After the second protest in the last two weeks following a provincial summit on higher education, everything about Montreal's current spring weather seemed to have year-old Maple Spring undertones to it, including violence, arrests and injuries. The plight of student debt, post graduation underemployment, and rising housing costs are all unarguably quite legitimate burdens faced by my generation. Will free tuition as demanded by the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ) and its followers solve these zeitgeist conundrums? Unlikely.
Why is it that some in the Liberal Party of Canada are using the disturbing and polarizing language of ageism? It has become open season on the "old guard". Older people seem to be framed as out of touch and constitutionally unable to cope with change. Of course, fresh thinking and new energy is indeed vital to any organization. However, "fresh" doesn't necessarily mean young. To me, "new" and "fresh" has nothing to do with age and everything to do with mindset, values and sincerity of purpose.
"Never, never will I accept that Quebec is associated with violence," Quebec Premier-elect Pauline Marois declared in the wake of the recent election night shooting.Mme. Marois is not alone. Across the country, elected officials and pundits of all political stripes tell us that Canada is a "peaceable kingdom." The reality is quite different and it is a subject which we have been reluctant to even broach, let alone discuss.
If ever it really did look like Québec was coming close to separation, I'd move back in a flash. There'd be no way I'd let the province secede and me be without my home and the Péquistes without the thorn of me in their side. I'd also be there because I like what Québeckers are demanding. But separation isn't going to happen. Québeckers want a better society, a better representation of their views. We could do worse than look for an example to a territory that, using whatever tools circumstances have placed in its reach, demands the change that elections can bring.
The brilliance of the result of the Quebec election is in the rejection of the government without any real endorsement of the Parti Quebecois or its program. The apparent, emergent premier, the desperately unimpressive Pauline Marois, a bag lady where some distinguished statesmen have preceded her, is, politically speaking, a prisoner in her own body. The PQ barely squeezed ahead of the Liberals, in votes and parliamentary strength, while fudging whether they would even hold a referendum on an ambiguous question. This is a cruel, vegetative state for Ms. Marois, a strident separatist. This brilliant election changed governments without breaking any furniture or burning any bridges.
The Parti Quebecois' slim victory has a bitter taste this morning, made even worse because of the sad and deplorable events in Montreal. This victory does not give the PQ the margin it needs to carry out its platform. Yesterday's disappointing results reflect well the mood of a very unenthusiastic population and separatist electorate that are still struggling to see themselves as part of the party that will form the next government, despite nine years of Liberal rule.
This is no longer the Quebec of the Quiet Revolution. This province is willing to be loud about what it does and does not want. The problem is; it still needs to figure out what it is and what it isn't. And then shots were fired. And we all collectively gasped and came to our senses. Today, we hopefully all take a step back. There's an existential crisis brewing. A province realizing it's not necessarily the open, welcoming, progressive place it thought it was; a people grappling with questions of identity, inclusiveness. This is a society in real flux. A society that is, in some ways, holding on to the last vestiges of a past that defined what it became, but can no longer allow it to become what it must. Quebec is experiencing major growing pains.
During Pauline Marois' victory speech in Quebec last night, gun shots were fired -- an alleged "assassination" attempt on the outspoken leader, as a 62-year-old armed with a handgun and an assault rifle "lost his shit" outside the venue. Marois was unharmed but sadly someone actually died in this vapid protest. We each are responsible for embracing the idea that there is a place for everyone in society, and that to fight for fierce nationalism or singularly-minded patriotism is a dangerous and unnecessary battle to wage.
Last night during Pauline Marois' victory speech a tragic shooting left us all speechless. This is the moment where one needs to pause, not the moment to start pointing fingers at whomever or whatever. It is the moment where we must stop, take a step back from the electoral fervor, forget our political and historic baggage to mourn the death of an innocent man who was only doing his job, who wasn't even there for a political rally, but simply to earn a living.
The loss for the Quebec Liberals and its leader, Jean Charest, was a political low moment last night. Indeed it is my hope that Jean Charest will still be involved in public life. His undying affection for federalism, conviction for equality and eloquence is still a service needed by Quebec and Canada.
Over the course of the Quebec election, every time Jean Charest thought he was changing the conversation to Medicare or Le Plan Nord, the CAQ's Jacques Duchesneau would make another accusation and grab the headlines. But last week many thought the ex-police chief went too far. Duchesneau said he had a list of Charest's cabinet ministers who had accepted favours from a construction baron named Tony Accurso. Charest demanded the ex -cop supply names. The ex-cop played coy and refused. How could Charest possibly defend himself and his party against that kind of slander?
It's been five gruelling weeks of symptoms and suffering but Canada's lengthy bout of Quebec Election Fever is set to finally break. It will bring an end at last to the ostentatiously cynical editorials from the Canadian punditocracy, all of whom were eager to spout various theories about why there were no good choices in this race between three equally hopeless parties led by three equally loser dinguses. Debt! Incompetence! Dubious loyalty to Canada! It matters not who you vote for, puny Quebeckers, either way your province is doomed, dooooomed!
What the PQ fails to understand is that the continual sparring with the federal government and defiant support of succession, regardless of a demonstrated lack of public support for separation, creates an unstable environment for investors, who are in a position to strengthen the quality of life for all residents of Quebec. Here is to hoping cooler heads prevail.
Quebec's sovereigntists pretend to want independence. Until recently, federal politicians pretended to believe them. But with the Parti Quebecois poised to return to power after the September 4 election, the old pretenses are breaking down. Separatism is now a hard path, involving great sacrifices, reduced standards of living, more work, and fewer social benefits -- all at a time when PQ supporters yearn to hear a message of no sacrifices, improved standards of living, less work, and more social benefits. Which is precisely why Quebec separatism is effectively dead.
While I disagree with many aspects of the Parti Québécois' current platform, if elected, the PQ has stated that it would essentially abolish the asbestos industry in Quebec. No other G8 country currently mines and exports this known cancer-causing agent. While Quebecers may be in for a rough ride on sovereignty, language and identity issues, this is one facet of the next would-be government that should have us all breathing a little easier.
There are two elections this autumn that will have repercussions throughout Canada. The first happens in Quebec next week, the second in the United States in November. What makes these so important? What happens in Quebec next week and in the United States in two months' time will help shape the future, not only in that province and country, but for all of Canada as well.