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Annabelle Blais June 18, 2012, updated July 19, 2012
Photo caption: Student associations are counting on making youth realize the importance of getting out to vote, as well as lawfully making their concerns heard to candidates. Métro Archives.
In the eyes of student associations, a letter sent to Elections Quebec by the director general of the Liberal Party shows that the Liberals are scared of the youth vote.
Karl Blackburn, director general of the Parti Liberal du Québec, sent a letter on Tuesday to the director general of Elections Québec (DGEQ), stating concern about respect for the electoral law by student associations. ”Having recently announced that it was targeting a dozen ridings, CLASSE would have us believe today that its actions will not be taken within the context of an electoral campaign. Don’t be fooled, we are looking at nothing other than an announcement of potential violations to the law,” wrote Blackburn.
Yanick Gregoire, vice-president of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ), says that the letter is a fear tactic. He also points out that Blackburn has confused the players, because it is FEUQ that plans to target contested ridings, not CLASSE. ”We’re seeing someone in panic mode who sees that youth want to take part in the electoral process within the limits of the law,” Gregoire believes. ”We tell people to go vote because it is important. I don’t think anyone can be against this civic virtue. Other than the Liberals, it seems.”
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, spokesperson for CLASSE, adds that the object of this letter is also to marginalize opposition. Regarding electoral law, FEUQ and CLASSE have said they are aware of it and wish to respect it. No matter what the Liberal party thinks, FEUQ will continue to target ridings where the competition between candidates will be tightly contested when an election is called.
The students count above all on being able to convey to the public the importance of going out to vote, as well as lawfully making their concerns heard to candidates. Denis Dion, spokesperson for the DGEQ, explains that during an election campaign, a partisan action by a lobby group is not illegal as long as it does not incur an expense. For example, a twitter message against a party is a partisan action, but one that costs nothing.
On the other hand, if students buy ads in the pages of a newspaper, the ad cannot be partisan. Each case reported to the DGEQ is analyzed to determine whether this is the case.
If the students’ message is to get out and vote against the Liberals, then that is partisan. But if they encourage people to vote for parties that promote accessibility to education, then everything depends on the terms being used. ”Telling people to get out and vote is not partisan,” argues Gregoire. Therefore, at face value, this would not be a problem, Dion confirmed.
It was not possible to reach Mr. Blackburn on Wednesday.
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
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