Posts Tagged ‘jean charest’
With the latest polls indicating that the PQ is within a hair’s breath of a majority, many of us – at least, those of us who disagree with Marois’s “pure laine or go home” vision of Quebec, are probably thinking about the best way to stop that from happening. And I’ve heard a lot of talk lately from anglos or other anti-PQ voters about voting “strategically”.
Here’s why I think that’s a dumb idea.
Polls can be wrong. They often are. Witness the last federal election, or, more recently, the provincial election in Alberta. Countless other examples. Polls have a margin of error; they rely on small sample sizes; people lie or change their minds. Just because you heard things would go one way in the polls doesn’t mean they can’t go entirely another way.
You don’t know what everyone else will do. The Quebec electorate is notoriously unpredictable and can turn on a dime. So-called “strategic” voting assumes that you do. But if you’re wrong? Your strategic move could end up delivering exactly the opposite result. For instance, voting for the CAQ in a riding where the Liberals are assumed to be out of contention (or vice-versa)? That could put the PQ in power, if there’s enough vote-splitting between the Liberals and the CAQ.
You could end up voting for someone even worse… and what if they win? In my riding, a longtime Pequiste stronghold, the only party running even close to the PQ in the polls is Quebec Solidaire. Now, I know a lot of people like QS, but they pretty much stand for everything I disagree with the most — anti-democracy, hard-line socialism, nationalism, anti-Israel, pro-anarchy, you name it. A “strategic” vote for the QS might make logical sense in terms of preventing a PQ majority, but I’d never do it. After all, they could lose, and then I’ll have voted for a party I don’t believe in and actually hate intently for nothing. Or, worse yet, they could win… and then I’ll have helped elect a local MP from a party that I pretty much loathe with every fibre of my being. Not to mention, the QS holding the balance of power would very likely help, not stymie, the PQ’s drive towards sovereignty. Nope, better to be one of a few people voting Liberal in a riding where they have no hope. At least I’ll be able to look myself in the mirror the next morning.
It hurts democracy by providing all the wrong incentives to politicians. Jean Charest lost a lot of respect at the outset of the campaign when, right out of the gate, he warned anglophones and federalists not to vote for the CAQ or anyone else because it would play right into the PQ’s hands. Now, I’m a Liberal supporter, but I wasn’t the only one who was pissed. Meanwhile, Marois has been using similar tactics, warning hard-core separatists not to vote for Quebec Solidaire or Option Nationale lest they cost her a majority. The fact is, people don’t like to be told to vote “against” something; they’d sooner vote “for” something. And in an election where most people are holding their noses and voting for the least-worst option anyway, outright calls for strategic voting merely encourage this type of behaviour among politicians. If we ourselves admit to voting tactically instead of for what we believe in, how can we then turn around and accuse the politicians of failing to give us something to believe in? It’s up to us to demand it from our representatives.
There will be a September 5th. One way or the other (or the other… or the other…), we’ll wake up Wednesday morning to election results. And, regardless of how things turn out, you’ll have to live with how you cast your vote. The only vote you’ll never regret is the one for the party that best represents the vision of the Quebec that you wish to live in on September 5th. Any other vote will only leave you with a sour taste in your mouth, no matter how things turn out.
Remember to vote on Tuesday. And when you do, vote your conscience.
Polls are one thing; money is another. What can we gauge from the fundraising of the major Quebec political parties, and what can it tell us about the possible election outcome?
According to the Directuer général des élections du Québec, there have been 33,547 donations in 2012 to date to Quebec’s political parties, totalling just over $5.3 million dollars.
…it’s off to the polls we go. Quebecers will vote in the provincial election that some are dubbing the “tuition election” on September 4th.
While it’s true that Charest has always been better at campaigning than at governing, after nearly a decade in power, it’s likely to be somebody else’s turn at the helm. And while Quebec public opinion can turn on a dime (just ask the NDP), all indications are that the “somebody else” will be Pauline Marois and the PQ. And in this election, the anger against Charest’s Liberals — over the tuition hike issue, over the corruption scandals, and over various ills, perceived or real over the years — will be tough for him to overcome with mere campaign promises.
Marois, for her part, has done a good job of positioning the PQ as the de facto alternative for those angry with the status quo. The party was in freefall and chaotic disarray a few months ago, but by falling back on their two stalwart issues — language and unions — they’ve managed to rebound impressively. The student movement claims it will remain neutral, but in reality, it has no love lost for the CAQ and its plans to also hike tuition, and the Quebec Solidaire is unlikely to form a government. So the PQ, with its red-square-wearing stunts, becomes the default choice. The students rarely vote in droves, but the union folks do, and we can expect a lot of separatist rhetoric combined with chants of “solidarité” in the streets over the next few weeks.
Will a PQ government mean another referendum? Not necessarily. Marois is promising a lot of fighting with Ottawa but is remaining coy on the r-word, perhaps recognizing that people are tired of talking about the issue. Still, though, there is less support than ever from the ROC for Quebec staying a part of Canada, and with nearly two decades gone since the last go-around, anything can happen.
But I for one am not panicking. Life will go on. Quebec is unlikely to separate, even with a PQ government. Ironically, the rights of anglos and minorities sometimes do better during a PQ mandate, while they’re busy governing, than during a Liberal mandate, when the PQ can snipe from the opposition sidelines.
Prediction: PQ minority government.
The student tuition protests have dragged on for 14 weeks now and show no sign of ending anytime soon. With the city under siege and anger rising, the media has been flooded with analysis and op-ed pieces of all stripes. But there are some things that nobody’s saying, probably because they’re afraid to rock the boat. That doesn’t make them any less true, though.
How has this winter been lousy? Let us count the ways…
The Habs just wrapped up their worst season in recent history. After finishing dead last in the East and the third worst team in the entire league. This season saw local favourite Mikey Cammalleri shipped off to Calgary in the middle of a game, coach Jacques Martin fired mid-season and replaced — albeit temporarily — by “maudite anglais” backup Randy Cunneyworth, and — finally — some housecleaning in the front office that saw Pierre Gauthier and Bob Gainey get the long-awaited boot. The prospect of drafting high is small consolation to the fans, and it’s clear that we’re in for a long painful rebuilding process. Meanwhile, there might not even be any hockey at the start of next season, as the threat of lockout looms. Might be time to start taking an interest in another sport. The Montreal Impact just went MLS this season… any footy fans out there?
It was an unseasonably (some would claim unreasonably) warm winter, with very little snow and summer-like temperatures that saw crowds of spectators take in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in shorts. For those of us who actually like winter — and, y’know, for businesses who make money from it — it was a lousy year. Sure, the naysayers will be happy, but I’m still bemoaning my waste of a ski season. Enough with this global warming already; I miss winter, dammit!
I’ve been saying it since my student days: Quebec’s tuition freeze needs to go. And it looks like this time, it might well happen, as Jean Charest has sworn he won’t cave. Of course, the student union groups are having none of it, out protesting shit-disturbing as they claim they’ll settle for nothing less than free education. Never mind that the numbers don’t support their cause, or that the whole concept of a student strike is nonsensical when you consider that the only people it hurts are the students.
Public opinion is not on the side of the student groups this time around (unless you consider the ever-opportunistic PQ, always trolling for votes). Even many students have had enough, with at least one case of a successful injunction by a student who just wants to go to class and (gasp!) get the education he’s paying for.
The fact that Quebecers pay by far the lowest tuition in Canada and still will after the hike, or the fact that enrollment is lower here than it is in provinces with higher tuition, or even the generous increases in bursaries, none of those arguments are going to sway anyone. And that’s because the so-called students — who are actually political wannabes with romanticized notions of the 60s who enrol in one class per semester so they can live off the student fee contributions of actual students — don’t want to compromise; they just want their names in the paper, and maybe a chance to smash stuff.
And before you go accusing me of being dismissive of an important issue, we’ve lived this all before. Many times. I’ve written about it before. Many times. The only difference is that this time, something might actually change.
The other day, a conversation thread on Facebook about the online petition demanding Jean Charest’s resignation turned into a friendly debate/discussion about Quebec politics. The comments posted by a number of people were interesting and varied, and at one point, the discussion became about the accountability of politicians to the people they serve, and the nature of democracy, kicked off by the following comment by Phil:
My Quebec resembles the Swiss or Swedish kind of socialism way with shelter and food as a basic human rights, one where large decisions are made in a perpetual referendum where everyone vote and gets a say in where tax money goes. Out with representatives and in with True democracy.
Alexandre expanded on the thought in a follow-up comment:
The democracy you describe is strangely similar to the one I have in mind, one where each issue debated at the political level needs to be voted on by mini-referendums (by computer votes, secured, etc.). Ultimately, we could downsize the government significantly and use that kind of system to steer all the debates. Do you want an investigation on the construction industry: Yes, No… Political parties would then have 1 month on big issue and 2 weeks on smaller issues to inform, convince and steer the population to vote and then the vote would be held and the PEOPLE would chose the outcome, totally oblivious to any party in power at the moment, with no veto, no muzzling, just the people choosing their way. That would be true democracy.
I’ve heard these arguments before. They’re the basis for the anti-Charest petition, and, in fact, are at the heart of the political system itself. How much of an obligation do politicians have to vote according to the mood of their constituents? How far can – or should – they go in using opinion polls as a basis to govern? And at what point do they no longer represent the people who put them in office, by ignoring them too much?
We don’t live in a democracy. We live in a representative democracy. That means, we vote every once in a while for people to represent us and make the decisions of governing on our behalf. If we don’t like their decisions, we can vote them out of office. But we don’t put every decision to a direct vote, and I don’t think we realistically could, or even should.
A pure democracy would be impractical. It would get bogged down with the logistics of endless votes. It would cause a self-selection bias with low turnout and only the fringe minority casting ballots. It would force people to make decisions on issues that they know little or nothing about, because – unlike politicians – they have day jobs and can’t possibly keep up with every issue that elected officials and their paid staff spend time on.
And, more importantly, a pure democracy would be irresponsible, even if we could implement it practically. Why? Because a majority-rules only system has no built-in protections for minorities. “Do you want an investigation into the construction industry?” seems like a fairly straightforward question - if the population wants it, do it; if not, don’t. But what about other questions, like, “Should people have to prove that they can speak French before being allowed to vote?” A 2007 CROP poll showed majority support for the idea, which went much further than even the Marois-proposed legislation at the time. How about, “should people be allowed to wear a hijab in the workplace?” Do we take France’s example and strip the rights of religious minorities, just on the majority’s say-so?
And hey, just look at what happened when the Habs started letting people vote on the three stars of the game. Agree or disagree with the old star rankings, at least they were usually reflective of the game itself, and players from the opposing team would earn stars if their performance merited it. Now, with Price getting top star virtually every game, it’s turned into a joke. Good thing it means next to nothing. But now imagine a similar system in place for things that actually matter.
Governing is already largely about a popularity contest. If governments stray too far from what the people want, they pay the price on election day. It’s why they already rely so heavily on polling data and public opinion in order to govern. But to take it a step further and assume that all significant decisions should be taken to a vote would be to make matters all that much worse.
No, I’m not in favour of the nanny-state approach or the “father knows best” idea of governing. I don’t think our politicians know best. I think we need lots of scrutiny and checks and balances to avoid letting them do whatever they want.
But I also think that decisions sometimes need to be made that aren’t just reflective of what the mood of the people is on a particular day. Sometimes, people with a little bit of inside or expert knowledge about a situation are better qualified to make the kinds of day-to-day decisions that it takes to run a government.
And that’s why a pure democracy wouldn’t work, and a representative democracy – to borrow an old, tired, Churchill-ism, is the worst system, except for all the other ones we’ve tried.
There will be no user fees for healthcare in Quebec after all:
Quebecers quickly organized large street demonstrations when the government announced it would charge taxpayers a $200-a-year health premium, then bill patients another $25 for each hospital visit.
[ . . . ]
Quebec’s user fees would have brought an estimated $500 million a year to the provincial treasury.
The province says it now has to find another way to fill that budget shortfall; health care costs in the province are now more than $20 billion per year and are projected to grow five per cent annually.
Here’s a thought: How about we start by scrapping $20 million annual budget for the Office de la langue française?
The election that wasn’t supposed to matter, everyone said. A snoozer. A mere footnote in the headlines. Most people in Quebec slept through it. But surprisingly, it may end up mattering more than people think. Here are a few reasons why:
- A slim Liberal majority: Much slimmer than anyone, including Charest, was predicting. He’ll have to work hard to win his votes in the National Assembly. Any resignations, by-elections or MP absences could be costly.More importantly, the Liberals had been predicted to win seventy-something seats, not the sixty-six they ended up with. So this is a disappointment for Charest, who, even though he got his majority, has to contend with the fact that he dropped in support over the last few days of the campaign. Most of the people voting Liberal did it holding their noses, anyway; Charest’s not particularly loved, he’s just seen as the best-of-the-worst right now. Majority or not, Charest will have to tread very carefully.
- Marois’s bait-and-switch: I’m referring to the S-word, of course. Sovereignty. A word that was scarcely mentioned by the PQ during the campaign, but was the main theme of Marois’s speech last night.Most of the people who voted PQ yesterday do not necessarily want Quebec to separate. I’d venture to say, most of them don’t want it. They voted PQ because they were disillusioned Adequistes, or because they don’t like Charest, or because they felt that the PQ should be in opposition again, or for a variety of reasons.But Marois is neatly implying that, with 51 seats won, she now has a mandate to work towards sovereignty. And it’s hard to argue with her rhetoric, because, after all, downplaying the S-word during a campaign isn’t the same as disavowing it. Marois’s argument is that the PQ has always had sovereignty as its raison d’être (true) and that people voting for them are doing so knowing that, so they’re justified in their claim that the PQ’s rise in fortune during this election implies a rise in support for sovereignty.Of course, Stephen Harper helped her here a lot, by voluntarily demonizing himself as Monsieur anti-Quebec last week. Harper’s rhetoric not only helped the PQ jump in the polls and capture more seats than predicted; it also gave the PQ an excuse to start beating the sovereigntist drums again.And what better time to do so than during an opposition period? Marois knows she has about three or four years, at least, to hammer sovereignty at every turn. And as long as Harper is in office federally, she’ll have lots of help. No wonder her speech last night sounded more like a victory speech than Charest’s did.
- Back to the future: The 2007 election was hailed as a landmark, “breakthrough” election for Quebec. The ADQ won official opposition status, the PQ was seen as increasingly irrelevant, and we were finally going to get a “normal”, left-right political spectrum where we were talking about actual issues, you know, like education and healthcare and silly things like that. Single-issue voting along strictly federalist-separatist lines? Nah, we were past that. We were evolved.So much for that.The rightist ADQ, which was so fond of fence-sitting on the nationalist question while insisting that Quebecois were past it, has disintegrated in this election. Seems we’re not past it after all. Now, we’re back to a two-party, Liberal-PQ, federalist-sovereigntist divide. Never mind that most of those voting PQ were not voting for separation; it’s the spin that will matter now, and the spin doctors are hard at work convincing everyone that this is exactly what it means. And so, we regress into old patterns, and the issues can be damned.
- Voter apathy: As predicted, the election had the worst turnout in Quebec’s history with only 57% of people in the province bothering to cast a vote. That would mean that there were more people who stayed home (43%) than people who voted for the winning party (42% of those who voted). Again, it’s not too surprising; people are fed up with elections, felt this one was superfluous and unnecessary; were distracted by the goings-on in Ottawa; were just too cold to go to the polling stations. Whatever. But it means that all the political leaders are going to have to do some serious thinking about how to get the public engaged in politics again. Conventional wisdom holds that lower voter turnouts are better for the Liberals, and higher turnouts favour the PQ, which doesn’t say much for Charest’s claim of a strong governing mandate. Apathy is always bad for democracy.
- The rise of Québec Solidaire: Amir Khadir’s election in Mercier means that the far-left QS now has representation in the National Assembly. So we’ve gone from right-middle-left to left-lefter-leftest. Kind of like a university campus political spectrum, really. And so appropriate for Quebec. For those who think it’s just a blip, remember that the ADQ also started with only one MNA – Mario Dumont. Will the Québec Solidaire be the next third party to rise and fall? Stay tuned.
- The federal implications: And this one’s the biggie. Quebec’s election will matter not only to Quebecers, but to all Canadians. With Ottawa in crisis, yesterday’s election may have a big impact on how things shake out over the next few weeks until Parliament resumes in January. The unity question is suddenly an issue again (thanks a whole lot, Stephen) and that’s going to influence how people view the Liberal leadership question, the coalition question, and the potential results of a possible federal election, should the government fall. It’s something that all the federal leaders are thinking about very carefully.
So, the election may end up mattering a great deal. Those of you who were among the 43% of eligible Quebec voters who stayed home yesterday might want to reflect on that.
Stephane Dion has resigned as Federal Liberal leader, succumbing to immense party pressure. Wait a second, I seem to be experiencing déjà vu; didn’t he already resign in October? At any rate, this time he’s really gone, or so he says, and we’re sure to face a snap Liberal leadership vote. Iggy and Rae are the two chief contenders right now. If Rae gets elected Liberal leader, I’m going to have to find a new federal party to support.
Meanwhile, Jean Charest’s Liberals were re-elected with what CTV just officially projected will be a majority government. On the one hand, between the cold weather and general voter apathy, I have a feeling the turnout numbers will be record lows. On the other hand, the majority means no more provincial elections for a few years, which is the best news I’ve heard in a while.
On the Quebec campaign trail, news emerges today that Pauline Marois resorted to desperation tactics, taking the spin game a step too far:
The Parti Québécois instructed supporters to email media blogs throughout Quebec saying they thought PQ leader Pauline Marois won the debate.
According to a story in the Journal de Montréal, Marois’s press aide Brann Blanchette-Emond instructed supporters to stress “the power of Madame Marois’s arguments and her ardour.”
“You have to take the approach that you were undecided and now are going to vote for the PQ.”
Ouch! I guess nobody is confident in Marois’s abilities, least of all Marois, who also grabbed headlines today for admitting that the forced municipal mergers were a disaster. Charest hardly has to do anything, with the way Marois keeps shooting herself in the foot.
Meanwhile in Ottawa, the brand-new “strengthened” minority Conservative government, which cost taxpayers a $300 million election, is on the verge of collapse after only a few weeks. Since nobody wants a third election, the talk is turning to coalition government, which should last about, oh, five minutes.
Couldn’t we just declare a moratorium on all elections for a while?