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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

| September 8, 2008

Yesterday, with the launch of the campaign, Gilles Duceppe clearly identified the issues confronting the electorate in Quebec. "It's a fight against the neoconservative agenda," said the leader of the Bloc Québécois.

The Quebec-Canada confrontation has been put aside by the Nationalists. Why is that? The Harper revolution: Harper wants to accelerate a radical neoliberal transformation of Canada, already started before him by the Liberals, but to which is given an ideological spin of neoconservatism. The demise of Keynesian politics has been on the agenda of the ruling class for many years, but now it's the time to consolidate, so they think. The neocon "package" seems appropriate to deliver, with its combination of pro-war, anti-poor, anti-immigrant and religious themes. Behind that are more structural objectives like the displacement of Canadian capitalism towards a new "Toronto-Calgary" axis along big finances and oil, which means the destruction of the manufacturing sector (mostly in Ontario and Quebec) and the acceleration of neoliberal reforms through the erosion of Medicare and the diminishment of federal transfers towards the poorest provinces.

Opportunity

Of course, all of this is NOT accepted by the majority of the population of Canada. However, Harper thinks he can get away with it because of the dislocation of his main adversary, the Liberal Party. Like most centrist formations, the Liberals are unable to maintain the "consensus" between Keynesians and neoliberals. In the meantime, the NPD has not recovered its past bifurcations which were demonstrated mostly through the NPD-led provincial administrations. The same "window of opportunity" appears for Harper in Quebec where the centre-left nationalist PQ is in crisis. It's not so much the distantiation from the national project that is the cause of that gap. Quasi social democrats like the PQ are drifting towards social liberalism (like in France, Spain, the U.K., etc.) and that confuses and angers popular and middle classes.

Tactical debates

Currently, social movements and the left in general are trying to rebuild an alternative project with a political translation called Quebec Solidaire. The project is just starting and difficulties abound, although the spirit of resistance that has animated social movements since the middle 1990s is still energetic, as we see in several militant strikes currently. But what to do to avoid the "worst"? For sure, a neocon onslaught would be damaging. One proposal is to support our friendly Jack who is more visible since the election of an ex-Liberal Minister in a by-election in Outremont. But for 1,000 reasons, not many people are convinced. Especially that they have not forgotten how the NPD -before Jack to be honest - supported Stephane Dion in his fury against the Nationalists after the 1995 referendum. There are not many other options. Most of the trade union leadership will support wholeheartedly the Bloc, which they assimilate to the PQ. It is true however that in the House of Commons, left-winger bloquistes like Pierre Duceppe, Francine Lalonde and many others have fought hard against harsh neoliberal and neoconservative policies, sometimes even more consistently than the NPD.

Strategic vote

I am not convinced however that the PQ/Bloc nationalist alliance is the solution. Rather I would see them as the main obstacle in front of a hesitating but militant social movement. This "problem" did not started yesterday and is not going to be resolved tomorrow either. In the meantime, it seems rational to avoid the worst and in most of Quebec (minus regions where the Anglophone minority is important), it means campaigning for the Bloc. Any weakening of the Bloc (like drifting "left" votes towards the NPD) would actually strengthen the Conservatives, it is brutal as that. It is not probably a consolation, but our situation is not unique. Voting for Obama in the USA seems to me of the same fundamental nature, I am saying that risking to offend Obama's left-wing supporters.

 

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