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Marco Fortier July 12 2012
After a spring of total mobilization against the Charest government, the student movement prepares trench warfare against the Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) in the elections being announced for September.
>In graphics: the hotly disputed ridings
The student associations put everything in the works to “get out the vote” of protest against the liberal government. The students are convinced that the youth vote can make a difference in a dozen ridings, including that of Sherbrooke, represented by the premier Jean Charest since 1998.
“The students have been mobilized all spring against the tuition fee increase. Our priority is now to ensure that they will go vote”, says Yanick Grégoire, vice president of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ), which represents 125 000 members.
For the battle of the ballot box, the student associations have an arsenal comparable to those of the political parties. They have targeted 11 ridings where the results have been close in the December 2008 elections and intend to pick up about 15 others from now until the planned start of the electoral campaign at the beginning of the month of August.
The ridings of minister Pierre Moreau (Châteauguay) and Robert Dutil (Beauce-Sud), brought home by less than 600 votes, find themselves notably in the students’ line of sight.
Jean Charest won in Sherbrooke with a more comfortable majority of 2314 votes, but the presence of 45 000 students (of which 12 000 were on strike last spring), gone back to two colleges and a university, risks giving place to a tight battle, according to the student associations.
The student organizers have analyzed the votes of the last election “neighborhood by neighborhood, street by street”, going by the results of the Director general of Quebec elections (DGEQ), explains Yanick Grégoire of the FEUQ. The students will use all methods to encourage the voters that they will have targeted to go vote: telephone calls, emails distribution of pamphlets, information stands in cégeps and universities during back-to-school, messages on social networks.
The student associations don’t support any party and leave their members to vote for the candidates of their choice. But in mobilizing to “get out the vote”, the target is clearly the Charest government.
“The students understood during the spring that they have the power to make things move. We’ve mobilized for tuition fees, we can go vote”, says Éliane Roberge, president of the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ), which brings together 80 000 students.
The student associations give themselves the foremost challenge of encouraging their members to register as voters at their place of residence during the school year, and not at their parents’ homes. Many students leave out going to vote, traditionally, because they are registered with the DGEQ in their parents’ riding and not at the place where they study.
The voters from 18 to 24 are the ones who voted the least in the last elections, indicates a study by the research chair on democracy and parliamentary students from the University of Laval. According to this report, ordered by the DGEQ, at most 41.2% of 18 to 24 year-olds voted in December 2008. The voters 65 and above were the most enthusiastic (at 74%) to get themselves to the ballot box. The rate of participation in the 2008 elections attained a historic low of 57.4%.
Despite the students’ mobilization, Jean Charest’s liberals wager that a majority of voters agree with the tuition fee increase. The surveys from the last few months have also demonstrated that Quebecers support government’s hard line toward the protesters who have stormed the streets of Montreal and other cities for several weeks.
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
*Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer collective attempting to balance the English media’s extremely poor coverage of the student conflict in Québec by translating media that has been published in French into English. These are amateur translations; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may still leave something to be desired. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.