rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

By-election stunner in Quebec

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

The federal by-elections this week affirmed what we knew already, except for Quebec. The stunner was the loss of Rivière du Loup through a 12 point shift from the Bloc to the Conservatives. Apparently at odds with recent polls showing the BQ in very good shape, this outcome is a cold shower over the warm blanket that Quebec has provided us in the "ROC", that somehow French Canada would protect us from a Conservative majority.

This part of Quebec is Mario Dumont territory that has always had a conservative streak to it. All the more alarming if that base is returning to the Conservative Party, which I am told out-organized the Bloc.

The results in Montreal Hochelaga where the Bloc held its own but saw the NDP take 20% of the vote and finish a solid second also shakes up conventional wisdoms, but for different reasons.

In Hochelaga, the NDP eclipsed the Liberals as the alternative to the Bloc in this east-end working class riding. Our national punditry takes for granted that this means becoming the federalist alternative. But that is not my take of the campaign ran by Jean-Claude Rocheleau, the NDP candidate against the Bloc's Danielle Paillé. Rocheleau presented a different, and ultimately more relevant, alternative

Paillé is a former Parti Quebecois minister who was hired by Stephen Harper in 2007 to write a review of the former Liberal government's polling practices. More to the point, Paillé is no left winger and in his first media conference called for the elimination of thousands of federal government jobs by replacing only one in three federal workers for the next five years. This kind of nationalist politics at the expense of workers makes many progressives, including sovereignists, very uncomfortable.

J.C. Rocheleau, the vice chair of the NDP in Quebec, contrasted well as a local trade union President and the only candidate resident in the riding. He ran a strong social democratic campaign that emphasized social justice issues, and he built a credible local organization.

None of this was nearly enough to challenge the Bloc's hold on Hochelaga, but the NDP factor nonetheless was significant in both ridings. In Rivière du Loup, the five percent of the vote won by the NDP was the same as a year before, only this time it happened to be just about exactly the margin of victory for the Conservative.

Compared to the rest of the country, Quebec labour is highly disciplined in its politics. If there is a fear of Conservative gains, a renewed debate about preventing vote splitting can be expected. How this plays out will be one of the fascinating stories to watch. There will be pressure on the NDP to at least refrain from targeting the BQ, but also grudging recognition that the NDP has established a solid base in parts of the province and is not going away.

Overall, the by-elections were pretty good for the NDP - a win, and two second places. It was the only party to maintain or increase its share of the vote in all four contests.

Quebec defines Canada not only by its unique status as a nation within a federal state. It is also just plain big and important -- 8 million people with a quarter of the federal seats. It is hard to imagine how the NDP can go beyond 16 to 18 percent without higher support in Quebec, nor can I think of a more direct route to 20 percent-plus territory nationally for the NDP than by building on the Hochelaga result.

Disclaimer: J.C. Rocheleau is a member of my union and a friend. This either makes me somewhat well informed, or naively biased and out-to-lunch. Take your pick.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.