By Roger Annis, Sept 3, 2012
Below are five key news articles on the eve of tomorrow’s Quebec election.
The last of these items is in French. It is an interview in the daily Le Devoir with the co-spokespeople (leaders) of Québec solidaire, Amir Khadir and Françoise David. The two leaders speak on how the party’s elected representatives will function in the Quebec National Assembly, especially if they hold a balance of power over a Parti québécois minority government. Khadir and David expect this outcome.
They say they will support any progressive measures that a PQ government would propose. They will make their own proposals to this government, including for a public pharmacare program; improvements to the public health care system, including the elimination of the $200 yearly user fee; a hike in income taxes for the wealthy; and a moratorium on any expansion of fossil fuel extraction (there are oil reserves under the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and adjacent to Anticosti Island in the St. Lawrence River as well as shale gas reserves along the St. Lawrence River Valley).
The party will hold the PQ to its promise to rescind the university tuition fee hike of the Liberals and abolish Law 12.
QS will not precipitate the fall of a minority government in at least the first year of a mandate, say the leaders. They will not do so at all over the issue of proportional representation, but they say this proposal is a pre-condition for any future electoral cooperation between the two parties.
From Le Devoir: “While they do not reject out of hand an alliance of sovereigntist and progressive forces in anticipation of the next general election, the co-spokespersons of Québec solidaire nevertheless pose an essential condition: reform of the voting procedure, which the Parti québécois rejects. ‘There will be no sovereigntist and progressive alliance if the Parti québécois persists in trying to retain a [first-past-the-post] voting procedure inherited from the British empire, which (I will say in passing) is just a bit contradictory,’ says Ms. David, explaining in the same breath that she would not make it a life-or-death question for a possible PQ minority government, contrary to the leader of the Option nationale, Jean-Martin Aussant. ‘Posing that as a condition for propping up a minority government would not be responsible,’ argues Mr. Khadir.”
In other words, the QS leaders would consider joining some sort of electoral alliance “of sovereigntist and progressive forces” in a future general election provided the PQ agreed to some reform of the voting procedure that limits or eliminates the first-past-the-post system. The extensive platform of Quebec solidaire contains a proposal for proportional representation (you can read the platform in English here.
A small of example of such an agreement is in place in the current election campaign. QS and Option nationale agreed not to run candidates in the districts of their respective leaders. But in June, QS reacted to pressures for an electoral agreement with the PQ in what was then an undeclared, pre-electoral period by setting out conditions that were immediately dismissed by the other party.
PQ leader Pauline Marois has given extensive interviews in recent days outlining how a government under her leadership will govern. She made no mention of changes to the electoral system. The PQ supported a proportional representation system throughout most of its history, but did nothing to implement it. A draft bill for PR was rejected by René Lévesque’s cabinet in the early 1980s. In 2010, the PQ under Marois’ leadership dropped the PR demand altogether.
Françoise David told Radio Canada news last night that “as a feminist” she will celebrate the election of Pauline Marois as premier of the province. If elected, Marois will be the first woman to occupy the post. She has served as a minister in previous PQ governments.
1. Charest’s election day forecast: Opposition, or obsolescence?
By Allan Woods, Toronto Star, Aug 31, 2012
MONTREAL- The political forecast for Quebec is taking shape with just four days left in the provincial election campaign. Tuesday – voting day – looks sunny with a chance of clouds for the Parti Québécois. There are possible record temperatures coming for the upstart Coalition Avenir Québec. But the provincial Liberal party, in power since 2003, is bracing for an epic storm.
The predictions for the outcome of the election are based on polls that have seen Jean Charest’s Liberals steadily losing support and Pauline Marois’s PQ in the lead but unable to grow over the last month of campaigning. Both are watching nervously as the electors increasingly turn their sights toward François Legault’s centre-right CAQ. But turning the surveys into seats in Quebec’s National Assembly is another challenge entirely.
How well the parties shift from shaking hands and knocking on doors to ensuring that supporters cast their ballots next week could mean the difference between the PQ forming a minority or majority government. It could also be the difference between Charest’s party maintaining some dignity as the official Opposition or going down in a historic and humiliating loss, as most pundits predict.
The biggest wild card in this cliffhanger campaign is the CAQ, which must now rely on popular support, Internet buzz and automated telephone calls – or robocalls, as Quebec City’s Le Soleil newspaper reported Thursday – to make up for what the nine-month-old party lacks in on-the-ground organization.
Complex algorithms based on polling numbers have been employed by a number of analysts to arrive at the projected election-day results. But as the weatherman says, it’s not an exact science.
Neither is electioneering. Marois’s campaign started bright and early Thursday morning at a commuter train station in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, east of Montreal, only to find that most workers had already left for work. Poor planning aside, it is in the riding of Montarville, and the more than two dozen suburban districts like it that ring Quebec’s most populous city, that the majority government she seeks will be won or lost.
The seat projection website ThreeHundredandEight.com predicts the PQ could win up to 24 of the 28 seats in Montreal’s suburbs, which is more than a third of the 63 seats needed for a majority government.
Léo Bureau-Blouin, a star PQ candidate with a good chance to unseat a Liberal minister in Laval-des-Rapides, north of Montreal, welcomed Marois to his former junior college in the eastern Quebec town of Saint-Hyacinthe for her next stop of the day. The 20-year-old former head of the college students’ association was a key actor in the fight against Charest government’s proposed tuition fee increases that sparked months of protest this spring. His job was to fire up the students to vote in the hope that it will push the incumbent PQ candidate to victory.
There are more than a dozen seats in eastern Quebec that are expected to vote PQ. Saint-Hyacinthe is one of the few that the party fears losing. “The (student) strike, whether you were for or against it, was an historic strike, one that will go down in the history books. On Sept. 4 we have the chance to make this election historic,” Bureau-Blouin told the student crowd from the pulpit in what used to be his school cafeteria.
Despite the rhetoric, the only real history pundits expect to be recorded next week is by the Liberals, who are on track for their worst defeat since Confederation in 1867. Charest is expected to lose his own eastern Quebec riding of Sherbrooke.
His team could be reduced to a metropolitan rump in Montreal. The city is to Charest’s party what the GTA has been historically to the federal Liberal party: a political fortress and the last region where the federalist party can expect to lose support. Montreal is home to 28 provincial ridings and the Liberals are expected to take about 20, a full two thirds of the 30 total number of seats it is projected to win according to the TooCloseToCall.ca website.
That leaves Legault’s CAQ, which appears dominant in Quebec City ridings and competitive in the central part of the province. Polls have shown a turn toward the CAQ in more conservative regions of the province.
This, plus the addition of high profile candidates such as former Montreal police chief Jacques Duchesneau and the well-known Dr. Gaétan Barrette, who is the president of the Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec, could mean forced retirement for a handful of Liberals, among them, longtime minister Sam Hamad.
2. Environmental groups rate the campaigns
Québec solidaire gets a go from green groups; CAQ the loser
By Michelle Lalonde, The Gazette, Aug 31, 2012
If you’ve been wondering which party would best protect the environment if elected, a non-partisan coalition of environmental groups has done your homework for you. Québec solidaire was the hands-down winner and Coalition Avenir Québec the loser when six prominent environmental groups pooled resources to compare six political parties on just how green their platforms are.
In fact, the groups (l’Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique, Coalition pour que le Québec ait meilleure mine, Réseau québécoise des groupes écologistes, Greenpeace, Coalition eau secours, and Nature Québec) analyzed not only the official platforms and programs, but also news releases, leaders’ statements and interviews during the campaign, as well as responses to questionnaires sent directly to the parties. The groups then rated the parties’ positions on such issues as protecting biodiversity and forests, logging and mines, energy, climate change, air quality, transportation, agriculture, water management and financing of environmental promises. “It’s back-to-school time, and it’s really worrisome to see most political parties failing the most important test, which is protecting our environment,” said Kim Cornelissen, vice-president of the AQLPA.
QS got the highest mark by far – 83 per cent – because of its detailed environmental proposals, particularly related to agriculture, mining and forestry. For example, the party would impose a moratorium on growing genetically modified produce, outlaw the mining and export of asbestos and uranium, and increase mining royalties.
The second-best mark of 73 per cent went to the Parti Québécois, which scored well in water management, conservation and climate/ energy/transport sections. The PQ would, for example, fund municipalities to protect their shorelines, install water counters in businesses, increase royalties paid to the state by water bottlers, and ban fluoridation of drinking water.
The groups noted QS and the PQ were the only parties that made any mention of conservation of natural spaces and wetlands in their platforms.
In third place was Option Nationale with a mark of 50 per cent, which scored well in the forestry and mining section, but failed on most other issues.
Quebec’s Green Party got a failing score (42 per cent), mainly because its platform, like Option Nationale’s, is incomplete and does not explain how it would attain or finance its laudable objectives, the groups concluded.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Party scored an unimpressive 33 per cent, only two points ahead of the CAQ. The Liberals scored poorly on mining and forestry, and that mark would likely have been even worse had it taken into account a report leaked to Le Devoir this week in which scientists claim the Liberal’s Plan Nord – a plan to facilitate mining and forestry in northern Quebec – would wipe out woodland caribou. That report was submitted to the Liberal government in May, but has not yet been released publicly.
The CAQ’s platform, meanwhile, seemed to be drawn up-in an era before environmental awareness, the groups said.
“We fell out of our chairs when we searched the entire platform of the CAQ – they had 94 promises – and we found not one mention of forests or conservation or biodiversity,” said Nicolas Mainville, director of Greenpeace Quebec. “For a party that could actually take power on Sept. 4, we find they have a shockingly simplistic vision of development of Quebec’s resources that really excludes environmental concerns.”
3. Marois says she’d be firm, but respectful with Harper
PQ leader goes to national capital region to spell out party’s agenda for change
By Kevin Dougherty, The Gazette, Sept 1, 2012
GATINEAU – Pauline Marois says she plans to have “very polite, but very firm” talks with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, seeking full powers for Quebec in four areas. “And I will defend Quebec’s interests,” she said Friday during a campaign stop at Gatineau city hall, less than a kilometre from the Canadian Parliament.
Marois, still hoping her Parti Québécois will win a majority in Tuesday’s election, listed language as the first area where a PQ government would seek full powers. The PQ is committed to adopting a new, tougher Bill 101 to preserve Quebec’s French character and Marois said she would ask Harper to leave language to Quebec, recalling Harper proposed a 2007 motion recognizing Quebec as a nation. “We will verify whether it means anything,” Marois said, accompanied by PQ candidates in the Outaouais region.
At present, Quebec employees in federally regulated areas of jurisdiction, such as transportation, broadcasting and banking, as well as federal civil servants, are not covered by Bill 101, which gives Quebecers the right to work in French.
As well, while the official language of Quebec is French, under the federal Official Languages Act, French and English are Canada’s official languages. Ottawa’s Commissioner of Official Languages sees that this law is respected and that French minorities outside Quebec and the English minority in Quebec have federal services in their language.
In an email response, Carl Vallée, a spokesperson for Harper, said the federal government would respect Quebecers’ decision on Tuesday. “We have no intention getting involved in the provincial campaign,” Vallée wrote. “We are going to work with the next government of Quebec on our common interests, namely job creation, economic growth and long-term prosperity.”
In addition to language, Marois wants Ottawa to turn powers over to Quebec in culture and communications, now regulated by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and wants Ottawa to transfer employment insurance to Quebec. Asked whether she would use the threat of a sovereignty referendum to gain leverage in talks with Harper, Marois said: “I don’t believe it is a negotiation tool.”
At a rally of more than 2,000 PQ supporters in Montreal Thursday, Marois made it clear she wants a majority government, to push ahead with her goal of making Quebec a sovereign country. Jean-François Lisée, one of her new star candidates, even fantasized onstage at the event about a referendum in 2016.
But a CROP poll Friday for the Gesca newspaper chain found that if a referendum were called now, only 28 per cent of Quebecers would vote Yes. The poll also indicated that 62 per cent of PQ supporters want Marois to call a referendum in her first term.
The CROP poll also indicated Marois is losing, rather than gaining, support, with her PQ still in the lead but down one percentage point at 32 per cent. At that level, seat projections below 63 suggest a PQ minority.
The PQ ran full-page ads Friday in Quebec’s French language newspapers calling for a majority PQ government.
Marois said her “firm” approach to Ottawa will contrast with that of Premier Jean Charest, whom she said practised “federalism by correspondence,” writing to Harper, but never talking to him. Her approach would mean, “a real defence of Quebec’s interests, in direct, frank exchanges with all the means at our disposal.”
In the last federal election, the New Democratic Party won the most seats in Quebec, and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair is a former Quebec Liberal minister. Marois said she expects to have good relations with Mulcair, “because I know him very well.”
Marois said she will not take a confrontational attitude with Harper. “I will adopt an attitude of respect,” she said, recalling that in 1997 as PQ education minister she sat down with then-prime minister Jean Chrétien to negotiate a constitutional amendment with little fuss.
The Marois amendment transformed Quebec’s Protestant and Catholic school boards, protected in the 1867 constitution, into English and French linguistic boards.
4. It’s up to students to find a way to end boycotts, UQAM says
By René Bruemmer, The Gazette, Sept 1, 2012
The solution to ending the student boycotts ultimately rests in the hands of the students, administrators at the Université du Québec à Montréal said this week. Students desperate to return to class, however, say they’re being held hostage by a minority of protesters, an impotent government and a “democratic” student association voting process that is anything but.
At Montreal’s two French language universities, about 5,600 students remain in departments that have voted to continue the boycotts, out of a total student population of 81,000. Many could lose their winter semester, despite the creation of the Liberal government’s Law 12 last May that was supposed to guarantee a return to class.
At UQAM, administrators refused to call in police, fearing it could inflame tensions and threaten the security of staff and students. Bands of roaming protesters numbering less than 40 on some days forced the cancellation of hundreds of classes. Many students gave up trying to attend.
At Université de Montréal, which called in the police because administrators said they feared for the security of staff and students, more than 30 protesters were arrested under Law 12 and for allegedly assaulting police officers and security guards.
Yet the university was forced to cancel classes for the week in the six departments that voted to continue the boycott, saying the actions of a small minority were disrupting courses for the 90 per cent who voted for a return. Many professors and the university’s largest student federation blasted the administration for calling in the police.
Students in departments that have voted for the boycott have the power to organize new votes, as many groups have done, UQAM spokeswoman Jenny Desrochers noted.
It’s an argument oft repeated by students who support the boycotts and the tactics used to force class cancellations. “There is always a democratic vote that legitimizes the actions we are taking,” said Michael, a member of the political science student association at UQAM who didn’t want to give his full name. “We don’t target departments that voted to return, only those that held a democratic vote to stop classes.”
Critics argue, however, that the student bodies are using union rules to justify blocking access, when they are in fact student associations and have no right to hold students in the minority to their strike votes. Many students accuse those in favour of the boycotts of using underhanded means to sway vote results, then call on their members to respect “democracy.”
UQAM’s social sciences department’s general assembly for a re-vote on the boycott issue drew 1,300 people Wednesday. But the debates dragged on for more than seven hours, by which time almost 400 students left. In the end, the vote was tight, with 480 students calling to end the boycott, 445 to prolong it.
Students in the political science department complained the student council held a second vote last week without advising most of its 600 members. Twenty-eight students out of 41 voted to restart the boycott, overturning a previous vote that included almost the entire department.
Student associations are playing dirty politics, said political science student Juan Lima. But given that their example is the Liberal government and its draconian Law 12, it’s not surprising, he said. “As we can see, (the student associations) are just like the government, “he said. “That’s our politics here. That’s our democracy.”
UQAM’s Desrochers noted university administrations are not allowed to interfere with student associations. Students in the political science department did take matters into their own hands Thursday, voting 144 to 73 for a return to class in their third vote in two weeks. They had already lost four days in an already tight semester.
Université de Montréal, however, warned that after the last cancellations, it might be too late for students in some departments to finish their semester. Many already gave up trying a long time ago.
5. Amir Khadir et Françoise David au Devoir – “On veut tirer le PQ vers le centre gauche”
Les coporte-parole de QS exhortent les Québécois à voter selon leurs convictions
Marco Bélair-Cirino, Le Devoir, 31 août 2012
“Nous allons appuyer toutes les mesures, tous les projets de loi qui […] vont dans le sens du progrès social, d’une économie fondée sur une vision écologiste du développement du Québec et la souveraineté”, dit Françoise David.
Les coporte-parole de Québec solidaire, Françoise David et Amir Khadir, s’engagent à ” tirer vers le centre gauche ” du spectre politique le prochain gouvernement – l’élection du Parti québécois (PQ) apparaissant comme le scénario le plus plausible à leurs yeux.
Se posant en personnes ” responsables ” et ” raisonnables “, ils se garderont de le faire tomber au premier revers s’ils détiennent la balance du pouvoir. ” On veut l’influencer ! ” lance la coporte-parole de Québec solidaire Françoise David lors d’une entrevue éditoriale avec Le Devoir. ” On devra regarder le menu législatif, après quoi on pourra indiquer nos couleurs. Il n’y aura pas de grands effets de surprise “, précise-t-elle.
Françoise David et Amir Khadir convoitent toujours l’élection d’un gouvernement péquiste minoritaire dont la ” balance du pouvoir ” serait détenue par quatre, trois ou deux députés solidaires. ” Il n’y en aura pas d’autres élections dans l’année qui vient. Le gouvernement va gouverner “, assure-t-elle, s’efforçant de dissiper les craintes de ” chaos ” accompagnant l’élection d’un gouvernement minoritaire.
Les élus solidaires appuieront sans réserve l’abrogation de la loi 12, l’annulation de la hausse des droits de scolarité et la mise au rancart de la ” taxe santé ” préconisées à la fois par leur parti et le PQ. ” Nous allons appuyer toutes les mesures, tous les projets de loi qui […] vont dans le sens du progrès social, d’une économie fondée sur une vision écologiste du développement du Québec et la souveraineté “, précise Françoise David. ” Ça ne veut pas dire que nous, on demande la lune, le Parti québécois offre beaucoup moins, et nous, en bas de la lune, on n’accepte rien “, ajoute-t-elle. Québec solidaire misera sur une ” négociation responsable et raisonnable ” avec le prochain gouvernement, balayant tout projet de le faire tomber – s’il est minoritaire – ” dans l’année qui vient “. ” Il est irresponsable de vouloir renverser un gouvernement un mois après l’élection, franchement ! “, lance Françoise David.
En plus d'” influencer ” le menu législatif du prochain gouvernement, Québec solidaire compte interpeller tous les partis politiques présents à l’Assemblée nationale sur ses priorités. S’il est réélu, Amir Khadir compte revenir à la charge avec son projet de loi prévoyant l’implantation de Pharma-Québec ” un pôle public d’acquisition et de production de médicaments qui permettra d’économiser 2,7 milliards $ par année “.
” On va espérer pour ce genre de projet de loi avoir l’aval bien sûr du gouvernement en place “, dit Françoise David. ” Il y a déjà une ouverture de la part du Dr Hébert [candidat péquiste dans la circonscription de Saint-François] “, précise Amir Khadir.
Québec solidaire proposera également à l’Assemblée nationale un moratoire sur l’exploitation de ” toutes les énergies sales “, une réforme de la Loi sur la santé afin de ” protéger le caractère public du système de santé ” ainsi qu’une modification de la fiscalité ouvrant la porte à ” plus d’impôts pour une frange de la population à revenu plus élevé “, mais en revanche ” moins de cadeaux aux entreprises “.
Québec solidaire se distanciera toutefois d’un éventuel gouvernement dirigé par Pauline Marois s’il fait le choix d’appliquer la loi 101 aux cégeps et d’instaurer une citoyenneté québécoise. ” Quand on entre dans les questions de langue, d’identité, de laïcité, on touche à des questions sensibles. Pour le moment, en tout cas, on dit non, mais on est prêts à en débattre “, de dire Françoise David.
D’ailleurs, elle invite le Parti québécois à ” prendre le temps de réfléchir, débattre, aller voir où sont les consensus sociaux ” sur ces questions. ” Il va y avoir un référendum sur le projet d’indépendance. Il me semble que le PQ doit être conscient qu’on a besoin du plus grand nombre possible [de votants du Oui]. Je ne comprends pas en quoi ça nous avance de heurter les minorités, de les mettre à l’index, de susciter ce genre de tensions qui ne sont pas à l’avantage du camp souverainiste “, poursuit Amir Khadir.
Exaspérés par les appels au vote stratégique, Françoise David et Amir Khadir exhortent les Québécois à faire la sourde oreille et à voter selon leurs convictions politiques. ” Le meilleur choix de leur vote, c’est de voter Québec solidaire. Il y a peut-être une dizaine de comtés où même l’idée du vote tactique a vraiment un impact réel, c’est tout. Donc, pour des centaines de milliers de progressistes partout à travers le Québec, c’est vraiment futile, c’est un vote perdu ” affirme le député sortant de Mercier.
À quatre jours du scrutin, Québec solidaire compte ravir trois circonscriptions c’est-à-dire Gouin et Sainte-Marie-Saint-Jacques au Parti québécois, ainsi que Laurier-Dorion au Parti libéral du Québec. S’il réussit ce tour de force, trois nouveaux députés se joindraient à Amir Khadir si celui-ci est réélu dans la circonscription de Mercier. ” Si on obtenait mardi prochain 7, 8, 9 % du vote, sait-on jamais, et quelques députés… je vous soumets qu’on aurait accompli un progrès important depuis 2008 “, fait remarquer Françoise David. ” C’est très exigeant “, ajoute Amir Khadir.
En 2008, Québec solidaire a recueilli 3,78 % du vote populaire.
À une ” électrice déchirée ” de la circonscription de Gouin qui signait jeudi une lettre dans Le Devoir soulignant qu’elle ” doit voter dans l’intérêt de la collectivité ” et du coup réélire le candidat du PQ sortant, Nicolas Girard, afin de ne pas priver le PQ ” d’une circonscription qui pourrait faire la différence “, Françoise David répond ” en toute humilité ” ” que l’intérêt de la collectivité québécoise, c’est que je sois élue “.
” Je pense que les gens ont découvert une femme d’État, et ça, c’est peut-être un peu différent de ce qu’ils connaissaient avant. Ils me voyaient comme une militante féministe, des droits sociaux, ce que je suis encore, ce que je serai toujours, quoi qu’il arrive “, déclare-t-elle, avant que son confrère la décrive comme une ” leader d’envergure nationale et internationale “.
Alliance des forces souverainistes
S’ils ne rejettent pas d’emblée une alliance des forces souverainistes et progressistes en vue des prochaines élections générales, les coporte-parole de Québec solidaire posent néanmoins une condition sine qua non : la réforme du mode de scrutin, ce à quoi se refuse le Parti québécois. ” Il n’y en aura pas d’alliance souverainiste et progressiste si le Parti québécois s’obstine à vouloir conserver un mode de scrutin [uninominal à un tour] hérité de l’empire britannique, ce qui est en passant un tout petit peu contradictoire “, dit Mme David, précisant du même souffle qu’elle n’en ferait pas une question de vie ou de mort d’un éventuel gouvernement minoritaire péquiste, contrairement au chef d’Option nationale, Jean-Martin Aussant. ” Poser cette condition-là pour maintenir un gouvernement minoritaire ne serait pas responsable “, fait valoir M. Khadir.