After the spring we’ve had here in Quebec (call it a Maple Spring, if you’re so inclined. I’m not.), it’s painfully clear that the status quo can’t remain. Either Charest pulls off the biggest political upset of his career, and despite it all, manages to win a fourth mandate, or Pauline Marois takes over the reins, having promised pretty much everything and anything to the students, and no clear way to deliver on any of it. And anyone who corrects me to inform me that “she did indeed promise a summit to reassess tuition fees” is asking to be mocked.
In the mix are François Legault’s unfortunately-named CAQ party and Amir Khadir’s Québec Solidaire; parties with very different platforms, very different approaches and the -as of yet- unproven ability to bring in the votes. Throw into that, some overall confusion, as parties seem to be recycling candidates from other parties, and it’s an interesting dynamic. And by “interesting” I mean you need a flow chart and a colour-coded timeline to understand it all.
The biggest news to make headlines these past few weeks would unquestionably have to be the announcement that Leo Bureau-Blouin, one of the three major faces of the GGI student movement, and arguably the most eloquent, even-tempered and likeable of the three, will now be running as a candidate for the PQ.
Quebec federalists let out a collective groan when his candidacy was announced, while sovereignists delighted in the possibility of Blouin’s influence injecting some much-needed support for the PQ’s often-antiquated insistence on focusing on one issue and one issue alone, as Quebec crumbles under the sheer weight of its own corruption and bloated government.
I have nothing but respect for Blouin, who I believe has conducted himself with the outmost grace under extreme pressure. I also don’t share the knee-jerk reaction of most federalists who reject anything separatist as de-facto evil. But, inevitably, I feel bad for this 20-year-old who I fear will not be equipped to deal with the cut-throat reality of politics, and is now a member of a party notorious for seeking out saviours, chewing them up, and spitting them out. How’s André Boisclair these days?
Marois’ opportunism never ceases to amaze me. The PQ leader, after spending a few confused weeks putting on and taking off red squares from her lapel, banging some pots in solidarity with the cause, realized she had to prepare for elections, and needed to gain the support (and the vote) of Monsieur et Madame Tout le Monde – many who have no real allegiance or interest in the student cause.
In a shrewd, albeit dishonest move, off came the red square, and in came Leo Bureau-Blouin and his 20,000 Twitter followers. That’s a lot of influence that one young man carries, but it remains to be seen whether these students, so tireless on the streets, night after night, will make their voices heard when it truly matters; via the ballot box.
As elections go, this one’s going to be an honest-to-goodness crapshoot. Some believe Charest, despite claims of widespread corruption, and much-displayed arrogance, is still the least questionable option and will pull off a minority government. Some are guessing the PQ will ride that wave of anger over widespread corruption allegations and claim a government. Legault in the meantime, is still not quite sure what’s he’s claiming. While he supported Bill 78 months ago, he now says he’s against it. One thing he’s clear about, the CAQ is not a separatist party, nor will it ever be. But even though “C'est assez, faut que ça change” is now his war cry, he hasn’t been able to communicate “comment” he plans to change whatever “ça” is.
I’ve followed the student protest movement closely. I’ve debated its demands, its effectiveness, and the influence it will have over the coming elections. I’ve wavered in my support occasionally, but my endorsement also gained momentum as anger consumed me when profoundly anti-democratic law Bill 78 was legislated. But there was always something I couldn’t quite connect with, and I didn’t know how to put my finger on it.
In a shrewd, albeit dishonest move, off came the red square, and in came Leo Bureau-Blouin and his 20,000 Twitter followers. -
This past weekend, I went to see one of my favourite stand-up comics, Marc Maron, perform his one-man show during the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival. During his bit he started talking about the Occupy Wall Street movement. Anyone who believes that the Quebec student protest movement wasn’t heavily influenced by the OWS movement is in serious denial.
Maron spoke about how every single bit of news coverage on the OWS movement would always manage to zoom in on that one protester in dreadlocks, playing the bongos. “I’d see footage of a protest in Philly; there he’d be! This dude in dreadlocks, playing the bongos! Another protest in Washington…. the same guy! I’m not the 1%. I’m clearly the 99%... I want to support this guy, but this isn’t MY guy!”
It’s a funny bit, but I seriously had an "a-ha" moment, as I realized that Maron had brilliantly managed to hone in on the one thing that makes the average mortgage-holding, middle-of-the-road voter, who isn’t interested in “slacktivism”, has no desire or time to bang pots, and just wants to go on with his or her life and raise a family in peace, reluctant to take a pro-student, anti-government stance.
The truth of the matter is that the cause the students have been fighting for is a just one. It’s not about a measly $350 tuition hike. It’s about protesting a corrupt and extremely inept system that enables a university vice-principal to drive around in a public-funded Lexus, while taxpayers - and inevitably these young students - are asked to foot the bill. Despite the hoopla, the chanting, the red square-overload, the pot banging, the silly naked marches, the cause at the root of it all is still the right one.
It remains, however, to be seen in the next month whether the students will help their cause or will end up standing in their own way, by resorting to violence and the type of behaviour that will drive the average suburban housewife into Charest’s arms.
No one really knows what the end result will be, and those who claim to, are guesstimating at best. Too many unknown factors, too many lacklustre options, and too many possible outcomes... And when it’s all over, every single player may find themselves wishing they had played the game a little differently. Everyone except, of course, the one who forms the new government.
The IOC should be ashamed
For the first in my life, the thrill of the Olympic Games has failed to move me. I have been uninterested in watching the Opening Ceremonies or the subsequent competitions. However, there’s one incident that did manage to stir some emotion in me, and I’m pretty sure it’s not the kind that the IOC was hoping for.
Citing the need for the games to remain a-political (someone should inform the U.S. athletes who were asked to boycott the 1980 Summer Games, or the Soviet athletes who boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles Games), and in an attempt not to offend Arab delegations who are against Israeli policies, the IOC decided not to honour the victims of what has since been dubbed the Munich Massacre.
Regardless of your political affiliations and personal feelings about the never-ending Palestinian/Israeli saga, there should not be anything political and/or controversial about simply acknowledging and commemorating 11 Olympians who were brutally gunned down 40 years ago during an international event that's supposed to promote what is most excellent and noble in humanity. For shame, IOC.