Seven items are enclosed.
1. Interview with Quebec solidaire activists Jessica Squires and Benoit Renaud, published in Socialist Worker online, August 30, 2012 http://socialistworker.org/2012/08/30/left-wing-challenge-in-quebec
2. Khadir attempts to woo anglophone voters
Québec solidaire leader works to distance himself from PQ’S brand of nationalism
By Cahtherine Solyom, The Gazette, Aug 30, 2012
The elephant in the room lurched forward as a young businesswoman asked a question about Québec solidaire’s language policies. What if her employees email each other in English? “We’ll send them to Guantanamo,” Amir Khadir said, deadpan. “But they’ll have a view of the sea!”
The icebreaker provoked hearty guffaws and nervous laughter in this Mile End bar full of anglophones who had come to meet the party’s one elected MNA. Khadir proved he could be equally witty in both official languages. But could he seduce the “Office de la langue anglaise,” as he called them, into voting QS, despite their wariness of the party’s platform on sovereignty and the promotion of the French language and culture?
According to recent polls of voter intentions by Crop and Léger Marketing, QS’s popularity remains at a steady seven per cent, and the party is poised to win in Mercier, Khadir’s riding, and in Gouin, where QS coleader Françoise David is running.
According to Too Close to Call, which combines results from both pollsters, almost 50 per cent in Gouin will vote QS, compared to 34.8 per cent for the Parti Québécois and 6.2 per cent for the Liberals. Khadir thinks the party can take Outremont next door, and also Sainte-Marie-Saint Jacques and Laurier-Dorion, or at least hold the balance of power — with some help from the anglophone community.
To secure its support, he promised to protect the environment — by banning shale gas, for example — and push for more mass transit, not unlike the municipal Projet Montréal, in power in Plateau Mont Royal.
Khadir, who is also a doctor, also addressed health care — a concern to all voters, regardless of language. QS will improve access to GPs, specialists and diagnostic tests through the existing CLSC system, and redistribute medical manpower, Khadir said, even if it means reining in the doctors who are “free to do whatever they want.”
But the central election issue is fiscal reform, to put more disposable income in the hands of the poorest, increase taxes paid by the wealthiest and rethink the system of tax credits and “goodies” given to the corporate world, Khadir said. Combating poverty is the best way to improve people’s health, he added.
Despite the frustration at being held hostage to the sovereignty debate, the “national question” kept resurfacing. Asked about the Clarity Act, Khadir said a QS government would disregard the Supreme Court decision that implied a super-majority would be required for a vote in favour of sovereignty. For Khadir 50 plus one would be sufficient.
Would the QS form a coalition with the PQ? No, Khadir said, because “we believe the PQ is too close to the corporate elite and ethnic nationalism.” QS rejects the PQ’s “secular charter” that would ban the hijab and other nonChristian religious symbols in the public service, Khadir said, and its controversial “citizenship tests.”
“Quebec is a place for all people,” said Khadir, adding the party has paid a (political) price for being soft on sovereignty and soft on secularism. “There are no good immigrants and bad immigrants, good citizens and bad citizens.”
Both QS and the PQ want sovereignty for Quebec, Khadir said. The main difference is that “we don’t think it’s something that has to be carried out by … ethnically defined French-Canadian people. It’s a social project that could be the project of all people living in Quebec. For us, belonging to Quebec has nothing to do with race or origins, it’s a question of choice.”
Khadir never answered the businesswoman’s question about Bill 101 being applied to businesses of 10 employees or more, however. The QS platform does call for it, though the party would not apply Bill 101 to CEGEPs. He couldn’t say how the QS would seek to remedy feelings of angst and rejection within the English community either, after being “demonized” for so long by sovereignists. He had never thought about it before, he said.
3. Corporate Quebec wary of PQ victory
Liberal defeat expected to mean higher taxes, a more interventionist government – and uncertainty
By Sophie Cousineau, Globe and Mail, Aug 30, 2012
Quebec’s business community is holding its breath ahead of Tuesday’s election, with the prospect of a Parti Québécois victory and another referendum adding to the uncertainty that faces the province’s already-suffering economy. While the race is still too close to call, the likely defeat of Jean Charest’s Liberals means that one thing is certain – a change in economic policy in Quebec City. Both the PQ and the Coalition Avenir Québec are promising a more interventionist government. Both say they will invest heavily in Quebec companies.
And the PQ, which is still the favourite to win at least a minority government, is promising something else that worries executives and business owners: higher taxes on top earners. “No one is talking about moving their company outside Quebec [like in the seventies],” said Yves-Thomas Dorval, the president of the Quebec Employers Council, which is the main lobby group for big business. “But as CEOs see an increasingly uncertain business environment, they are putting off investments.”
The investment chill comes at an inopportune time for a province that is already lagging behind Ontario and Western Canada. Quebec’s economy grew at just 1.7 per cent last year and is likely to continue at that pace this year and next, according to Toronto-Dominion Bank forecasts. That will not be enough to help the unemployment rate, which sits at 7.6 per cent – above the national average.
Quebec’s relatively high level of taxation for small businesses and high-income people has long been viewed as a drag on investment. But questions about what a PQ election win would mean are unsettling some of Quebec’s key decision-makers.
On some economic planks, the PQ and the CAQ agree. Both parties say the provincial government should be prepared to invest more in local companies, either directly or through the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, the province’s biggest pension fund manager, which is officially at arm’s-length from the government. By doing so, these parties hope to shield Quebec’s business champions from foreign takeovers. News of U.S. retail giant Lowe’s interest in the Rona hardware chain created a political uproar in Quebec.
The PQ and CAQ also promise to balance the books by the government’s next fiscal year, as the Liberals had projected. But the business community remains unconvinced. “Given their promises, we are skeptical on both parties’ financial forecasts, which are based on optimistic revenue and conservative expense projections,” said Michel Leblanc, president and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal.
Both parties are competing to show they would push the Caisse to increase its investments in Quebec companies. The PQ wants the Caisse to invest $10-billion more in the province’s economy. The CAQ wants the pension fund manager to gradually raise its stake in Quebec companies to 25 per cent of its stock portfolio – it stood at close to 6 per cent at last count.
If the two parties see eye-to-eye on the Caisse’s increased role, however, both parties differ sharply on fiscal policy. The PQ wants to pay for its social policies, such as its plan to add 15,000 spaces in seven-dollar-a-day daycare, by increasing the taxation of high earners. Quebeckers would face a 4-per-cent increase in their provincial tax rate, to 28 per cent, on taxable income above $130,000. Another 3-per-cent increase would be slapped on income above $250,000.
The CAQ plans to invest heavily in education and in health, by adding an hour to the school day, for example. To finance the party’s promises, which a majority of commentators have described as outlandish, it intends to review and eliminate the most ineffective tax breaks to companies.
4. PQ is spoiling for a fight with Harper on foreign-policy issues
By Campbell Clark, Globe and Mail, Aug 30, 2012
Get ready, Stephen Harper. Pauline Marois is going to ask for a quarter of the foreign-aid budget, wants Quebec to name its own citizens and plans to tell Quebeckers that your foreign policy is a pretty good reason to separate from Canada.
Ottawa and Quebec City often bickered over international matters when the Parti Québécois was in power in the past. But Mr. Harper has never had to govern through it. And Ms. Marois, the PQ Leader and front-runner to take power in next Tuesday’s Quebec election, has a whole new set of attacks.
Ms. Marois hasn’t spent the campaign hammering home such issues, because it’s not a key election concern for Quebeckers. But if she is elected, she might well spend some time sticking spokes into the wheels of Mr. Harper’s foreign policy.
Past PQ premiers had international clashes with Ottawa. The feds worried Jacques Parizeau was seeking guarantees of France’s recognition of an independent Quebec. Bernard Landry was upset he couldn’t speak to the Summit of the Americas. But Mr. Harper agreed to give Jean Charest a place at UNESCO, listened to him on trade with Europe and there was peace.
Now, Ms. Marois has signalled foreign policy is an area where she can make political hay by making Mr. Harper a target.
In an immediate sense, Mr. Harper has to worry that Ms. Marois might oppose a free-trade agreement with the European Union that’s being negotiated now. But more generally, he has to worry that his foreign policy might become fodder for national-unity disputes.
In this campaign, Mr. Charest, running on economic issues, has talked of opening foreign markets. But polls suggest his time is probably up. François Legault, leader of the Coalition Avenir Quebec, has fretted about the province’s place in the world, complaining its students don’t work as hard as Asian kids and promising public funds to protect its firms from foreign takeovers. But his focus is domestic. Ms. Marois, over the past year, has signalled she’s willing to pick fights with Ottawa on international affairs.
For one thing, she’s proposing an unprecedented approach to those who come here from abroad: creating Quebec citizenship. That would be flatly unconstitutional and would force Ottawa to contest it.
In an April speech, Ms. Marois argued international affairs are increasingly important to Quebeckers’ daily lives – and to the PQ’s sovereignty goal. “That’s happening at a time when Quebeckers recognize themselves less and less in Canadian foreign policy,” she said. “This evolution goes directly against the interests of the Quebec nation.”
In other words, she’s going to use the differences on international matters as a tool against her target: Mr. Harper. He’s changed Canada’s foreign policy to make it alien to Quebeckers, she argued. “Resting, at one time, on multiculturalism, balance and cooperation, Canadian foreign policy has become, I would say, bellicose, militant, marked by a unilateralism that is more and more flagrant,” she said.
She attacked Mr. Harper for freezing aid budgets, withdrawing aid from francophone countries and closing Montreal-based agency Rights & Democracy. She said she’d call for Ottawa to transfer to the province “the Quebec share” of the budget of the Canadian International Development Agency.
She also complained Ottawa is spending billions on fighter jets and warships, and that forces Quebeckers to pay a share. A PQ government, she said, would be obliged to defend Quebec against “a foreign policy that is against its national interests.” The withdrawal from the Kyoto accord, she said, hurt Quebec’s strategic interests. In short, Mr, Harper’s foreign policy is a PQ target.
Of course, Mr. Harper can choose to ignore it, knowing that what really matters is whether Ms. Marois’s attacks resonate in public opinion. He can hope that if she is elected, she’ll only win a minority and be forced to focus on survival. But a PQ government will mean Mr. Harper will have a new factor to weigh in foreign policy.
5. Protesters disrupt Charest’s latest visit to Sherbrooke
Phillip Authier, The Gazette, Aug 30, 2012
SHERBROOKE — It was going so well until he rolled into his hometown. Liberal Leader Jean Charest’s tightly scripted campaign plan was disturbed Tuesday when a small band of protesters — many apparently not students — set up a picket line in front of a Sherbrooke public market where he was supposed to be shaking hands.
After chanting of anti-government slogans for 30 minutes, Liberal organizers cancelled the event, only to see the gaggle of protesters follow the campaign to the nearby Times Hotel where Charest was scheduled to hold a news conference. Police cordoned off the area and by the time Charest’s campaign bus pulled in, the group had thinned and he and his wife, Michelle Dionne, disembarked with a wave.
Liberal officials later said they decided to cancel the event to spare the market merchants any grief.
Asked why he did not stop to talk to the protesters, Charest said, “This is not about who’s the most macho. It’s about respecting the fact that there are a lot of people there who work very hard to earn a living and don’t deserve to be subjected to this kind of behaviour.
“It’s not true I am going to indulge in some kind of contest with them to see who’s stronger. I’d rather abstain and if they want to say they won with their protest because I didn’t go, let them.”
The incident marred what was Charest’s fifth visit to the riding which he has represented, as a federal MP and provincial MNA, for 28 years. Trailing the Parti Québécois candidate, Serge Cardin, in the polls, Charest was on the offensive, flanked by supporters. A large billboard itemizing close to 30 of his achievements as the riding’s representative was on display.
Charest dismissed talk this could be the election that does him in, citing the high turnout in last weekend’s advance polling across Quebec. “Pay attention, something’s happening,” Charest said. “I am very confident on the outcome of this election. We will form a majority government.”
The demonstration tainted Charest’s triumphant visit to the neighbouring riding of Richmond, which includes the town of Asbestos. Packing the $58-million loan guarantee his government pledged to reopen the stalled Jeffrey asbestos mine in just before the election, Charest got a hero’s welcome, a rare thing for him in this campaign.
About 200 people — many of them out-of-work miners — turned up, clapping and cheering, a sign that at least in this riding the Liberals are riding high. “It’s great for the city,” said Robert Janelle, who has worked in the mine for 30 years. “Everyone is against (asbestos) but I have always worked there and there’s no problem.”
His visit coincided with a statement by PQ leader Pauline Marois that a PQ government would cancel the loan guarantee. The parliamentary commission she had promised now appears to be downgraded into an exercise to find ways to diversify the city’s teetering economy.*
Philippe Turcotte, a local businessman, saw the PQ flipflop as a way to get votes outside the riding where mining asbestos is scorned for health reasons. “It’s no worse then gold or coal mining,” he added, saying there are people here who live to 100 just like other cities.
Taking the stage, Charest laid it on thick. “There’s a community here that wants to live that says to the rest of Quebec give us the chance to work, to live and find our way,” Charest said. “We ask nothing more than to live in dignity here and in all the regions.”
* At the outset of the election, Marois said she would establish a committee of the National Assembly to study whether (!) asbestos mining and use can be done safely. Support for asbestos mining comes from the supporters of the Parti quebecois in the top echelons of the FTQ and its affiliates. Until recently, a former president of the federation and Steelworkers union in Quebec, Clement Godbout, was the hired propagandist for the industry. Last year, the CSN unioin federation (finally) took a position opposed to the deadly industry. RA
6. PQ would not ditch Plan Nord, Marois says
But mining royalties regime could change
By Kevin Dougherty, The Gazette, Aug 30, 2012
ROUYN-NORANDA — Pauline Marois is counting on Parti Québécois gains in Quebec’s outlying regions to offset the rise of François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec in the Quebec City area and Montreal’s 450 area code suburbs. “We are the party of the regions,” Marois said Wednesday.
Visiting the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, Marois noted Legault has stuck mostly to the Montreal-Quebec City corridor, with swings into the Beauce, Eastern Townships and the Outaouais, but has not campaigned in Quebec’s more distant regions.
Of the four seats in Quebec’s northwest — AbitibiEst, Abitibi-Ouest, RouynNoranda and Ungava — the Liberals held two, the PQ two, going into the election. Marois is counting on sweeping all four, as Liberal strength appears to be slipping in spite of the provincial government’s Plan Nord.
In the northeast, sparsely populated Duplessis and René-Lévesque ridings are already PQ and Marois is betting she can hold the four PQ ridings in Saguenay-Lac StJean it has and is confident of defeating Liberal Junior Minister Serge Simard in Dubuc, sweeping the region.
The Liberals seem likely to hold on to Bonaventure riding in the Gaspé region, but the PQ hopes to win Îles de la Madeleine and Gaspé ridings from the Liberals.
In Rouyn-Noranda on Wednesday, Marois said if she becomes premier she would cancel a $58 million loan to reopen the Jeffrey Mine in the town of Asbestos, and Quebec will get out of the asbestos mining and exporting business.
But Marois offered assurances a PQ government would maintain the Charest government’s Plan Nord to develop the natural resources of northern Quebec. “We agree with northern development,” the PQ leader said in a local Radio-Canada interview, adding the caveat that, “We don’t see it the same way.”
Marois explained under the mining royalties adopted by Jean Charest’s Liberal government, 10 of 19 mining companies in the province pay no royalties.* Noting minerals are a nonrenewable resource, Marois said the PQ would establish a minimum royalty of five per cent, saying this would not be burdensome of companies not making a profit because “five per cent of nothing is nothing.”
But once a mine generates over “eight or nine per cent profit,” the royalty charged would be 30 per cent, she said. The Charest government raised Quebec’s mining royalties to 16 per cent from 12 per cent, and argues that when taxes are added mining companies in Quebec will pay 41 per cent to Quebec and Ottawa.
Marois said mining “should create profits for all Quebec men and women,” and said the government would ask the companies to do more processing in the province and could invest in the equity of mining companies in Quebec.
Forestry is also important in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region and Marois told Planète Radio the PQ wants to encourage greater use of wood in the construction of public buildings, setting a goal of 30-per-cent wood. “I am confident Quebecers will elect me,” Marois said on NRJ radio, adding she is “very calm, very serene.”
Marois said she needs a majority to roll back the Charest government’s tuition hike, abolish Bill 78 and eliminate the $200 per person health contribution. Polls suggest Marois will win, but with a minority. “I will respect the choice of the population,” she said.
* Quebec’s mining royalty regime is unique in Canada in that it is levied on company profits, not revenues. It is the lowest in Canada.
The anarchist wing of the Quebec student movement in action:
7. Protests go quiet at U de M as classes cancelled
Anti-capitalist activists parade through downtown
By René Bruemmer, The Gazette, Aug 30, 2012
Following two days of raucous protests and numerous arrests, all was calm at the Université de Montréal Wednesday after administrators cancelled classes for the rest of the week in departments that voted to continue their boycotts.
On the streets of Montreal, however, close to 100 protesters, most wearing masks, paraded through the downtown core Wednesday afternoon, trailed by police. They briefly occupied a building on Sherbrooke St., blocked traffic on Ste. Catherine St. while chanting for an end to tuition hikes and capitalism, and tossed garbage cans and trash onto the road.
One pedestrian was struck by an orange traffic pylon whose intended target was a TV cameraman. Police eventually arrested four protesters for participating in a march without providing an itinerary beforehand.
At Université du Québec à Montréal, members of the 4,600-member social sciences department voted to end their boycott Wednesday evening and were debating when to return to class in a general assembly that lasted more than seven hours. The political science department votes Thursday.
Administrators at the Université de Montréal said they had no choice but to suspend the courses. “We realized the protests were causing problems for 90 per cent of courses in the departments where students had voted to return,” a university spokesman, Mathieu Filion, said. “We thought it was best to try and reduce the tension.”
More than 30 protesters were arrested by police at the university Monday and Tuesday, either for alleged violations of Law 12 (formerly known as Bill 78) which outlaws obstructing classes, or for clashing with police, security guards or other students. Student federations and some professors criticized the administration for using police to enforce Law 12, which stipulates universities must hold courses even in departments that voted for a strike.
The cancellation of the 47 classes for the rest of the week in departments including East-Asian studies, cinema and art history affects 1,300 students out of a total enrolment of 40,000. The suspended courses could resume next week, but Filion said it’s possible the semester will have to be cancelled for some students because time has run out in an already shortened session.
At the Université du Québec à Montréal Wednesday, a small band of protesters forced cancellations in departments that voted for the boycott by blowing horns and banging drums, as they have all week. Hundreds of courses have been cancelled so far, either by protesters or because students have given up trying to attend.
A UQAM spokeswoman, Jenny Desrochers, noted many classes were still able to go on in departments that supported the boycott. Class cancellations don’t necessarily mean students will lose their semester, because many professors made arrangements so students can do their course work without having to attend class.
The university is monitoring the protesters and sending complaints of intimidating behaviour or physical violence to the police. UQAM has not called police to intervene to stop protesters for fear of exacerbating the situation.