Last Winter, Québec’s electoral representation commission made a controversial decision to redraw the boundaries of the electoral map in a way that jeopardized the existence of the Ste-Marie–St-Jacques riding, represented by Québec solidaire MNA Manon Massé. The ensuing massive popular protest forced the commission to back down; it decided to leave Manon’s riding intact and instead merge two Liberal ridings, Outremont and Mont-Royal.
A few days later, former student leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois announced that he would seek the QS nomination in the riding of Gouin, left vacant by the retirement of Québec solidaire’s Françoise David. At the QS party convention on May 20, Gabriel was elected co-spokesperson along with Manon, and the following week he was elected as the Gouin MNA in a by-election where he won 69 per cent of the votes, an additional 18 percentage points over what Françoise David had garnered in 2014. The Liberal candidate earned just nine per cent — half of what the party obtained in the previous election.
The Parti Québécois had commissioned two polls in February which showed prominent candidates such as Nicolas Girard (former MNA for Mercier) and Paul St-Pierre-Plamondon (rising star of the PQ youth wing) would be beaten by Gabriel Nadeau- Dubois, so the PQ, led by Jean-François Lisée, decided not to run a candidate, purportedly as a gesture of rapprochement with Québec solidaire.
A more genuine kind of rapprochement took place between QS and another small sovereignist party, Option Nationale, founded by Jean-Martin Aussant in 2011 and whose current spokesman is Sol Zanetti. At the QS party convention in May, a motion was adopted to discuss the possible merger of the two parties. The convention also voted to promote the place of women through the principle of parity, applied across the board, including key ridings.
But the most dramatic moment of the QS convention was the debate on possible inter-party alliances for the 2018 Québec provincial election. QS delegates were asked to vote on several options. But the debate was clearly focused on whether QS members wanted to consider some form of alliance with the PQ. From the fl oor, delegates offered their assessment of the PQ, and particularly its neoliberal economic record in power in 2012-2014 as well as its exclusionary ethnic nationalist campaign, and its anti-environmental policies such as its secret agreement with Petrolia for oil exploration and development on the island of Anticosti, an island larger than PEI, with unique fl ora and fauna that make it an environmental treasure.
More than 70 per cent of the 700 delegates voted against entering into any alliance with the PQ and instead to run candidates in all ridings. The PQ’s exaggeratedly hostile reaction to this rebuff demonstrated the failed strategy that had given rise to the proposed alliance in the fi rst place. Jean-François Lisée had gambled that an alliance with QS would work in the PQ’s favour electorally. But he let it be known that the PQ would not compromise on its policies. This is because the PQ hopes to maintain its own electoral base while trying to woo supporters of the right-wing Coalition Avenir Québec. The idea of the alliance with QS was precisely to prevent QS from gaining political ground. He had banked on this strategy and, the day after the QS convention, when one PQ MNA actually said publically that PQ could not win the election without QS, Lisée was completely nonplussed. The PQ had dropped seven per cent in the polls — a rate of one per cent a month since Lisée had been elected party leader. Some journalists were saying he could even lose his own Rosemont riding to QS thanks to the wave of support for Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois in the neighbouring riding of Gouin.
Lisée has lately been redbaiting QS, accusing it of being extremist and controlled by a “politburo.” But the reality is that the PQ has outlived its “best before” date. It no longer has anything to offer other than an appeal to defeat the (admittedly heinous) Liberal government of Philippe Couillard. Meanwhile Québec solidaire is gaining ground. It now has 15,000 members, including 5,000 who have joined since Gabriel came aboard. It is becoming the party of unity and hope for enlightened voters in Québec.
Translated by Andrea Levy and Peter Wheeland.
André Frappier is a regular contributor to Dimension. He also serves on the editorial board of the online weekly Presse-toi à gauche and has been a member of the FTQ Montréal Labour Council for many years. André ran for Québec solidaire in the riding of Crémazie.
This article appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of Canadian Dimension (Canada 150).