Not so unlike the story of the fall of Troy, this is the story of the fall of the social-democratic Parti-Quebecois. Unlike the story of Troy there is neither a lot heroism nor bravery in this tale. This is the story of an amnesiac party, they were once the sole voice of the social-democratic aspirations of the people of Quebec, but the story now is how the pillar values of this movement crumbled.
Within the hallways of the National Assembly you will not hear this story, nor in the PQ’s caucus meetings but the fact is that Le Parti Quebecois now seems to be a “progressive” option only in name.
In the days of the student strike the party of Pauline Marois had fashioned itself as the “pragmatic” left-of-centre alternative to the assault of the PLQ (a party that had just spent nine years strangling the Quebec left’s lifeblood and sense of hope). Through the student strike of 2012, Marois and her shadow cabinet rode the wave of popular protest and discontent, allowing them to shore-up in the rows of government in Quebec City.
The winds of change soon enough started blowing, and from the first minutes of this new reign, the newly elected administration was engulfed by the storm of global austerity. The choice the PQ cabinet was faced was with was a stark one: defaulting on the ideology of austerity or making debt reduction the main focus of their mandate.
And so began the infernal dance of cuts and hikes, and on this quintessential note the three main parties (PQ, PLQ, and CAQ) were in symphonic harmony.
The tragedy is that for the first time in a decade the PQ had a shot at pushing the public debate within the province to the left. Lest we forget that beyond the social movements that had shook the province, it was also the first provincial election in the post orange wave era; in a strategic sense the time was ripe to reinvigorate the social-democratic heritage of the founding fathers of the PQ.
After tragedy came farce. The Parti Quebecois was as usual at swords drawn with the Harper administration but basically followed suit with their cuts to E.I. and made sure that the money flow towards corporate welfare was well and healthy. One would have expected the words of austerity to be expelled from la chambre bleue, and one would have expected the use of special laws or right to work legislation to be non-existent, and yet they were omnipresent.
This begged the question – how do you enhance the quest for independence by taking the same line as one of the most unpopular federal governments in history among Quebeckers?
And when it seemed like nothing could save the PQ movement from the game of musical chairs in the upcoming election, the box of ethnic nationalism was opened.
In his book The Darker Nations: a people’s history of the third world, Vijay Prashad states that “Globalization and cultural nationalism are not opposites or irreconcilable doubles; they exist together, they feed off each other. Indeed, cultural nationalism is the Trojan horse of IMF-driven globalization.” Put this quote in the perspective of our provincial situation, and it becomes obvious; the charter is but a distraction, now that all our forces are put into fighting against this charter of institutionalized discrimination, we forget all together about the past year of PQ governance, their broken promises and their ardent application of Chicago School economics (read economic liberalism and free markets) to the line. But most importantly we forget about what should be the real issue, institutionalized economic and social discrimination which has been implemented by the neo-liberal agenda defended by the CAQ and implemented by both the PQ and the PLQ while in government.
So it is my humble belief that the Charter of values should be seen for what it is, a Trojan horse. On the surface there are differences between the three main parties represented in the National Assembly but in depth, none. This false debate gives them the chance to amplify these “differences”, the bigger the debate, the better; the only winner is neo-liberalism.
Unfortunately this debate is a farce and the epitome of hypocrisy. How can one claim to be the soul defender of civil liberties and yet deny one of the fundamental human rights, universal access to health care services? How can you be for equality and women’s rights when you cut the help that single mothers receive?
If we want to live in a society in which the values of equality and equity are upheld, we must first tackle economical and social discrimination.
– Niall Clapham-Ricardo
Featured photo: Eric Constantineau, Flickr, Creative Commons