Pierre Beaudet's Blog

Pierre Beaudet's picture
Pierre Beaudet, active in international solidarity and social movements in Quebec, is founder of Quebec NGO Alternatives, and Editor of the Nouveaux cahiers du socialisme. He blogs on rabble.ca in English and French.

Election 2

| September 9, 2008

Nationalist forces in Quebec have a hard time. The recent polls in Quebec show the ruling provincial Liberal party way ahead. The Liberals are re-catching the vote that went in the last election to the hard-right ADQ. This is a sort of a surprise because the common sense was that it was going to come back to the PQ, especially in the suburbs surrounding Montreal where ADQ really broke through the last time (more as a protest vote that an ideological switch). A provincial election tomorrow would lead to a majority Charest government, not a good prospect for the left considering the possibility of Harper forming his own government! Well, one thing at a time ...

The decline of the PQ (and its brother-in-arm the Bloc) has many facets. In front of the social liberalism adopted under Lucien Bouchard and Bernard Landry, the popular pro-PQ vote has been eroding. It's not that more people have voted for the right. It is mainly that less people vote for the left. Abstentionism is becoming a big factor.

In addition, the sovereignty project is fragilising. Quebec Inc, this aspirant bourgeoisie that was sometimes sympathetic to the PQ is now busy and happy with the wonder of globalization. Karl Peladeau, the successor of his father who created a Quebec media empire is now busier in the U.S. operating - the title says it - Quebecor World. In the meantime, he has tried to smash trade unions in a firm where old style paternalistic and secure relations were the norm. Other jewels of the crown of Quebec Inc are doing the same, not because they hate trade unions or Quebec nationalism, but because it's a matter of life and death if they want to maintain their business and avoid the financial sharks all around. Unless they want an early retirement enjoying the goods produced by "their" workers over decades ... Jacques Parizeau, the architect of this Quebec capitalism, has been defeated ...

On the other hand, Quebec Inc knows it still needs the Quebec state as a sort of buffer. For example, it is well known that the big Toronto-based financial institutions would love to have the federal government smash or weaken the Caisse de depots et de placements, which is controlled by the Quebec government and is used to defend Quebec Inc when it is attacked (with the pension funds of the ordinary workers!). Who knows if Harper wouldn't take this road? Nonetheless, Quebec Inc wants basically the status quo, which Harper seems to offer and is also associated with Charest.

At the other hand of the spectrum, popular and middle classes are still attached to the "fundamentals" of Quebec nationhood. "Quebec is a nation" is not a stupid rhetorical statement a la Harper, but a reality rooted on social and national struggles. The issue will not be washed out as Ottawa would dream.

But at this moment, everything is on hold. Most people are skeptical of the PQ. The leadership, a bit old, a bit out of step, is mostly concerned with regaining power at the provincial level, almost at any cost. They think they can do it with a spin or two. It does not pass well in the eyes of the people.

All of this leaves the Bloc between the rock and the hard place. It does not share completely the burden of the failing PQ, but it carries a piece of it. It's a bit unjust, because Bloc's luminaries (Gilles Duceppe, Pierre Paquette, Francine Lalonde, among others) have often fought policies inspired by neoliberalism (under Chrétien and Martin) and neoconservatism (under Harper), at least as much - and some times even more - as the NPD, in the past years. The Bloc's position on the war in Afghanistan was a bit wavering (probably because they were afraid of irritating Washington), but in the end, they came to be part of the large anti-war consensus prevailing in Quebec.

What's next then? Many electors in this context could decide not to vote, just as they did in the two previous provincial elections. This is what Harper hopes for. The abstentionists are likely to be on the left side of the electorate (like in the U.S.).

 

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