The Ball is in ROC’s Court

Pretty much everyone agrees that last Monday’s election was one of the most meaningful in Quebec’s recent history. But not everyone agrees on what that meaning was. Some observers rightly noted that the Parti Québécois’ campaign was shockingly, and surprisingly, incompetent. From the moment Pierre Karl Péladeau raised the issue of Québec’s independence, the PQ seemed to slip into improvisational mode. But unlike good improvisational practice, party officials and operatives were not playing with each other, but against each other. This was at no point more evident than when three péquistes dealt with the question of whether the PQ’s secularism charter might lead to state employees being dismissed in three radically different ways on the same day. A second-rank candidate stated that they very well might. Cabinet Minister Jean-François Lisée opined that they most certainly would not. And Premier Pauline Marois, in what must surely rank as one of the most fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, make-it-up-as-you-go-along moments in recent campaign history, offered that the government might help find employment in the private sector for those public employees laid off because of their refusal to shed their religious apparel.… Continue reading

Le multiculturalisme, un despotisme? Réplique à Mathieu Bock-Côté

Il est pratiquement impossible de discuter sérieusement avec quelqu’un qui ne respecte pas des critères comme la véracité ou la correspondance avec les faits, la rigueur argumentative et la cohérence logique. Le respect de ces standards épistémiques est essentiel à toute discussion rationnelle ou à une véritable dialectique entre des positions opposées. Je ne refuse pas les débats publics avec des intellectuels qui plongent selon moi trop souvent la main dans le sac de la sophistique, de la démagogie et de la polémique car je doute beaucoup que la politique de la chaise vide soit efficace. Dans mes interventions écrites, toutefois, je préfère de loin critiquer la meilleure version de la position adverse. Comment la pensée pourrait-elle progresser autrement ? Quel intérêt y a-t-il à réfuter une position faible ou une caricature?

La faiblesse d’une telle posture, toutefois, est qu’il s’agit d’une autre façon de pratiquer une politique de la chaise vide.… Continue reading

Whither the Left in Quebec?

            I live in a Montreal riding that has been voting Liberal since time immemorial. Deciding who to vote for is therefore for me something of a theoretical exercise. Whatever happens in the province more broadly, you can be sure that Kathleen Weil, who served as Minister of Justice in the Charest government, will be returned to power with a hefty majority. Weil is a credible candidate, but I won’t be voting for her. Like many Quebeckers, I worry about the degree to which Philippe Couillard has managed to rid the party of the stench of corruption in the few months that he has been leader. Like many people on the Left, I don’t see him as having in any significant way arrested the rightward drift that Jean Charest imprinted upon the Liberals. And as a civil libertarian, I am not ready to forgive the Liberals (and Mme. Weil) for having enacted repressive legislation aimed at stemming the protests that gripped the province in the Spring and Summer of 2012.… Continue reading

Vote stratégique vs vote de conviction

Comme à l’élection de 2012, les exhortations à « voter stratégique » abondent. Le Parti Québécois étant maintenant deuxième dans les intentions de vote, Jean-François Lisée recycle ses sorties culpabilisantes contre ceux qui se préparent à voter pour Québec Solidaire. À le lire, on croirait que les progressistes qui ne voteront pas pour le PQ sont tout simplement irrationnels. Il semble oublier que le PQ a un bilan pour le moins mitigé sur le plan de la justice sociale, et que la justice sociale comprend aussi un axe identitaire. Cela dit, il est normal que le dilemme vote de conviction/vote stratégique se pose dans un système uninominal à un tour où plus de deux partis sérieux rivalisent pour le pouvoir. L’absence (regrettable) d’un élément de proportionnalité dans notre système électoral fait en sorte que la division du votre entre deux partis assez rapprochés d’un point de vue idéologique peut permettre à un tiers parti dont le programme est plus éloigné de se faufiler entre les deux.… Continue reading

Does the PQ have to Say Whether It Will Hold a Referendum?

Apart from convinced sovereigntists, very few people had given serious thought to the possibility of a third referendum on Quebec’s independence before the current election. Support for independence has been oscillating around 40% for years and a huge proportion of the population did not want to hear about it, including disillusioned sovereigntists. Even a deeply disliked conservative government in Ottawa hasn’t been enough to reignite the independence flame. But things can move quickly in politics, and it now appears that a Parti Québécois majority government would switch gear and do whatever it can to create a momentum for sovereignty. As Daniel pointed out, the baby boomers who are masterminding the current PQ strategy are arguably thinking that their best chance to see an independent Quebec during their lifetime is to organize a new referendum as quickly as possible. Media mogul and now PQ candidate Pierre Karl Péladeau (PKP) is not known for his patience.… Continue reading

Les leaders péquistes comprennent-ils leur propre charte ?

Comme le souligne Joseph, l’idée que les entreprises privées pourraient décider d’appliquer la Charte de laïcité est ahurissante. Bernard Drainville, le ministre responsable du dossier, dit depuis le début que les entreprises pourraient « s’en inspirer ». Pauline Marois et François Gendron viennent tout juste d’opiner que les entreprises seront libres d’appliquer la Charte si elles le désirent. Il y a tout lieu de se demander si la première ministre et le vice-premier ministre comprennent leur propre Charte, ainsi que la Charte québécoise des droits et libertés. Questionnés par les journalistes, ils auraient dû préciser que le chapitre 5 du projet de loi 60, à savoir l’interdiction pour tous les employés des secteurs public et parapublic de porter un signe religieux dit « ostentatoire », ne s’applique pas aux entreprises privées, à moins qu’elles soient sous contrat avec le gouvernement. En vertu de l’article 10 de la Charte québécoise des droits et libertés, les entreprises privées ne peuvent discriminer sur la base de l’appartenance religieuse d’un employé.… Continue reading

Private sector free to adopt Quebec religious symbols ban?

I was struck by this article in the Globe and Mail: Private sector free to adopt Quebec religious symbols ban too, Marois says

Quebec’s charter of values does not necessarily exclude the private sector from imposing the same restrictions on their employees as the ones demanded from public servants, says Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois.

Is it my imagination, or is that a really big deal? I haven’t looked carefully at how Bill-60 amends the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or what other provisions it contains, but if it insulates private employers from discrimination complaints in this way, that could have a huge impact. Two things come to mind: first, this dramatically expands the extent of the equality violation being contemplated — for example, an observant Sikh could be turned down for employment anywhere in the province, for any job whatsoever, and would have no legal recourse? And second, the rationale for the ban (“state secularism”) is completely missing in the case of the private sector.… Continue reading

The conservative bind

Excellent paragraph from Jack M. Balkin, “The Last Days of Disco: Why the American Political System is Dysfunctional” (SSRN), describing the dilemma that radical Republicans find themselves in:

They disdain the expertise- and elite-driven politics that the progressives championed. But they face the opposite problem. The acceptance of scientific policymaking as the proper mode of government action, and widespread popular expectations that the government is now responsible for social welfare, social insurance, full employment, environmental protection, and economic prosperity, means that libertarian radicals will find it almost impossible to dismantle the modern policy state wholesale. Instead, the best they can hope for is to undermine it and prevent its further expansion, leading to… a “permanent siege” against the policy state.

This strikes me as an excellent summary of the bind that Canadian Conservatives find themselves in right now. And while it does not manifest itself in the form of “dysfunction,” the way it does in the United States, it does explain the peculiar paralysis of the federal government (remarked upon by many disappointed conservative commentators), where they can’t seem to find anything better to do with their time than pick fights with the civil service.… Continue reading

Non-citizens and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Almost thirty years ago, when the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was brand new, the Supreme Court of Canada made two decisions that were vitally important for the rights of non-citizens in Canada.  Since that time, it has been all down hill.

What has gone wrong and why?  The beginning was promising.  In 1985, the Supreme Court ruled than anyone physically present in Canada was protected by the Charter.  This ruling was followed in 1989 with a decision that a lack of citizenship was analogous to the grounds of discrimination listed in the Charter and thus was a basis for equality protection.

My study published late in 2013 showed both that very few questions of non-citizens’ rights reach the Supreme Court of Canada, and that those that claims that do are frequently rejected by the Court.  The commitment of the Court to ensure that the Charter meets international human rights standards is not being met in this area.  … Continue reading

Crackdown Politics and Political Dishonesty

In the name of democracy Minister of State (Democratic Reform) Pierre Poilievre wants to put the “rule breakers out of business”. In particular, he wants to stop the scourge of voter fraud. Sounds like a good idea, right? But perhaps it is the Minister who is flouting norms of democracy.

Legitimate democratic processes involve more than fair electoral and parliamentary voting processes. They have a deliberative component. Legitimate legislation is not merely legislation that secures the support of majority of elected representatives in some procedurally fair process of vote counting. Rather democratic legitimacy depends on good faith efforts by political actors to provide credible justifications for the laws and policies they wish to see adopted.

 Of course, there are often heated disagreements as to what counts as good political justification. In democracies there is wide latitude in political debate and discourse about the features of sound political justification. But not everything is up for grabs.Continue reading