Québec Solidaire and its Forthcoming Congress

16 posts / 0 new
Last post
epaulo13 epaulo13's picture
Québec Solidaire and its Forthcoming Congress

Major Decisions Face Québec Solidaire at its Forthcoming Congress

Quebec's broad party of the left, Québec solidaire (QS), will open a four-day congress on May 19 in Montréal – the 12th congress in its 11-year history. The delegates face a challenging agenda. It includes the final stage of adoption of the party's detailed program, a process begun eight years ago; discussion of possible alliances with other parties and some social movements including a proposed fusion with another pro-independence party, Option nationale; and renewal of the party's top leadership.

Québec solidaire has attracted unusual media attention in recent months in the wake of the February announcement by Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, the best-known leader of Quebec's massive student strike in 2012, that he had decided to join the party and become its candidate to replace QS leader Françoise David, who resigned in January, as the member of the National Assembly for the riding (constituency) of Gouin in Montréal. Nadeau-Dubois – often referred to as GND – also announced that he would campaign for election at this congress as the party's male co-spokesperson. He is widely expected to win the Gouin by-election now scheduled for May 29.

GND's announcement, accompanied by his sharp attack on Quebec's “political class which for 30 years has betrayed Quebec,” prompted a flood of new membership applications; within a few days the QS membership grew by about 5,000, a 50 per cent increase. An opinion poll at the time credited QS with 16 per cent popular support, only 6 percentage points behind the Parti québécois (PQ) in Montréal.

These were welcome developments for the party, which has failed since its founding to elect more than three MNAs under Quebec's undemocratic first-past-the-post electoral system. Also, although QS benefited from the militancy and popular support of the students’ struggle in 2012, gaining 4,000 new members for a time, it has suffered from a relative demobilization of social movement activists since then, although the ecology movement in opposition to climate change appears to be gaining in momentum....

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..from the same piece

quote:

Alliances: Is the PQ a Progressive Step Forward?

The focus on programmatic definition – important as it is – has been eclipsed in recent months by a renewal of a recurring debate in Québec solidaire over proposals to ally electorally with other parties, and in particular whether the party should seek a possible alliance with the Parti québécois for the next general election, in 2018. Whenever this question was raised in previous congresses, the delegates rejected by large majorities proposals for such alliance made by prominent QS leaders, among them Françoise David and Amir Khadir.

At its National Council meeting in November 2016, QS voted to investigate possible convergences and alliances between the party and “some social and political movements that share the same inclusive vision”: notably Quebec independence, an end to austerity, equality between men and women, recognition of the diversity of Quebec's population, support of First Nations and Inuit self-determination, an ecologist transition including an end to hydrocarbons development, and reform of the electoral system that would include representation of parties in the National Assembly in proportion to their respective share of the popular vote. For many Council members this list of criteria, consistent with the pursuit of broader links to the indigenous population and progressive social movements, would automatically exclude the Parti Québécois.

However, immediately after the meeting PQ leader Jean-François Lisée, a wily politician, welcomed the QS decision, declaring it opened the way for “concrete partnership” between QS and his party to beat the governing Liberals in 2018. He claimed to see “no reason for disagreement” over the alliance criteria listed by the QS council – despite all the evidence to the contrary that the PQ has amply provided over the years.

quote:

Deep Divisions Over Costs and Benefits of Electoral Alliances

It was soon evident that the QS leadership was deeply divided on these issues. The result was the publication within the party (on its intranet, for members only) of three options (A, B and C) on political alliances, to be debated at the forthcoming congress – two options in fact, since the third basically proposed that a decision be postponed to the subsequent convention next November when the party is to draw up its platform for the 2018 election.

Option B, now publicly supported by a majority of the central leadership, advocates “for Québec solidaire to become the home for those who are fighting neoliberalism and the Liberal government” – an alliance that it maintains offers the possibility of negotiating an electoral agreement with the PQ, a party, it says, that for the electorate “remains a fundamentally social democratic party and that represents a valid alternative to the Liberals.” Failing such a “pact,” it says, means “rejecting any alliance with that party and developing alliances with social movements or other parties that are resolutely independentist and genuinely progressive.”

lagatta4

I may attend as an observer, however I didn't even attempt to be a delegate because of work (as a freelancer, I take it when it comes) and because we have NO shortage whatsoever of members or activists in my riding, Gouin. 

I'm not necessarily against a tactical alliance with the PQ against the corrupt and horrifically anti-popular PLQ, but I most certainly don't think they are social-democratic any more. In their first term they brought in many policies that at times outflanked those of NDP governments, and while the CPE - the network of nearly free childcare and early child education centres - was a bold move and a success even in terms of the overall economic impact - they could certainly be as bad as the PLQ in the sense of "special" legislation against workers' movements, persecuting poor people and other retrograde policies. Another minus is the way they tended to support building new highways on Montréal's south shore and the ensuing suburban sprawl and increase in car dependence, because it favoured safe seats for the party. And at least some elements of the PQ have floated with an "identitaire" (aka pure-laine) vision of Québec sovereignty, although Louise Mailloux got a dismal score in Gouin and Lisée backtracked on that odoriferous stuff. 

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

quote:

The PQ, of course, is intent on neutralizing QS as a threat to its chances of victory in many ridings. Québec solidaire's Option B supporters hope to leverage this concern by pressuring the PQ to desist from running in a few ridings deemed “winnable” by QS, thus maintaining or increasing QS representation in the National Assembly (and entitling QS to continued state funding under the election laws, enough to offset reduced revenue in ridings where it desists in favour of the PQ!). In return, QS would agree not to run candidates in ridings where a sizeable QS vote might jeopardize a PQ victory. A related objective is a commitment by the PQ to institute a system of proportional representation when in office – although the PQ has consistently rejected PR throughout its history, including the 18 years when it formed the government, and despite a promise to institute it.[1]

quote:

More importantly, as Option A supporters argue, the proposed pact would be devastating for the image of Québec solidaire as a progressive party that actually enjoys more popular support than it receives from a pragmatic electorate voting strategically. Successive opinion polling accords QS up to twice the popular support registered by the party in general elections. And Option B supporters acknowledge that such an agreement with the PQ could result in the demobilization and probable demoralization of many QS members, especially in ridings where they agree not to run.

quote:

Jean-François Lessard supports Option B, Sylvain Lafrenière supports Option A while Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, by far the favoured candidate, says he thinks an electoral pact with the PQ is both possible and desirable but expresses the view as well that alliances with other independentist parties would be facilitated if QS would drop its resistance to mandating its proposed Constituent Assembly to draw up a constitution for an independent Quebec. He also says he is not opposed to postponing a decision on alliances to the next congress, in November, which suggests he is favourable to Option C, perhaps in the hope of meanwhile winning the party to his position on the Constituent Assembly.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..i hope you can keep us abreast lagatta

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..i consider this conversation to be quite profound. the deliberations are cutting edge on the notion of direct democracy. a conversation that was introduced a few years back in the square occupations around the world.

quote:

At a round-table debate of the four candidates for co-spokespersons organized by Le Devoir on May 12, GND was attacked by Lessard as engaging in “extremely demagogic discourse” by questioning the long-standing QS position on the Constituent Assembly. The party's debate over the process of accession to independence, Lessard said, had been closed at the previous congress, which once again voted to give carte blanche to the Assembly; the party, he recalled, refuses “to presume the outcome” of the Assembly's debates.

GND was quick to respond: “You don't make a constituent assembly to draft a constitution of a regional county municipality... We must be more clear, and it must be said: what we are proposing is a constituent assembly to make Quebec an independent state.”

According to Le Devoir, the other candidates, Lafrenière and Massé, expressed great reluctance to impose such a mandate on the constituent assembly. “Lafrenière in particular fears that Anglophones and racialized people [sic] would shun the proceedings of the constituent assembly if its conclusions were written in advance. ‘It's an exercise in popular education that will motivate people, that's why we have done this’.....”

The Québec solidaire program[2] says the Constituent Assembly is the institution through which “the Quebec people” will exercise their right to self-determination. This is referred to as “popular sovereignty, the power of the people to decide completely democratically their future and the rules governing their own life, including the fundamental rules like membership or not in a country, or the drafting of a constitution.” (Emphasis added)

And the party promises that “the Constituent Assembly will be elected by universal suffrage and will be composed of an equal number of women and men, with proportional representation of tendencies and the different socio-economic classes [milieux] present within Quebec society.” Although this formulation raises a number of questions – does “tendencies” mean parties?; does “proportional representation of ... the different socio-economic classes” mean that priority of representation will go to working people, the vast majority of the population? – the party promises that the Assembly will be fully “autonomous” in all of its decisions. This text has so far been an article of faith for the party, and is not challenged by Options A or B.

Whatever the outcome of this leadership contest, it will be interesting to see how the winning candidate manages to balance the important divisions now apparent within the party – that may be deepened soon, as we see below – in his new role as a “spokesperson” for the party as a whole – a concept that assumes a high degree of consensus among the membership.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

I deeply support GND, but his proposal could cost QS a lot of support.  It would be far more inclusive and creative to see the Citizens Assembly as a means to shape Quebec's future by all and for the good of the vast majority.  Insisting on tying it to independence means QS can never increase its support among allophones and left-anglophones, two groups that will always be anti-sovereigntist, will most likely always see sovereignty as a concept that puts their rights at risk, and two groups without whose support a broad-based Quebec Left can never be built.
​The right to self-determination must be respected, but at the same time there needs to be openness to other ideas as to how self-determination might be achieved.

 

 

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Quote:
And the party promises that “the Constituent Assembly will be elected by universal suffrage and will be composed of an equal number of women and men, with proportional representation of tendencies and the different socio-economic classes [milieux] present within Quebec society.”

I think that things like this necessarily become a bit of a sticky wicket.  And I say this acknowledging the over-representation of older white men in the political sphere.

But if voters choose more men than women, what's the mechanism for ensuring parity?  Which elected men get tossed?  I'm absolutely NOT asking this because I feel sorry for those white men.  I'm just wondering what happens in between "68% of those elected are men" and "50% of those who will actually serve are men".

To put it another way, it always seems to me a bit odd to say "this is for you, these are your representatives, the representatives of YOU, the people -- but on the off chance you don't choose 50% women, and 14% immigrants and 10% LBQT representatives, we'll fix that for you".

lagatta4

Indeed, with Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois replacing Françoise David if he wins in Gouin (and he probably will) our caucus goes from 2/3 female to 2/3 male. Nobody was about to refuse a young political star who has done much to expand and rejuvenate our base... And the other riding where we are most likely to break through, Laurier-Dorion, is not about to turn its backs on Andrés Fontecilla, a well-known community organizer in Villeray ... and an allophone (Chilean). 

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

And if I were in QS, I wouldn't trust the PQ as far as I could throw them.  If there DID end up being a PQ-QS coalition, the PQ would force QS to vote for tons of austerity measures and find as many ways as possible to weasel out of establishing pr.  Moreover, the polls suggest that QS could move past PQ if current trends continue...why give the pequistes a new lease on life if you don't have to?

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..those are good points ken. as is the one you made earlier re sovereignty. ideally i would very much like to be able to understand french and be in the room to hear the arguments being made and the rebuttals. alas i'm left with reading pieces like the one above. thing is though i have no real grasp of the debate, just the outline. so i can't respond to your concerns.

..the only thing i will say and speculate on though is that gnd is not alone in his position. after that devoir debate gnd was elected by a large margin followed by a large increase in membership. and now the congress must sort it all out. and here's the speculate part, i trust they will do what is best for qs and moving the struggle forward.

NorthReport

Former student leader rises to top post with left-wing Quebec solidaire

http://thechronicleherald.ca/canada/1470836-former-student-leader-rises-...

lagatta4

The Congress voted strongly AGAINST any convergence with the PQ. 

Here is an interview with GND and Manon Massé: http://ici.radio-canada.ca/premiere/emissions/gravel-le-matin/segments/e...

And in English: http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/gabriel-nadeau-dubois-manon-m...

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..txs lagatta.

..from the gazette

quote:

At the same time, delegates voted to open a dialogue on an eventual merger with another pro-independence party, Option nationale.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois and Manon Massé, who were elected by delegates on Sunday as the party’s new spokespeople, said the party’s refusal to have talks with the PQ stems from the “profound wound” felt by cultural communities because of the former PQ government’s ill-fated Charter of Values and the PQ’s refusal to launch a commission on systemic racism.

“You can’t build a Quebec by excluding people,” Massé said. “That’s the challenge. Inclusion in Québec solidaire, that’s our DNA. The Parti Québécois leadership has shown us in the last few years that it’s something we can play with.”

lagatta4

Our support from the taxi drivers' and taxi owners' associations was heartening (a great many of the drivers are racialised people; there is an important Haitian taxi drivers' association that has supported democracy in Haiti and antiracism here, as well as many from the Maghreb and the Middle East, as well as other origins. The driver who took Gabriel from his home (near mine) down to Maison Radio-Canada said he had always voted Liberal before but is voting QS this time. 

There are some xenophobes who accuse GND of being in the pocket of Salafists, which is rather odd as his central campaign axis is gradually defunding private schools (which get much more public funding than their Ontario counterparts do for example) to increase funding for and improve the quality of public schools (including the buildings as well as the staffing and support). Public schools here are secular by default; a campaign I took part in about 20 years ago drove out the Catholic fundies at what was then the Montreal Catholic School Board (the largest board by far) and led to legislation eliminating confessional public schools. 

QS is very much secularist, but secularism (laïcité) doesn't necessarily imply a dress code or restrictions on people's freedom of worship (except in terms of public safety and obeying laws, in particular those against abuse of women, children, other vulnerable people). 

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

lagatta4 wrote:

The Congress voted strongly AGAINST any convergence with the PQ. 

Here is an interview with GND and Manon Massé: http://ici.radio-canada.ca/premiere/emissions/gravel-le-matin/segments/e...

And in English: http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/gabriel-nadeau-dubois-manon-m...

Good news.  The PQ needs QS far more than QS needs the PQ.  If ANY merger happens in Quebec politics, logically it would be between the CAQ and at least part of PQ.