Pierre Karl Péladeau and the party that can't be saved

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With the abrupt departure of Pierre Karl Péladeau on May 2, the Parti québécois (PQ) has lost its truest self. Many members may rejoice at the opportunity to bring in a less cartoonishly evil leader, but in the end, PKP, as he's know in Québec, at the helm of the PQ epitomized everything that has been desperately irreparably wrong with the party for decades.

With or without him, the rotting maggot-infected carcass of what was once one of the most influential political forces in North America will continue to stink up the Québec political landscape.

Growing dissent since PQ crowned leader

The Parti québécois has been a party void of a soul for the last 30 years or so. People often wax poetic about its working-class roots, but even its founding father René Lévesque waged war against the labour movement in the early 1980s when he gutted social spending and attacked the wages and working conditions of public sector workers.

The party has been in steady and constant moral decline since, borrowing pages from their much-maligned mortal enemy the Liberal party of Canada (LPC) by tacking left while campaigning, but swiftly and unapologetically governing to the right once in office.

So what better fit for a shell of a party than a shell of leader? What better symbol for its 30-year betrayal of labour than the man known as le roi du lock out? What better answer for the hollow chorus of un pays à tout prix than a conniving, power-hungry media mogul whose net worth flirts close to the billion dollar mark?

There are, of course, decent well-meaning people working with the PQ's structure, as members, as staff or as MNAs, who have a very different vision for their party than Péladeau's.

It was no secret that ever since PKP's crowning as leader of the opposition there has been growing dissent within his cabinet and the loyalty of his inner-circle was fragile at best. 

These individuals look at the polling in Québec and truly believe that their party is the only viable alternative to the Parti libéral du Québec's (PLQ) harsh austerity agenda and dismantling of the state.

There are equally hundreds of thousands of voters who adhere to politics of lesser-evilism and begrudgingly vote for austerity-light even though a clear alternative to the never-ending neoliberal Ping Pong tournament from Hell has existed for a decade in Québec solidaire (QS).

QS's progressive agenda fails to gain traction

Unfortunately, despite a marginal but steady increase in voting intentions over the course of its existence, QS's vision of a just, green, independent, solidaire Québec has failed to gain significant traction, particularly outside Montréal.

This despite being the sole player clearly on the left side of the political spectrum in a landscape dominated by three money-crunchin', belt-tightenin' neoliberal austerity-driven centre-right parties.

Many blame QS's electoral shortcomings on a rigged media system that pays it marginal attention both during and outside electoral campaigns.

Coincidentally, QS's latest campaign On pense pareil, launched mere hours before PKP's sudden and unexpected departure, was entirely eclipsed by the vaudevillian tragicomedy unfolding at the PQ.

On pense pareil is an attempt to show that the values at the core of QS's being are far from radical ideas, quite the contrary, that they are wildly popular ideas and policies shared by a great number of québécois: $15 minimum wage, access to midwives, investment in public transit, the creation of a national pharmacare program, to name but a few. 

A 'progressive' PQ would still answer to capital

In many ways, PKP's tenure at the head of the PQ was a blessing for Québec solidaire. With the bubbling megalomaniac leading the opposition, the ability to illustrate just how far the PQ has gone was a far easier task, thus increasing the chances of convincing centre-left voters to choose them instead of holding their nose and voting PQ.

This will become a much harder task once PQ members choose a softer, kinder more progressive voice as its leader such as speculated favourites Véronique Hivon, Martine Ouellet, and Jean-François Lisée.

But make no mistake, no matter how progressive a leader the PQ chooses, it will remain a party that answers to capital above all else.

It will, naturally, continue to dream of becoming a sovereign nation, but one void of any meaning or true projet de société, and which will ultimately serve the whims and demands of the monetary elite.

Faced with such a choice, the Québec electorate needs to recognize that whether it be within the Canadian confederation or a free Québec, our economic and social prosperity will always come second to that of the neoliberal agenda. We must dare to build a more inclusive, just, ecological Québec, both within and outside electoral politics, and reject the politics of fear, division and money that has reigned over our lives for far too long.

After all, we deserve more than simple lesser-evilism and different shades of austerity, we deserve to exist in a society fuelled by love, respect, and solidarity.


Mathieu Murphy-Perron is a writer, photographer and organizer from Montréal. He is the co-founder of Tableau D'Hôte Theatre and his work can be found at http://matness.ca.

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