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Outremont election spin

posted by dru Geography: Quebec Montreal Topics: elections

September 17, 2007

Outremont election spin


So, the conventional spin is that the Liberal lost all three by elections in Quebec today, including the "Liberal stronghold" of Outremont, and oh what a disaster for Stéphane Dion.

But the truth is, Outremont elected yet another Liberal in 2007... he just had orange campaign signs. Less than seven months ago, Thomas Mulcair was minister of the environment in Jean Charest's Liberal government. (Yes, that Jean Charest.)

The key challenge for the NDP will be to keep Mulcair from crossing the floor to the Liberals when they recover in the polls. That, or take the Liberal Party's place by becoming cynically opportunistic by running from the left and governing from the right.

Cynics will note that despite the fact that the anti-war vote contributed to Mulcair's victory, the fact that the Liberal Party is weak in Quebec is apparently likely to have the opposite effect on actual policy when it comes to Afghanistan.

Believers in party politics will tell you that Quebec now has a strong progressive voice in the house of commons, who will pressure the government to withdraw from Afghanistan and fulfill Kyoto obligations.

But he surely won't be to blame if troops remain in Afghanistan, and greenhouse gas emissions and the extractive industries that drive them remain undeterred.

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It doesn't actually make much difference whether or not Mulcair will cross the floor to the Liberals: more alarming is what Mulcair's candidacy says about the NDP's committment to whatever social democratic principles it had left. Mired in the political games and strategizing that characterize party politics, the NDP can only play a limited role in longterm social change, as a kind of "electoral front" of grassroots social movements that allows its policies to be determined in a democratic fashion (this is sort of what we saw with the creation of the original CCF and its connections to farm-labour movements). With Liberal hacks like Mulcair (a man who could work with Jean Charest can be nothing else) at the helm, even this small possibility seems to be dead. Predictably, the goal of gaining power seems to have trumped the goal of social equality.

Mulcair's background has little to do with it

He might cross the floor, he might not. Maybe he's an NDP loyalist for life, as of last February.

Regardless, the NDP is in the position they're always in. They can either...

1. move to the centre to try to get more votes and pander to the base instincts of voters and the right wing media (mandatory minimums, Jack?);

2. wait for the electorate to move left to such an extent that the media is forced to go with them (and hope the Liberals don't notice);

3. try to move the electorate to the left, by tying the party to social movements and creating serious alternative media, as Jack Layton proposed to do when he first became leader.

Their success, such as it is, seems to come from 1 and 2.

Mulcair's success in making the party a force in Quebec will also depend on some combination of those three things.

Which options will he choose, and which will work? That's where his background comes in.

He found enough to support about the corporate-tax-cuts and no-more-bursaries policies of Jean Charest to stay in his government all through the student strike.

Maybe that was a pragmatic measure that he thought he had to take to get some good environmental policies in place. Maybe he agreed with the policies. Maybe someone should ask him.

Mulcair IS a New Democrat. Period.

Dru, don't be ridiculous. Mulcair had offers by all 4 federal parties to run for them in the byelection. Mulcair CHOSE the NDP, the party with the least likelihood of actually electing him. He had an offer to run with the liberals, he opted for something else, something better.

I've met the man. He's a social democrat, no question. He knows that the federal Grits are full of shit.

Listen, in Québec politics, there are different occasions and reasons for running with a particular party. I know other New Democrats who ran with the Quebec Liberal Party -it is a hodge-podge of a party, but the only avowed federalist party.

So don't start deconstructing Mulcair without any background.

Some more research is in order

Pretty ignorant post, overall. If the author had bothered to look into Mulcair's long and contentious history with the Liberal Party of Québec he or she would know that "floor-crossing" is about as likely from Mulcair as from Layton. As for "running from the left and governing from the right", surely the author doesn't expect a governing New Democratic Party after the next election? Unless he or she knows something that the rest of the country doesn't...

One small note missing in other coverage

Interesting that the most of the online articles I read today didn't mention ( they buried) the fact that Mulcair was a Liberal till a few months ago.