Posts Tagged ‘pq’
Normally, I embrace my outsider status. I’m the liberal in a room full of conservatives, the conservative in a room of Liberals. I’m a Jewish person among non-Jews and an atheist among Jews, a bilingual Quebecer in the RoC and a federalist anglo Canadian in Quebec.
I’m accustomed to being the dissenting opinion, the devil’s advocate. I love to debate and I admit I sometimes emphasize the differences just to challenge preconceived notions. In a single day, I can go from seamlessly defending the federalist position to my sovereigntist friends, then meet up with my parents for dinner and try to explain where sovereigntists are coming from and that they have some legitimate points. Even in cases where I am part of the majority, I do my best to pull myself out of the context and take up the dissenting argument, sometimes for the mental exercise and sometimes because I think it’s important. I don’t always succeed in seeing things from the other point of view, but I sure as hell try.
See, the thing is, I abhor echo chambers and mob mentality. I think we humans have a natural tendency to gravitate towards those who think and believe like we do, and in doing so, we fail to truly understand one another or to see things from one another’s point of view. And that’s dangerous. Very, very dangerous. Green Day said it best: “Down with the moral majority; I wanna be a minority.”
But sometimes, you know, it gets lonely.
Now we have Pauline Marois, who has just been elected — by the slimmest of margins — to lead a minority government. She will have to get her agenda past at least one of the opposition parties in order to prop up her government and avoid triggering an election. She spent the entire campaign trail vilifying minorities, spewing racist and xenophobic hatred against anyone with a different skin colour, ethnic background, national origin or — most of all — mother tongue. How ironic (and poetic) that after preaching so much hatred of minorities, she now gets to lead one.
In her victory speech, she appeared to have grasped the implications of this minority government situation rather quickly. Sounding amazingly conciliatory in contrast to the tone she had taken during the campaign, she congratulated the other leaders (which was met with a chorus of boos in the crowd, I might add), tempered her agenda by speaking of cooperation, and even did the unthinkable and spoke a couple of sentences in English. I don’t trust her further than I can throw a truck, but I’m sure I’m not the only anglophone who was watching last night and was actually kind of impressed.
(What happened afterwards was a horrific tragedy, appears to have been the act of a lone crazed gunman, and should be roundly and unequivocally condemned by all decent human beings no matter their political leanings. Violence has no place in politics. We settle our differences at the ballot box, not at gunpoint. Not that this post has anything to do with that. But it needs to be said, with emphasis.)
Anyway, as it turns out, my minority wasn’t as lonely as it seemed during the campaign, where all I would have to say to anyone was that I was voting for the Charest Liberals, only to be greeted with dirty looks and “you WHAT???” I joked to a few people that I would be the only person in my (solidly Péquiste) riding voting Liberal this time around. Turns out, I was one of over 5,000 in my riding… and one of 31% in the whole province. That’s right, the PQ only won 0.7% more of the popular vote than the Liberals did, and their victory hangs on a measly 4 seats. The “silent majority” that Charest had heralded months ago did not materialize, true, but the “silent minority” was much bigger than any of the pundits or pollsters predicted. Sure, many of those people held their noses and cast their vote — myself included. I’m not thrilled with the Liberals. But I think they were a damn sight better than any of the alternatives. And it might’ve been nice to feel during the campaign period that this level of support existed.
I’ve voted for the Charest Liberals when they won a majority government before. So yes, I was technically part of a majority then. But even then, I was a minority — an anglophone, a take-for-granted vote, someone who, I’m told, doesn’t “get” Quebec despite living here my whole life.
So if I’m not a majority in Quebec, surely I am in Canada, right? English-speaking, federalist, born here, not part of any visible minority group… I’m basically the definition of majority when it comes to Canada, right? Not so much. In May of last year, I watched with dismay while the rest of Canada, province after province, went Tory Blue. On that night, I felt a wave of sympathy for Quebec sovereigntists because Quebec clearly chose another path and I could understand how they felt. How we felt. Disconnected. Disillusioned. Not a part of this. A minority within our own country. I’m a heck of a lot more connected to my Canadian identity than to my Quebecois one, but I don’t understand the direction that our country has chosen to turn, and I feel increasingly out of step with it as well. A member of a centre-left minority whose political party of choice was essentially wiped off the political map last May.
It’s a curious facet of the human experience, this instinct we all have to define “us” and “them”, to create artificial divisions and to seek out those among whom we feel comfortable, secure and like family. It’s a defensive reaction, but it’s an understandable one. At heart, most of us revert to our five-year-old selves when we’re afraid. All we really want is someone to say “I understand you. It’s okay.” So we form political parties and social alliances and groups, and we band together and we find common causes to band against, and sometimes it gets really ugly, but sometimes it feels really great, too. I was disgusted by those who threw smoke bombs on the metro, but I could understand those who were out with the pots and pans this spring. I didn’t agree with them, but I understood their desire to feel like they were participating in something bigger than themselves, to feel like they belonged.
Quebec is my home. I was born here, my parents and grandparents were born here. But it often feels like there’s no group for me here. There isn’t a single political party in Quebec that truly represents my views, or even comes close. The Liberals are sort of the best-of-the-worst alternative. But it’s hard to deny that I’m very often out of step with the discourse around me.
Normally, that’s okay. Vive la différence, and we are normally (again, with the exception of the terrible events of last night) very good at having not-always-polite-but-usually-respectful political discourse. I’m happy to debate, to educate or be educated, and to agree to disagree when it’s all said and done. I’ll even happily go out for a beer afterwards.
I’m tired, though. I’m tired of always focusing on how we differ instead of on all the ways in which we’re alike. And there are so many ways, but they always seem to get ignored in politics in favour of emphasizing those differences for political gain. I’m tired of always being an outsider, never part of the group. Never part of the “nous” that Pauline Marois referred to in her campaign, no matter how long my family has been here or how much French I learn. I’m tired of scanning Twitter and reading the many thousands of posts that overwhelmingly reflect the exact opposite of how I think and feel, and I’m tired of the sense of alienation that comes from the feeling that I will never, ever get to experience what it feels like to be part of a majority in this province.
And then the sun rises the next day, and I pick myself up and I remind myself of all the reasons why it’s good to be a minority. Why it’s a strength, not a weakness.
Welcome to being a minority, Mme Marois. I don’t think you’ll necessarily enjoy it. But I hope you learn something.
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 Coalition Avenir Quebec (or CAQ, for short, which really brings to mind a whole host of new acronym joke possibilities) was, if you recall, ahead in polls even before it existed. And now, Legault’s generic statements about wanting to move Quebec “forward” and “focus on the issues that matter” sound just like the tired same-old-same-old, even on the day he announces something that’s supposed to be shiny and new.
Barry Wilson of CTV Montreal called Legault the “flavour of the month” in an editorial that pretty much points out the obvious: Quebecers vote according to fads, which fizzle quickly. Witness the ADQ, which rose to official opposition status under Mario Dumont before virtually disappearing from the electoral map in the following election. Witness the meteoric “Orange Crush” rise of the Federal NDP this past election, which crashed and burned almost days afterwards when people figured out that they’d voted for unqualified candidates who couldn’t speak their language and had never even been to their riding.
Legault is repeating tired old clichés and avoiding saying very much. He’s getting a lot of media attention for it. He’ll have his fifteen minutes in the sun.
But it won’t last. We’ve seen this before. When it comes to politics, there really is nothing new under the sun.
The sudden defection of four high-profile Parti Quebecois MNAs, including Louise Beaudoin, has everyone asking questions, and has Pauline Marois scrambling to defend her leadership of a party that can only be characterized as being in the midst of a full-scale crisis.
And everyone is asking, what the hell happened? How could a party that had a commanding lead in the polls, whose leader won a 93% confidence vote less than two months ago, and who most pundits predicted had a virtual lock on winning the next provincial election, be self-destructing like this?
The ostensible catalyst – a vote on a private member’s bill that would have guaranteed naming rights for a new arena in a bid to attract an NHL team back to Quebec City – was merely the trigger; the ingredients of this turmoil have been marinating much longer than that. That vote has been shelved now anyway, though it’s entirely beside the point.
So what happened in a mere two months?
Well, the NDP happened, for one thing. The media wanted to claim that the Layton sweep of Quebec – and the Bloc Quebecois self-destruction that accompanied it – meant that Quebecers had moved past sovereignty, and were embracing their role as part of a united Canada. Bloggers claimed that sovereignty is dead in Quebec.
Those of us who live here know different. We know that the NDP win here, coupled with the Tory win just about everywhere else, actually led to an increase in support for sovereignty in the aftermath of an election that made us feel more alienated from the rest of Canada than ever.
And the defecting MNAs from the PQ know it too. They see the tide turning, and they’re getting impatient. They’re pushing for a sea change. No more “winning conditions”, no more of Marois’s strategy – so eagerly backed just two short months ago – of putting referendum timing on the back burner and concentrating on winning elections and on governing. They don’t want to govern a province; they want a country. And they feel like fifteen years since the squeaker referendum of 1995 is fifteen years too many.
This position is being made clear by Jean-Martin Aussant, the fourth PQ member to defect and the most openly blunt about his reasons:
“I’m here to work on sovereignty. And I don’t think she’s the one Quebecers will want to follow, at a very high rate, towards sovereignty,” Aussant told a news conference.
“That’s a very cruel statement. It’s a hard one to say. It’s probably a hard one to hear, from them, but that’s what I think.”
And now former Premier Bernard Landry is speaking out, too:
Landry says the PQ has become too complacent and its members, who want a more strident pursuit of the party’s raison d’etre, are now pushing back.
“There are other things (causing this),” Landry told Radio-Canada on Tuesday. He said the pursuit of power should take a back seat to principles — like the quest for independence.
Such a move would represent a strategic shift for a party which, for more than 15 years, has placed its emphasis on governing or winning government — and has simply expressed its hope to hold a vote on independence eventually, whenever the conditions are right.
“Rene Levesque did not found this party to govern the province of Quebec,” Landry said Tuesday. “The obsession should be public service — not taking power. It’s better to take power later — but to take it with dignity.”
The Pequistes who are dialing up the sovereignty-now talk aren’t doing so off the cuff. They’re seeing the same things we are; hearing the same conversations, feeling the same winds in the air. They’re seeing how Stephen Harper in power and Jack Layton in opposition is making many Quebec soft nationalists re-evaluate just how Canadian they feel after all. And they feel like it’s time to strike while the iron is hot.
On the surface, the self-destruction of one sovereignty party and the turmoil of the other would be good news for federalism. Under the surface, it’s anything but.
While most eyes look westward to Vancouver, back at home, Quebec is in a tizzy over former PQ leader Lucien Bouchard’s public comments against his old party, accusing them of narrow-mindedness and saying that sovereignty is no longer achievable:
M. Bouchard est persuadé qu’il ne verra pas un autre référendum sur la souveraineté de son vivant. L’ancien chef péquiste est toujours souverainiste, mais la souveraineté est devenue une question hypothétique; elle n’est donc pas une solution aux problèmes du Québec.
Bouchard also blasted the PQ for intolerance towards religious minorities, claiming that they were fishing for votes among former ADQ supporters and that the debate around reasonable accommodation was really nothing more than thinly-disguised racism.
Predictably, Bouchard’s comments have caused a stir. Gilles Duceppe is playing spin doctor. Jean Charest is cozying up to his former rival and colleague. And Pauline Marois reacted to Bouchard’s racism charges by opposing a Liberal plan to allow Jewish schools to teach on Sundays. Way to prove Bouchard’s point for him nicely, there, Pauline.
Even in the worst divisive moments of the lead-up to the 1995 referendum, Bouchard still commanded respect among federalists, in a way that the bumbling buffoonery of the Jacques Parizeau set never did. I can’t and won’t ever agree with Lucien Bouchard on his politics. However, since leaving political life, he has shown that he isn’t afraid to speak the unpopular truths, whether it was speaking out for Israel at the 2003 Yom Ha’atzmaut rally (to a staunchly federalist crowd, no less), or calling for a “Québec lucide” in 2005. It’s ironic, perhaps, that the man responsible for bringing Canada to the brink of breakup has somehow emerged as something of a voice of conscience of the sovereignty movement.
With the PQ in opposition and sovereignty off the radar of most Quebecers, Bouchard’s comments may actually have an opposite effect, stirring the pot and re-igniting a dormant debate. And he’s shrewd enough that you have to wonder if that was his intent. Although, I’m more inclined to believe that he meant what he said, and that he’s calling for some soul-searching in a movement where intolerance has always been one of the dirty little secrets. When Bouchard speaks, people still listen, though what difference it will make is anyone’s guess.
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.
This might be one of the shortest minority governments on record, if Charest’s budget gets defeated on June 1st, as expected given the PQ and the ADQs opposition to it. We could have new elections as early as July.
The irony is that, for the most part, I actually think the budget presented by the Liberals was good. I don’t often say that about budgets. But Charest’s team had the right priorities here: Lowering taxes to reduce our overly outrageous tax burden, increasing funding for healthcare and education, ending the crippling handcuffs on universities by lifting the tuition freeze gradually while supplementing with additional loans and bursaries, and additional investment in city infrastructure, while cutting spending in a whole host of other areas.
Sure, the budget’s not without its problems. But the ADQ and the PQ have both put themselves in the position now of toppling a government to force an election because they oppose tax cuts. Where else in the world could political parties believe that this would earn them votes in a subsequent election?
Unfortunately, in Quebec’s political climate, this has a fair shot of working. Which is, in a nutshell, exactly what’s wrong with our society. People want more spending and they will pay more taxes for it, and when they complain about the taxes, the politicians can just point to Ottawa and blame the “evil Federal government” for creating the “fiscal imbalance” (you know, the one that Jean Charest took credit for solving right before the last election).
If the ADQ and the PQ both make good on their threats to bring down this government by voting against the budget, then Charest’s political career will be over. Marois’s election coronation as PQ leader will be fast-tracked, and Dumont will humbly refuse to try to form an opposition government, even though he might be asked to do so, because it would be bad form. And one of the two will probably get elected.
Shame. Just when I was starting to think that this Liberal/ADQ minority government was actually working surprisingly well.