Pierre Beaudet's Blog

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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.

Behind the NDP push in Quebec

| April 27, 2011

The left in Quebec has, as always, different opinions about the rise of the NDP in this province. Presse toi à gauche, a popular web site managed by Gauche socialiste, an organization affiliated to the Fourth Internationale which works inside Québec solidaire, is promoting that shift. In their view, the NDP is, like it not, the left at the federal level. On the other hand, they hate the Bloc with passion, as much as they hate the PQ, Indeed, many Quebec Solidaire voters and supporters will vote for Jack. In the last while, Québec Solidaire has been credited with more than 12% of the electoral intentions. It is clearly progressing although there is still a long way to go. It appears as the drive to the left is coming strong and benefiting the NDP at this moment.

But there are many who think otherwise. Social movements like trade unions are very sceptical. They believe the Bloc is still their best bet to hamper the Conservatives. They are not impressed with the NDP beyond a certain rhetoric, having seen the track record of the provincial administration of the NDP in the West and Ontario. What they say is that the NDP is really a second Liberal party acting and thinking along the lines of social-liberalism. Although opposing Canadians fighting the dirty war in Afghanistan, Jack recently endorsed the military onslaught against Libya under the banner of "humanitarianism". Apart from Libby Davies, the NDP is quite silent on the front of the occupation of Palestine. Social liberals in Europe and elsewhere tend to side with the elites in the "war of civilizations" against the global south.

So this is why many are hesitating.

Then comes the second issue of strategic voting. According to internal Bloc polling, votes for the NDP could defeat the Bloc in Gatineau, Drummond, Jeanne-Le Ber and Saint-Lambert, allowing most probably the Liberals to win. Apart from these situations, the NDP could squeeze in against the Liberals in Brossard, Aylmer, and Westmount while keeping Outremont. By and large then, the NDP is unlikely to weaken Harper, unless they are lucky in Buckingham (against Lawrence Cannon). It is obvious then that the NDP surge would not seriously hamper the right.
Nevertheless, voters do not necessarily think like this and are caught in the loop of a lousy electoral system.

In any case, the NDP push is real. But is it sustainable? Jack has been carefully avoiding all the "sensitive" issues, such as the federal intrusion in provincial jurisdiction (in health and education). The federal subsidizing of Newfoundland's big hydro projects will come back to haunt him as well, because it undermines Quebec's investments in this field. What about apparently "technical" issues such as the project to weaken the Caisse de depots et de placements who controls a large part of Quebec's pension funds? These are not small potatoes although they remain under the radar screen in this election. What I am suggesting here is that unless Jack is able to make a 180 degrees turn, his future is very shallow in Quebec. Bear in mind that other "new" faces that became attractive for a while for the Quebec electorate came down the drain rapidly. Some might dream of forgetting the Quebec/Canada fracture, but it won't go away like a bad toothache.

 

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Quote:
The Bloc's decline -- in the last analysis, it was never more than Quebec's "insurance policy" in the hostile federal environment -- has been developing for more than a decade, staved off until now only by the popular response to the Liberals' sponsorship scandal and the widespread antipathy to Harper's Tory agenda. In all but the national question, the Bloc and NDP don't differ radically, although the NDP has managed to appear more consistently antiwar; that too, is undoubtedly a factor in its progress.

- Source

William Johnson in the Ottawa Citizen wrote:
To understand what is happening now in Quebec, one should consult a 2,782-word portrait of Layton published in the July 1, 2003 issue of l'Actualité magazine. There, the new leader of the NDP revealed himself and his intentions to an ultra-nationalist journalist, the late Michel Vastel. The title was significant: "The left, Quebec and Jack Layton." More significant was the subtitle: "We will see Jack Layton a lot this summer because, to revivify the NDP, Jack Layton has undertaken to court the supporters of the Bloc Québécois."

As Layton described himself, he had always supported Quebec nationalist causes. He was a student at McGill University in 1969 when a huge demonstration was held under the slogan, "McGill français." Some 10,000 people marched to have McGill transformed into a French-language university. Vastel wrote: "During an agitated demonstration in 1969, Jack Layton found himself at the sides of turbulent personalities like union leader Michel Chartrand, as well as Robert Lemieux, official lawyer for the Front de libération du Québec bomb placers, and the separatist professor Stanley Grey who had invited him to the event."
...

Layton's pitch, fundamentally, is that Quebecers are wasting their vote on the Bloc when they can get exactly the same policies from a Canada-wide party that can hope some day to form the government or be part of a governing coalition.

Read more at Ottawa Citizen.

 

Pierre Beaudet wrote:
They are not impressed with the NDP beyond a certain rhetoric, having seen the track record of the provincial administration of the NDP in the West and Ontario. What they say is that the NDP is really a second Liberal party acting and thinking along the lines of social-liberalism. Although opposing Canadians fighting the dirty war in Afghanistan, Jack recently endorsed the military onslaught against Libya under the banner of "humanitarianism". Apart from Libby Davies, the NDP is quite silent on the front of the occupation of Palestine. Social liberals in Europe and elsewhere tend to side with the elites in the "war of civilizations" against the global south.

All good criticisms of the NDP, but are the Bloc's positions any more "progressive" than this?

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