It is starting, slowly but surely. Quebec social movements are waking up. They’ve realized that Harper can win. They understand the dangers of the forthcoming ‘Harper revolution’ and what it would mean for the society, the economy, and the progressive movements. At one level, the usual instinct on the Quebec left is, ‘what the heck, one or the other is the same in Ottawa, they are all the same’. ‘Que se vayan todos’. But maybe it’s not that simple this time.

ATTAC is a worldwide citizen’s movement that brings together hundred of thousands of members all over the world especially in France, Germany, Sweden, Morocco, Brazil and Quebec, indeed everywhere (except- why- in English Canada, the UK and the USA). ATTAC aims at raising awareness and struggling against privatization of public goods, deregulation and in general neoliberal policies in the economic realm. In Quebec, ATTAC has a significant following among teachers, public servants and students. It came out this weekend with a ‘anything but Harper’ call. It says basically that no previous government has gone to that extent to enrich the privileged through various fiscal and tax deductions. According to ATTAC, the Canadian state will be the most ‘generous’ of the G-8 countries to corporations by the year 2012, if the conservative plan is to continue. ATTAC also accuses Harper of destroying Kyoto, refocusing the budget towards military expenses, tailing the US in Afghanistan and the Middle East, attacking women’s and aboriginal’s rights and promoting a culture of censorship, opacity and secret. All in all it concludes, this is a government that will tie our hands to Washington and everything it represents. ‘ABH let’s go’.

The Conseil central de la CSN à Montréal, which is the metropolitan structure of the CSN and traditionally the stronghold of the labor left, has also called its members and the population to ABH. It is important to notice that the Conseil central do not support the Bloc Québécois. First of all, the left in Quebec is suspicious of the Bloc because it’s part of the larger ‘PQ family’. Trade union activists in their majority support Québec solidaire and they think it’s time to stand up to the PQ, and therefore to the Bloc. The second reason is that in greater Montreal (3 million people more or less), there are several ridings where the Liberal Party is the front runner and can stand up to Harper, which the Bloc cannot. We’re talking here of the West Island where a lot of the Anglophone minority resides, and other regions near Ontario. In these places, ABH means voting Liberal, in fact. Which is something that the left cannot call for, for obvious reasons, because the Liberal ‘party-State’ that has ruled Canada most of the last 100 years has been what we were fighting against. So in this context, ABH is acceptable because it does not say whom to vote for.

This undefined ABH stand is reasonable, except that at a larger level in the province, the race is more or less Harper against the Bloc (two thirds of Quebec electorally speaking). There Liberal voters however, sometimes a sizable minority, can make the difference. If they vote for Stéphane Dion, their vote is lost. If they go for Harper because they hate nationalism, Harper will succeed in many places. If they go for the Bloc because they are afraid of the ‘Harper revolution’, it could turn otherwise. This is the dilemma and the danger of calling for ABH and not more.

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Pierre Beaudet

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...