Quebec is to be thanked for propelling the NDP forward

| May 3, 2011

Well that election can be added to the list of strange things about our country.

On Monday night the sovereigntists tried to save Canada, but Toronto abandoned it.

And Canada's socialist party had its best showing ever on the night Canada's most right-wing prime minister finally got his majority.

While Québec did its best to prevent Stephen Harper from getting his majority, the GTA gave the Conservatives all the extra seats it needed. Without the increase of 19 seats in the Greater Toronto Area, the Conservatives would have once again fallen short of a majority. Instead they won in 166 ridings, with 155 needed for a majority.

The NDP won 104, the Liberals 34, the Bloc three and the Greens one (as of late Monday)

The 60 per cent of Canadians who said no to Harper's Canada should all say thank you Québec. You tried to save us from the greedy clutches of the USA once again, just like you did in the American War of Independence and the War of 1812.

Stephen Harper convinced enough voters in our ridiculously unfair electoral system to buy into his vision of Canada as the junior partner of a rightwing, hyper-capitalist, imperialist, fundamentalist U.S. Empire, but Québec, where the NDP won 60 of 75 seats, did its best to block (rather than Bloc) him.

Thanks to Québec we have the largest contingent of social democratic MPs in Canadian history. Thanks to Québec we have hope once again that the Common Good may eventually triumph over the Greedy Individual.

We owe a special great gob of gratitude to the sovereigntists who abandoned the Bloc and voted NDP. They may have saved the progressive tradition in Canada.

Again, thank you.

But now that the thanks are out of the way, I do have to ask one question: What took you so long?

Hasn't it been obvious for years that the strategy of sending a large number of Bloc Québécois MPs to Ottawa had shock value, once or maybe twice, but little more? It didn't help Québec or even cause Parliament to grind to a halt, but it did allow Harperites and Ayn Randers to push an agenda that harms ordinary working people everywhere.

Hasn't it made a lot more sense for years to join together with like-minded English-speaking Canadians to promote the shared values of economic and social democracy? Surely people of good faith can unite to defend common interests. I mean as long as Québec is part of Canada and you send MPs to Ottawa you might as well get something good out of it, right?

At any rate, better late than never. Now it's time to look forward. With an NDP official opposition we're in for an interesting four years.

For those of us who believe in economic and social democracy Monday night's election offers a reason to hope.

We have witnessed a fundamental realignment of Canada politics. There's been a shift to the left, after years of drifting to the right.

Over 60 per cent of Canadians rejected Stephen Harper's visions of Canada. That's one of the core messages of Monday's election. Despite five year of holding the reins of power as Prime Minister of two minority governments Harper could only convince 39.7 per cent of voters to trust him.

The other core message is that a social democratic government is possible at the federal level.

The NDP is to the left of the Liberal Party on many social, environmental, economic and foreign policy issues. It lacks the Liberals' significant ties to corporate interests. All this offers hope to Canadians who believe in social and economic democracy.
But, there will be a big push by corporations, most of the media, the military-industrial-foreign-affairs complex and other cheerleaders for unfettered capitalism to demonize the NDP and push it closer to the "mainstream" consensus that only the rich and powerful can have a say in running the world. Most of the NDP provincial governments have gone through this process with often disappointing results (from the point of view of people who see a better way than capitalism).

Still, this federal election is an important step forward for working-class Canadians. The party closest to us has made significant gains. We may have to endure four years of an extreme right wing Conservative government. But at least there's now hope for a better government in the future.

Gary Engler is Vice-President of CEP Local 2000, B.C.'s Media Union and author (under his nom de guerre of Ernesto [Ernie] Raj Peshkov-Chow) of Great Multicultural North -- A Canadian Primer for Hosers, Immigrants and Socialists released by Fernwood Publishing.

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Comments

Very good article, my heart sank at this past election, but this was definitely a good pick me up, thanks for this.

I think that I can contribute some perspective from Quebec. There were a lot of public awareness activities and a lot of general outreach.

I think that the results achieved are exceptional given that many publicly funded progressive organizations were quietly defunded here first. This means that much of the work mobilizing voters was done on a voluntary basis. As far as bringing Canadians together is concerned, I think that the Montreal-based Voices-Voix coalition is the only truly successful pan-Canadian democracy advocacy group that I can think of.

It seems a little facile to say that the mere existence of the Bloc in Ottawa helped drive Canadians to vote Conservative. On the flip side of the coin, would you blame Quebecers who now regret casting their vote for an NDP MP they've never heard of, at the expense of a political party and politicians that they would have trusted to get them through this next term?

I agree that now is the time for progressives across the solitary divide to get together and start building viable alternatives to what we've got now, but it will require a lot of effort on the part of everyone.

That was a nice and positive column.

But there are some rather large problems looming.

In Quebec,the NDP won 60 seats and the Cons won 6.

Quebeckers made a huge statement...NO to Harper and NO to the status quo of the Bloc and Liberals.

For every 1 vote for the other parties,10 votes went against them.

This new majority government in Ottawa is an English Canada government.

I don't think this is going to play out very well in Quebec....Especially hard right policies.

And clearly,English Canada is totally out of touch with Quebec.

English MSM declared the sovereignty movement 'obliterated'.

Not only is that naive but there's not a shread of truth to that declaration.

Inevitably,the Cons will alienate Quebec,and now,they have realized they don't need Quebec anyway.

I see a rise in the interest of sovereignty in the next couple of years...I see the sovereignty movement reborn to the same numbers as the late 1970's into the early 1980's.

Last night,I ripped up my Canadian membership card..I don't think I was alone.

 

ETA ; You are 100% correct that Quebec chose Canada last night..For the first time in decades...But the ROC didn't choose Quebec.

        Quebec and Canada are no closer together today than we were at the start of the Quiet Revolution.

 

I also can shed some light on why Québec "took so long" to vote NDP.  The NDP, like the other federal parties, still refuses to fully recognize the difference and wholeness of the Québecois culture, society and political structure.  This is evident in the fact that the NDP ran several candidates who are unilingual English speakers in a province whose official language is French.  While Canada offsets its shameful environmental practices in the tar sands (subsidized by the federal government) with Québec's clean energy production (the construction of which was paid for by Québec), Québecers will continue to feel used and resentful.

I have mixed feelings about the NDP victory in Québec.  Many of the candidates who were elected -- including our new MP -- have no experience, and the anglophones representing francophone districts are distinctly unqualified to serve their constituents.  As well, the NDP will need to do a lot of work in Québec to avoid a "too big, too fast" collapse, and there aren't many people in the NDP who understand how Québec works.

On the other hand, I support the NDP's platform, except on the sovreignty issue.  I really wish there could have been a way for the Bloc and the NDP to find a compromise (a re-examination of "confederation" perhaps) and merge.  This would have enabled the NDP to put its resources toward working the GTA, and we might have sacré le camp de Harper.

Quebec made a strong point in rejecting the Conservaties. English Canada failed to do so. What is the option for progressive people in Quebec now? Vive le Quebec indepenent?

 

Alan Smithee,

I agree with you about the naive claims in the English media about the NDP "defeating" the separatists, and I share the expectation that Quebecers' interest in sovereignty is going to increase (starting with an even greater desire to have their provincial government protect them from the feds).

I know this isn't really accurate, but I'll say, somewhat humourously, the NDP currently looks like a Quebec social democrat party with a few outposts in English Canada. Downtown Toronto feels sort of like a West-Berlin-style enclave of Quebec values. That's how I felt waking up this morning (in Toronto).

But I got thinking today, how much of English Canada voted for Harper? (Of course, the ROC is not all anglophone, but I'll simplify matters just to make a simple observation.) If I've done the math correctly (relying on the Elections Canada website) I find that, when you remove Quebec from the results, the Conservative share of the ROC vote was 47.8%.

That's high, but it's still not a majority.

The majority of Canadians outside Quebec, 52.2%, voted against Harper. Barely. But still, that's something. If this were a like a sovereignty referendum ("What kind of English Canada do you want?") the progressives would have won it.

Unfortunately it was not a referendum, it was a stupid first-past-the-post election, but that's another issue.

I think this 52.2% anti-Harper vote in the ROC is a message that needs to be communicated to Quebecers. I don't trust the Conservative-dominated English language media to communicate (or even notice) it. But I hope it can be heard:

Urban Toronto, Vancouver, Halifax, and some of the working-class regions of English Canada DO mostly share the secular, social democratic values of Quebecers. Half the population of the ROC shares these values with Quebecers.

Perhaps the NDP will be able to communicate this message. Let's try to spread the word.

Having said that, I fully sympathize with Quebecers who, having voted 84% against Harper's neoliberal reactionary agenda, might feel fed up with Canada. There clearly is a national consensus against that agenda in Quebec, a consensus that doesn't exist in ROC. I ask Quebecers to please give the 50% of English Canadians a chance to work with them to put all of Canada back onto a progressive path, somehow.

The only practical, nonsentimental argument I can think of right now for giving it a chance is that, if Quebec starts going down that sovereignty route again right now, it will simply fire up the English Canadian right-wing into a patriotic frenzy that usually undercuts and silences the voices of progressives. And I'm not sure that such tensions, such a fight is really good for social progress in Quebec, either. If, one way or the other, there's going to be a struggle, let's make it the struggle to work together, to make a more progressive and democratic Canada. That's all I have energy to think of, tonight.

Please feel free to share my views with others, and/or correct me where you think I'm wrong.

Best wishes,

Ian

Tigrlily61, you wrote:

"I really wish there could have been a way for the Bloc and the NDP to find a compromise (a re-examination of "confederation" perhaps) and merge.  This would have enabled the NDP to put its resources toward working the GTA, and we might have sacré le camp de Harper."

 

I've also wished that the NDP could have made more common cause with the Bloc. You make an excellent point, that doing so in this election would have allowed the NDP to focus its resources elsewhere, and maybe we would have taken a few more seats that way. But there are two reasons that I don't think that would have worked. (Maybe you're aware of the practical impossibilities, and you said "I wish" in that spirit; but I'll address your wish as if you really do wonder why it didn't happen.)

First, the NDP breakthrough in Quebec helped the NDP to achieve a bit of a breakthrough in other parts of Canada. It certainly broke the English Canadian media bubble that has always treated the NDP as a marginal player. I'm not sure how valid my first point is, but what I'm getting at is that the NDP gained a lot of momentum from Quebec that it might not have had otherwise. The rise in Quebec gave the NDP more respect and credibility in the ROC.

Second, and I think vastly more significant, is that the Bloc is so widely despised in English Canada (I'm sorry to say) that it would be political suicide for the NDP to make any kind of open alliance with it. Yes, it would be great if the NDP could have helped to educate other Canadians about the realities of Quebec, beyond the cartoonish image that many have of "the evil separatists" -- but there is courage, and then there is sheer self-destructive folly, and it's important to know the difference. If the NDP had made any sort of alignment with the Bloc, even something as modest as a failure to contest certain Bloc incumbents in Quebec, I think the NDP would have LOST seats in Ontario and the West and maybe Atlantic Canada too. It's hard enough being targeted as "the socialists", but "the socialists in league with separatists"? Liberals and Conservatives would have really gone to town with that idea.

Now that the NDP has supplanted the Bloc, it is going to be much easier to talk among English Canadians about the values that many of us share with Quebecers, without the conversation being derailed by the (unfortunate, sometimes silly, but for the time being unavoidable) obsession that many English Canadians have with "separatists" as if they are all "traitors" who can't be trusted.

So, it would have been a lot friendlier and effecient to align with the Bloc, but it would have been very very counterproductive. Electoral suicide for the NDP. It would not have done any of us any good.

I hope, at least, that the NDP campaign against the Bloc in Quebec was respectful.

Best wishes,

Ian

As much as I don't want to be a debbie-downer on this, I fear that though the NDP's rise to opposition status is nothing short of historic, the truth is they may only get one run at this... It really depends on how things play out the next four years. With King Steve in power, progressive Canadians and their values will be forgotten and their values run roughshod upon. How much can the NDP accomplish in this environment?

Dobbin's article about "What's Left for us" is telling in that Canadians' values on the whole have indeed taken a right turn in the past generation, and we've essentially undone decades of work related in particular to the labour movement and women's rights. When the NDP proves to be impotent in the face of corporate elites - not through lack of conviction, but rather through lack of ability to do anything against absolute power - they probably won't be invited back to play. The Canadian electorate tends to be fickle about non-status quo parties, and Steve's not going to help facilitate dissent or diversity of opinion if he can help it.

As suraj commented on Rebick's article about "The Morning After" - it's so very clear: There is Québec and there is Canada, and I plan on moving to the former as soon as I can to escape the dark clutches of totalitarianism that seem to be upon us. The Québecois are the only ones with seemingly any sense left at all. Vive le Québec libre! (and God/dess have mercy on the rest of us, the way we're going). Get out while you still can, dark days are coming.

@ian

You got it right.

Our electoral system needs a facelift.

If you took Quebec out of the equation,Harper would STILL not have the majority of support.

How does a party with 39% of the vote become a majority government?

And yes...The 'Conservatives' are one of the THE most divisive governments I can remember..Now that they have a majority,I anticipate more polarization,alienation and divisiveness.

Alot of things can happen in 5 years.

The only thing I can hope for is the Cons losing support and the NDP gaining support and taking over the government in 2016.

On verra.

I am, like most progressives, of mixed emotions re the election. For a long time, there have been two enemies within Canada: the rightwing regressives, currently led by Harper, Flaherty and his gang, who I am sure MOST Canadians do not want leading our country; and the POFs* in Quebec (NEVER spelled wioth an accent) for whom more is never enough and whose only mission is to bleed Canada o federal dollars while pushing French-only or French-first projects. One good thing that does come out of the election is that the CPC can safely ignore the neverending demands of French Quebec, which no Liberal government dared do.

(*Perpetually-offended francophones. No, I did not coin the term. I wish I had.)

Frenchfication costs Canada approximately $10 billion a year, and when there is no money for anything else, there is always money found for French projects. Is English given ANYWHERE near the same push in Quebec? Not a chance. Which is why people like me were forced out over the last 35 years. (And Frenchification, never bilingualism since NO English is being pushed on Quebec, has now crept into NB and Ontario, the worst recent example being the NDP's anglophobic Yvon Godin trying to pass the absurd Bill C232, forcing judges to be bilingual.) 

I am glad the voice of separatism has been silenced for now. I am disappointed some on this blog are still cowering before them, rather than denouncing them as traitors.

Most Canadians want our country to work. The POFs DO NOT. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

And I will predict this: IF Jack Layton cowers too much to French Quebec, his term as Opposition Leader will last only one election. If that. And he will be marginalized even more than Iggy is now.

BTW, I wrote the NDP with alarm with the bill was originally formed. And again when it somehow passed the House.

Their response?

"English and French Canada is so over."

MY response? I decided the party left me and I said I would neither support nor vote for them.

There appears to be NO party to counteract the Bloc, pushing English Canada's interests. If there was, I would vote for them in a second.

So where DO us English Canadian liberals go?

Yet another example of why Quebec must leave confederacy.

Thank you.

Mr. Smithee, please feel free to do so, as long as you know that Canada, not Quebec, will determine your borders, size of your debt, and other goodies you take for granted. I welcome French Canada as my brethren. But the anti-Canadians in Quebec are free to go their own way...on their own dime. I have long advocated the statement of Jean Chretien: If Canada is divisible, so is Quebec.

Border crossings might take more time, to keep out undesirables from English Canada "poisoning" you with their dreaded language, but I am sure we could learn to live side by side like, oh, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Like I have said, my Quebec includes Canada.

(Or, to take another approach: Canada is indivisible. Period. Like so many other sovereign nations. Try to break us apart and we will crush you. Not my preference but there you have it.)

Whatever gets you through the night....

Lol!

How terribly uninformed!

Do the reaserch yourself instead believing propaganda like this article.
Take interest in your country and find out what your new majority government ACTUALLY stands for:

Click Here for a link to their founding principles

Click Here for a link to their platform 2011 (Large PDF File)

Click Here for a link to their budget 2011

Not all the newly M.P.'s in Quebec are inexperienced and young. Hélène Laverdière is a former Foreign Affairs officer who served in several countries. She will make an excellent critic of this portfollio. Alexandre Boulerice of Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie is a former communications advisor for C.U.P.E.

Maybe this parliament will be filled with less jaded politicians. A breath of political fresh air could be blowing through this country.
http://politicsdisgust.blogspot.com

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