Québec solidaire will make climate change the party’s main political campaign issue in the coming year, both in and outside the National Assembly. The campaign will build on the major proposals in the QS economic transition plan featured in the recent Quebec general election.
Meeting in Montréal December 7-9, the party’s National Committee (CN), which comprises delegates from its constituency associations and other membership bodies, debated and adopted a “political balance sheet” of the October 1 election, in which Québec solidaire doubled its share of the popular vote to 16% and elected 10 deputies to the National Assembly.
In addition to adopting a leadership proposal to prioritize the issue of climate crisis and how to fight it, the CN held a preliminary discussion on how to prepare an internal debate on “secularism and religious signs” that is to arm the party to counter Islamophobic legislation threatened by the new CAQ government. An introductory document was introduced setting out the existing program on these questions, adopted in 2009, along with changes proposed by some party leaders in recent years. The plan is to clarify the party’s position at the next National Committee meeting, to be held in March 2019.
The election report noted that QS had achieved all of its major objectives in the recent election. It had more than tripled its parliamentary representation, with gender parity and increased diversity among the new MNAs, winning seats outside of Montréal for the first time, and obtaining recognition as an official party in the Assembly.
Although the election was not preceded by any major debate or popular mobilization on fundamental issues affecting Quebec as a national entity in the Canadian state, in recent years there have been important mobilizations around ecology (e.g. stopping the Energy East pipeline), the #MoiAussi (Me too) movement, and agitation to raise the minimum wage. Another concern was the troubling global rise in right-wing populism with its anti-immigration rhetoric and “xenophobic, misogynist and racist ideas.”
Québec solidaire, by taking clear positions on the issue of climate change, by foregrounding the minimum wage demand, and affirming its feminist, independentist and inclusive project, was able to position itself as a relevant and effective force in this social and ideological context.
Among younger voters it was the party’s emphasis on climate crisis and its support for universal free tuition that proved most attractive. And its environmental platform benefited from “the fact that we integrate this issue with a more comprehensive projet de société.”
Linking independence and environment is very important in getting the voters — especially young people, who are less spontaneously in favour of independence — to see the importance of Quebec’s political emancipation.
It is important, the report emphasized, that the party not just be an effective voice in parliament. “We must do more to get a hearing outside the walls of the National Assembly, alongside our allies in the social movements, to give a voice to the popular opposition to this government.” And this will help the party resist the calls for convergence with the Parti québécois, which will grow in light of the PQ’s precarious situation. Moreover,
the calls to ‘recentre,’ to ‘put some water in our wine,’ to ‘compromise,’ will become more insistent over the next four years from people who think that power can only be taken through the centre. Québec solidaire will have to find a way to overcome these pressures, and to define itself by its own means.
Personal commitments prevented me from attending this CN meeting. However, a report and commentary by Pierre Beaudet, who as a QS member was entitled to attend the meeting as an observer, presents an informative and reflective analysis of what it revealed of the progress of Québec solidaire and the challenges facing it. I have translated his article from Presse-toi à gauche, adding my own footnotes. Beaudet edits Nouveaux Cahiers du Socialisme and is currently teaching at the Université du Québec en Outaouais in Gatineau.
This article originally appeared on Richard Fidler’s blog, Life on the Left.