07/24/2012 05:14 EDT | Updated 09/23/2012 05:12 EDT

Quebec Student Protest Moves From Street to Voting Booth

The Quebec student protesters are coming for Premier Jean Charest, and what better way to do that than to formally align yourself with the opposition? After months of denying any political favourtism or formal ties to the opposition, one of the Quebec student protest leaders, Leo Blouin, is stepping up to the political plate.


The Quebec student protesters are coming for Premier Jean Charest, and what better way to do that than to formally align yourself with the opposition? After months of denying any political favourtism or formal ties to the opposition, the former president for the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ), Léo Bureau Blouin, made the official parlay into provincial politics.

Fascinatingly, Mr. Blouin's announcement comes right after the current leaders of the protest movement came back from an eight day road trip to Ontario, whereby they had hoped to garner solidarity strike support. The leaders of the movement where invited by the Canadian Federation of Students to visit ten Ontario university campuses in order to spread their message of bridge-blocking, traffic-stopping, and tuition fee discontent.

Officially named the Quebec-Ontario Student Solidarity Tour, I can only presume that the Quebec student leaders tried to stay away from such tedious facts such as Ontario's higher per capita enrollment and graduation rate, despite Ontario having post-secondary fees that are nearly triple of what they are in Quebec.

Moreover, I doubt the Solidarity Tour would have acquired much solidarity if it had been known that one of the instrumental figures in this year's student movement was working for a political party that believes so deeply in the destruction of our solidarity as a country. Thus, Blouin's announcement seems to be perfectly timed; no awkward questions for the current student leaders at press conferences in Ontario. Although I have no doubt that the airwaves will soon be filled with robotic, PR laden responses from all current student leaders.

Of course, it would come as no surprise to anybody who has been following the student strike movement in la belle province that this has happened. The separatist undertones of the protest were axiomatic from the very onset, as effigies labeling Jean Charest as John James Charest were suspended amongst a sea of Quebec nationalist slogans and flags.

It took the student leaders months to waive off rumours of politicizing the protest in favour of the Parti Québécois, and it was finally starting to work. On July 22, after another peaceful and successful protest, the message from the primary protest figure, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, was clear: The student's aim was to oust Charest and the Quebec Liberals, but they were committed to not endorsing one political party in particular. Right. Tough break for Nadeau-Dubois, but he's no stranger to having his mouth full of his own foot.

However, to Blouin's credit, the tuition conflict should rightfully be decided at the ballot box, and not in the streets. Although, one could contend that this was already determined, back in 2008, when the Liberals ran under a platform of tuition increases. Then again, history clearly demonstrates Quebec's tendency to necessitate multiple inquiries into the same question.

Nevertheless, running for the Parti Québécois is indeed the best way to rid Quebec of eight years of Charest Liberal rule. Current polls have the Liberals and the Parti Québécois neck and neck, and considering Canada has yet to find its own version of the infamous Colbert Bump, perhaps this inevitable "student bump" is exactly what Marois needs in order to govern Quebec right into another referendum on sovereignty.

Additionally, I have no doubt that Blouin is running as a candidate for the PQ because of the party's longstanding principles. Principles like extending Bill 101 to CEGEPs, a move which would effectively strip francophones and immigrants from ever being able to function in a globalized workforce; constant xenophobic rhetoric, such as taking a feigned moral stance against halal and kosher meat, and denying immigrants access to healthcare in English; as well as the PQ's own hallmark platform of sheer political opportunism, after all, even in the tuition debate the PQ's stance has changed several times.

Furthermore, Marois was the subject of much criticism after deciding that she would no longer wear the iconic red square, the official symbol of the Quebec student movement. She stated she would be replacing the red square for the fleur-de-lis, which can be roughly translated into English from politician speak as, "I need to distance myself from the movement, because the polls are telling me it's too politically risky." Looks like Marois opted to double down on that political risk, and it might just pay off.