A progressive paradox for QuÃ©bec and Canada
The mood in the progressive milieu here in QuÃ©bec seems rather grim this morning. In QuÃ©bec history we call the twenty year period when anti-union, right wing populist Duplessis ruled, the “Era of the Great Darkness”, and many by email or on social media have spontaneously referred to the upcoming period in an analogous way. Many have adopted the “black square” in their email or on their social media sites as a sign of their anxiety.
People as diverse as Ã‰quiterre founder Laure Waridel, Lux editor Mark Fortier (the editor of the french edition of Jim Stanford’s Economic’s for Everyone) and other progressives I know, are very nervous.
We expect major cuts in culture and a long and lasting change in the structure of federal fiscal policy, with further income depletion creating a permanent sense of fiscal crisis and a more generally policy of attrition of the federal state apparatus similar to Republican politics down south. Not to talk of international policy and environmental policy.
In the area of social policy many around me are also anxious, as the “tough on crime” policies aimed to please the neoconservative base might be followed up by a “tough on women” socially conservative agenda.
We are glad the NDP surge worked in QuÃ©bec, but very ambivalent, many of the candidates are inexperienced, a few were merely “filling” the poster the time of the campaign and now will be sent of to Ottawa to represent QuÃ©bec, others luckily are very experienced and articulate. More than half of the NDP caucus will be from QuÃ©bec, and as a province we’ve put all our eggs in the progressive basket. This puts immense pressure on the NDP, in the context of a majority Conservative government, they won’t be able to deliver much in terms of “positive” results, this rhetoric will have to change as the NDP will have to develop a politics of resistance.
Furthermore, the structural links between the progressive community and the NDP in QuÃ©bec are still shallow and weak, this will also have to change given the weight of QuÃ©bec in the NDP caucus. If it doesn’t, if the graft does not take, then we might see in the 2015 election an anti-NDP backlash in QuÃ©bec.
Those of us that might want to see a silver lining in the dark clouds ahead and talk of a 2015 breakthrough for the NDP must consider the following points.
1. Conservative support rose in terms of expressed votes everywhere in Canada except in QuÃ©bec, not by much but enough to give him a majority, vote splitting between the NDP and the liberal’s is not the sole factor in the PCC victory, in Ontario the PCC garnered real support in specific communities, vote splitting on the centre and left merely strengthened an already won majority.
2. Important forces will be unleashed by the PCC majority government to consolidate this hold on Canada, the alliance with Sun media will be strengthened and used in QuÃ©bec against the NDP opposition, the CRTC will be reformed, so will the federal research councils, Stat can and other canadian liberal institutions, the CBC will undoubtedly be radically downsized, public funding for parties also downsized, social and community groups will see their public funding cut further and become less visible, all this will contribute to the development of a right wing and conservative culture in Canada…
3. If the NDP outside of QuÃ©bec unites with the progressive elements in the Liberal party for the 2015 bid, this will further dilute the social democratic core of the party, further marginalize its socialist elements, and most importantly for progressive economists reinforce the voice of mainstream economics in the party
4. The NDP must find a way to consolidate its base in QuÃ©bec, this will imply real decisions in constitutional matters, if the party does not want to alienate its base in the ROC while building its base in QuÃ©bec and translating the slogan of asymmetrical federalism into a viable vision for QuÃ©bec and Canada.
Though we can’t as progressives do much about points 1 and 2 , we can act on points 3 and 4, as some suggest we start working now, I agree but I think it important to recognize, after last night’s euphoria, the real nature of our starting point.
Professor of sociology at UQAM and political economist specialised in the analysis of financial systems, institutions and relations.