Is Quebec more left-wing than the rest of Canada?

There is a widespread perception that Quebec is more left-wing, or more “social-democratic” than the rest of Canada. Indeed, one branch of the sovereignty movement suggests that a commitment to social justice requires separation from Canada, because English Canada encumbers Quebec, preventing it from realizing its vision of a more egalitarian society. (It is because of this belief that many people in Quebec think of separatism as a natural extension of left-wing political commitments.)

This is an illusion. The part of Canada that I grew up in – Saskatchewan – was far more left-wing than Quebec has ever been. And it never once occurred to anyone that you couldn’t have “socialism in one province” (or that being a member of the Canadian federation in any way impeded the realization of the essentially socialist vision that was at the time predominant).

What makes Quebec distinct is the fact that, over the past 30 years, the Quebec political system has been tilted to the left.… 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

Justice Nadon, Canadian constitutionalism and cherry blossoms

There is more to the Supreme Court’s rejection of Justice Nadon than a crude politics. But the politics is so compelling, well nigh prurient, that it is tempting to overlook the legal arguments themselves, or to consider that this was a case with ‘no right answer’. This is absolutely not so.

Justice Nadon was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada to one of the three places on that Court reserved for judges from Quebec. Prior to his appointment, he was a judge on the Federal Court of Appeal. Long ago, he practiced law in Quebec for many years. Knowing that questions about this appointment were brewing, the government sought to amend the key provisions of the Supreme Court Act using the omnibus budget legislation passed last fall.

After Toronto immigration lawyer Rocco Galati challenged Nadon’s appointment, the government stepped into the fray directly by asking the Supreme Court itself to use its ‘reference’ jurisdiction to answer two questions.… 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

Voter suppression in Quebec

I honestly cannot believe that I have occasion to write about the ugly politics of voter suppression in Quebec. Until recently, I assumed that all political parties in the province were committed to respecting the integrity of the electoral process and would not engage in political rhetoric designed to disenfranchise legitimate voters. But a desperate Pauline Marois has decided to play the democratic theft card. She has been quoted as saying: “It makes me sick to my stomach to even think that someone would try to cheat the democratic system”.  

One might assume that her queasiness was occasioned by the recording of a McGill PhD student being denied the right to vote by an official in St. Henri. But no. Apparently, her nausea was created by the thought that citizens whose political support she cannot count upon might be granted the right to vote. Marois’s putative concern was echoed by Justice Minister Bertrand St-Arnaud who raised the specter of voter fraud when he asked: “Will the Quebec election be stolen by people from Ontario and from the rest of Canada?” Marois and St-Arnaud clearly don’t want Anglophone students residing in Quebec to have the right to vote in the Quebec election. … Continue reading

What if the PQ loses?

Two and a half weeks into the campaign in Quebec, and panic seems to be setting in among PQ strategists. Polls are showing a clear trend toward the provincial Liberals. Worse, the upstart Québec Solidaire, whose leader, Françoise David, performed admirably during the first leader’s debate, is nipping at the heels of the PQ in several urban ridings on the island of Montreal.

The PQ has tried everything, yet nothing seems to be working. Pierre Karl Péladeau has failed to ignite any significant interest on the part of the business community that was supposed to be drawn into the PQ fold by his candidacy. The specter of a referendum has clearly cost the PQ in the polls, to the point where Pauline Marois has rather pathetically been repeatedly seeking to distance herself from what should after all be her party’s most central commitment. The Charter of Values, which was trundled out again toward the middle of the week, seems to have exhausted its electoral potential.… 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