If you would like to volunteer and join the effort, please contact us at the above email before embarking on any translation work, in order to avoid any redundancies. We cannot accept translations that have not been cleared with us first.
For more useful English-language sources on the conflict, see:
Bernard Descôteaux August 2, 2012
Original French Text: http://www.ledevoir.com/politique/quebec/355834/elections-quebecoises-democratie-101
So the general election will take place on this upcoming September 4th. At noon yesterday, Premier Jean Charest kicked things off in a way that promises harsh debates. He immediately made the respect for our system and our democratic institutions the principal issue in this election. Alright… on the condition that we judge the work in its entirety.
The insistence of the Premier on this first campaign day on our society’s democratic values, which he says have been weakened by the student conflict, leaves no doubt about his willingness to make the events of the “printemps érable” (Maple Spring), the core issue in a referendum to measure electorally his management of the conflict.
It is true that this spring was marked with social disruptions. It is also true that some demonstrations turned to violence. That the court injunctions were not respected. That Bill 12 [trans. note: formerly Bill 78] which forces the return to classes and limits the right to demonstrate is still strongly contested. All things that today have combined to have a providential feel for the liberal government, that things that this way they can escape a tight examination of the balance sheet of their nine years in power. One should not miss the forest for the trees.
If we are going to talk about democracy, let us also examine the respect for it that this government has shown during its three mandates. Can we forget these partisan interventions that came from the highest level, from the very office of the Premier and from ministers, to name political friends to judge positions or to give them subventions or daycare permits? Can we forget the contributions to the electoral coffer subsequent to the granting of contracts? Or the resistance to resistance to submit to the highest ethical standards for the adoption of a code of behaviour for elected officials, to which we will arrive, however unwillingly, just as for the creation of the Commission for the inquiry into collusion and corruption in the construction industry? Can we talk about respect for our democratic institutions when there has been thus repeated abuse of power?
The cynicism of citizens towards politicians, and, through them, towards politics and the National Assembly, is fed by such behaviours. Numerous Quebeckers are nowadays disenfranchised from politics. If they went into the streets this spring and summer by the dozens of thousands, and on certain occasions by the hundreds of thousands, it was not without reasons. They found a way to express themselves. Whatever the Premier says using a reductive shorthand, the street is not just a source of social disruption. It is also a source of necessary democratic expression. To deny it is to pretend that democracy can be summed up in voting once every four years to confer to a small group of elected officials the right to speak and to decide.
A rupture exists between citizens and their elected officials, and this, for many years already, can be witnessed in the rate of participation in elections that is lower each time. Voting is no longer a duty, as says the author of the opinion piece above me. The unleashing of this election in the middle of summer will certainly not contribute to breaking this vicious cycle. Voters’ loss of confidence will only increase if the candidates in this election, all confused parties, because this concerns them all, do not react.
The causes like the remedies of this loss of confidence are well known. The exercising of one’s right to vote must recover its original meaning, which is the representation of one’s opinions in parliament, which would not permit an electoral system that nominates candidates in one round. We must introduce a proportional element in this system, something that has been promised how many times, but never realized.
During electoral campaigns, candidates promise a lot, but once elected they realize little, which the Premier definitely wants to makes us forget as much as possible by speaking more about his Plan Nord, the new source of promises. Promising little, but keeping one’s commitments, would certainly be a way for the parties to recover the confidence of their electors.
These last four years, Quebeckers have seen the best and the worst at the National Assembly, most often the worst, to the point where a new idea has emerged, that of doing politics in other ways, which we have not yet seen concretized. There, why not harness it during the five weeks that this current campaign will last! That would be a start.
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 email@example.com. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.