When Amir Khadir, the new lone MNA from Québec solidaire, was sworn in at the National Assembly on Wednesday, it brought out an interesting paradox from the last election.
Voter turnout was a dismal 57 per cent, with many registered voters not believing enough in the power of their own elected representatives to even go to the polls. Yet, when Khadir won in Mercier riding, you got a sense that his victory was seen by many - QS supporters or not - as a sign that a single MNA could somehow bring a different voice to the National Assembly. Call it the theory of weights and counterweights.
And boy, will Khadir's voice be different. With the right-wing Action démocratique and both the Liberal Party and Parti Québécois now aligned as centrist parties on most issues, Khadir will bring a more progressive vision that could reach beyond what some condescending souls like to call the "gauche caviar" of Plateau Mont-Royal.
Even the timing of this election - tied to an economic crisis mostly brought on by a financial system let loose by non-interventionist governments - lends itself to a more critical, socially-conscious type of discourse.
Many Quebecers might also show interest in Khadir's articulate and informed defence of the public health-care system. As an adept communicator and a doctor specializing in microbiology, Khadir's pedagogy on this issue will be radically different from the recent statements by former health minister Philippe Couillard on the so-called inevitability of more profit-based health-care services.
But for the PQ, Khadir's election rings different bells. His party was born of the merging in 2006 of Françoise David's Option citoyenne group and of the Union des forces progressistes in which Khadir was a prominent figure along with respected intellectuals Gaétan Breton and Omar Aktouf. Many supporters of the QS are former PQ voters who left the mother ship because they found it to be either too centrist or not focused enough on sovereignty, or both.
Interestingly, what finally allowed for the merger to succeed in 2006 was when David, then reluctant to make sovereignty a central aspect of QS's platform, finally gave in to the UFP's insistence to the contrary. In other words, if, as Khadir pointed out, QS is now the second sovereignist party to sit at the National Assembly, it's mainly because the UFP, with Khadir and others, made this a pre-condition for the creation of QS. And they did this because they thought the PQ wasn't determined enough on that issue.
Earlier, then-premier Bernard Landry had also showed zero interest in recruiting Khadir, who had run for the Bloc in 2000, along with a two or three other progressives as PQ candidates. He chose instead to create within the PQ a small left-wing political club called the SPQLibre. In that sense, was the ADQ and the PQ were born of the Liberal Party, you could say that QS is the offspring of the PQ. What remains to be seen is how Pauline Marois will handle the delicate situation of Khadir's election.
Liberals never did forgive Mario Dumont or René Lévesque for creating competing parties. As for the QS, even if it is a much smaller party, it did take Mercier away from the PQ. The QS also took enough votes in a handful of ridings to keep the PQ from winning those seats.
Jean Charest said he's open to discuss an equitable share of parliamentary financial resources and question-period time for the seven ADQ MNAs and Khadir. But since the election, Marois has appeared more hesitant, unsure if more resources and visibility for Khadir would risk yanking more support away from the PQ.
But with such prominent people as artist Richard Desjardins and former Desjardins president Claude Béland publicly supporting the QS for this election, the PQ leader would probably be better perceived if she were to show a welcoming attitude toward the other sovereignist party now sitting in the National Assembly.
Khadir might shake things up
Québec Solidaire has become the second sovereignist party in the National Assembly and it will be interesting to watch how the other parties react