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Quebec politics: Room for one more party

Jacob Richter
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Joined: Oct 19 2008

http://www.ipolitics.ca/2012/08/09/paul-w-rowe-quebec-politics-room-for-...

By Paul W. Rowe

Now that the writ has dropped and the Quebec provincial election has begun, Quebeckers are trying to find the political party that is the best fit for them. It is a crowded field but most analysts feel there are three principal players: the ruling Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ); the self-styled government-in-waiting Parti Quebecois; and the newly formed right-leaning Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ). Also on the ballot will be the sovereignty-focused PQ offshoot Option Nationale (ON), the sovereigntist left-wing Quebec Solidaire (QS), a provincial Green Party, and the very recently formed Quebec Citizens’ Union (UCQ) claiming a progressive, federalist position.

After reading this long list of parties on the ballot – and there may even be a few more – one might think that Quebec voters from across the political spectrum and of every opinion on Quebec sovereignty are well represented. My contention, however, is that there is still a political gap to fill.

Despite the large number of political parties covering the various combinations of sovereignty/federalism positions and left-wing/right-wing positions, it is unclear what competitive and realistic electoral options a federalist, left-leaning Quebecker has. CAQ leader François Legault says that his party will impose a moratorium on the sovereignty issue for the next decade but Premier Jean Charest warns that as an ex-PQ minister, Mr. Legault cannot be trusted on this claim (whether true or not, the CAQ is not running as a left-of-centre party anyways). Progressive and left-leaning Quebec voters have likely never felt comfortable with the PLQ as a voting option but especially so in light of recent events, regardless of Mr. Charest’s claims that the PLQ is the sole federalist option in this election.

The Quebec Liberals are confident, and perhaps rightly so, that for voters who view federalism as the issue of importance, it is the only choice. The PQ, QS, and ON are all to the left of centre (to varying degrees) but all have aspirations of statehood for Quebec. Green parties across Canada have largely failed to gain the momentum necessary to be any sort of electoral threat. The federalist UCQ is in its infancy as a party and is so far running fewer than two dozen candidates across the province. Not to take anything away from the party’s chances or policies but since the UCQ was started by a 21-year old ex-PLQ member in mid-July, it would be fair to say that it remains to be seen what impact this party will have and what will become of it.

So where is a left-wing federalist Quebecker looking to change the government supposed to go?

This electoral lacuna has become especially evident since the dramatic surge of the NDP in Quebec in the last federal election. With no provincial NDP wing in the province, the media has begun to speculate who NDP supporters of the last federal election will vote for provincially. An even more tantalizing topic to the media (and Conservative muckrakers) has been the voting history of new Quebec NDP MPs. Several have been ‘caught’ offering support to the left-leaning sovereigntist parties (be it through financial donations, campaign work, or votes).

Conservatives have gleefully accused the NDP (again) of being in cahoots with separatists. This historical lack of a progressive federalist electoral option in Quebec should afford these ‘separatist’ NDP MPs some political slack. Mr. Charest is the ex-leader of the federal Progressive Conservatives and is characterized as being on the right-wing of the PLQ. (It is also worth noting that having voted for a party does not mean that one agrees with every single policy of said party.

Sovereignty, if it ever comes to pass, will be decided by a referendum, not by voting for the Parti Quebecois, Quebec Solidaire, etc.. In light of the fatigue and alleged corruption of the PLQ, one cannot blame Quebec supporters of federalism for looking somewhere else. This argument is not an endorsement of any party, only a means of highlighting the vacuum on the left side of the political spectrum for progressive federalists in Quebec.

As a people, Quebeckers are rarely accused of being politically apathetic. A passion for politics and for being involved in the building of their society has always been evident in Quebec. Those who follow politics in the rest of Canada may not always agree with what happens inside Quebec but often look upon the political enthusiasm of the Quebec people with envy. Since the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s, Quebec has been continuously reinventing itself politically on both the provincial and federal stages. The ‘vague orange’ (or orange wave) of the 2011 federal election was only the most recent incarnation. Since the 1960s Quebeckers have never shied away from creating new political movements and parties.

In light of this history, it is curious that until recently no one has seemingly even attempted to fill this space. The recent student movement, for instance, has provided no shortage of political fervour and its leaders have promised to focus that energy into getting out the student vote, obviously against Mr. Charest’s Liberals. Some from the student movement are already aligning themselves with various parties. Union members in Quebec have been facing the same difficulties as their ‘rest-of-Canada’ counterparts in dealing with corporations and the federal government’s treatment regarding labour issues. Traditionally, many unions have supported the PQ but the PQ is not without its own political baggage. Some union members may feel the need for a party focused not on sovereignty but on the creation of a healthy society where Quebec labour issues are understood and respected. It is too early to tell if the UCQ will be the vehicle for a progressive Quebec not focused and divided on the sovereignty issue or if another stronger party will emerge to fill that void.

Of course it is the decision of Quebeckers to vote for whichever party they choose. Many progressives outside Quebec were happy to welcome the province to the progressive, federalist fold of the NDP. It is now conceivable a similar feat could be repeated within Quebec. Many outside Quebec have felt a kindred spirit with the socially progressive Quebec population. It would not necessarily need to occur under the banner of a provincial New Democratic Party as good policies, strong democracy, and a healthy society are goals all political parties are encouraged to seek. As with many things, Quebeckers will find their own unique way of achieving such goals.

In spite of the already crowded ballot list and the myriad of electoral options that Quebec voters have this provincial election cycle, I would argue that there is still room for one more.


Comments

Brachina
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Joined: Feb 15 2012
Time will tell, I'm rooting for the UCQ, its like,having an NDP Quebec wing, without the head aches, but as I said time will tell.

Bärlüer
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Joined: Aug 20 2007

As a sovereignist who has voted NDP in the last few federal elections, left-wing federalists who are somehow incapable of voting Québec solidaire baffle (and, I'll be honest, slightly annoy) me...

Just vote "No" in an hypothetic future referendum, for the Flying Spaghetti Monster's sake...


Ken Burch
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Joined: Feb 26 2005

Good point.  Voting UCQ can only weaken QS.  If you're on the left in Quebec, and you place social justice, workers' rightss, feminism, LGBT solidarity, First Nations solidarity and the rest of the left agenda first, QS is the only party you can vote for that has a presence in the National Assembly now and the only one with any realistic prospects of growth.  The voters in Quebec in general are not priviliging the constitutional question above all others these days(if they were, the contest would be a neck-and-neck race between the PLQ and ON).  Nobody on the Quebec left should, either.


The priority should be on building the alternative to the status quo...not fretting over what flag that alternative will fly.

If I lived in Quebec, even though I'm essentially agnostic on the constitutional issue at this point, I'd vote QS in ANY riding.

 


Lachine Scot
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Joined: Jun 19 2010

Agreed. If I lived in Quebec, I would do the same.


Jacob Richter
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Joined: Oct 19 2008

Ken Burch wrote:
Good point.  Voting UCQ can only weaken QS.

With all this talk of the UCQ, it isn't as left as QS.  At best, it's as left as Option Nationale.

As for weakening, that would only be the case if the party ran against QS in the latter's incumbent ridings or where the latter actually has a shot at winning the seat.


lagatta
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Joined: Apr 17 2002

I think this is ludicrous. Most of the QS people I know voted NDP, though many were not federalists. 

Vote QS, and vote No in a referendum, if that is your preference. 


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

Ken Burch wrote:

If I lived in Quebec, even though I'm essentially agnostic on the constitutional issue at this point, I'd vote QS in ANY riding.

 

I live in Québec, and I plan to vote QS in every riding - until they catch me - that's how we do things in Québec!

Oh, and forget this crap about a left-wing federalist party. Might as well have a left-wing vegetarian party. If the left can't sit together without waging war to the death over national flags, then there will be nothing left [sic].

 


Ken Burch
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Joined: Feb 26 2005

Waging war over national flags nearly killed the left in 1914, come to think of it.


North Star
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Joined: Feb 6 2012

When you privilege federalism (or to certain extent sovereignty) on the same level as your progressive politics, they progressive element takes a back seat. While Federal Liberals in ROC  who support Charest are only "progressive" in posturing, (Trudeau & Rae) obsessing over being progressive and federalist leads to situations where you've got a NDP staffer running for the PLQ and probably a number of Anglos who voted NDP voting PLQ provincially out of fear. The UCQ is probably going to be lucky to break a 100 votes in many ridings, but who knows how close some of those Montreal ridings where QS has a chance will be. UCQ might I add is to the right of QS on post secondary education. It advocates a "graduate tax" while QS wants to eliminate tuition. I understand right wingers who think people should have to pay for university and college better than these soft lefties who argue for tuition freezes or graduate taxes. Free tuition is hardly impossible in a place as wealthy as Canada. Quebec could provide it and have money left over simply by bringing back the capital tax on banks (QS proposal).


North Star
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Joined: Feb 6 2012

EDIT: Sorry double post


Brachina
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Joined: Feb 15 2012
That's why in a Forum poll if the NDP ran in Quebec it would have won, yet QS will be lucky to get 10 percent of the vote and even that's unlikely. QS is a flawed pet project and the way its run now it will never win. http://www.nationalpost.com/m/search/blog.html?b=news.nationalpost.com/2... QS just bought ads flipping Canada the bird and kicking a beaver. Yeah Anglo voters and other federalist will just love these guys. But hey I don't live in Quebec so what do I know. Enjoy being governed by the Quebec Liberals or the CAQ, the way things are panning out its going to be for a very long time.

Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

Your assumption, Brachina, that "Anglo voters" care more about Canada than about social progress is (what's a polite way of putting this?) racist. But I wouldn't critique your statement on that basis. I would simply point out that you display a woeful pollyannaish naiveté about how political and social change take place. You think that because some stupid "poll" says that a non-existent Québec NDP would win, then we should go create some party by that name and then win. Even if we did (which we won't), and even if it won (which it wouldn't), it would make for one of the worst governments this "province" has ever seen. Unless you think provincial NDP governments have brought some spectacularly memorable benefits in the past 30 or so years somewhere??

Life is more difficult. It goes through hard times - yes, even stupid videos in poor taste like kicking beavers around. Look past that.


Michelle
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Joined: May 10 2001

I'm an anglo.  If I lived in Quebec, I'd vote QS.  I also think it's dumb to try to start another progressive party over federalism.  Thankfully, the NDP hasn't been stupid enough to try to start a provincial NDP in Quebec, I don't think.  Yet.


Boom Boom
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Joined: Dec 29 2004

QS is going nowhere as far as I can see. I think a provincial NDP would do a hell of a lot better - could hardly do worse. Quebec has shown it is highly welcoming of the NDP with all those new MPs federally. I don't see much welcoming of QS.


North Star
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Joined: Feb 6 2012

So here's a progressive federalist party that's definitely to the left of the UCQ at least on education: http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/ethan-cox/2012/08/conversation-claude-sabourin-leader-quebec-green-party 

My take on the UCQ? A bunch of NDP'ers wanting to position themselves as the leadership of any provincial NDP once that idea becomes more realistic to go forward on. UCQ offers up some progressive platitudes but like the NDP is limited to proposing a neo-liberalized social democracy.


Bärlüer
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Joined: Aug 20 2007

Some of the positions of the "progressive" Green Party:

- abolish school boards (like the CAQ)

- reduce immigration levels (like the CAQ)

- in favor of an eventual hike of early childhood centres fees

- to Radio-Canada's question "Should First Nations have more control on their ancestral land?", the Green Party answered "Neutral" (like the CAQ)


lagatta
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Joined: Apr 17 2002
I don't know if this is still the case, but the Greens used to take a very paternalistic approach to poverty and income security issues, favouring provision of "healthy" foodstuffs (chosen by them) rather than cash to the needy. That crap was abolished here decades ago. I certainly favour encouragement and funding of healthy eating, but that really is patronising. Hope it has changed; haven't read much of their platform because QS seems much more advanced on environmental issues. Will do so, no one party, however progressive, has all the answers.

Brachina
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Joined: Feb 15 2012

Boom Boom wrote:

QS is going nowhere as far as I can see. I think a provincial NDP would do a hell of a lot better - could hardly do worse. Quebec has shown it is highly welcoming of the NDP with all those new MPs federally. I don't see much welcoming of QS.

Agreed, QS is up against a Charest whose'd long in the tooth, Pauline and Lagualt both of whom are lacking charm, and yet won't even crack 10%. Thier cartoon ads are bad and off putting, thier only targeting 15 ridings primarily and worse yet announced it so people know Amir and his cospokesman aren't really running for premier(at least the UCQ has an excuse it just formed). The whole cospokesmen thing is interesting experiment, but comes off weird. The cold hard truth is QS is not a professional well run party. Look at the CAQ in contrast, some shitty policies, but they're well run and they're actually competitive, people know the CAQ leader is serious and is running to be Premier. That should be QS instead, but its not. Watching the Quebec election unfold it becoming increasingly clear thier a huge void, QS is minor league and Quebec needs a major league player on the left. Weather UCQ evolves into that or the NDP decide to add the NDP Quebec Wing we'll see. Maybe this makes me Polyanna Unionist, but I believe your the one niave, QS says all the things you want to,hear, but its never going to be able to deliver results because it never casts its net outside its niche and its badly lead.

Brachina
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Joined: Feb 15 2012

Boom Boom wrote:

QS is going nowhere as far as I can see. I think a provincial NDP would do a hell of a lot better - could hardly do worse. Quebec has shown it is highly welcoming of the NDP with all those new MPs federally. I don't see much welcoming of QS.

Agreed, QS is up against a Charest whose'd long in the tooth, Pauline and Lagualt both of whom are lacking charm, and yet won't even crack 10%. Thier cartoon ads are bad and off putting, thier only targeting 15 ridings primarily and worse yet announced it so people know Amir and his cospokesman aren't really running for premier(at least the UCQ has an excuse it just formed). The whole cospokesmen thing is interesting experiment, but comes off weird. The cold hard truth is QS is not a professional well run party. Look at the CAQ in contrast, some shitty policies, but they're well run and they're actually competitive, people know the CAQ leader is serious and is running to be Premier. That should be QS instead, but its not. Watching the Quebec election unfold it becoming increasingly clear thier a huge void, QS is minor league and Quebec needs a major league player on the left. Weather UCQ evolves into that or the NDP decide to add the NDP Quebec Wing we'll see. Maybe this makes me Polyanna Unionist, but I believe your the one niave, QS says all the things you want to,hear, but its never going to be able to deliver results because it never casts its net outside its niche and its badly lead.


lagatta
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Joined: Apr 17 2002
So you think a few anglo lefties in NDG, Mile-End and the McGill ghetto can succeed where you say we have failed? Ridiculous (and borderline racist). Actually, the cartoons have had almost no echo outside our party. I haven't read any echoes in the bourgeois press. (Thank gord, perhaps - I don't like the ads either, but I'm not about to settle for anything to the right of QS for that reason). Our televised ads are much better, fortunately.. Don't you think parties should be realistic about their actual prospects?

lagatta
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Joined: Apr 17 2002
Deleted by author.

Brachina
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Joined: Feb 15 2012
Ehy does anyone assume the federalist left has to be lead by an Anglos? http://www.openfile.ca/montreal/story/can-quebec-sustain-provincial-ndp-... http://accidentaldeliberations.blogspot.ca/2012/08/tuesday-morning-links... The racist cheap shots are getting old, nothing I've said has even come close to being racist, not borderline or otherwise. Saying QS is badly run and is an experiment not a serious party is an insult to QS, but race has nothing to do with it. Right now thier are probably more NDP former QS members MPs then thier will be QS MNAs at the end of this election. As for the cartoons not echoing, that'd its own,problem, it means no one gives enough of a shit about what QS has to say to pay attention.

Aristotleded24
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Joined: May 24 2005

Ken Burch wrote:
Voting UCQ can only weaken QS.  If you're on the left in Quebec, and you place social justice, workers' rightss, feminism, LGBT solidarity, First Nations solidarity and the rest of the left agenda first, QS is the only party you can vote for that has a presence in the National Assembly now and the only one with any realistic prospects of growth.  The voters in Quebec in general are not priviliging the constitutional question above all others these days(if they were, the contest would be a neck-and-neck race between the PLQ and ON).  Nobody on the Quebec left should, either.


The priority should be on building the alternative to the status quo...not fretting over what flag that alternative will fly.

If I lived in Quebec, even though I'm essentially agnostic on the constitutional issue at this point, I'd vote QS in ANY riding.

First off, it's the parties who are representative of the voters, so if some voters wish to represent a left-wing federalist option then they should have that right, and I find it odd for voters to be told that they shouldn't have that option.

Secondly, is it voters who are priviledging constitutional issues, or the party? While if I lived in Quebec I would likely vote QS and vote "no" in a referendum, I can easily see why the ads in question would be offensive to federalist voters. Is federalism a perspective on constituional issues, or is it a bad thing? The ads, particularly the one of kicking the beaver, seem to suggest that federalism is not acceptable to QS, so independent of other issues, why would a federalist vote for QS in that context? What can QS gain by saying, "we're staunchly independantiste," when the Bloc Quebecois tried that approach last year and lost?

I'm a federalist. Some of the NDP MPs in Quebec (including potential Cabinet Ministers who will make decisions that affect me) lean more towards the sovereigntist end of the spectrum. I'm fine with that. QS is a party that leans towards the sovereigntist end of the spectrum. I'm fine with that. So why fall into the "sovereignty/federalism" trap that has been set out instead of trying to break the mould? Mario Dumont and Francois Legault gained a great deal of traction by downplaying this, as horrible as their other policies are.


Aristotleded24
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Joined: May 24 2005

lagatta wrote:
Don't you think parties should be realistic about their actual prospects?

You mean the way Jack Layton was being realistic about his chances in the 2008 campaign by saying he was running to be Prime Minister?


Bärlüer
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Joined: Aug 20 2007

So... I guess some people must have seen this by now...?

What a remarkably terrible idea.


theleftyinvestor
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Joined: Jun 6 2008

Surprised by the timing. If this Quebec election yields a minority government there is a chance the next Quebec election will be before the 2015 federal election. There's a lot of risk that anything the NDPQ says could be used harshly against the federal NDP especially in other regions.

Also if this means the NDP will start to force Quebec members to resign from other parties and fall in line with the NDPQ... this could foment lots of discontent.

And who would be the leader??


lagatta
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Joined: Apr 17 2002
This is utterly vile. Mulcair's Zionism is bad enough - really, supporting ethnic cleansing is seriously uncool - but stabbing the many QS supporters who not only voted NDP but also worked for them - and more than a few were veteran campaigners - in the back is beyond vile. Fuck him.

Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

Apparently, his MPs weren't allowed to support the student strike, but he's allowed to decide what kind of party Québec "needs".

Was this some convention resolution which I missed? Or did the Québec membership of the federal party take this decision?

Or is the Leader just Supreme?

 

 


Stockholm
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Joined: Sep 29 2002

Sounds to me like a bit of a trial balloon...I think a lot depends on what happens in the election. If the QC Liberals get crushed and come in third there could be a "big bang" on the federalist side with some attempt to create a progressive federalist party out of the left of the PLQ, non-sovereignists in QS, Greens and maybe some Pequistres who were never crazy about sovereignty in the first place.


Boom Boom
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Joined: Dec 29 2004

I've been keen on the idea of a Quebec provincial NDP for years - but I think it would have been a wise idea to wait until after the current election to send up any trial balloons, and see what happens with QS first.


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