Minority Concerns
Christopher C. Goodfellow
November 25 1998

Have the minorities been addressed in this election?

Not at all.

And both Bouchard and Charest know it.

They have assiduously avoided any direct open solicitation, any attempts at inclusion, or any addressing of the well known concerns of the other components of Quebec society. The lack of an english debate is but one example. Could a presidential candidate in the United States ignore for instance the black constituency? Of course not.

But in this crazy world of "normal" democracy in Quebec where constituencies are now gerrymandered in favour of the majority francophone population outside of the major metropolis, it is possible to completely ignore 20% of the population. It is a recipe for disaster. Democracy cannot survive on this diet.

It would seem we have been consigned to the sidelines as observers as Saint Lucien and the Saviour of Canada have battled it out for the one constituency that would appear to matter to them - the soft nationalists. Elections are simply about power. One would hope they would be about higher ideals but the reality is otherwise. It's a matter of political expediency. And it speaks volumes about the state of democracy in Quebec. Whoever can win over the soft nationalists will win the election.

The Pequistes know the money and ethnic vote will always go Liberal and the Liberals assume that the vast majority of this constituency will always vote for them so what's the point of addressing them? The fact the Liberal website was finally posted in english in the last 2 weeks of the campaign was representative of last minute attempts at throwing a bone to the dog. Nothing less.

Let's go back to school for a minute and think about the repercussions of all of this. Getting power is one thing. Ruling is another. Quebec society is fracturing before our very eyes as more and more minorities feel there is no place here for them. Would it matter if minorities composed 100,000 of the population? Probably not. But minorities compose a million Quebeckers. More importantly, the major metropolis and economic engine of the province is made up of 46% of ethnic minorities. It is a constituency that cannot be ignored. The team of horses cannot pull in opposite directions forever.

Someone has recognized that. It is not Bouchard. It is not Charest.

Harold Chorney, a political science professor at Corncordia and Chairman of Alliance Quebec made some very cogent points on CBC on Monday, November 23rd. He pointed out that the real shame is that we are supposed to live in a system of "representative" democracy and we have neither representation nor any prospective hope of it. Candidates are parachuted into constituencies in the name of expediency. Westmount and Town of Mt. Royal ridings that are historically solid liberal strongholds and have traditionally been represented by anglophones have had francophone liberal candidates imposed on them.

Kenneth Cheung, a leader in the Chinese community, in a weekend editorial in the Gazette also addressed this isssue. Much of what he wrote can also be boiled down into the word "inclusive". Many of us simply do not feel part of this process and cannot identify with any part of it. It is in a sense a lost opportunity for all Quebeckers not just the pure laine. The solid separatists cannot hope to succeed in their "project" without at least bringing along a significant part of the population. Fifty percent will never be enough. Eighty percent perhaps. It is difficult to imagine a UDI and all the money and ethnic towing the line and being subservient. It is much more easy to imagine anarchy and violence. The entire scenario as presently proposed to any rational person seems Kafkaesque and dangerous.

But Professor Chorney's words echoed something else said on the night of the debate:

"We are electing a Parliament" - Mario Dumont.

This is an important and surprisingly mature statement from someone so young...and we should take note. The entire ethnic constituency including anglophones should take note. Neither Charest nor Bouchard have sought to bring Quebeckers together. Today Dumont is actively soliciting the anglo and ethnic vote. Perhaps it takes a new player not mired in old ideology to recognize that inclusiveness is important in a modern industrial democratic state and that no part of the population can be ignored. He recognizes that everyone can continue contribute in a huge way to Quebec society if accorded the respect they deserve.

Democracy is founded fundamentally on mutual respect. There must be basic respect for all constituents should you aspire to be leader of a modern democratic state, otherwise it simply won't work. All the spoils cannot go to one group. Narrow political viewpoints and a unique world view displacing all others are not acceptable. There must be mainstream inclusion. There must be give and take. There must be respect for diversity.

The Pequiste approach to crush the opposition without any respect whatsoever simply is a recipe for trouble. It is not inclusive. No words are too strong. It is tribal nationalism in its most demonstrable form. It is an exclusive world view.

The Liberal Party approach is clearly confused and Charest has been unable to articulate a viewpoint to even come close to capturing a majority of francophones. He trails by 23% in the polls today on the francophone vote.

In this election, there is a surprising alternative to the tired old diatribe. Of course there is no hope of winning but it might just send a message to Bouchard that the winds of change are blowing in Quebec and many are not satisfied with the yellow brick road of nationalism and state paternalism. I think it deserves a try. "Ca conte rien de l'essayer..." ...and you know what? I bet Mario would be open to new ideas like proportional representation which would transform Quebec into a true democracy.

It is time to start building an alternative and it can start on Monday.

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