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

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.

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.

Quebec Premier François Legault rejected calls from all opposition parties in Quebec’s National Assembly and the Mayor of Montreal to exempt the homeless from the province’s 8pm to 5am curfew.

In a press conference today, the Premier said that if there was an exemption, people who weren’t homeless would essentially fake homelessness (tell police they were) to be able to walk around at night without getting a fine.

On Sunday, homeless man Raphael André’s body was found in a portable toilet near a homeless shelter that had recently been forced to not allow overnight stays. This prompted the Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ), Québec solidaire and the Parti Québécois to call on the premier to exempt the homeless from the province’s curfew.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante joined in the call this morning. It was her, though, that Legault directed his response, asking why she didn’t trust the SPVM (Montreal Police).

Legault stressed that the police aren’t there to ticket the homeless, but rather to direct them to the nearest shelter. Homeless advocates said that the SPVM had issued at least six tickets to the homeless in the curfew’s first week.

Québec solidaire MNA Catherine Dorion has been in the news quite a bit over the past couple of weeks. And it all has to do with her wardrobe choices.

Known for wearing what many call casual clothing when on the floor of the National Assembly, the elected official for Taschereau decided to flip the script for Halloween. She posted a photo of herself dressed in business attire, the common go-to look for MNAs, on her Facebook page as her Halloween costume.

It was a clever move and all in good fun. Of course it drew the ire of incredibly vulgar and mysoginistic trolls online, but it also drew official condemnation from the Quebec Liberal Party.

They took issue with the fact that she was sitting on the Speaker’s desk in the photo and wanted an official inquiry (while really wanting relevance for their failing brand). But that wasn’t the outfit choice that got Dorion in trouble.

Denied the Right to Represent Her Constituents

Fast-forward to yesterday. Dorion showed up at the National Assembly to represent her constituents as she was elected to do. She was wearing a hoodie, a fact that is only relevant because some as of yet unknown MNAs complained to the Speaker and she was kicked out of the Blue Room, the room she needs to be in to discuss and vote on laws.

According to Deputy Speaker Chantal Soucy:

“We have a decorum to respect, we reminded her of it several times, it was time to draw a line. She was not wearing clothing worthy of an MNA within the Blue Room.”

Chantal Soucy in a statement to the press

Now, putting aside, for a moment, the Quebec Government’s ongoing and borderline fetishistic obsession with what women wear, which really is at the root of this, what happened on Thursday was a disgusting attack on democracy. People in the Taschereau riding had no voice in the National Assembly yesterday and it was in no way their representative’s fault.

If Soucy’s statement seems lacking of any reference to an actual rule Dorion was breaking, it’s because there isn’t one. Quebec’s National Assembly doesn’t have an official dress code, nor should it.

Why is Corporate Attire the Norm for Government?

When people commenting on the story in support of barring Dorion reference the fact that they would be sent home for coming to work dressed as she was forget one crucial fact. They work, most likely, in a corporate office, while Dorion doesn’t.

The business world has its dress code, so do farms, so do transit workers and so do police. If a banker shows up in jeans, they will be sent home. If a farm worker shows up in a suit, they’re in for a sweaty day and torn clothes. If a cop wears camo pants to work, it’s a protest.

Dorion showing up in a hoodie, Doc Martens or jeans and a t-shirt isn’t a protest, or at least it shouldn’t have to be one. Elected officials are supposed to represent the people, not corporations.

When Dorion wears a t-shirt promoting Franco-Ontarian poet Patrice Desbiens produced by Quebec writer Mathieu Arsenault on the floor of the National Assembly, she’s doing just that. When she wears a hoodie, there may not be a particular reason, she’s just wearing a hoodie, and that’s fine.

I wear hoodies sometimes, too. I don’t wear Doc Martens, but that doesn’t mean someone who does isn’t representative of me when speaking in the National Assembly.

Why is business formal or even business casual the default dress when it comes to elected officials? If the argument for is that they are conducting the “business of the state” which includes things like budgets, then it’s important to note that non-profit co-ops and other organizations without corporate dress codes also deal with budgets.

Insisting that corporate dress is the only way for a politician to appear professional is an implication that, for them, professionalism means serving corporate interests. This is sometime Catherine Dorion clearly doesn’t want to do and we should applaud her for it.

It’s been over a week since the Quebec election and many people are still upset. There has already been one protest in Montreal with scores of people chanting “Legault has to go!”

Anglophones, Allophones, and many Francophones are saddened by the election of a government they consider to be racist and xenophobic, a reflection of the most abominable forces within Quebec society.

This article is not going to dispute or affirm that. I saved that for my previous article. In this bleak season plagued by lousy, unpredictable weather, and the ever-looming threat of catching a cold or flu at work or on public transit, I want to focus on the positives for a change. We need reasons to hope, so I’m going to try and give you some by pointing out all the positives that came out of this election.

A Good Election for Women

On October 1, 2018 a record number of female candidates were elected, taking up fifty-two seats, making up 41.6% of Quebec’s National Assembly. This is not to say that they will always act in women’s best interests.

Most of the women elected were white and secular and members of the Coalition Avenir du Québec (CAQ), so whether they will address the needs of women of colour and religious minority women in a way doesn’t scream of condescending white feminism remains to be seen. That said, representation matters and seeing more women in office will encourage others to run and tell more girls that they can pursue a political career in Quebec.

Possibly Killing the Sovereignty Debate

Quebec is a distinct society. We are distinct because the majority speak French and were oppressed by English speakers for a century. We are distinct because for a shameful period our in history, religious leaders actively cooperated with the government to keep the people meek.

Fear of assimilation into English speaking Canada is as Quebecois as the cuss word tabarnac. For the longest time, it was thought that the only way to avoid assimilation was for Quebec to secede from Canada. We’ve had two failed referenda and a Supreme Court decision about this (Google the “Secession Reference”). This election seems to prove what most Montrealers have known all along: that sovereignty is dead.

The Parti Québécois (PQ), Quebec’s main sovereigntist party, was decimated in this election. They were defeated mostly by the CAQ, which ran on a platform of more autonomy for Quebec, but within Canada. Though Québec Solidaire (QS) took the most seats from the PQ on the Island of Montreal,  the two parties with the most seats – the CAQ and the Liberals (PLQ), respectively, ran on platforms that Quebec should remain in confederation.

The Rise of QS

For the longest time the PQ seemed to be the only left-leaning voice in Quebec that had a shot at becoming our government. They campaigned on platforms of gradually introducing free post-secondary education and updating the Labour Code in favor of striking workers.

At they same time, they campaigned on right wing platforms like aggressive secularism, but shied away from a stance on immigration by saying they’d go with whatever the Auditor General recommended. Many PQ voters, feeling that the PQ didn’t go far enough in their hostility to immigration and religious minorities, took their votes elsewhere. left-leaning voters opted instead for Québec Solidaire.

QS is a leftist sovereigntist feminist party. They are the only main party to campaign on a platform that included fighting systemic racism and addressing discrimination in healthcare. Their environmental platform was the most complete of any of the four major parties.

During the debates, QS spokesperson Manon Massé rolled her eyes while the male candidates argued and when she spoke, she did so clearly but without pretension; many feel that her calm won the day. QS also made some of the greatest efforts to campaign on university campuses, getting disillusioned young people out to vote.

The PQ only recognized Québec Solidaire as a threat towards the end of their campaign and it cost them. On election night, QS got one seat more than the Parti Québécois in the National Assembly (they are now tied after recounts), and came in second in ridings like Notre-Dame-de Grace. While the Parti Québécois has lost official party status, Québec Solidaire has nowhere to go but up.

Some Parts of the CAQ Platform

Though there is well-deserved open hostility to the CAQ, especially in Montreal, I feel it is necessary to point out some of the better aspects of their platform.

First, with regards to healthcare, it is utterly ridiculous that in 2018 when we can order anything from donuts to computers online, we still have to navigate obnoxious phone systems just to get a doctor’s appointment. The CAQ’s healthcare platform includes making it so that we can make doctors’ appointments online. They also call for better access to first line healthcare to alleviate the burdens on emergency rooms, which currently have wait times of up to 30 hours.

The CAQ also wants to make conditions better for nurses, hiring more of them full-time, eliminating mandatory overtimes, and revising nurse-to-patient ratios. Since everything from blood taking to bandages to administering medication often falls to nurses, supporting them is key to improving the health care system.

The CAQ plan to invest more in our infrastructure. Anyone who drives knows our roads and highways are a disaster, so the ten billion they proposed over eleven years would give them a much-needed overhaul. They also want to invest in electrical transportation and innovation to create jobs and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

Things may look bleak right now, but it’s not all that bad. Keep hoping and keep fighting and we can build a better Quebec together.

* Featured image of Québec Solidaire co-spokespeople Manon Massé and Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois on election night via socialist.ca

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

The late August heat may have you sweating like summer, but there is one sign that fall is just around the corner: election posters are everywhere. With the 2018 Quebec Election campaign in full swing, it’s time for another FTB Election Poll!

Just like the real election, it’s one vote per person, unlike the real election, you can change your vote as many times as you like right up until Thursday, September 27th at 11:59pm.

While the winner of the real election gets to form government, the winner of our poll gets an official endorsement article written on behalf of Forget the Box readers.

We’ve included all the major parties and a few of the more interesting options among the 21 officially registered provincial parties. If there’s one you would like to add, please feel free to do so.

One more thing to consider: we’re not asking who you think will win the election or even who you will actually be voting for, but rather who you want to win. So while you may plan on voting strategically on the first of October, in this poll we encourage you to vote with your heart.

You can vote below or in the sidebar of any site page:

Who would you like to win the 2018 Quebec Election?
  • Conservative Party of Québec 20%, 9 votes
    9 votes 20%
    9 votes - 20% of all votes
  • Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) 18%, 8 votes
    8 votes 18%
    8 votes - 18% of all votes
  • Québec Solidaire (QS) 16%, 7 votes
    7 votes 16%
    7 votes - 16% of all votes
  • Nouveau Parti Démocratique du Québec (NPDQ) 13%, 6 votes
    6 votes 13%
    6 votes - 13% of all votes
  • I Don't Live in Quebec 11%, 5 votes
    5 votes 11%
    5 votes - 11% of all votes
  • Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) 7%, 3 votes
    3 votes 7%
    3 votes - 7% of all votes
  • Green Party of Québec (PVQ) 4%, 2 votes
    2 votes 4%
    2 votes - 4% of all votes
  • None of the Above 2%, 1 vote
    1 vote 2%
    1 vote - 2% of all votes
  • Parti Québécois (PQ) 2%, 1 vote
    1 vote 2%
    1 vote - 2% of all votes
  • Parti Nul 2%, 1 vote
    1 vote 2%
    1 vote - 2% of all votes
  • Parti Marxiste-Léniniste du Québec 2%, 1 vote
    1 vote 2%
    1 vote - 2% of all votes
  • Parti Culinaire du Québec 2%, 1 vote
    1 vote 2%
    1 vote - 2% of all votes
  • Bloc Pot 0%, 0 votes
    0 votes
    0 votes - 0% of all votes
Total Votes: 45
Voters: 45
August 28, 2018 - October 2, 2018
Voting is closed

* Featured image by Tony Webster via WikiMedia Commons

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.

 

 

 

With Québec Solidaire (QS) talking like they aren’t just hoping for a better result than last time and really want to form government come the next Quebec election, there has been one burning question on the minds of their supporters, casual observers and people at all familiar with how the party functions: just who would be in charge if they are successful. After all, they do have two spokespeople/defacto leaders.

This had been the case long before Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois and Manon Massé were elected to fill the posts. But up until now, QS was never really a contender. Now, with the implosion of the Parti Québécois (PQ) on the horizon (I really think they’re almost done) and people looking for a new alternative to the Liberals, the question of just who would hold power in a potential QS government becomes incredibly relevant.

Yesterday, we got an answer and it’s one that could significantly change the Quebec political landscape if enacted:

 

Inspired by models employed in various republics around the world, the QS plan would strip the Premier of some powers and give them to the elected MNAs and a newly important role of Vice-Premier (or Vice Premier Ministre in French). The Vice-Premier would serve as parliamentary leader whereas the Premier would be a chief executive, a head of state.

And just who would serve in which role? Well, QS members will vote on that in spring 2018.

While Nadeau-Dubois assured viewers in his Facebook video that the plan would work within the current system, it would certainly signal a change from business as usual in the National Assembly.

Leave it to QS to answer a simple question about how their party works with a challenge to the powers of the premier and a proposal that would fundamentally change the Quebec democratic process for generations if it comes to pass.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois officially confirmed he intends to run both as Québec Solidaire’s candidate in the Gouin by-election and to become the party’s spokesperson.

“Because I am a leftist, because I am a sovereignist and because it’s time, really time, to put an end to the political impasse in Quebec, I am joining Quebec Solidaire,” he announced during his long-awaited and entirely expected press conference on Thursday morning.

He used the opportunity to call for both a fusion with Option Nationale and for the ousting of Quebec’s ruling political class as a whole.

The political class has betrayed Quebec

“I am joining a political party because I believe the political class that has ruled us, in Quebec, for 30 years must be removed from power” was the first thing out of his mouth. The new candidate did not mince his words regarding the Liberal Party of Quebec and the Parti Québécois.

“This political class has betrayed Quebec. It always puts its friends – the big corporations, the engineering firms, the doctors’ lobby – before the people of Quebec,” he accused. “Whether in power or not, whether red or blue, it always makes the same choices.”

Although he stated that he believes Quebec Solidaire could collaborate with the PQ, he made it clear that a merger between the two parties was not on the table. He made subtle jabs at Jean-François Lisée’s focus on identity politics and the party’s position on the secularism debate.

Courting parties and militants

“Québec Solidaire can and must become a leading political force,” claimed Nadeau-Dubois. He believes that Quebec Solidaire can rally the people who are interested in a sovereign, progressive Quebec, but not in identity politics.

According to him, the first step on that path is to negotiate a fusion with Option Nationale, which he called the “only party that shared our vision for a society that is progressive, independent and inclusive.”

The new leader of ON, Sol Zanetti, welcomed this overture in a prudently worded press release immediately after. It said that ON was open to the possibility of negotiating and that it could represent an “important, exciting and mobilising step for Quebec.” However, it also stated that any fusion of ON with another political party must be voted on by its members at a national congress.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois also wants to put more efforts into recruiting interesting candidates for QS. He admitted that he would love for some of his colleagues on the recent Quebec tour Faut qu’on se parle (We need to talk) to join the ranks.
Furthermore, he called on every QS supporter to get directly involved in the party.

“I am calling on everyone from my generation, in fact on everyone who still believes, to join, like me, the ranks of Québec Solidaire,” he urged, “It is still possible to do big things. I believe in it, but we will have to do it together. Come work with us to change Quebec.”

* Photos by Mirna Djukic

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.