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Québec solidaire campaigns for a “transition énergétique”

Chantal Sundaram

August 23, 2018

The Québec election campaign officially kicked off August 23, with polls on October 1. Only Québec solidaire (QS) is campaigning for a just transition to sustainable energy and climate-friendly jobs.

For QS, job creation and fair labour standards are linked to a long-term goal of environmental justice, joining economic justice with the future of the climate. Unfortunately this is something that distinguishes QS from the NDP, despite the heroic attempts of many many NDP members to defend The Leap Manifesto, for a just transition to an economy respectful of indigenous and working people.

QS is campaigning on immediate, popular issues like public dental insurance, a 50% reduction in public transit fares, increased funding for healthcare and free education from early childhood to PhD. These issues poll high with the electorate, but QS is also actively campaigning on a bigger, longer-term vision for the complete transformation of the economy away from carbon.  

Letter to Trudeau

In an August 21 open letter to Justin Trudeau, former student strike leader and current QS co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois (GND) accused the PM of a spectacular betrayal of the climate promises that helped bring him to power: with the purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline but also his affirmation to oil magnates in Texas that “we can’t leave 173 billion dollars of oil in the ground without exploiting it.” He tells Trudeau that by justifying this in the name of “the national interest” he has exposed the Canadian national project for what it really is: “Canada has made the oil economy its vision for society.”

But GND also points the finger at every party leader in Québec: “during the campaign, in front of the cameras, Messieurs Couillard, Lisée et Legault will do the same as you [Trudeau]. They will never miss a chance to express alarm over climate change. But the Québécois have to remember: Philippe Couillard opened the territory of Québec up to oil companies, Jean-François Lisée was part of the government that drilled in Anticosti Island and financed the polluting cement factory in Port-Daniel, and it was François Legault who proposed a “third link” that will not decongest roads, and who supports oil exploitation on Québec soil. Nor will these leaders break with the Canadian political elite, which means Québécois tax dollars will be used to build your pipeline in Alberta.”

He goes on to say that QS will make energy transition the new national project of Québec: “We propose that Quebec look farther than a single election term of four years. We will invite the electorate to not be seduced by the comfortable denial the old political class has to offer. We will wager that economic transition is not only indispensable, but also an exciting collective project.”  

Workers’ rights

QS has also been consistent in defending workers fighting for decent jobs in the here and now, from Quebec liquor store (SAQ) employees on rotating strike, to locked-out workers at Aluminerie De Bécancour Inc (ABI) in Trois Rivières.

On more than one visit to the ABI picket line, GND declared that it is intolerable that public funds be used to finance a lock-out: the government must force the employer back to the table by threatening ABI that if they don’t settle they won’t get any more preferential tariffs, saying in exchange for public funds, a business must maintain quality jobs in regions outside urban centres and respect its workers.  

Narrative in English Canada

The main narrative likely to come out of the upcoming Quebec election in English Canada is that Quebec as a whole is moving to the right because of the anti-immigrant and Islamophobic politics that have fed the rise of the right-wing CAQ. This is happening in electoral politics throughout the West, not because Quebec is intrinsically more racist than English Canada.

There is a weakness in Québec in challenging racism directly and effectively. But there is also great potential to build on the strength of movements that have challenged austerity and defeated the Energy East pipeline, to see beyond the results of one election to the possibility of a better world.

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