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Gabriel-Nadeau Dubois win vindicates decision to reject alliance with PQ

Chantal Sundaram

June 1, 2017

On the heels of a historic convention where the members of Québec solidaire (QS) decided definitively, with a two-thirds majority and after months of debate, to reject any type of political alliance or electoral pact with the Parti québécois, QS saw a landslide victory in a by-election in the Montreal riding of Gouin.

It felt in many ways like a vindication of the QS decision to stand for its own politics and principles, at the ballot box as in the street.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, a leader of the 2012 student strike, took 69% of the vote for QS. While voter turnout was only around 33%, this is normal for a by-election. But the QS campaign took nothing for granted, especially given the immediate backlash from people in and around the PQ. QS was accused of everything from “Islamo-leftism” to paving the way for another Liberal government, to bad faith in the alliance discussions.

The PQ claims to have not fielded a candidate in Gouin in good faith, in hopes of a QS alliance. But in fact, all the PQ’s advance polling and research indicated they would have great difficulty in finding a candidate who could beat Nadeau-Dubois.

His victory underscored what was true all along: the PQ’s overtures to QS were nothing more than a desperate attempt by a party in decline, bereft of political principles and with an increasingly alienated and mistrustful base, to secure a progressive cover for themselves. In failing, they have demonstrated that they had far more to gain from an alliance than QS, a party that jumped to 14% in the polls and to 16,000 members (from 10,000) in under two weeks when Nadeau-Dubois announced his intention to run.

Nadeau-Dubois was also elected co-spokesperson of Québec solidaire, along with Manon Massé, current MNA for the Montreal riding of Ste-Marie-St-Jacques. The two together will be a powerful force to lead the party towards the election of fall 2018. The crumbling of the Liberal vote in Gouin from 25% to 9% may be an indication of what the Liberals will face in other ridings as the election approaches.

One of the key factors in the rejection of any pact with the PQ was the clear turn by that party towards racist populism and the politics of identity. This will make it easier for many traditional Liberal voters in Quebec, often from racialized communities, to stop voting Liberal out of fear and to start voting out of hope, for a truly progressive party that reflects their values on so many issues, from the $15 minimum wage to union rights to self-determination for First Nations, Inuit, and Metis.

The decision of the QS convention means the party will field candidates in all 125 ridings of Quebec. In the fall of 2017, QS will hold a training camp for new candidates and the activists that will run their campaigns.

The election will be a historic opportunity to campaign on a platform that not only consistently and clearly opposes austerity, climate chaos, and all forms of social injustice, but also the politics of exclusion. The motion passed at the convention states that QS “takes advantage of the opportunity” of its decision to reject a pact to reaffirm its commitment to those core values.

QS also has a detailed party programme for a radical vision of society democratically run from below. QS’s vision of Quebec independence sees it as a tool to involve the mass of ordinary people in building a new type of society: not as a goal in itself, as it has been for the PQ, but as one part of a larger social project that gives more power to the people.

Nadeau-Dubois’ victory is yet another demonstration of the growing desire, both within Quebec and around the world, to reject the establishment and to see politics done in a different way.

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