Out on the fringe

Quebec's new leftie party has adopted an election platform so absurd that Boisclair no longer has to fear pressure from the left

Québec 2007 - Québec solidaire

Boy, SPQ-Libre, the left-wing "political club" within the Parti Quebecois, is spitting mad at party leader Andre Boisclair.
The labour-left "political club" within the PQ is so blind with rage at the party leader that it can't see straight, and is lashing out instead at - wait for it - the "federalist press."
Two weeks ago, Boisclair defied SPQ-Libre and imposed his will on his party's governing national council by bluntly rejecting a resolution calling for the nationalization of wind power. The resolution had been supported by SPQ-Libre and adopted by the council.
More than a week later, the left-wing party-within-a-party was still so steamed it justified its position in a lengthy statement that studiously avoided even mentioning Boisclair's rejection of the resolution.
Instead, SPQ-Libre went after the running dogs in the federalist press (arf!) for being "contemptuous of the PQ's members," though it was none of us who had rejected the resolution. Yeah, that's how to punish a sovereignist leader - go after the "federalist press."
SPQ-Libre has been the main locus of dissent in the PQ since Boisclair was elected leader a year ago tomorrow (although its secretary, Pierre Dubuc, received only 1.2 per cent of members' votes in the leadership election to finish fifth in a field of eight).
If Boisclair's rejection of the resolution on wind power was a test of his authority as leader, SPQ-Libre's mild response indicates he passed. In fact, the club might have unwittingly helped him appeal to centrist voters by giving him an opportunity to stand up to an influential lobby within his party.
When he became leader, Boisclair inherited a party policy program strongly influenced by the PQ's left wing. But his rejection of the resolution on wind power suggests he does not feel threatened on the PQ's left flank by the new Quebec Solidaire party.
He appears to have made the calculation that left-wing voters who abstained from voting for the PQ in the last election out of dissatisfaction with the outgoing PQ government will unite behind his party in the next one to throw out the Liberals.
After a strong early showing in its first by-election last spring, QS fared poorly in two subsequent ones.
A CROP-La Presse survey last month had the Solidaires in fifth place province-wide with only four per cent of the vote, less than half the Greens' nine per cent.
If there's any advantage for QS in being so far down in the polls, it's that a party so far from power can make promises without worrying whether they're realistic or affordable.
So the party's draft election platform reads like science fiction with little resemblance to the present reality of a Quebec that is broke, heavily taxed and deeply in debt and has to compete for private investment.
The proposed platform would promise universal public drug insurance. It would be the first such plan in the country for the simple reason it would be prohibitively expensive for even wealthier provinces.
There would be "massive" investments in public transit and energy efficiency, but merely "large" ones in health, living conditions and housing, including the "ecological" construction of 8,000 new units of social housing a year.
Welfare benefits and the minimum wage would be increased. Education fees would be not frozen but lowered.
Workers would get longer vacations and the right to refuse overtime, literacy programs for adults and free French courses for immigrants, anglophones and aboriginals.
Rights to housing, health and education would be added to the Quebec charter of rights, though the draft program does not say how these would be enforced. Access to legal aid would be expanded.
The draft platform doesn't say how much any of this would cost. But ominously for the minority of Quebecers who actually pay income tax, the tax would be made even more "progressive." That is, the continent's most heavily taxed middle class would pay even more.
If Lucien Bouchard's friends are the "lucids," then the Solidaires who drafted the proposed platform are the "acids." Because that's what they must have been on.

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