Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What English Canadians need to understand about Quebec, the NDP and Thomas Mulcair

By Pierre Beaudet
February 28, 2012

It is always amazing to observe the ignorance of the Canadian left when it comes to Quebec politics. The reasons for this, I believe, are similar to what blocked the English left over Ireland for decades, as well as the French left over their African empire. It is costly in the short term to oppose its "own" imperialism, because it is supported by a very wide popular colonial mentality. But in the long term, it is deadly.

In any case, here we have a NDP campaign that is going nowhere, unfortunately. More than that, the front-runner is now an ex-Liberal Minister who was known for his trade-union bashing and his love of free trade agreements, not to mention his "affair" with Israel (as it has been noted recently by rabble contributors [2]). Mulcair was also not only a staunch anti-nationalist, but he even fought hard against Bill 101 (to protect the French language). Even if people tend to forget things, not many people will give him any credibility when he says that he speaks "for Quebec."

On all these important issues, Mulcair has been a centre-right liberal.

Some Canadians have raised the argument that Mulcair would be able to "secure" the NDP vote in Quebec, so that his leadership would be beneficial for the party. This is very far from reality.

Mulcair had very little to do with the orange wave of last May. Mulcair represents a very strange riding which is called Outremont. It is the home of the wealthy francophones, on the West side, who have been tiring of voting for what became to be known as the party of crooks (Liberals). It is also the home of many immigrant communities and the centre of the orthodox Jewish community which numbers more than 20 per cent of the total population of Outremont. It is a unique feature in Montreal's demographic. This community supports Mulcair for reasons that are far off from any progressive meaning, or from the anti-racist and anti-discrimination battles that abound in the city.

Outside of this perimeter, very few people would support Mulcair.

Some would say that Mulcair has the support of the majority of the Quebec NDP MPs. The fact is that these MPs are mostly politically inexperienced, and without any social base. Before May 2, and the TV appearances of Jack Layton in Quebec, the NDP would not have been able to bring more than 200 people into a room. It had local committees in fewer than five ridings (including Outremont). Currently, some of the most serious NPDers in Quebec have decided to support candidates other than Mulcair.

All in all, Mulcair as the leader of the NDP, would be a disaster in Quebec. The support the party got on May 2 is already melting like snow in the spring. Canadians who still believe in the NDP as a vehicle for change should think about these matters seriously.

Pierre Beaudet, active in international solidarity and social movements in Quebec, is founder of Quebec NGO Alternatives, and Editor of the Nouveaux cahiers du socialisme. He blogs on rabble.ca in English and French.

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