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.

 

So how do I feel about the Quebec 2014 election results? Hmm, well, that’s a tough one. Really, it is.

I’ll break it down for you:

The Good: Xenophobia lost hardcore

This election may be remembered as a historic loss for the PQ and an end to Pauline Marois’ long political career, but that’s not the real story. This was primarily a rejection of the Charter, state-sanctioned xenophobia and the politics of ethnic and cultural division. And that is a very good thing.

Marois wasn’t elected to ban hijabs and turbans and when she staked her re-election on it, she lost resoundingly. I doubt the PQ, or any other Quebec political party for that matter, will try using extreme identity politics again.

I’m proud that the place I call home won’t be known internationally as the racist part of Canada for much longer. That was sooo 2007.

I’d also like to congratulate Manon Massé for winning in Sainte Marie-St-Jacques. Quebec Solidaire now has three MNAs and a strong, committed activist now has a voice in the National Assembly.

marois resigning

The Duh: Liberal Victory

It makes sense. After PKP’s fist bump and Marois desperately trotting out Charter supporters who apparently had no clue what the proposed law was supposed to do (seriously, Janette Bertrand needs a better rental agreement and maybe a psychiatrist, not a government edict) it became apparent that the PQ was going to lose power.

I know that barring a political wave (they do happen here from time to time), Quebec wasn’t ready for a QS or Green government and the CAQ was fast becoming redundant. That leaves the Liberals.

I was fully expecting a Liberal victory and thought the prospect of Couillard as premier for a bit was a necessary evil that I could endure. Except…

The Bad: It’s a Liberal Majority

I like a minority government situation. It forces the party in power to either work with the other parties and by extension the voters who put them there or pull a Marois and try to re-work the social fabric and go out in a blaze of wealthy Islamic fundamentalist McGill students stealing your pool time.

It also sends a strong message about voter intentions. Giving an opposition party minority government status is more a rejection of the outgoing party than approval of the incoming one.

In 2012, people voted against Jean Charest, Bill 78 and his austerity agenda more than they voted for the PQ. It was clear to almost everyone except Marois, but then again, she also thought the Charter was a good idea and believed that PKP wouldn’t stab her in the back, not the sharpest tack in the drawer.

If this time around the result had been a Liberal minority, it would have been clear that people voted against Marois and the Charter and the Liberals happened to benefit. Instead we have a majority and the Couillard can claim to have a mandate from voters, because, well, he does.

A few months from now, very few will remember how we ended up with the PLQ in power. When Couillard passes austerity measure after austerity measure, tries to privatize healthcare and raise tuition again, there won’t be anyone standing up saying “dude, you’re only here because the last premier was a racist nutjob and an international embarrassment.”

Couillard isn’t Jean Charest. He’s more of a placeholder PLQ leader who found himself with a majority government because of a strategically inept PQ. I can only hope he recognizes that and doesn’t try to foist an agenda on people who were, for the most part, listening to what the PQ was saying when they voted Liberal.

If instead he tries to be Charest, we’re in for four years of social unrest that may make the Maple Spring look like a day in the park.

A wise man once spoke ill of political parties. He suggested that they should exist only for as long as it takes to accomplish their goals, and that once this is done they disband, for they tend not to age very well. The longer a political party continues to amble along, the higher the chance it will grow inept and corrupt. It will lose sight of its original purpose and become increasingly defensive in trying to justify its existence. Given enough time it will become the personification of all the errors that it originally sought to correct.

The wise man that I’m paraphrasing is none other than René Lévesque, and he was speaking specifically of the future of the Parti Québécois from around the time he resigned as premier back in 1985.

Much to ‘Oncle René’s’ likely chagrin, the PQ has become the tired old party of Quebec politics and the 2014 election has demonstrated their current incarnation is wholly unfit to govern the province because of how it chooses to self-identify. Marois made the decision to make this election about institutionalizing discriminatory hiring practices and running headlong into another interminable round of go-nowhere constitutional negotiations. I cannot recall another instance in Canadian politics in which a major political party has been so thoroughly out of touch with the population it represents; and therein lies the problem.

The PQ has demonstrated, unequivocally, that they call the shots on who they consider to be Québécois. They, somewhat like the federal Tories, are disinterested in appealing to anyone ‘outside the tribe’, anyone who isn’t already a diehard supporter and, as such, narrowed the margins on who will vote for them by a considerable degree. In sum, those who will vote PQ will have had their minds made up well before the writ was dropped. How anyone in the PQ camp could have thought this was a good idea is beyond me. Perhaps it proves the point – the Parti Québécois is so convinced of the justness of their cause they’re completely blind to how they’re perceived by the public they ostensibly hope to represent.

And so today we pull the trigger, but let’s face it: the decision has already been made. Philippe Couillard will be the next premier of Quebec and it’s entirely possible he’ll win enough seats to form a majority government.

This reality is not a consequence of any grand vision or sensible plan on the part of the Quebec Liberal Party or its leader, but entirely as a result of how they responded to the unmitigated political disaster of a campaign put on the Parti Québécois.

In boxing it’s called ‘rope-a-dope’ and Muhammad Ali used it to successfully defeat George Foreman in the 1974 Rumble in the Jungle bout held in Kinshasa. The technique involves one man taking a defensive position from the outset and letting his opponent flail away until exhaustion, at which point the defender begins exploiting the inevitable mistakes and subsequent weaknesses until overcoming his opponent. By propping himself against the edge of the ring, Ali was able to transfer the shock of Foreman’s repeated blows onto the elasticity of the ropes rather than his own body. All of Foreman’s effort was for naught, and the more frantically he tried to land the perfect punch the more he opened himself up to increasingly debilitating strikes.

Forty years later the same basic concept may have been used by Couillard and his tacticians to expose the xenophobic, intolerant and unreservedly opportunistic péquiste government for what it truly is. And frankly, we’re better off for it. Everyone who ever questioned the PQ’s social-democratic and progressive integrity has been vindicated. We now have actual proof the PQ is more concerned about correcting imagined threats to our culture and bickering with the federal and other provincial governments than it is with the well-being of the people of Quebec.

QC_polling_campaign_2014

In 2013-14 the PQ sold out its base. First they rammed through austerity measures and increases to tuition, alienating itself from the student movement that played an important role in getting Jean Charest evicted from power. Then they proposed a Machiavellian charter ostensibly designed to ensure men and women are equal in our province and that secularism reigns in the civil service, but in reality effectively institutionalizing discriminatory hiring practices and forcing religious minorities – a significant number of whom are women – from their jobs.

So much for social democracy and progressivism.

And then, just when you thought the PQ couldn’t make any more appallingly foolish political decisions, they turn around and hire the union-busting C. Montgomery Burns of Quebec media, Pierre-Karl Péladeau. The man who owns Quebecor and Sun Media/Sun News Network, the media conglomerate nearly single-handedly responsible for all the yellow journalism, anti-Quebec, anti-Canadian and general anti-immigrant sentiment in the whole country, this was to be the economic wizard of a newly independent Quebec.

Needless to say all of this didn’t sit very well with Quebec voters. On the idea of a referendum Quebecers of all languages, religions and cultural backgrounds are emphatically opposed. The simple reality is that we’re poor, a have-not province, and independence isn’t going to change that (other than eliminating equalization payments and creating a lot more debt). The people of Quebec want jobs, good jobs, jobs they can work until they retire that will afford them a modest middle class lifestyle and the means to raise a family. Dreams of independence went over like a lead zeppelin – what are the people here to dream of when their bread and butter concerns aren’t being addressed? And the more Pauline Marois or Françoise David pushed the dream of an independent country, the more they pushed themselves away from a sizable group of people in this province who are savvy enough to question the near fanatical devotion of separatist politicians to the cause.

We’ve been preached to enough. The people of Quebec have toiled for many generations under those who proselytised to the masses with ideas of future paradise in exchange for present-day suffering.

By the end of the day we may have four years of uninterrupted Liberal governance to look forward to and a neurosurgeon for a premier. We’ll have a man who got his start under Charest but has so far managed to keep his name out of Charbonneau Commission hearings. We’ll have a man who doesn’t believe multi-lingualism will threaten the sanctity of Quebec culture. We’ll have a man who was either in cahoots with or was duped by Arthur Porter (and I’ll add the list of names in the latter camp is far longer than those in the former) and who made the choice to legally deposit his earnings from some years working in Saudi Arabia into an offshore tax haven, rather than his home province where he’d lose about half to the state. Perhaps most importantly, we’ll have a man with enough political intelligence to be against another referendum and virulently opposed to the very essence of Bill 60. In my opinion, given the poverty of our provincial politics, this is the lesser evil, the best-case scenario.

But don’t take this as any kind of personal endorsement either. I’m not impressed across the board, and haven’t yet decided whether or not I’ll spoil my ballot. This is merely an opinion on the campaign and what I believe to be the likely outcome, no more or less.

We asked our readers to tell us who they planned to vote for in the 2014 Quebec Election. When our poll closed at midnight, the results were clear.

With 115 votes cast in total, 50% of people chose Québec Solidaire. The Liberals finished in second place with 33% of the vote and the newly re-vamped Green Party came in third with 11%. The Parti-Québécois and Coalition de l’Avenir du Québec tied for fourth place, garnering three votes apiece and beating out “none of the above” and “not sure yet” who tied for fifth. Option Nationale and “there’s an election?” round off the list, each getting one vote.

Our readers’ reasons for voting the way they did are most likely quite varied and some may even be strategic. Blocking the PQ is very in this year and the best party to do that with depends on where you live (people living in Rosemont and the Plateau, for example, have a better chance of stopping Marois with a QS vote than one for the PLQ).

So I’m not going to try and guess their reasons. What I will do is mention what the top three parties on our survey are offering.

2014 quebec election poll

Quebec Solidaire: A new approach

A vote for Quebec Solidaire is a vote for a new social justice-focused way of doing things. It’s a vote against the old two-party system, a way to vote against Marois without re-hiring the PLQ which Quebec voters fired just 18 months ago.

They are are offering a renewed investment in social programs, healthcare (some CLSCs will stay open 24 hours in their plan), a tuition freeze leading to free education and free public transit in the next ten years. These all serve as job creation programs, too. QS definitely supports workers’ rights but won’t sacrifice the environment for the economy as they are opposed to fracking for shale gas on Anticosti Island.

Instead of pie in the sky (not to be confused with the pie on their poster about a more equal society), they have a plan to pay for all their projects. In keeping with their approach, it relies largely on taxing the banks more.

While QS is a sovereigntist party, they’re not offering the xenophobic vision of it that the PQ is. Instead, they want to reform Quebec democracy by bringing in proportional representation then create inclusive constituent assemblies with the goal of concentrating less power in federal hands and put the result of those assemblies to a vote in a referendum.

Quebec Liberals: What You’d Expect

As for the Liberals, who were on top of our poll for a while and by all indications will form the next government, well, we pretty much know what we can expect. After all, we just got over nine years of PLQ rule.

Now Phillippe Couillard is not Jean Charest, He seems more rational, calmer and less autocratic than our former premier was at the end. He has also promised to slow down shale gas exploration, though not abandon it completely (his party was the one who first brought up the idea) and decided against re-instating the previous PLQ government’s tuition hike, opting to keep Marois’ indexation plan instead.

That doesn’t mean that the Libs are no longer the party of austerity, quite the opposite. It’s just that their austerity doesn’t include strong restrictions on personal and religious freedoms to please the socially conservative the way the PQ version does through their charter. They’re also committed federalists and overall have the best chance of replacing the PQ.

quebec leaders debate

Green Party of Quebec: Strong platform, small slate of candidates

The Green Party of Quebec under new leader Alex Tyrrell are focused on eco-socialism, which for them includes no shale gas fracking and free public transit in five years (instead of the decade in the QS platform). They are also the only party completely opposed to the Charter in any form (the PLQ, QS and CAQ all have versions of it, albeit less overreaching than the PQ version).

To be honest I love their platform and voted for them myself in this poll. To also be honest, they’re not running a full slate of candidates, so even if there was a green wave (in the volatile world of Quebec politics, anything is possible) they still couldn’t form government.

So there you have it. FTB readers have spoken and now you have until 8pm to vote, if you haven’t already. For info: monvote.qc.ca

 

It’s enough to make any true bleu Quebec nationalist quake in their boots. It’s also enough to make Quebec Anglos who already feels persecuted raise up their fists.

On one hand, we have the threat of hordes of Ontario and BC students trying to steal Quebec’s election. On the other we have an all-powerful PQ practicing Anglo voter suppression and a sympathetic electoral body playing along.

It’s enough to make moderates take sides and pick up (verbal) arms. It’s enough to make people who had no intention of voting when the election was called try and do just that.

It’s also enough to distract from what the real game here is. This has nothing to do with the linguistic or national divide, it’s not even about students, though they are the ones who will bear the brunt of the bullshit.

marois casseroles

This all started when a now former electoral officer in St-Marie St-Jacques raised a now discredited red flag about an abnormal amount of out-of-province students trying to register to vote. What followed was a back and forth in the media reminiscent of those old battles between sovereignists represented by the PQ and federalists represented by the Liberals.

The only problem is that the Liberals don’t really have a chance in SMSJ, they haven’t for decades. Even if a bunch of students originally from elsewhere in Canada did register to vote, it’s unlikely they would vote en masse for a party so many of them were protesting just a couple of years ago.

Quebec Solidaire, on the other hand, is poised to take SMSJ and other left-leaning ridings on the island of Montreal. Thanks to the xenophobic nature of the charter and Marois’ massive miscalculation in making notorious union-buster Pierre Karl Peladeau a candidate, any progressive cred the PQ may have had left seems to be evaporating and they’re getting nervous.

They hope that cries of non-francophone (read: anglo and the “other”) voter fraud help mobilize their nationalist base. Can people afford to take the chance and vote QS when there’s a threat from Ontario?

It’s also a possible out for Marois if she loses the election. The PQ is notorious for discarding leaders that don’t perform well and maybe she thinks that being able to say it was because of “Ontario et le vote étudiant” will allow her to keep her job at the head of the party.

Regardless of the narrow, selfish reasons behind the move, it is having real repercussions. Some are direct and others are much more subtle and insidious.

dgeq box

To vote in Quebec elections, you need to be over 18 years of age, a Canadian citizen and domiciled in Quebec for at least six months. The first two points are objective, the last one is left up to the electoral officer’s discretion.

Basically, a voter needs to prove their intent to stay in Quebec. The electoral officer is supposed to look at where they pay their taxes, which provincial government they have a health card with and other factors and decide if they’re just here for their studies or the long haul.

The government, hoping to keep students paying out-of-province tuition, already makes it hard for them to be officially domiciled here, but now those who did manage to jump through all the appropriate hoops are finding it difficult or impossible to vote here. Unfortunately, it looks like discretion has given way to rejection.

The Directeur général des élections du Québec has been rejecting would-be voters who have all the documents to indicate that they plan to stay and even declared  a candidate ineligible to vote. Whether this is a normal, generally unreported practice in Quebec elections, as some have suggested, or DGEQ officials airing en masse on the side of not wanting the PQ to be able to say the elections were stolen, the damage has been done.

Students are historically a tough group to get to the polls under normal circumstances. Now, with stories out there about how difficult and ultimately fruitless trying to register to vote may be, I wouldn’t be surprised if some who may have tried to vote will just decide to stay home and not deal with the hassle.

And that, in a nutshell, is voter suppression with a Quebecois twist.

Harper would be proud, hell, the GOP would be proud. Marois has taken a strategy directly from the Republican playbook and it seems to be working.

If we don’t want a distinct Quebec culture with American-style electoral politics, there are still a few days to register to vote. QPIRG Concordia and QPIRG McGill are helping students who would like to vote but fear they may be denied or have already tried and would like to try again.

No matter who you want to vote for, or even if you plan to scratch your ballot or vote Parti Nul, if you plan to be in Quebec for most or all of the next government’s mandate, you have a right to have your say.

 

The real targets of the Charter of Quebec Values are the CAQ, Quebec Solidaire and the NDP. Muslims, Sikhs, Jews and Orthodox Christians are just innocent victims caught in political crossfire.

charter of quebec values protestFor decades, Quebec politics split into two camps. Federalists and most anglos voted Liberal provincially and either Liberal or Conservative federally. Soverigntists voted PQ and Bloc.

Progressive voters, especially progressive anglos, didn’t have much choice at all. With the PQ leaning increasingly to the right on social and economic issues, even progressive soverigntists had to hold their noses when voting PQ.

I hate to generalize, but in this case I have to. The PQ has always had two political bases: left-leaning secular soverigntists living predominately in urban areas and ultra-nationalist Catholics in the suburbs and countryside who veer right politically, sometimes to the point if xenophobia.

The nationalist base also flirted with homophobia when openly gay Andre Boisclair was leader. The PQ fell to third place for the first time ever as nationalist right wing voters found refuge in the ADQ, who only had to not rule out the idea of a separate Quebec.

The current incarnation of the ADQ, the Coalition de l’Avenir du Quebec, are separatist at the core but promise not to hold a referendum right away. This allows them to pick up right wing anglos fed up with the Liberals but also take hard right nationalist votes away from the PQ.

Meanwhile, upstart leftist sovereignist parties like QS and Option Nationale threaten to take soft separatist votes. Throw in some progressive federalist voters and lefties who care more about social policy than which flag is flown and the PQ stands to lose seats in their urban enclaves.

In the last federal election, progressive soverigntists who realized Ottawa was the wrong place to fight for independence banded together with progressive federalists and decimated the Bloc, taking a bunch of Liberals down too. The Orange Wave that saw the NDP take most of the seats in Quebec was part love affair with Jack Layton and part rejection of the status quo of Quebec politics.

charter sign

It’s that status quo that the PQ desperately needs to reestablish both provincially and federally. Enter the Charter, with it’s rules against public sector employees wearing “ostentatious” religious attire.

Small crosses are okay as are Star of David and Muslim Crescent trinkets which have no religious meaning whatsoever. Burqas, niquabs, turbans, yarmulkes, kippahs and Orthodox Christian crosses (generally larger than the Catholic ones) aren’t.

The target audience is clearly the right-wing nationalist side of the PQ’s base, but Marois and company probably figure that the reasonable accommodations crowd will go for a ban on turbans and burquas with little prodding. So the marketing push is focused instead on secular leftists, talking about women’s rights and the neutrality of the state.

Arguing that a law which targets specific groups is neutral is a stretch at best, explaining how banning a Jewish man from wearing a kippah or a Sikh from wearing a turban has anything to with women’s rights, meanwhile, is downright impossible. But it doesn’t matter. This strategy gives progressive PQ supporters enough political cover to defend their party without having to admit they support far-right social conditioning.

They’ll also be able to criticize QS, a feminist party, who opposed the charter on principle. Expect a repeat of the baseless accusations that surfaced before the last election, claiming that QS is just a puppet of the NDP.

charter of quebec values ad

Thomas Mulcair opposes the Charter, as do Justin Trudeau and Stephen Harper. In fact, the only federal party supporting it is the Bloc. No surprise they booted Maria Mourani for speaking out against it (and in the process, kicked out a fifth of their caucus and their only female MP and their only representation from the island of Montreal).

The CAQ thinks the Charter goes too far, but does support it when it comes to government employees in a position of power. Their position, squarely seated on top of the fence, makes sense: the Charter plays to right wingers who they covet but it’s also bad for business, their other key demographic.

The Quebec Liberals, predictably, are opposed to the Charter outright. The PQ’s traditional opponent in stark opposition, just like old times.

The PQ’s endgame is not separation, it hasn’t been for years. The threat or promise of it is just another tool to achieve their real goal: bringing back those good ole days when it was them and the Bloc versus the Quebec Liberals and the rest of Canada.

Now Marois can claim that only the PQ and the Bloc speak for Quebec and its values. All she had to do was redefine the values of half her base as those of Quebec.

It doesn’t matter how many people are discriminated against and leave Quebec. It doesn’t matter how many people are accosted in public for no good reason. The only thing that’s actually valuable to her and her party is for Quebec politics to return to the status quo.