It’s a particular bleak morning today. The sky above Montréal is ominously grey and the only light entering my apartment is that glistening off the torrential downpour that rained in the Québec election results. Even my cats — typically colossal jerks at this hour — are quiet, content to peacefully accept the added morning darkness.
On social media, particularly Facebook, it’s a different story. There’s so much noise, so much anger, so much petulant giddiness. I’m severely disheartened to see so many friends, colleagues and acquaintances bursting with joy over the prospect of four years of majority Liberal rule.
The PQ’s historic defeat was deserved. They will try to blame Québec Solidaire, or rich McGill students from Ontario, or voter apathy, or a merry band of mean Muslims, but in the end, they are the only ones responsible for their own demise. The party has not fared so poorly in over 40 years and it is time for péquistes to awaken to the possibility that party lost its soul many moons ago. The dream is gone, René is dead, and all that is left is a party that flops around like a fish grasping for air, flailing around in people’s faces in hopes that somebody will eventually give it a stream to swim in. You cannot wage divisive wedge identity warfare all while trying to appease the lowest common denominator. Not quite left, not quite right, not quite ready to commit to anything other than a restrictive vision of who is and isn’t Québécois(e)(s).
There was a moment before Marois conceded the elections and premiership to Couillard and his Liberals that seemed emblematic of the PQ’s entire campaign, nay last 20 years of existence. Future leadership hopeful were already on stage, knives in hands, desperately attempting to conjure up some sort of rally call that would infuse hope and optimism into their loyal brass. After a monotonous chant of “on veut un pays” Bernard Drainville, author of the PQ’s contentious charter which played a huge role in their breakdown, tries to list off all of what the PQ will continue to do.
And there it was, this glaring 10-second lull that had made of us wondering if our streams were lagging. “On va continuer” he recited, and then poof, there was nothing. That was the PQ’s campaign: fleeting, frightened, doomed, a shadow of its past self. He eventually pulled it together and offered a “de se battre” but it was far too late. Everybody watching could already tell, this PQ had vanished forevermore into that interstitial space between knowing that they need to need to continue and failing to know what they must continue towards.
I shed no tear in their downfall. My heart goes out to the boomers who were raised alongside the party and who never ever questioned it, as I know they must be terribly sad on this day, but their undying and uncritical loyalty birthed a monster that needed to be slain.
Nor do I even remotely rejoice in the absurd victory of one of the most corrupt political parties in the history of the western world. A party led by a man who resigned from his functions as health minister to immediately work for a lobby group labouring to privatise healthcare. A party that stubbornly incited one of the greatest social unrests in North American history. A party that implements regressive tax reforms like that of the Health Tax that disproportion ally affects women and racialised communities. A party that is enthusiastically committed to the destruction of our natural resources for the smallest pittance of economic gain. A party that is so unaware of Aboriginal rights that they failed to answer a questionnaire by the Femmes Autochthones du Québec. A party that gladly reels in the spoils of the Anglo vote all while offering them nothing in return.
Yet so many of my contacts on Facebook are rejoicing: making jokes about eating pasta, proudly announcing that the movers need no longer whisk them away, cursing off the “separatists” in the most undignified of manners, and general Canadiana chest-thumping.
I can only imagine that it’s because many have felt their identities and cultures personally attacked by the PQ’s brand of xenophobic nationalism. The importance of their sense of self-worth and self-respect far outweighs how their lives will be profoundly affected by the continued erosion of our social programs and imminent pillaging of our lands. It doesn’t matter how many will live in poverty, or be unable to access education, or eventually be denied the right to universal health care. None of this matters so long as they feel that they have the right to be Anglos or the right to be Canadian. Identity trumps social welfare. Every single time.
Do you vote for the blatantly racist corrupt party or the less-obviously racist corrupt party? Québec clearly opted for the latter while continuing to ignore that actual organised and competent alternatives exist. There are larger questions here on mainstream media’s penchant for ignoring left-leaning parties and the general population’s dismissal of anything left of centre being unfeasible. But we’ll leave those for another day.
Until then, the main light I see on this greyest of days is Manon Massé’s entry into the National Assembly. With her, we’ll have a third voice promoting economic justice and environmental protection while sounding the much needed alarm bell on the absolutely terrifying road we’re collectively heading down.
I find little solace in the dark and much frustration in the noise. May we work through it and eventually realise that we’re not destined to two sides of the same coin. May we eventually realize that all society has ever needed to emerge from darkness was a little bit of solidarity.