had worn it for so many years.”

On Bill 21, she says she and most of her community were very concerned. There was this feeling that this sort of law would never happen in Canada and most members have been directly or indirectly affected.

“I know the law adversely affects all religious communities but as a Muslim woman who used to wear the hijab my feelings are very strong when it comes to the effect the bill has on the women in my community. I find this law to be discriminatory, anti-feminist and anti-human rights. As a woman, I cannot accept that someone can have any say in how I choose to cover myself. I am well-educated and have never been forced by any part of my religion and can say for a fact that his holds true for most women in my community.”

M.I. says the Muslim community is one of the fastest growing minorities in Quebec and that the law, like the hijab ban in France, is just a way of keeping minorities under control. She points out that this open hostility has just led to more anger and extremism among Muslims in France than ever before. Adding, like Carolyn Gehr, that Bill 21 made her feel she didn’t belong.

“I am many things: Iranian, Muslim, Canadian and a Montrealer but a Quebecker I am not. I no longer feel any pride in that.”

Francois Legault and the Coalition Avenir du Quebec and others with clear and open hostility towards visible and religious minorities in Quebec represent the worst elements of Canadian and Quebec society. A society that buys into the narrative of white victimhood and denial of a more honest history that includes everyone who contributed to the great society we have today.

In metropolitan areas like Montreal, more and more people find this attitude dangerous and even laughable and recognize that those who support it can either embrace the diversity that enriches our food and other aspects of our culture, or die with the dinosaurs. That said, let the government know their decision to appeal is a frivolous waste of Quebec tax dollars when there’s a pandemic and a housing shortage to address. The fight’s only over when we the people say it is, so keep fighting.

Featured image of the Palais de Justice in Montreal by Jeangagnon via Wikimedia Commons

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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