The Quebec spring is provoking a debate on electoral strategy, with some calling for an alliance on the basis of “anything but Charest”, in order to “free us from the Liberals.” The co-spokespersons of Québec solidaire, Françoise David and Amir Khadir, have written an open letter responding to this debate–which Michelle Robidoux has translated below.
“The aim of this appeal is to unite forces to facilitate the election of a progressive and democratic government. Why unite forces? Because the split vote, especially among Francophones, favours the re-election of the Liberal Party. An ultra-dynamic common front would encourage voting among abstentionists, who are the only ones who can drive the Liberals into the opposition.” – Pierre Curzi, Independent MNA for Borduas, in Le Devoir, 5 June 2012
On June 5, in the pages of this newspaper, Pierre Curzi, MNA for Borduas, appealed to sovereignist forces to unite in order to prevent the Liberal Party’s re-election. In his view, only this approach – “Anything But Charest” – can motivate abstentionists to vote and facilitate the election of a progressive government headed by the Parti québécois.
Québec solidaire salutes the efforts of the MNA for Borduas, which speak to legitimate concerns and a sincere desire to get Québec out of the political disaster which is dragging on. Others are also currently raising the question of a sovereignist alliance, which in their view is the only way to “liberate us from the Liberals”. But what alliance, and on what basis? Should we have faith in those who argue that the PQ is that progressive party that many are willing into existence?
The student and social crisis that we have lived through for several months is an eloquent illustration of the ambiguities and contradictions the PQ finds itself trapped in. It took Pauline Marois 11 weeks to finally define her party’s policy on tuition fees. The PQ has been trying since February to balance between the student movement and its courting of potential voters on the centre-right. Also, let’s not forget the motion put forward by the PQ MNA Véronique Hivon calling for injunctions to be respected, at the very moment when students were resisting individual attempts to break through the entrace of cegeps which had democratically voted to go on strike!
In the history of the alternation between the Liberal Party and the PQ, the latter has played an active role in the neoliberal turn imposed on Quebec. The creation of a network of early childhood learning centres, pay equity legislation or the 2002 reform of the Workplace Standards Act should not allow us to forget the more fundamental orientation that the PQ has had since 1982: special law against public sector unions in 1982, unconditional support for North-American free trade deals, massive cuts to health and education to attain a balanced budget, social welfare counter-reforms, tax cuts that mainly benefit the rich, refusal to enact electoral reform…
If the past is an indicator of the future, it is hard not to be worried about a party that too often winks to the left before an election, only to shift right once it is in power.
The two old parties share responsiblity, to different degrees, for the political decline which afflicts us. The three demonstrations of over 200,000 people, just like the student movement, teachers, lawyers, environmentalists, artists, intellectuals and others who marched in the street express a profound desire to see Quebec and its political class recover a sense of the common good, and rid itself once and for all of the old political culture which allows the 1% to rule.
Free us from… the 1%!
The meaning of the political awakening and social transformation that is underway is, in our opinion, a massive rejection of a system controled by a minority that keeps getting richer on the backs of the 99 %. The political and economic elites have, hand in hand, given birth to a world that is more unequal than ever. They have also pushed the planet to its final limits. A recent report from GEO-5 concludes that human activities are creating such a pressure on ecosystems that the Earth’s limits have almost been reached.
In his column in Voir published last May 31, Where do we go from here?, Josée Legault interpreted the current social mobilisation thus: “As for the fundamental issue, I continue to believe that this speaking out is mainly the expression of a growing anger at the degradation of the common good in the name of an essentially neoliberal and business-driven vision.” Quebec solidaire also sees things in this way.
The nation to be built is progressive
How can we meet the legitimate aspirations of the Quebec people? At a time when our youth is politicized and mobilized, where a large section of the population has chosen the street and has begun a march towards change, it is our duty to overcome the heavy hand of inertia in our intellectual habits. The time has come to have the courage and gumption to break out of the intellectual perimeter of sovereignist orthodoxy.
Quebec is no longer, and will never be, the same. A new electoral left-right alignment has emerged. The lukewarm enthusiasm for the PQ (to put it mildly), which is perceived by some as belonging to the elite in power as much as the Liberal Party, and which disappoints others because of its refusal to resolutely engage the necessary struggle for independence, is also changing the political dynamic in Quebec. It is obvious that the realignment of political forces will continue, that a clean-up is necessary and that no party owns the sovereignist vote. What attitude should sovereignist politicians adopt?
In Quebec solidaire, we have the profound conviction that political proposals must be in tune with progressive social movements. This is what our party has attempted to do since its founding. Members of Quebec solidaire, many of them coming from social movements, sincerely hope that these movements win, because their demands express the concerns and interests of the people. When social movements make gains, all of Quebec wins.
Quebec solidaire is firmly convinced that only the social project can now carry the national project – that our optimism and exciting and daring proposals, breaking with the dogma of the market and austerity, based on a search for collective interests and on environmental and feminist values, are the only antidote possible to the cynicism that the rest of the political class elicits.
The PQ can no longer attempt to play a hegemonic role in the construction of the nation of Quebec. We invite it to show a bit of humility. To be attentive to political parties and open to social movements that want to build an innovative country, a leader in terms of the environment, the sharing of wealth, equality between the sexes, rights at work, local and regional development. A country where democracy finally attains maturity through a proportional voting system which makes room for pluralism of ideas; a participatory democracy which enriches itself through the transformational projects and actions of society on a daily basis, and in every sector.
The current student and social crisis is making us collectively rediscover an intelligent, inspired youth that dares to confront the Right. We have no doubt that in the next general elections many young people will vote for the first time. They will certainly not accept watered-down and sanitized political programmes, along the same eternal ideological parameters. Quebec and youth deserve better!
We have a choice
The current state of things is not inevitable or an unavoidable natural phenomenon. It is the horrendous result of choices made and actions taken by governments over the past decades, in Quebec as elsewhere, in favour of the 1% who think they can do whatever they want.
The people have chosen. Politicians have a choice. It is all a question of citizens’ will and political will. Everything can change. For several years now, Quebec has rediscovered the desire to dream and to act. Against shale gas and for truly sustainable development. Against inequality and for the sharing of wealth. Against corruption in the realm of politics and for democratic and honest politicians. Against university tuition hikes and for free, quality education. People are in the streets, taking up at the same time the pleasure of being together. They are no longer silent and they refuse to give in to fear. They will make the gentle sound of pots be heard at the ballot box, exercising their ability to choose.
Several people are pleading in favour of a progressive and sovereignist alliance in order to make sure that the Liberal Party bites the dust in the next general elections. In our opinion, this alliance is not possible unless the parties concerned accept to undertake a sincere and candid analysis of past mistakes.
No alliance is possible without a common vision of the social crisis of the past few months, and its potential for profound and lasting change. No alliance will exist without a clear will expressed by the members of the concerned political formations. Whatever happens, and whatever the decision by the sovereignist parties, nothing can ‘liberate us from the Liberals’ except for the sovereign will of the Quebec nation. We have faith in it. We have high hopes for its future.
Françoise David, Amir Khadir – Co-spokespersons of Québec solidaire