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

Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney welcome Samantha Gold to talk about the 2022 Quebec Election: Legault’s bigotry, youth voter turnout, QS and smaller leftist parties, a relevance for Bloc Pot and more!

Find out where and when you can vote at electionsquebec.qc.ca

For Samantha Gold’s election caricatures and more art:
@samiamart on Facebook & @samiamartistmtl on Instagram

Follow Dawn McSweeney @mcmoxy on Twitter and Instagram

Follow Jason C. McLean @jasoncmclean on Twitter and 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

For the 2022 Quebec Election, we’re going to be taking a closer look at some ridings that many of our readers live in and that could play an interesting role in the big picture. I’m going to start it off with the riding I’ve lived in for a little over a year now, Saint-Henri-Saint-Anne.

Yes, the current MNA here is Dominique Anglade, Quebec Liberal (PLQ) Leader and the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly. So why is the riding represented by the head of a major establishment party one to watch?

Let’s find out:

Riding Breakdown

  • Location and Boundaries: It’s pretty much the Sud Ouest Borough of Montreal, encompassing all of St-Henri, Little Burgundy, Pointe-Saint-Charles and Ville Emard and most of Griffintown. Its northern boundary is Saint-Antoine/Autoroute 720 from Montreal West until Guy Street, then it becomes Notre-Dame Ouest. The southern boundary follows the Aqueduc Canal and then Autoroute 15. West-East, it goes from Angrignon Park to Boulevard Robert-Bourassa/Bonaventure Autoroute.
  • Population: 73 674 (2006) with 58 171 electors (2016)
  • Language: 55.4% Francophone, 24.4% Anglophone, 13.2% Allophone and 6.9% Multiple primary languages
  • Age: The two largest age groups are 30-39 (20.4%) and 20-29 (19%)
  • Ethnicity: 72.1% do not identify as a member of a visible minority while 27.9% do
  • Income: 62.3% of the population falls into the $10 000 – $70 000 annual household income range, with the $10K-20K being the largest group (13.2%) and each next rung up accounting for slightly fewer people. Here’s a graph comparing Saint-Henri-Saint-Anne to the provincial average:

This is a riding in a state of flux, with many parts of it in varying states of gentrification: from the slow crawl class mix of St-Henri and Pointe-St-Charles to the full-on new condos seemingly every week of Griffintown. The population is younger, urban and bilingual (I know this more from living here than the stats). They run the economic gamut from working class to lower middle-class, with some upper middle class and wealthier individuals thrown into the mix.

Politically, this indicates that they are more likely care more about issues like affordable housing than language politics. They are also likely to lean progressive, at least socially, and in also economically in many parts of the riding.

While this isn’t the most ethnically diverse part of the city, it is in no way cut off from the rest of and could be considered at the heart of Montreal, a city that is quite ethnically diverse. Bill 21 and François Legault’s obsession with homogenizing immigrants probably don’t play that well around these parts.

A Liberal Stronghold with Cracks in the Foundation

This really sounds like a place where Québec solidaire (QS) would do well. They voted against Bill 21, have made housing a key issue for them this campaign and are the most progressive of the major parties running.

Then when you factor in the municipal landscape, things look even more promising for QS. The Saint-Henri-Saint-Anne provincial riding almost mirrors the boundaries of the Sud-Ouest Borough which has been a Projet Montréal stronghold since 2013.

Projet and QS have a similar progressive ethos and do pull from a similar base of supporters, so it seems like a logical extension. However, issues are different at the municipal level; people of all political stripes might like, say, bike paths.

Also, this riding has gone Liberal since it was formed in 1992. In recent elections, though, it has been far from the Liberal stronghold that Westmount-Saint-Louis or even NDG are.

In 2018, Anglade (who wasn’t leader at the time) won with 11 837 votes, but QS’s Benoit Racette got 7413. That’s a victory, for sure, but it’s a competitive one.

The same election the CAQ candidate got 5809 votes, the PQ 3568 and the Greens 1009. Now factor in that the CAQ really don’t care about Montreal ridings like they did last time as they don’t need us to win a majority and that the Parti Québécois (PQ) have gone all-in on trying to out-Legault Legault, which probably won’t play well in southwest Montreal and that Green voters might switch to QS if it’s competitive.

But, of course, it may come down to who’s running, so let’s look at that:

Candidates (2022)

  • Dominique Anglade (Liberal) Incumbent and Party Leader
  • Guillaume Cliche-Rivard (Québec solidaire)
  • Julie Daubois (Parti Québécois)
  • Jean-Pierre Duford (Green)
  • Nicolas Huard-Isabelle (Coalition Avenir Québec)
  • Janusz Kaczorowski (Bloc Montreal)
  • Mischa White (Conservative)

There are two star candidates running this year in Saint-Henri-Saint-Anne: the PLQ have their leader and QS have Guillaume Cliche-Rivard. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s had his name in the press quite a bit.

Cliche-Rivard is an immigration lawyer who helped bring Edward Snowden’s “guardian angels” to Canada and got Mamadi Camara (the man falsely accused of attacking a Montreal police officer) his permanent residency. He’s also a prominent critic of Legault’s immigration policy and the Liberals’ lack of effective opposition to it.

While I’ve seen some media try and portray this as a three-way race between the Libs, QS and the CAQ, I think that may be, perhaps subconsciously, an attempt to foster fear of a CAQ victory to help the PLQ. Nicolas Huard-Isabelle seems like a glorified poteau (paper) candidate and given Legault’s anti-Montreal rhetoric, I doubt they are actually trying to win Saint-Henri-Saint-Anne.

QS, on the other hand, already knocked out PQ Leader Jean-François Lisée in Rosemont last election and are clearly trying to do the same with the Liberal Leader this time around. QS Co-Spokesperson and Premier Candidate Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois called the riding “winnable” and their choice of candidate echoes that belief.

It may be a two-way race, but it’s still a race. Major parties generally pull out all the stops to protect their leader’s riding in order to allow the leader to focus on campaigning everywhere else. Also, the perks for voters generally associated with having a potential Premier as their MNA can usually sway the vote in the leader’s favour.

Of course, when a party feels like they might electorally implode, the leader’s riding might be sacrificed in favour of putting resources in places where they have a better chance of winning, to circle the wagons, so to speal, and to ensure that it isn’t a complete wipeout. Also, if it looks like there’s no chance of the local candidate becoming Premier, that electoral advantage in the minds of some voters evaporates.

Now, I don’t think the Liberals will completely implode like the PQ did last election, but the chances of Anglade becoming Premier are, well, not good to put it kindly. I’d even say her chances of remaining Leader of the Opposition are up in the air.

Her “let’s remove some parts of Bills 21 and 96 to make them less harsh but keep the general framework intact” (not a direct quote) approach may seem like a good way to win some of Legault’s bigoted base back and flip some rural ridings while keeping the Liberals’ Montreal base on board. It won’t work.

No one votes for Legault-lite. Those who support Bill 21 don’t want a watered-down version when they can have the real deal. QS, on the other hand, voiced their opposition to the law when it was enacted without equivocation.

And back in her own riding, Anglade has sent a message that she will compromise with bigotry to maybe get some votes elsewhere rather than stand up for what those who elected her want.

So, yes, Saint-Henri-Saint-Anne, for the first time ever, is a riding to watch.

Featured Image by Jason C. McLean

Quebeckers are heading to the polls on October 3, 2022 and this election is a controversial one. The campaigns have been characterized by a high number of threats of violence against candidates, xenophobic remarks by Quebec’s premier, and missed opportunities.

The incumbent, Premier François Legault of the Coalition Avenir du Québec (CAQ) is facing controversy after controversy as he repeatedly makes xenophobic comments in an attempt to fire up his base, largely consisting of voters outside Montreal. Such remarks include:

  • The accusation on Radio-Canada on September 4th that Montrealers look down on the people of Quebec City and Levis, when people who have lived in both cities can confirm that the animosity is often the other way around due to Legault voters’ fear of Montreal’s ethnic diversity.
  • In the same Radio-Canada interview, Legault complained about Montreal getting so many bridges when the city’s geography as an island requires them.
  • Claims in early September that Quebec needs to curb immigration in order to prevent violent extremism, quickly followed by a half-assed apology on September 7th.
  • On September 11, 2022, the anniversary of 9/11, an event that led to a barrage of Islamophobia, Legault said non-French speaking immigrants are a threat to Quebec cohesion.

In addition to the barrage of xenophobia, the Coalition Avenir du Quebec seems determined to undermine the rights of Canada’s First Nations. Their election platform on climate change presents a plan to add new mega-dams for producing clean hydro-electric power, a plan presented without consulting Quebec’s Indigenous leaders who are rightfully concerned about the effect the dams will have on their lands.

Gaining ground against the Coalition Avenir du Québec is the Quebec Conservative Party, led by right-wing columnist Eric Duhaime, whose solutions to the province’s ongoing problems include more privatization of Quebec healthcare, and the elimination of vaccine mandates that have thus far kept province from a new pandemic wave.

Since last year, Duhaime’s Conservatives have been gaining ground in typical CAQ strongholds such as Quebec City.

Though both the Conservatives and the CAQ have tried to present themselves as fiscally responsible, the Conservatives have been plagued by their leader’s unpaid tax bills and that both their and the CAQ’s approaches to immigration are to the detriment of Quebec business owners. For years business owners in Quebec City and Montreal have been demanding increases to immigration to fill labor shortages particularly in the manufacturing and export sectors, in spite of this, here are the two parties’ platforms:

  • The Conservatives plan to reduce immigration from the current seventy-thousand a year threshold to thirty-five thousand a year.
  • The CAQ plans to reduce immigration from seventy-thousand to fifty-thousand a year

Meanwhile, Québec solidaire (QS) is the only party seemingly committed to global human rights and a carrot and stick approach to climate change:

  • QS proposes to increase immigration from seventy thousand to eighty thousand a year.
  • On climate change, QS proposes an increase in protected areas, as well as a fifteen percent tax on the purchase of SUVs and other heavily polluting vehicles with exceptions for large families and rural Quebeckers.
  • Québec solidaire’s plan is the only one being praised by climate change experts.

Meanwhile, the Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) is floundering in the polls. Once a political powerhouse that led Quebec on and off for decades, the party under Dominique Anglade is losing ground to other parties.

With sovereignty off the table for the CAQ and Conservatives, the Liberals can no longer present themselves as the federalist party in Quebec, and swearing to protect English speakers is not enough to win an election. This election was a missed opportunity for the Liberals, who could have easily won the votes of the young, ethnic minorities, and the impoverished in Quebec had they shifted their policies further to the left.

Quebec is starved for a non-separatist leftist party and given that the leftist sovereigntist Quebec Solidaire came in second in provincial Liberal strongholds such as NDG and Westmount, this election campaign is a good example of self-sabotage. Here is what we know so far:

  • Anglade’s waffling on French language protections and religious freedom and the controversial Bills 96 and 21 since taking leadership of the PLQ has alienated many of its core voters in Montreal.
  • On September 5, 2022 the PLQ announced a forty-one billion dollar spending plan which includes twelve billion in income tax cuts.
  • The PLQ’s proposal to address the labor shortage includes keeping the current seventy thousand annual immigration quota and encouraging older workers to stay on the job.
  • This year the PLQ’s campaign fundraising is falling far behind that of its rivals.
  • There are rumors that PLQ leader Dominique Anglade is in danger of losing her seat in the National Assembly.

Whether the PLQ can rise from the ashes remains to be seen, but it looks like Quebec Solidaire will be their primary challenger as the representative of class and minority rights in Quebec.

Featured Image: Drawings by Samantha Gold


It’s election season in Quebec again and the PQ have just launched their first ad on YouTube and it’s, well, it’s something:

Basically, the ad suggests that another four years of Premier François Legault would mean that Quebec would lose Bill 21 and Bill 96, two laws that Legault created, proposed and passed (with the support of parties like the PQ, not that it was needed, given that he has a Majority Government). Their reasoning? Ottawa will get rid of them unless Quebec becomes its own country.

Okay, first, I have to point out that Legault and his Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) Government had no problem passing and maintaining these laws within a federal system (Bill 21 was passed early in Legault’s mandate). And while federal politicians like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh clearly and vocally don’t like Bill 21, they aren’t prepared to use federal powers to change a Quebec law.

So while I hate to defend Legault, I think I have to here. He’s more than capable of protecting the bigotry enshrined in Bill 21 and the sheer ignorance of reality baked into Bill 96 on his own.

It’s clear, though, from this ad, what the PQ’s election strategy is: try to outflank the CAQ on the right, mobilize hard nationalists and flip some rural and suburban ridings back to them. They seem to have abandoned all hope of winning back the progressive sovereigntist votes and Montreal island ridings they lost to Québec solidaire (QS).

It’s unfortunate, given the PQ just released one of the better public transit ideas I’ve heard in a long time: A $1/day transit pass valid all over Quebec. If they focused on that and put some similar proposals on the table, they could battle it out with QS over who is the most progressive.

Instead, they’re continuing on the rightward trajectory they’ve been on since René Lévesque left office mixed with the reinvigorated country-or-bust approach they switched back to when Paul St-Pierre Plamondon won their leadership. The only lip service to progressivism in this ad is an attack on fossil fuels, but even that is couched in nationalist language (“Alberta oil”).

This PQ tact is both desperate and a leap of logic, but it’s good news for Québec solidaire. As long as leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois sticks with (and keeps repeating) his promise to dismantle Bill 21 if elected, they will keep most of the progressive votes they won from the PQ and only have to contend with smaller progressive parties, Anglo and allophone (and even some Francophone) progressives upset with their voting for Bill 96 and voters who see the Quebec Liberals (PLQ) as the only way to stop Legault.

As for the PQ, I don’t think their attempt to out-Legault Legault and win xenophobic votes from the CAQ will get them very far. Asking bigots to prioritize their nationalism over their bigotry and social conservatism is a tough sell for anyone, especially a party trying to pull itself out of the dustbin of history.

Yes, I know it’s still summer and politics is probably the last thing you want to think about, but it’s about to be provincial election season in Quebec once again! Yay!

The 2022 Quebec Election will be on Monday October 3rd, unless Premier François Legault decides to call it earlier (in which case we will update this post with the new date). So, with that in mind, we’re continuing our tradition of posting an election poll.

In keeping with that tradition, the winner of the poll will receive the endorsement of FTB readers in a post written on their behalf by a member of our editorial team. This time, though, with one exception: I’m pretty sure no one on our editorial team would feel comfortable writing an endorsement of the current premier (I surely wouldn’t), so we won’t.

If Legault somehow does manage to win our poll, either through a bit of right-wing trolling or us seriously misjudging our largely progressive readership, we will acknowledge it, try to unpack it and probably award the endorsement to second place.

As for the poll itself, we’ve added all the major parties and some of the more interesting minor and upstart ones. We’ve also added Undecided and Not Legault as choices, and you can re-vote, so please feel free to park your vote for the time being with one of those options, knowing you can change it if and when you make up your mind.

We’ve also made Other an option. If you want us to add an option to the poll, please vote other and add your suggestion in the comments. If it’s one of the 25 officially registered Quebec provincial parties, we will add it.

The poll is on the sidebar of every site page and right here below.

Happy voting and now back to the rest of your summer.

Who do you support in the 2022 Quebec Election?
  • Québec solidaire (QS) - Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois 29%, 6 votes
    6 votes 29%
    6 votes - 29% of all votes
  • Conservative Party of Quebec (PCQ) - Éric Duhaime 19%, 4 votes
    4 votes 19%
    4 votes - 19% of all votes
  • Bloc Montréal - Balarama Holness 14%, 3 votes
    3 votes 14%
    3 votes - 14% of all votes
  • Not Legault! 14%, 3 votes
    3 votes 14%
    3 votes - 14% of all votes
  • Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) - Dominique Anglade 10%, 2 votes
    2 votes 10%
    2 votes - 10% of all votes
  • Green Party of Quebec (PVQ) - Alex Tyrrell 10%, 2 votes
    2 votes 10%
    2 votes - 10% of all votes
  • Undecided 5%, 1 vote
    1 vote 5%
    1 vote - 5% of all votes
  • Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) - François Legault 0%, 0 votes
    0 votes
    0 votes - 0% of all votes
  • Parti Québécois (PQ) - Paul St-Pierre Plamondon 0%, 0 votes
    0 votes
    0 votes - 0% of all votes
  • New Democratic Party of Quebec (NPDQ) - Raphaël Fortin 0%, 0 votes
    0 votes
    0 votes - 0% of all votes
  • Other 0%, 0 votes
    0 votes
    0 votes - 0% of all votes
Total Votes: 21
August 8, 2022 - October 2, 2022
Voting is closed

The provincial government is officially on board with Anticosti joining UNESCO’s World Heritage list.  Although this would permanently ban oil exploitation on the Island, Petrolia’s oil exploration contract still stands, says Quebec.

The minister of Energy and Natural Resources Pierre Arcand announced that Quebec is endorsing Anticosti’s and Saguenay Fjord’s bids for the World Heritage list in a press briefing on Wednesday. As the government is well aware, oil exploitation is forbidden on UNESCO-protected sites, which has a particular significance for Anticosti, where Petrolia is in the early phase of a colossal project. “There won’t be any petroleum on Anticosti if they get the status” confirmed Arcand, as quoted by La Presse.

However, Anticosti’s application still has to be approved first by the federal government and then by UNESCO itself. Best case scenario: they get their status in 2020. Meanwhile, Petrolia is free to continue its exploration.

“For us it doesn’t change much of the project” Arcand told the press. “We always said, since the beginning, that we will respect the contract.”

In this case, respecting the contract means allowing Petrolia to continue digging wells and begin hydraulic fracturing, and giving them $57 million of public money to help. This is all for the first, “exploration” phase, the one where they look for shale gas and petroleum that they hope to extract. This phase includes massive investments, which will return no benefit until the “exploitation” phase – a phase that will never happen if Anticosti gets its protected status.

While Arcand was insistent that the government wasn’t backing out of its contract, a letter expressing Quebec’s support to the municipality had a slightly more reassuring tone.  The letter, signed by Christine St-Pierre, minister of International relations, and Luc Blanchette, minister of Forests, promises that the government is already working on ensuring that they will be able to protect the entire Island in 2020.

With the province’s blessing two days before the deadline, Anticosti’s application can now be evaluated on the federal level. Ottawa, which has been conspicuously noncommittal on the matter so far, will decide in December if they will submit Anticosti’s candidacy to the UNESCO or not. There are currently 18 Canadian sites listed as World Heritage, including Vieux-Québec and Nahanni National Park Reserve.

On Thursday morning, Françoise David officially announced her immediate resignation both as Gouin’s MNA and as Québec Solidaire’s spokesperson.

At a press conference in her home riding, she explained that she was exhausted from politics, but insisted that her optimism and confidence in her party remain unaltered. “I take this decision with regret, but also with serenity,” she assured.

Although she had implied in September that the next provincial election would probably be her last, her departure mid-mandate comes as a surprise. She will not seek the transition allocation provided to MNAs who cannot finish their mandate.

“Why not hold on until the 2018 general election? It’s simple: I don’t have the strength anymore,” she admitted at the start of her allocation. Although she would have wanted to finish the electoral cycle, she came to the conclusion that she had to quit to avoid a burn-out.

“I know many are disappointed today, but I dare to hope that people will accept this decision, which became unavoidable for me. I also ask them to have confidence in Québec Solidaire for the next steps,” she pleaded. She restated her certainty that others, young, enthusiastic and full of the energy she once had, were ready to pick up the torch.

As for her own future plans, for the time being, they amount to getting some rest, some family time, and reflecting on future actions. “There will most certainly be future actions,” she vowed “I want to continue being useful to society.”

David might be giving up politics, but she is not giving up her fight for a better society: “One thing is clear: I do not intend to keep quiet in the face of injustice, intolerance, sexism, racism and the destruction of the planet.”

The next step

“We won’t replace Françoise, because Françoise is irreplaceable,” declared the president of QS Andres Fontecilla. He conceded that the party will have many challenges to face in the wake of the departure of one of its pillars and co-founders, but also insisted that they were up to it.  “We have the confidence and the ambition to respond to Quebec’s thirst for change,” claimed Fontecilla. Both he and David underlined the successes of the party in recent years.

However, in a very practical sense, QS will have to replace Françoise David. Fellow MNA Manon Massé is currently assuming her role as spokesperson and will be until the party votes for a replacement at their annual congress. They will also have to prepare for the byelections in Gouin, for which the timetable and candidates should be announced shortly. This will be a vital for QS, as they risk losing one of their three seats in the National Assembly.

 

Premier Philippe Couillard appeared in a live interactive interview on Radio-Canada (French CBC) Wednesday night. It was the first time a Premier tried such an exercise and he didn’t have an easy time of it. Throughout the 60 minute interview, Couillard was confronted with the consequences of what he still refuses to call austerity.

“I don’t like (that term) because it’s inexact,” Couillard maintained. “when we talk about austerity, we think about other examples in Europe, where the ministries’ budgets were massively cut. I am repeating that we never diminished the budget of any ministry. We augmented them more slowly, that’s true, but we’re light-years away from what happened in Greece, England or Spain.”

It is true that every ministry’s spending in absolute numbers went up. When inflation and the normal growth of population are factored in, however, it still means that affected sectors have less money to do more.

It is quite fortunate for Couillard that he refrained from claiming, as he often did in the past, that those measures wouldn’t affect services to the population. It would have put him in quite an awkward position when the questions from the public came in. People from every part of Quebec called and shared stories about jobs lost to budget cuts and children with learning disabilities without access to proper educators.

“I am living with the rigour” said a woman who lost her job after government cut subsidies for rural employment programs, “I have exhausted my unemployment benefit and I see the specter of welfare on the horizon.”

Monique Loubry, who spent 30 years as a nurse in CHSLDs, observed “chronic deficits in staff and material.” When she asked what concrete measures would be taken to improve the situation, the Premier had two answers: optimize the management and make sure that government finances were being handled carefully. Investing in care for senior citizens will be a priority “as soon as the ‘compressions’ (meant to be less harsh than ‘coupures’ though both translate as ‘cuts’ in English) give enough financial room to the government, he assured.

Mrs Loubry was not convinced: “I have nothing against virtue, Sir, but until there are concrete numbers on the table and quality standards set, I will be waiting.”

In fact, the Premier’s responses to concerns about healthcare, state-funded kindergartens and education were all roughly the same: the lack of funding was a lesser problem than the inadequate management of it and reinvestment will come when Quebec will have made sufficient room for it in the budget.

Even if he delivered his responses as confidently as ever, he is facing growing skepticism. According to the Léger-Le Devoir survey published last week, an all-time high of 68% of Quebeckers are unsatisfied with the Couillard administration.

Half-way through his mandate, the PM’s appearance on national television was an admittedly courageous attempt to connect with the population, but not a successful one. While Couillard’s persistence in talking about “compressions” and “rigour” instead of budget cuts and austerity might have been reassuring once, it now only seems to emphasize his disconnect with the people’s reality.