Rumours have been circulating for weeks, and now it’s official: Quebec will be heading back to the polls on April 7th.
The Parti Quebecois has been in power for a scant year and a half. In that time, it has done more damage than even I would have thought possible. From a vitrol-laced election campaign, the PQ wasted no time launching into a vitrol-laced program designed to cynically scapegoat minorities to win a majority.
This absolutely must not happen. And that is why I am issuing this unprecedented plea: Vote Liberal.
Yes, you heard me. Philippe Couillard is not my favourite guy by any means, or, I would venture a guess, yours. He has flip-flopped on nearly every important issue so far. He leads a party still reeling from corruption scandals and trying to find its footing after being brought down in a flurry of red squares and angry protesters. He lacks Jean Charest’s charisma. He hasn’t been particularly inspiring on any of the issues thus far.
But this is too important. The CAQ has never been a viable option and has been bleeding support for months. The other separatist parties that siphoned off support from the PQ last time around, such as Option Nationale, have basically ceased to exist. Quebec Solidaire is little more than a protest party that, thankfully, is no threat to form a government. The PQ has done all the math and believes that it has what it takes to pick up a few seats here, reduce a bit of vote-splitting there, and coast to a majority.
In a year and a half of minority government, the PQ has succeeded in turning Quebec into an international laughingstock. It has ratcheted up tensions at home. It has been preying on the politically weak — minorities, women — to leverage people’s hatred and fear. Every government does this to some extent, but the ugliness that we’ve been living through these past couple of years is really unprecedented. When people are getting beat up on the street for wearing religious symbols; when people are afraid to leave their homes; when basic human rights and liberties are under attack, then it’s time for all of us to say: Enough.
The PQ’s policies are systematically driving people out of Quebec. Those with the most options — the educated, the bilingual, the wealthy — are leaving first, and thousands are following them as they see their jobs and prospects disappear. Some people are leaving for political and ideological reasons, yes, but most will leave out of economic necessity. We’ve all lived through this before, and with every wave of people leaving, it leaves fewer and fewer of us to fight at the polls. Don’t think this isn’t part of the PQ’s plan; Marois would love to drive everyone who doesn’t vote for her out of the province, so she can coast towards a majority. This is gerrymandering on a scale that even Tammany Hall couldn’t envision.
We can’t afford to be complacent. Marois has made pre-election promises adding up to nearly $2 billion in handouts — money we don’t have. Quebec’s population is aging rapidly, and our tax base is shrinking. Our infrastructure is collapsing. Job growth has stagnated or gone backwards. We can’t even afford to maintain the services we have, and our tax rates are at a tipping point. Unemployment is on the rise and investment has ground to a halt. We’re barrelling towards a healthcare crisis, with a massive shortage of doctors and resources. When even Jacques Parizeau is sounding the alarm, you know things are bad. And yet, the PQ’s strategy of distract-and-defend seems to be working, because nobody’s even talking about these issues. Instead, we’re talking about invented non-issues like what people are wearing on their heads.
The Charter of Values may seem silly and ridiculous. It might be a blatantly transparent way for the PQ to play divide-and-conquer politics while hoping to pick a fight with Ottawa. But to allow it to pass would be a travesty. It would be sacrificing our rights and liberties as citizens to the fear and racism of others.
This comes down to what sort of society we want to live in. Is Quebec a place of xenophobia, fear, hatred and divisiveness? Or is it a place of inclusiveness and progress? I love my city and my province, and I am really, really worried about our future.
The Liberal party is uninspiring at best. We’ll have to see what Couillard can deliver in terms of campaigning skills, but I’m not optimistic. He hasn’t shown much promise so far.
Still, the PQ is far, far worse. I’d go so far as to say its policies are truly evil. And, like it or not, a strong Liberal performance is the only way to hold the PQ in check.
I’m not a fan of strategic voting. It pains me to even have to write this plea. I’ll be holding my nose in the voting booth, to be sure. But I’ll be there, and I’ll be casting my vote for the only party that has a chance to unseat — or at least limit the damage — of the PQ. I sincerely hope that you will do the same.