2012 in Review

Who says Quebec politics is boring? For the first time in nearly a decade, the Parti Quebecois have taken back the National Assembly and the controversies surrounding the new government and the former Liberal government are countless. This year went to show how controversy is truly at the heart of The Quebec Political Scene. This post, written by both +Karina Licursi and I will round up 2012 into one bite-sized image with the big scandals and the party progress reports.

Controversies Surrounding The New PQ Government

Prejudice Against Minorities

The PQ certainly left their impression in the election campaign and in the new Bill 101. They are prejudice, they are extremists and only their preferred kind have a right to call themselves Quebecers. In an era when tolerance and acceptance is the norm of school's teachings and the supposed enforced law on playgrounds, the PQ have taken an axe to minority communities yet again.

This acceptance and enforcement of discrimination brought out the worse of Quebecers as a group of Asian citizens was attacked in Montreal for the fact that they were not speaking French. Meanwhile, anglophones, clearly the prime target of PQ language and identity laws, said enough was enough and some started packing their boxes and taking their money and their economic contributions out of Quebec.

But, this rhetoric didn't end after the election. On October 22, a couple in Vaudreuil-Dorion needed paramedics to help their two-year-old daughter who went into febrile seizure. To Mark Bergeron's surprise, the parametric at the other end of the 911 call refused to respond in English, one of Canada's official languages. The PQ language minister then came out and said that bilingualism should not be a requirement for hire, it should be optional. So what happens to an anglophone in an emergency?  Don't look to Quebec's first responders for help, even if they should be abiding by Canada's official languages.

Controversies Surrounding The Former Liberal Government

The Student Movement at a Glance

While the protests did leave many divided, it certainly got people speaking and no longer left Quebecers on the fence when it comes to government misspending. It had everyone review how the private sector affects education. It began with protests against the $325 a year imposed increase from former Premier Jean Charest to emerging other arguments such as environmental issues, the economy and poverty. After a year since the movement erupted on March 22, 2012, it's safe to say that the argument on tuition is only the beginning.

The student movement was split into two parts, one that opposed Charest's tuition hikes, and a more radical group that believed that tuition should be free. When student leaders like Leo Bureau-Blouin threw their hats behind Pauline Marois, they had clearly forgotten that Marois too tried to increase tuition during her days as Education Minister. On top of that, Marois has since cut funding to post-secondary education and while tuition rates may be back to normal, there aren't many Quebec students that noticed any difference or benefit from it.

The Charbonneau Commission

The scandals unveiled during the long process investigating corruption within the construction industry are endless. It caused Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay to resign from his position after accusations that his political party Union Montreal reportedly received funding from the mafia. A major testimony from the man known as "Donnie Brasco" to give insight into the dark underworld of organized crime also received widespread media attention. With the commission now extended, whether or not all these testimonies will make any justice for the province, or are simply entertainment for those watching, only time will tell.

Election 2012

Platform Comparison

Low Voter Turnout Among Anglophones

In the 2008 election, Quebec had a voter turn out of just 58% and chief electoral officer, Denis Dion, noted that some of the ridings with the lowest voter turnout were those that were largely Anglophone. It turns out that Anglophone Quebecers don't see any viable options for them so in a time when dissatisfaction with Jean Charest's Liberals was increasing, Anglophone voters chose to stay home because none of the alternatives appealed to them - particularly not the Parti Quebecois.

The Election of a Minority Government

By the time the ballots were counted on September 4, the Parti Quebecois made a historic return to power after nearly a decade of sitting on the sidelines. However, while the PQ may have won the election, their victory is at odds with the sum of seats of the Liberals and Coalition Avenir Quebec who can topple them if they make a wrong move. The fact that Quebec got a minority government is comforting because for the longest time, the Charest Liberals governed arrogantly with their majorities and the result was a Quebec government that was out of touch and didn't listen to its electorate. The fact is, regardless which party we vote for in Quebec, a minority government is our only chance of keeping the National Assembly in line and on task.

The Economy

Quebec's economy is among the weakest of the country and Quebec remains the place of high taxation and unnecessary government involvement, on top of that, it also collects the most in equalization payments from an increasingly impatient Alberta. In the fall election campaign, each of the main parties came up with their own fixes to the economy and in the end, the PQ economic plan proved to be expensive and unrealistic - not to mention the Quebec Solidaire... However, in spite of a platform that promised huge new spending initiatives and tax hikes to pay for them, the recent budget has been fairly conservative, except that it encroached too much into taxation when taxes are already crippling businesses as it is.

The Size of Government

The federal Conservatives scrapped the long gun registry because they found it to be costly and ineffective. In response, the Charest Liberals, and newly elected Marois Pequistes promised to impliment of provincial registry. Not only was this new registry good political points for the PQ, it also is destined to fail and come across a lot of loopholes that would nullify its worth. In the end, the Quebec government will only inflate even more... As if the new Law 101 wasn't enough of a footprint on peoples' lives.

Party Progress Report

The PQ

The PQ have made a lot of progress on the political front. They have for the first time in nearly a decade re-entered government after nearly a decade on the sidelines. However, this separatist party is diluted this time as a minority government and a majority of federalist seats can kill any referendum, especially in a time when Quebecers simply don't want one.

Many Canadians are looking at the PQ victory in confusion but funny enough, the PQ win was nothing but a feat of Quebec's political culture. The PQ didn't win because people wanted them to win, they won as a punishment to Jean Charest and his Liberals. As such, this PQ government won't be the separatist government of the decade, it will be the left-wing alternative to a right-wing Liberal party.

As far as their term in government has gone, it has been a rocky road and clearly Marois wasn't quite as prepared to be premier as she said she was. Polls suggest that Quebecers aren't any more satisfied with her than they were with Charest. It is only a matter of time before the minority government is toppled and what the PQ need to do is drop divisive identity policies, realize that Quebec culture isn't close to being in threat and finally come forth with an economic plan that makes Quebecers better off.

The Liberals

The Liberals shot themselves in the foot. All it took was an election call in the height of the largest student movement in history and the increasingly detailed inquiry of corruption to finish them off. However, the PLQ did much better than most of us may have thought. During the campaign, most polls tied the Liberals and CAQ for second or third but once the ballots were counted, the three-way race was in reality a virtual tie of the new PQ government and the former Liberal government with a difference of but a mere percentage point. The Liberals are now in the process of getting a new leader and they can only hope the person they choose is engaging and most importantly, more principled.

With allegations of corruption, a black mark on students, and a legacy of tax and spend policies, the Liberals failed to convince that after a decade of power, that they were good economic managers. While they campaigned on a budgetary surplus and while they had the Anglo vote, there is no denying that they were no longer a viable option for government - but look around, were there really any better options?

The only benefit of the doubt that the PLQ have is new leadership and new ideas may be enough to beg for forgiveness in a political spectrum where no party is a good party. The PLQ will need to seriously consider their platform and their decisions because as we speak, not only is the CAQ their biggest threat, the CAQ is likely going to be the most interesting alternative to watch over the next year.

The Coalition Avenir Quebec

The CAQ started as a think tank that was formed by Francois Legault and a few other intellectuals to advocate for better policies in Quebec. Their main focus was to step away from the societal divisions that the PQ love to play with and focus on something that was neglected for a very long time: the economy and healthcare. The Coalition gained a lot of support amongst Quebecers and speculations swirled about the formation of a new political party. Time passed and Legault came out of the closet and formed the new party, merging with what was left of the ADQ, despite dodging the issue the entire time the group was a think tank.

Francois Legault had many good ideas for reinvigorating the Quebec economy, but while he and his CAQ gained steam at the expense of the Liberals, he had his fair share of controversial ideas. One of these ideas was to punish McGill graduates who apply for a job in medicine outside of Quebec, there are far better ways than that to fix the doctor shortage and it starts with making Quebec an attractive place to work and live in.

This idea, coupled with some other controversial ideas, and a right-wing lean has not done Legault much benefit. Albeit in the election, he was seen as the man to watch and while under-performing to pollster's expectations, he did bolster his number of seats in the National Assembly. On top of that, he is now playing an effective role as opposition leader as the Liberals scramble to find their replacement in what could be a harsh minority session filled with poisonous concoctions whenever Marois believes that she can get her coveted majority.In the end, Legault needs to overcome some of his right-wing social values and his connections with the federal Conservatives and appeal to Quebecers as a centrist, federalist, and anti-corruption party. He's almost there, just a bit more tweaking to do.

The Quebec Solidaire

The Quebec Solidaire is the other separatist party in the National Assembly, but unlike the PQ, the QS swing very far to the left on the political spectrum. Their platform was unrealistic and typical of a socialist movement  They didn't play on the divisions like Marois did, but the QS is still in favor of Law 101 and believes that Quebec culture, made and adopted by Quebecers, is in trouble.

The big news for the QS is that they are now a 2 seat party and their popular vote has increased, mainly due to the left-wing tendencies of the student movement and the promise to make tuition free. The only real threat the QS pose is to the PQ and we will see that if dissatisfaction mounts with Marois, PQ hardliners may turn to the QS to steer their agenda. What the QS need to do is start revising their economic agenda and look toward becoming a political movement, rather than an extreme ideological party as they are right now.

This has been 2012 in review, for all future updates coming up in 2013, follow The Quebec Political Scene on its various social networks.

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