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Jean Barbe, August 10, 2012
Original French Text: http://blogues.journaldemontreal.com/barbe/actualites/voter-pour-vrai-2/
Does it really have to be said again? Last year, during the federal election campaign, no one in Quebec, neither the pollsters nor the political commentators, predicted the orange wave. Not a single one. They were so off, that most of them justified their incompetence by accusing Quebeckers of voting haphazardly with no rhyme or reason!
Some considered it a sympathy vote for Jack Layton. Others interpreted it as total exasperation with the tired and predictable election process itself. And, if memory serves me correctly, a few even invoked the “moustache” factor!
Pollsters and commentators couldn’t get over it: Quebec voters elected NDP candidates who had practically never stepped foot in their ridings! “They voted for posters on telephone poles!” they complained.
But the voters knew: better to vote for a lamppost on the left than a scarecrow on the extreme right.
Okay, okay: the Conservative Party isn’t an extreme right-wing party. Not in the Nazi sense of the term.
But it is extremely right. Further to the right than Canada has ever known. And much, much further to the right than Quebec has ever wanted.
And when you’re hit by the right, what do you do? Go left.
If a sign on a pole shares my values, I’ll choose that over a man or woman who offends my sensibilities.
Gilles Duceppe should take note instead of sulking in his corner. Or he could grow a moustache.
Which brings us to the upcoming provincial elections.
Many pollsters and analysts are desperately trying to play it “business as usual.” It’s their fourth, fifth, tenth election campaign. Familiar territory. They’re bringing the same old issues to the table, the issues that have shaped Quebec politics for the past forty years: the economy (neoliberal), sovereignty, federalism, leadership. Same old story.
Apparently the environment will not be an issue in the leaders’ debate. Though climate change is already observable (and catastrophic), and the depletion of resources threatens our children’s future, the environment is not being discussed in the leaders’ debate!
In any case, it’s not going to be a real leaders’ debate, because it excludes parties that don’t have enough media coverage to merit… media coverage.
Making room for new voices in newspapers and television—well, it’s just not done. That’s why Michelle Courchesne, Jean Charest’s right hand, an important player of the past turbulent months, rabid adversary of the student movement and casseroles, and still, theoretically, a Liberal MP, finds herself bombarded as a “political analyst” on Radio-Canada!
Meanwhile, there’s hardly any mention of the “small” parties in the papers. Option Nationale and Québec Solidaire are treated as marginal phenomena creating a little stir on the Plateau.
As for the social crisis that has shaken Quebec since the beginning of the year, they reduce it to a “student crisis.” That’s like reducing a forest fire to the spark that ignited it.
For most pollsters and political commentators, the contest is between the parties that could take power: the Parti Québécois, the Quebec Liberal Party, and the Coalition Avenir Québec.
As if power were the only issue.
Power, however, is not the only issue, and the social crisis is very real. The hundreds of thousands who took to the streets, the hundreds of thousands who scrapped their wooden spoons beating on pots and pans, this non-negligible proportion of Quebeckers who have demanded again and again a real social debate—perhaps they don’t constitute the majority of Quebec voters, but they exist, they count, and they’re making their presence felt.
And it is precisely in demanding to be heard that they are excluded from political debate, polls and the official media to the benefit of the “silent majority” whose identity and numbers remain a mystery.
As if expressing what we want for our collective future were some kind of aberration.
As if expressing disagreement were a defect.
As if denouncing that which we regard as criminal were a form of violence.
As if questioning the old order of things were impolite…
Oh? Impolite is it? Really?
No, power is not the only issue. Ousting the Liberals from the National Assembly is not the only issue. Humiliating Jean Charest to punish him for his lies, arrogance and contempt is not the only issue (though I really would like to see him exiled in total disgrace, preferably in the North).
But the idea that power and the end of Liberal government are the only real issues is exactly what certain traditional sovereigntists want us to think. The same ones who, from the beginning of the election campaign, have fallen back into their bad habit of: “you’re either with us or you’re with the Liberals.”
There’s something profoundly Jesuit in this attitude. A sort of credo, a blind faith. I don’t like the Jesuits.
Others are trying to rally sovereigntists behind the PQ to stop the Liberals. Otherwise known as the strategic vote. This is an excellent way to ensure that nothing will ever really change in Quebec.
Because how can we expect the analysts and pollsters and political parties themselves to take us seriously—our concerns about the environment, our hatred of neoliberalism run wild, our disgust with power-mongering, and our interest in the common good—if every time we go to the polls we vote against a political party instead of for a political program?
How can we expect the ideas of Québec Solidaire and Option Nationale to be taken seriously if on election day we choose to vote not for the party that reflects our values but rather for the one most likely to supplant the party we hate most?
As for myself, I would like to see Quebeckers’ true colours displayed on TV screens the night of September 4th. I would like to see the real political face of Quebec show itself once and for all, in its diversity and strength, so that everyone—politicians, journalists and citizens—can stop denying there are other ways of imagining our collective future.
I hope people will take the time to vote for a party that really reflects who they are, instead of relying on old electoral reflexes that have never gotten us anywhere.
And maybe, just maybe, we’ll surprise the pollsters and analysts once again. And, this time, they won’t accuse us of voting for anything and everything. They’ll accuse us of something much worse—voting for real.
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.