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.”
Alex Tyrrell, Green Party of Quebec
The Green Party of Quebec (PVQ)’s signs say “The Federalist Left” in bold letters. They officially positioned themselves on the question of independence during their last congress only a few weeks ago while their allegiance to the left has been clear from the start.
“The Green party is presenting an eco-socialist platform, so it’s a question of taking care of the environment, but also the population at the same time” insisted Alex Tyrrell, PVQ leader and Gouin candidate.
Before he became leader of the party in 2013, Tyrrell shared the popular opinion that the Greens were too often single-issue parties.
“That’s what we’re doing different with the PVQ,” he claimed, “we’re presenting an openly left-wing platform. The Green party of Quebec is leading the way in terms of bringing the Canadian Green movement to the left and having policies that go beyond environment.”
Tyrrell says that improving quality public healthcare and guaranteeing access to good education for everyone are priorities for the PVQ. Still, the environmental policies are the forefront of their vision, since “environmental problems are linked to social justice and to our current capitalist model.”
Which is why they want to focus on reducing the number of cars on the road, namely by making public transport free and encouraging active transport. “Here, we see a lot of cars in circulation but they are mostly transiting between downtown and Highway 40. It’s a huge source of pollution, dust and noise and it really diminishes the quality of life for people in Gouin.”
While a number of Green priorities are similar to those of Québec Solidaire, Tyrrell argues that “the difference between us and QS is that we’re willing to work now for all the policies we’ve put forward. If they’re elected, they will immediately launch into a third referendum campaign, which will be very divisive and will make it impossible for them to deliver the rest of their platform.”
Tyrrell was first involved in the federal NDP, where he supported Jack Layton and then Nathan Cullen. He also participated in the 2012 student movement.
Priorities for Gouin:
- Encourage active transport
- How: Implant “vélo-routes” which means closing certain streets to cars on different weekdays in order to make it more pleasant and safer to cycle or walk to work.
- Free public transportation
- How: The GPQ would take the money from the green fund and invest it in public transit instead of oil and gas exploitation.
“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.”
Jonathan Marleau, Liberal Party of Quebec
Jonathan Marleau says that a lot of the people he met told him that they voted for Françoise David, not because they thought she was going to be Premier but because she was able to discuss, compromise and represent their interests. Like her, he aims to bring politics “closer to the people” namely by holding democratic assemblies once a month and taking his orders directly from the population.
Marleau, also known as the candidate with the very very small PLQ logo, is convinced that “the people of Petite-Patrie vote for their candidate, the person they want to see in the National Assembly” and not the party. Indeed, if not many Gouin residents are inclined to vote for him because he is a Liberal, his strategy seems to hang on the expectation that many might vote for him in spite of it.
“One woman said to me,” he recalled, “‘I’m not really a Liberal, but you’re the type of Liberal I’d like to see in the National Assembly.’”
He is thus not deterred by the fact that Liberals have not won an election in Gouin since 1973. Still, the numerous instances of “UPAC??” scribbled over his campaign signs are proof that some people still begrudge him his Liberal banner.
His program promises to help all children from the riding gain access to new, modern and local schools. This has been a problem in the borough because of a little “demographic boom,” he explained. Parents and professionals across the province point to the Liberal government’s policies of reduced funding for public education as the culprits behind the deteriorating state of affairs.
On the matter of investing in education, Marleau remarked that the people of Gouin are very invested, “they see the need.”
Like his party leader, Marleau refuses to use the words budget cuts and austerity to describe those policies and points out that, in absolute numbers, the budget for education has increased : “maybe not as much as some expected, but still.”
Marleau was involved in the 2012 student movement with the FECQ and is now the president of the Liberal Youth Commission. He is also administrator of CALEB, a project for a familial orphanage in Benin.
Priorities for Gouin:
- Help children of Gouin access a local school that is modern and renovated.
- How: The government announced a $7M reinvestment in healthcare and education. As an MNA, Marleau pledges to make sure that this investment goes where it’s most needed.
- Encourage artists
- How: Expose local artists in the riding office and support local cultural events and festivals.
- Bring politics closer to people
- How: Organize a monthly political assembly for the citizens.
“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.”
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, Québec Solidaire
Although close to 20% of the rentable housing in Petite-Patrie has been bought out since 1991*, the Quebec Solidaire candidate and newly elected co-spokesperson of the party was the only one to mention access to affordable housing as a top priority for the riding. He is, in this regard, continuing Françoise David’s legacy, who most notably fought to prohibit the eviction of low-income elderly people with Law 492 (and just yesterday took part in a press conference with the Comité de logement de la Petite-Patrie).
His two other top priorities are primary and high school education and democratic renewal. Interestingly, it’s the exact same two put forward by Liberal candidate Jonathan Marleau. But whereas Marleau says the need to prioritize schools stems from a local baby boom, Nadeau-Dubois sees it as a direct consequence of the Liberal budget cuts during the last few years.
“There are overpopulated classes and deteriorating classrooms,” he described, “as well as entire courses and services that have been cut. Now, they are investing a few dollars back because it is an electoral year, but fundamentally, the Liberals have lost all credibility on the matter of education.”
Although he insisted that Québec Solidaire is taking nothing for granted in Gouin, he recognized that the party’s reputation in the riding is a big help: “We’ve been representing (the people of Gouin) for six years. They know us, they’ve seen us by their side every time they mobilized. There is no need to reinvent the wheel to convince them that education is important to us.”
In response to Tyrrell, Nadeau-Dubois argues that the road to sovereignty is not an impediment to the realisation of a truly progressive Quebec, it is a pre-requisite:
“I’m sorry to say it but what the entire history of Quebec demonstrates is the exact opposite. Every time there was an effort to really transform Quebec, it was twarted by the limits of monarchy and of Canadian federalism. I do not for an instant doubt that Mr Tyrrell sincerely wants to change things, but unfortunately, what the entire history of Quebec shows, is that it’s not possible without taking back all the powers.”
Priorities for Gouin:
- Primary and High School education
- How: “First, by supporting people who are fighting against the current government.”
- Affordable housing
- How: By working in collaboration with local organizations and municipal officials.
- Hold regular democratic assemblies
*Study by the Comité de logement de la Petite-Patrie and the Urban Laboratory of Concordia University
“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.”
Vanessa Dion, Option Nationale
Be it environmental issues or funding the arts, the Option Nationale (ON) candidate Vanessa Dion is convinced that the solution begins with independance. “All these issues are interrelated,” she claimed. She hopes to inspire more people “to take a stand on the National question” through her campaign.
ON leader Sol Zanetti maintains that this doesn’t mean Option Nationale is a single-issue party: “That impression is less due to who we are than to our small share of media attention,” he argued, “which means that we never get covered except when we talk about independence.”
In fact, he hopes to use the by-election to talk about the entire ON program, which includes free tuition and strong commitments to quality universal healthcare. Dion’s campaign is largely focused on ON’s plan to help out artists, since Gouin is home to an unusually high number of them.
Although they readily admit that there is very little they can do without first taking power and making Quebec a country, ON members believe that every Quebecker has a lot to gain by electing even a single MNA from their party. According to Zanetti, Dion would be a breath of fresh at the National Assembly, where even sovereignist members have “provincialized” their analysis of politics.
“Putting Vanessa Dion in that seat means getting a representative who will pull us out of this game of deciding between this party or that(…), and who will say ‘the problem is more profound than that, the problem is the political regime we’re in,’” he argued.
It would also have the added benefit of getting another woman in the National Assembly, which is still 73% male.
Priorities for Gouin
- Fund and promote local artists
- How: ON would fund local artists via a tax on internet platforms like Netflix and Spotify (which are currently in a grey area of CRTC regulations).
- Promote the thinking of all political issues in the perspective of a National Quebec rather than a provincial one.
“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.”
Benjamin Bélair, Coalition Avenir Québec
He is the third candidate to run for the CAQ in Gouin since the party was created five years ago. His two predecessors both scored around 8% of the vote. Province-wide, CAQ is currently polling higher than the PQ, at 26% (while the PLQ is still leading with 32%).
The CAQ’s campaign is largely focused on families, with their most frequent slogan promising “$1000 more in your pockets, for the families of Gouin.”
Whether or not the CAQ win the next general elections, Bélair believes that he can do a lot for families, namely improve children’s academic success and provide decent care for elders “first by denouncing the current situation and raising awareness regarding the need for change, and also by working with the organizations in the field.”
Bélair is a philosophy teacher at Collège Montmorency. He is rated 4.75 on RateMyTeacher.
Priorities for Gouin:
- Lessen the tax burden
- How: A CAQ government promises $1000 in tax refunds for young families, although critics say that it remains unclear where that money would come from.
- Help academic success and provide better care for the elderly
- How: Raise awareness and work with community-based organisations.
The Gouin by-election is Monday, May 29, 2017 and advance voting is already underway. Voting info is available at monvote.qc.ca