Does the “government in waiting” support the protests in Quebec?

Thomas Mulcair was elected leader of the New Democrats just a few short weeks ago and so far, he has had a two-fold strategy: to appear closer to the mainstream centre than most would have characterized the NDP in the past, and to hold NDP gains in Quebec by speaking to that province’s issues often to the expense of growth for his party in the rest of Canada.

For Mulcair, support of the radical student movement in Quebec is definitely not in his strategic interests. The majority of Quebecers do not support the nightly protests in Montreal and few believe the protesters are primarily motivated by access to education. The student protest phenomenon in Quebec is neither representative of mainstream values nor of Quebec as a people.

Therefore, cracks in his caucus showing support for student demos in Quebec should cause the NDP leader concern. It is not yet clear if he has roped in his caucus and staff or if he will continue to let them show their true colours.

For example, here is NDP MP Dany Morin’s recent Facebook profile picture:

A story about Morin’s support was written in Le Quotidien,

The MP for Chicoutimi-Le Fjord Dany Morin supports students from the University of Quebec at Chicoutimi (UQAC) in their fight against rising tuition fees. On a personal level, however, while the New Democratic Party (NDP) for now refuses to interfere in the matter.

 

Dany Morin participated in the campaign “Me and my red square” of the Movement of General Student Associations UQAC (MAGE-UQAC), this week. He has been photographed with red square emblem adopted by the student movement in its fight against rising tuition fees announced by the Government of Quebec.

What about NDP MP Pierre-Luc Dusseault?

A press release on his website states,

The member for Sherbrooke Pierre-Luc Dusseault gives his support to the student movement of November 10 and will attend the event in Montreal this afternoon.

 

“It is essential to maintain and improve access to postsecondary education as students request today,” said Dusseault, who was studying political science at the University of Sherbrooke before his election on May 2nd, “What we try for Quebec has served for decades as a model for other educational systems elsewhere in Canada,” said the member for Sherbrooke.

Here’s another release from Dusseault after rioting occurs in conjunction with student demos in Quebec,

I wish to express my support to the will of students and students who demonstrate today in Sherbrooke to improve their financial situation and accessibility to university. As MP for Sherbrooke, I can assure you that the New Democratic Party supports your legitimate claims and requires the federal government to act, in accordance with the jurisdiction of the Quebec government to mitigate the increase tuition.

Here was NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice’s Facebook profile picture for a while,

NDP MP Anne Minh Thu Quach wrote on her Facebook,

During the demonstration outside the Valleyfield College this morning. I spoke out in solidarity for the right to accessible education, respect for law strike and the respect for democracy.


With students at the College this morning! Beautiful energy!

Anne Minh Thu Quach: Despite the cold, several students campaigned passionately that morning for the right to education available! Congratulations to all! They will stand all morning at the College this week! Encourage them if you can! Bring your drums and make them dance to keep warm! ;)

 

Anne Minh Quach: Thu @ Rosh: Thanks for the praise. I act according to my values ​​and my ideals. Several NDP MPs also support students in their approach. Moreover, we have a deputy spokesman in post-secondary education in Quebec. This is Matthew Dube. It also advocates the creation of a federal transfer to provinces and territories that would target post-secondary education in order to provide affordable access to students. @ Louis Charles: That, in compliance with federal and provincial powers. Much like it is already healthy.

 

Anne Minh Thu Quach: This is a matter of political choice and social choice. I believe that there is a more just, equitable and socially rewarding for supporting our education system in making it a simple product consumption.

And what about Thomas Mulcair, how is he handling this issue in his province in balance with being a national leader? And how is our national media covering the issue and how the NDP caucus is reacting to it?

The CBC, um, reports,

May 23, 2012

 

Earlier this spring, the Ottawa media was at pains to find any federal MP interested in saying much about either the policies or the politics driving the mass student protests across Quebec.

 

Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair, whose party represents the majority of Quebec’s federal seats (including several held by student-aged MPs), brushed off questions, saying the student tuition battle was “first and foremost a matter of provincial jurisdiction.”

 

(With yesterday’s intervention — and now funding, too — from labour groups outside Quebec, it will be interesting to watch the NDP generally and Mulcair specifically walk this fine line on the dispute, especially with the leader’s own personal history as a former Charest cabinet minister.)

About that National Post op-ed…

A few days ago, the esteemed Kelly McParland of the National Post published a piece on the Post’s online group blog Full Comment on the Quebec student protests and education boycott.

He included this paragraph,

[The York Federation of Students’ (and various leftwing groups’)] petition, posted on the website of Stephen Taylor, director of the National Citizens Coalition, heaps praise on the efforts of the small minority of Quebec post-secondary students who managed to disrupt the final weeks of the school year through a program of street violence and intimidation.

I read the piece on Full Comment at the time and it didn’t strike me as odd or out of place. But then again, I know my position on the student protests and McParland does too as he published my own op-ed in Full Comment on the Quebec student protests and how Charest would do well to polarize against them. In fact, McParland has been nothing but fair to me and, as you can see, has been good enough to me to encourage my own contributions.

Yet, the piece ran in print today and boy, did we get letters at the National Citizens Coalition! Are we in favour of the student demonstrations in Quebec? Have we donned red squares and joined the riots? Have we lost our good conservative minds?

No, no, and no.

It is the petition that I uncovered that heaps praise on the protesters. It of course heaps praise upon them because it was written by Ontario Marxists. I was only bringing it to everyone’s attention. The sentence structure in McParland’s op-ed takes two ideas (my website and the petition) and breaks the flow between mutually exclusive actions (posting and praise). I posted the petition. The petition praises the protesters.

In short, I think the petition is mad. And those spoiled students don’t know how good they’ll still have it in seven years time.

I hope that clears things up!

Quebec-style student strike to come to Ontario?

The entitled madness may be building in Canada.

Members of the Canadian Federation of Students are petitioning the organization to call an Ontario-wide strike vote this fall in order to show solidarity with the students in Quebec. Here is their letter,

Stunning statistic

If Quebec were a country, its debt-to-GDP ratio would be 5th highest of the OECD countries. Ahead of Iceland, Greece, Italy, and Japan.

Source

In related news, 122 people were arrested in Quebec tonight as the legislature tabled emergency legislation to suspend semesters at some schools and heavily fine protesters blocking access to classes.

Charest should dig in, and then call election

Quebec politics are always interesting, and sometimes detestable. The past few months have proven this again to be true. Quebec students are marching in the streets by the tens of thousands on a regular basis demanding that the government reverse its plans to hike tuition rates to a level that would keep them paying less than any other student in North America. There has been violence, tear gas, broken windows and the provincial education minister has just quit.

The man at whom the chaos is targeted is Quebec’s Premier Jean Charest. Polls prior to the the street demonstrations showed him to be the least popular premier in Canada. Current polls show that the longest student strike in the province’s history have swayed the sympathy of few Quebecers. Elsewhere, scandals have mounted for Charest, the latest and most serious being allegations of corruption within the multi-billion dollar construction industry that seems to innervate every level of Quebec’s political class.

Charest must call an election by 2013, and if he is to survive facing long odds — as he has done before — he must be mindful of timing.

Quebec faces a summer of discontent, and the premier must be seen to be putting the house in order, or at least refusing to hand over the keys to the street mob. Acquiescing to student demands would be foolish and would remove electoral ammunition from Charest’s already dwindled stock. Earlier, Charest offered the students a deal he knew they wouldn’t accept — if only to illustrate that reason was contemptible to them. Quebec summers generally see a panoply of strikes and demonstrations from the labour movement. and — it being an election year in the U.S. — copycat occupy protests will return to the parks and streets of Montreal. Pressure will mount, and so will the impatience of ordinary Quebecers against the faction of society Charest would profit to wedge against.

Charest’s main electoral competitors are the Parti Quebecois, who promise to expand state benevolence to those seeking handouts, and the upstart party of François Legault. Legault’s CAQ promises a handful of right-leaning solutions for a province whose people have complained about the corrupt entitlement class of politicians running the show in the capital in Quebec City. If Charest has any hope of victory, he must tack right and co-opt Legault, and represent a populist champion against those who take from society at the expense of those who make society.

Say what you will about the issues of state largesse, what makes education accessible, or Charest’s fitness to be re-elected. The Premier will be making these calculations as he considers his political future in the coming weeks.

There is no better time for Charest than this summer to call an election and frame himself as a leader who will emphatically say ‘no’ to the students, and ‘no’ to the growing entitlement-seeking labour movement. It will only get worse for Charest as pressure from inquiries into corruption mount. Quebecers may not like Charest very much, but given the draining aspects of Quebec’s economy that he’s up against, he should be eager to show that a bold ‘no’ mandate may be the least detestable option.

[cross-posted to Full Comment]