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Claude André August 3 2012
Original French Text: http://quebec.huffingtonpost.ca/claude-andre/elections-quebec_b_1737832.html
Jean Charest is starting to hammer out his campaign sound bites: “It’s a choice between two visions for society”, he declared last Tuesday in Sherbrooke during the nomination meeting that confirmed him as candidate in this same riding.
Decoded, this is meant to say that Québec voters will have the choice between the Liberal vision and that of the Parti Québécois. However several indicators show that under the leadership of Jean Charest, formerly a minister in a federal conservative government, the Québec Liberal Party has become, over the last few years, ideologically an unofficial branch of the Conservative Party of Canada and of its leader Stephen Harper.
So it will be a drift from the liberal doctrine toward the conservative ideology that will be on display in the next four weeks leading up to the election on September 4th.
Exit the centrist or even centre-left ideals, those traditionally associated with the party of Jean Lesage, René Lévesque among others and of Claude Castonguay, the “father of medicare”, and make way for the barely concealed right wing.
As soon as he stubbornly refused to meet with students at the start of the present conflict and when he mocked them during the conference on Plan Nord, it became clear that the government strategy was that of the wedge issue. In other words, us-against-them politics with the aim of dividing the electorate on an emotional issue — abortion, guns, death penalty — and thus better vilify the Other.
This kind of politics, the trademark of Republicans in the United States and of the Reform Party now the Conservative Party in Canada, had not really entered into Québec culture until now.
One example among many others of this strategy of social fracturing is captured in the movie La conquête, where you can see clearly how Nicolas Sarkozy stoked the suburban crises in France to then cast himself in the role of the troubleshooter.
By stating on camera that there was a need to “clean out the rabble with a Kärcher” [Translator: a pressure washer], this former conservative president knew that by provoking mostly north African youth, unrest would certainly follow that would then need to be quelled by force. One could call this a strategy of the pyromaniac fire fighter — an approach that works very well on the gullible and the xenophobic.
In Québec, fertile breeding ground for triumphant anti-intellectualism, students become the perfect Other. Students who — what luck! — even use a red symbol that was promptly associated with anarcho-communism, synonym with chaos. All it needed next was a Premier who cleverly maintained a climate of confrontation with repression, paltry offers and tactically played contempt.
By the way, this is a good time to note that there is a link between Sarkozy and Charest, in the person of Paul Desmarais. Indeed, the CEO of Power Corporation of Canada is partly responsible for the return to politics of the former and for the jump from federal to provincial politics of the latter.
Although his wedge issue strategy takes after right wing populism (this same strategy is a favourite of the far right like the Front National in France), Jean Charest also draws from traditional conservative values.
Last Tuesday, during his nomination meeting, he used words like “good family man” and spoke of the “fair share” that each of the five children in his family had to shoulder when he was small, such as clearing his plate after meals. There is no doubt that this shows an effort to woo older voters with work and family values. The same can be said of the systematic association of [PQ leader] Pauline Marois with… the street. This is a powerful image, one that may evoke in the mass subconscious the image of a woman of loose morals. The street can also evoke images for certain voters of unions in the street, unrest, etc.
However this newly launched conservative campaign — a “grotesque” idea, according to the Premier only a few weeks ago — really started with the passing of Bill 78 (now law 12).
Widely criticized, notably by the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse [Québec’s Human Rights and Rights of Youth Commission] because it infringes on individual rights, this repressive law that incidentally serves to signpost the travels of the Liberal leader is certainly not at heart a liberal law, but rather a crypto-reactionary law that we can once again associate more with the right than with the centre.
While the right regularly plays the national identity and reminders of order and tradition (just think of Harper and portraits of the Queen), Charest who absolutely needs the support of anglophones and allophones cannot count on the Québec versions of those symbols.
Nonetheless, he will instead work at wrapping himself in the legitimacy of the state in order to dodge the discredit and the disapproval that should follow his disastrous record in office. This state, arbiter of good and evil that transcends partisan politics, will be his moral veneer. “I represented law and order in the face of the sound and the fury of the bloodthirsty mob”, he will tell us in other words, maybe also using a prosopopeia, a rethorical technique consisting of putting words in the mouth of persons absent, dead or disappeared. In this case, it would be the voice of the supposed “silent majority”, which gives the impression of a consensus by speaking as an oracle from on high (or from the pulpit), speaking on behalf of all from a universal vantage point.
And lastly, the introduction of three new Liberal candidates on July 29 who were elected in the ADQ [Action démocratique du Québec, a right wing party] landslide of 2007 adds to this strong shift to the right — not to mention three cops running in this election. Law and order…
And we haven’t talked — that will be for another time — of the ideologically right wing economic policies brought forward by the Charest government, for instance user-pays, that he is pushing the Québec population to buy into.
Let it be known once and for all: a vote for the Québec Liberal Party will be in fact a vote for a party that has been hijacked by a dyed in the wool conservative who favours libertarian ideas of government non-intervention in the economy over those of interventionists like Adam Smith or John Maynard Keynes, great thinkers who built the foundations of true liberalism.
Can you say deception?
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.