Pauline Marois had a very busy first day of school, boys ‘n’ girls. After the first day school, by decree, La Marois has scrapped the proposed tuition hike for at least this year, struck the most contentious and punitive portions of Bill 78 (now Bill 12), issued a permanent moratorium on the production of shale gas as well as a closure to the Gentilly 2 nuclear plant. Wow! After just one day, she is keeping some of those election promises she made on the campaign trail. Stop the presses! Cue in that all to right winged mantra of Quebec is going to hell in a hand basket. Got a newsflash, austerity as well as measures to further harm the environment is sending all to hell in a hand basket. All too often, most politicians, once they hit office, all bets are off and some even offer feeble excuses as to why they can’t carry out any of their campaign promises. So, what La Marois has done on the first day of school was refreshing.
To Hike or Not to Hike Tuition and Bill 12 Fun
Funny how there is a huge discrepancy in numbers regarding those tuition hike cancellation. I had heard many tout a loss of 600M$. The PQ is only saying 20M$ this fiscal year. I’m inclined to believe the numbers are closer to the latter. Either way, La Marois says that her government will hold a summit in the next 100 days to further discuss the future of post-secondary education tuitions. In this upcoming summit, what I would like to see discussed before whether or not to hike tuitions is exactly how universities have been spending money, or more to the point, how they have been misspending money. Funny how many who cry against the Quebec Student Protests don’t seem to ask these questions. I mean, are they really ok with exorbitant severance packages, SUVs for vice-presidents, loans for 1M$ ++ luxury condos for interim presidents and misspending on buildings, not to mention more money spent on public relations and notoriety than actually educating people? Otherwise, should the PQ eventually (assuming they’re still in power next year, that is) decide to index tuition to the cost of living, these very same problems with university funding will continue.
The founder of the Quebec Green Party, Daniel Le Breton, is now appointed environment minister. Unlike the Harpercons in Ottawa, the selection of Le Breton is evidence that the PQ do seem to care about the environment. The closures of Gentilly 2, cancellation of the 58M$ loan to put an asbestos mine on life support, and the moratorium on shale gas, is an indicator. Off to the fainting couches! Clutch those pearls tight, now!
Fracking for shale gas has already proven hazardous. Are these people crying for shale gas because of the added revenue really this blind? How much money would they make when they have to clean up after fracking disasters? Fracking for shale gas has proven to contaminate water and affects the food we grow? How prosperous can we really be if we have no safe drinking water of if we are unable to grow food? Not to mention, the increased risk for earthquakes. So, more earthquakes, a greater shortage of our food supply and contaminated water really worth it?
I don’t need to go on about how it is high time the PQ or any political party, provincial or federal for that matter, to finally take a stand and put an end to putting the dead asbestos industry on life support. It is high time that the people of those regions started spending their time, energy and resources on developping new industries and this is something the government could help out with. More infrastructure projects. Both La Marois and ol’ Chrissie Paradis have said they would compensate the region for this loss. However, I would like it if this money would not be a blank checque– I would really like to see it put to good use developping these new industries and putting the region to work once again.
The closure of the Gentilly 2 Nuclear reactor is one that many have a problem with. Why, nuclear energy is green energy, many say. Some go on to say that it’s the fifth safest in the world! Hmmm, now there’s a ringing endorsement. What? you mean it ain’t the safest? No matter, I don’t even believe that it is even the fifth safest as many are putting forth. The damned thing sits on a fault line. Have we not learned anything from the last earthquake which subsequently caused a nuclear disaster in Japan?
Once again, La Marois is promising some sort of compensation for that region’s loss of jobs should the closure happen. Again, I will say that it is time for new industries and that is where the money should be spent.
If only the solar panel industry and other such green industries had as powerful lobbyists as the oil and gas industry do! Just imagine the potential!
Another thing to watch for is the Old Harry oil. Just prior to the last Federal election, the Feds signed a deal with then Premier Johnny, via Nathalie Normandeau, former resources minister and deputy premier. A deal that gave Quebec 100% of the royalties. So far, we have not gone a sailing to drill. How keen would La Marois be? More to the point, how keen will the environment minister, who is actually an environmentalist, Daniel Le Breton be keen? Also, Bernard Drainville was pretty hot to trot to dig up Old Harry. This to say, that this could create divisions within the PQ caucus.
Another thing to look for is what the PQ may try to do with Plan Nord. She has promised that it will be here to stay, but it will be done “differently”.
Scrapping the 200$ per Year Health Tax
Another of La Marois’s campaign promises she will attempt to keep is the scrapping of the 200$/year health tax all are paying nowadays. She intends to tax those earning above 130,000$ and another tax bracket would be implemented for those earning above 250,000$. It’s a courageous stand that could begin resonating amongst many. However, there are still many, who for some strange reason panic about displeasing the rich. Why, they’ll all leave! They say. Big Deal! It’s something I’ve always supported, however, this is also something La Marois could have problems with.
Scrapping the health tax and taxing the rich is something she may need the support of much of the National Assembly, and she, along with the 2 from Quebec Solidaire would not have the votes. Her problem would be with CAQ who hold the balance of power. Pro-business Franky Legault did also promise to scrap the health tax, but never said how he would do that and given their party’s pro-privatized health care stance, I am inclined to believe that ol’ Franky and his CAQistest would’ve further privatized health care instead. The Liberals, who implemented the tax in the 2010 budget, on the other hand, are not quite so keen to go to an election so fast. Not without a permanent leader and they are, I’m sure, looking to see where the shit flies from the Charbonneau inquiry. They may come down with NA flu when and if they vote on this matter. Still, it is a good idea and I do hope that La Marois and her PQistes make every effort to make this happen. This 200$ health care tax for all, is regressive to say the least.
There was also that proposal from the Liberals in 2010 of charging 25$ per visit of any health care facility that managed to get scrapped due to public pressure and probably because ex-premier Johnny was choosing his battles. It was also around that time that he was fighting public pressure to implement an inquiry into the construction scandals.
Another doctor, Rejean Hebert who was the former Dean of Medicine at the University of Sherbrooke and MNA for St-Francois is the new health minister. He once accused the Liberals, rightly, of “axphyxiating the public system to help the private”. CAQ would most likely do the same. It’s what many provincial governments across Canada have been doing. Then with the help of the right winged media, telling and embellishing ‘health care horror’ stories. Then they say to the people, “See? Public health care does not work.” Dr. Hebert has his work cut out for him in this minority legislature.
How Long Will This Minority Last?
Good question. Had Johnny Charest remained, whether or not he lost his Sherbrooke seat, I wouldn’t have given this minority 5 minutes. If you ask me, Johnny did La Marois a favour. Now that the Liberals have only an interim leader and will be more concentrated on the upcoming Liberal leadership race, which can promise to lead to divisiveness in a party. They are planning a short date, sometime in February, just before the PQ tables its’ first budget come around March. Given Franky Legault’s hurry for the Liberal Leadership race to be underway, I strongly suspect that some kind of quasi coalition of sorts between the Liberals and CAQ is what’s on his mind. He sort of gave his hand on that question. You know, where both CAQ and the Liberals under their new leader will band together, defeat the budget, and go to the Lieutenant governor and propose a government that can get the confidence of the National Assembly instead of going to another election.
On the other hand, perhaps Legault is jumping the gun here; he assumes that the new Liberal leader, whoever he or she may be, would be amenable to such a deal. Also, assuming the Charbonneau Inquiry reveals a lot of dirt about the Liberals, Franky Legault may have a credibility problem should he and his CAQistes go to bed with the Liberals. After all, he kept claiming that the Liberals were “too corrupt” and campaigned on being Mr. Clean. Depending on what kind of shit flies in the direction of the Liberals, would Legault hisself, still want to go to bed with them? I guess that would largely depend on how power hungry he and his party are.
All this to say that many pundits are of the belief that the PQ’s first budget come March will be too far to the left and the CAQ and the Liberals with their new leader will defeat it and either we have some quasi Liberal / CAQ coalition, or we go back to the polls this spring. I have a bit of a different take on this. First of all, while the PQ is looking like it’s shifting to the left these days, that likely won’t be the case further down the road. Let’s remember that La Marois, while the lesser of the 3 evils, is not as progressive as many believe. Let’s remember, she held cabinet posts while under a more right leaning PQ under Lucien Bouchard and Bernard Landry. She is one of the main reasons the Quebec Solidaire came to be; the PQ shifted too far to the right. La Marois could well shift her party further to the right in order to stay in the game. I would say that she may well throw the Liberals and the CAQ a bone in the March budget just to keep them off her back.
The other assumption of the Liberals, once a leader is selected, will all be hasty to vote against the PQ budget or on any other matter, with the help of CAQ. Assuming the Liberals keep the promise of a short leadership race, the earliest this new leader would be sworn in is around February, just one month before the budget passes. To assume that this newly minted Liberal leader will rush to save the day is not realistic. The new leader, once sworn in, will have his/her hands full, to say the least. He/she will have the task of trying to repair whatever divisions occur within the party. Then, of course, there is the Charbonneau Inquiry and again, whatever shit comes flying in the Liberals’ direction. This new leader would likely have the challenge of playing firefighter which, to say the least, can be time consuming. Of course, there is also the obvious–with all the tasks the new leader will have to perform right away, will he/she be able to win over the electorate? Even if the CAQ and the Liberals band together in some way, there is no assumption that this agreement could last, thus, leading us to the polls again sooner rather than later.
La Marois could have problems, herself, and for that matter, so could Franky Legault. Let’s remember that the Charbonneau Inquiry’s mandate is to look at the last 15 years of the National Assembly’s activities and the construction scandals, party financing and other related matters. It is important to note that the first five of those 15 years, the PQ were in power and both La Marois and Franky Legault were cabinet ministers in that government. Therefore, neither of them are immune to whatever fall out may occur. Ever wonder why Legault never came out to accuse La Marois and the PQ of being corrupt as he did with the Liberals? There’s your answer, boys ‘n’ girls, he couldn’t do that without implicating hisself. This to say, ya never know, the shit from the Charbonneau Inquiry may well fly in their direction. All three of the main parties should be nervous and looking out at Charbonneau Inquiry. Yes, it’s possible that La Marois and Franky could be playing fire fighters.
I would also expect to see that the opposition parties will be less of a head-ache to La Marois than her own caucus. Whether it’s the Charbonneau Inquiry, or if she makes any other misstep, the knives will be wielded in her general direction. I suspect that members of her own party will be seaking yet again to oust her as leader, especially given the thread bare minority she only managed to eke out.
Of course, a referendum on sovereignty will not be held in this mandate, but La Marois will do all to sell it. If ol’ Stevie Spiteful wins yet another election in 2015, which I think is highly likely, I suspect it won’t be that hard of a sell then. Count on her to be in Harper’s face as much as that is humanly possible. Given that the opposition in Ottawa is not providing, well, an opposition, it would be refreshing to see a premier doing just that.
La Marois, much like STevie Spiteful, is not known to play nicely with others. This could prove to be her and her party’s own undoing.
Another thing that La Marois has to take into consideration. She cannot afford to lose any members of her caucus. Remember the Bill 204 fiasco? She lost over 5 members of her caucus in one fell swoop. There is no reason to believe that the potential for losing caucus members would not leave in packs again. Assume she loses as many as 4 or even 5 members. This opens the door for a coalition between CAQ and Liberals or an all out return to the polls. There is no way she could continue to govern with the exact same number of seats as the Liberals or worse, one or two less.
La Marois will be tempted to continue to promote sovereignty and the strengthening of Bill 101. What she should do is, while giving Harper a hard time, she should also shelve sovereignty talk for awhile and get with the business of governing. Concentrating on bread and butter issues like Jobs, economy, health care and education. That summit she wishes to set up on the financing of higher education is a great start to this. In fact, shelving sovereignty talk, or at the very least, toning it down significantly, may well be of most help to both the PQ and the sovereignty movement. La Marois has put together a very talented caucus. They should be showing all what they can do in a minority situation. Yes, the media loves to speculate and ask sovereignty questions–proof that no one is ready to discard this kind of talk–but La Marois should not fall into their trap. It’s distracting from what her government does. We all know the PQ is a sovereigntist party, but they’re a thready minority–not in a position to go to a referendum of sovereignty and let’s just leave it at that. I suspect that with time and the potential re election of a Harpercon majority in 2015, sovereignty may not be that hard of a sell then, particularly if La Marois’s Pequistes can prove they can actually govern.
The punditry is quick to say that La Marois will not be able to strengthen Bill 101 nor expand the bill to include CEGEPs and trade schools. Not so sure about that. She could well have the votes for the strengthening of Bill 101, particularly if she does this sooner, while the Liberals don’t have a leader in place. In the first place, we mustn’t forget that the Liberals first initiated language laws in this province under Robert “Boo Boo” Bourassa. Something many Angryphones seem to conveniently forget that preceding Bill 101, was Boo boo’s Bill 22 in 1974 otherwise known as the Official Languages Act. We also mustn’t forget that Johnny Charest wanted to get Bill 101 expanded to federal institutions. As for CAQ, well, they can try to woo and pander to the Anglos all they like, but if anyone reads their original platform, it proposed much of the same language hard line as the PQ.
As for the CEGEPs, most of my separatist friends don’t even agree with expanding Bill 101. In reality, there is only a pocket of hardliners that wish for this. Even Jacques Parizeau in his last book renounced this. Hell, it is not even likely that La Marois wants this. In this instance, her minority becomes a blessing and a way out of the CEGEP matter. She can say her hands are tied.
Will the minority last? I’m not ready to make that prediction just yet. There is just too much at play here. I only wanted to provide different scenarios than others are playing.
I think La Marois is getting off to a good start, though. Already a politician who is keeping many of her promises right out of the starting gate, is to say the least, refreshing. Particularly when those measures are actually progressive.
The Sovereignty v Federalism Debate
I pointed out earlier that La Marois should shelve this kind of talk and not fall into media traps regarding those questions and concentrate on governing and show all what the caucus and her cabinet is made of. Sadly, this is not likely to happen though.
The punditry keep saying that no one wants to have this debate, but it is they who keep bringing it up every 5 minutes. They indeed contradict themselves. If Anglos don’t want this kind of talk, why do they continue to vote Liberal simply because they’re decidedly federalist and would never hold a referendum, damn everything else?
Something else to think about. If no one is interested in sovereignty, then why are all afraid of a referendum (will not be held in this mandate, by the by) happening down the road or not? If no one is interested in sovereignty, then all they have to do on voting day is check off the “no” box. It’s that simple. IF the “no” s win, then Quebec doesn’t separate now, does it? If no one wants sovereignty as many say, why the fear of a referendum?
As for progressive federalists, ask yourselves what is there to love under Harperland? With Harper’s path of destruction of Canada, how much worse could a sovereign Quebec be? Even if by some miracle, the Harpercons lose in 2015, the new government, whomever they may be will have a devil of a time trying to undo the Harpercon damage. A better question to ask (be it NDP, Liberal or some kind of quasi coalition or cooperation between the two) is would or could they even attempt to do so?
Regarding stability, I got a newsflash. Even when the Liberals were in power, the province’s place within Canada is still unstable. Let’s remember, we have not been repatriated in the federal Constitution. That leaves us pretty much in limbo in and of itself. Even if another referendum were to take place and the “no” side wins, this does not, by any means, put the question of Quebec’s place within or without CAnada to rest. I argue that for there to be any stability in La Belle Province, we either have to be repatriated in some shape or form in the constitution or the “yes” side wins in any potential referendum.
Another reminder, the “no” side only won by .5% in the 1995 referendum. I wouldn’t call that being decisively federalist. Surely we had to have expected that the question of a referendum would be eventually revisited.