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By: Clement Nocos

Finally, I would like to add one last casual observation: I would have to say the party to watch out for this election has to be Québec Solidaire. Biking through Montreal last weekend, I couldn’t help but notice a high number of QS posters around the city. The number on some streets sometimes surpassed the number of PQ, LPQ, and CAQ ads. The QS currently hold one seat in the National Assembly, in a Montreal riding. However, many of these “Debout” posters could be seen way outside this electoral district.

The QS hold one seat from the last election in the Montreal riding of Mercier by party (co)-leader, Amir Khadir.

The last time I saw such a new, small party put up this many posters for a regional election was the 2011 Berlin Lander election. In Berlin last summer, posters for the Lander’s Pirate Party were just as ubiquitous as posters for the SPD, CDU, FDP, and die Linke. Berlin was also a city where youth were very politically involved. At the time, “Atomkraft Nein Danke” buttons could be seen on shirts and satchels in response to last year’s Fukushima nuclear disaster that led the German government’s announced shut down of all the country’s reactors by 2022. These “Atomkraft Nein Danke” buttons were as common in Berlin as the carré rouge in Montreal last weekend. The Pirate Party would capitalize on such a politically affected youth. It was often I would see young PP volunteers handing out stickers and information at Mauer Park’s Sunday flea markets, frequented by hip young people.

With the PP’s youth base, the new party managed to win 15 seats in Berlin’s last Lander election.

With youth political networks and activity, the Pirate Party (whose policies concentrate on Internet democracy) won 15 seats in the Berlin Abgeordnetenhaus. In also appealing to the more radical youth of the student movement and with such a strong presence, I would not be surprised to see the QS enlarge its standing in the National Assembly. Despite its sovereigntist tendencies and being essentially written off by the Anglo media, QS ties to the federal NDP that dominates the province and its strong alignment with the carrés rouges may also boost its political profile this election. This election could be the start of some formidable growth for the young party, unless the CAQ manages to appeal to a broader Anglophone base. A small but vocal party, the QS could become kingmaker in future legislative standoffs between the PQ and LPQ.

Osheaga last Sunday closed with M83’s (of France) frontman speaking in a language thought to be similar to the Quebecois language but left some Francophones asking each other whether they actually understood him. It is sometimes difficult to understand La Belle province which has led to (what I feel to be) confused and sometimes hysterical political analysis of this election by the ROC. The ROC and Anglophone media don’t really get it when they try to steer the province towards a sovereignty dispute when all the Quebecois want right now is a debate on youth and the economy.

For a look at where you might stand in the Quebec election, the CBC has released another Vote Compass; a useful tool to better know where the parties stand and to help those undecided voters find a party that aligns the most with their values and interests. Find out where you fit in Quebec’s political landscape: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/quebecvotes2012/features/votecompass.html

By: Clement Nocos

Amongst mostly Anglophone youth throughout Osheaga weekend, I also noticed that most had no idea of the province’s current political situation. I was asked on a number of occasions what the red squares meant by my less politically-inclined friends. I had to point out to another friend that the boards tied to nearly every second street lamp were election posters. It was very easy to pick out Anglophones and Francophones in between Feist’s and Snoop Dogg’s (Lion?) sets at Osheaga without even speaking to them; the Francophones wore the red squares. Before I ended up losing my own red square in a mosh pit, some had even assumed I was a Quebecker.

un carré rouge

To me, sometimes there is little wonder why there is talk of Quebec sovereignty when Anglo-Canadians make little effort to understand Quebec politics or French-Canada itself, especially amongst ROC youth. On the Metro, twice I overheard Anglophones yell “Speak English!” aloud when announcements in French came on over the PA on the way to Osheaga. It isn’t often you hear French Canadians yell “Parlez en Francais!” on the TTC. For whatever understanding there is among people of this federation, it definitely is not mutual.

Quebec youth, whether through the heightened political atmosphere due to the election, the strength of the student movement in the province, or the sheer social capital and political culture of Quebec, are much less politically apathetic than their ROC counterparts. Though this recent article in the Ottawa Citizen tackles as to why English Canada’s students aren’t particularly politically mobile, it also fails to mention that ROC youth aren’t particularly politically active either. At Osheaga, there were red squares in abundance amongst Quebecois youth.

i need to figure out the settings on this polaroid

Osheaga Crowds

It is this greater interest in politics amongst Quebecois youth that probably saw the NDP sweep the province in last year’s federal election. It is also this province’s much more active youth that is changing the discourse of this province’s general election. Though the Anglo news media tends to push these fears of the sovereignty elephant-in-the-room into the national discourse, Quebeckers have been paying much less attention to the issue this time around. In an election where the youth vote could actually make a difference due to the demographic groups’ political virility, opposition parties other than the demonized LPQ have tried to cater to youth concerns rather than sovereignty issues.

Sovereignty has almost turned into a non-issue. The PQ has basically pushed the debate into the back of its own agenda, instead opting to recruit CLASSE leaders to run as the centre-pieces of their election campaigns. Interviews with Péquiste candidates, when asked about the sovereignty thing, get forced back into their talking points. The PQ has a clear idea of what it will do for students but no idea of what it will do for Quebec sovereignty. Since the Péquistes were last in power back in 2003, international customary law has made the sovereignty more difficult, a generational shift has pushed the centre of political influence away from the “Quiet Revolution” generation, and failures in past referendums have added federalist tones to the province. This is especially evident with the demise of the BQ from federal politics. The Péquistes don’t (and shouldn’t) scare Canada now; if only it weren’t for the English news media’s fear-mongering over a near dead debate. The youth vote, for once, seems to be affecting the tone of politics somewhere in Canada.

By: Clement Nocos

Last weekend I visited Montreal to attend Osheaga, Canada’s largest music festival (and probably the country’s largest gathering of youth), and I couldn’t help but pay particular attention to the political atmosphere of the city after Quebec Premier Jean Charest’s election call on August 1st. From Toronto, the Anglo news media has painted the Province of Quebec as something close to a war zone between Charest’s Liberal government and the massive student movement that has staged hundreds of protests against the province’s tuition hikes and growing generational economic inequality. With the dense concentration of youth in the city for Osheaga, I half-expected to see a Montreal mired in conflict.

Scenic Serene Montreal

What I found was a city rather placidly enjoying the weekend. Despite what I expected to be increased volatility in the political atmosphere due to the on-going election campaign, I found Montreal to be more or less at peace. Montreal that weekend was filled with tourists, not just of the youth variety. During the same weekend Montreal also held an anime convention that drew much younger teens, along with their parents, to hostels and restaurants throughout the city. On the Parc Jean Drapeau island where the music festival was held, families with infants shared the path with hipsters on the old Expo ’67 grounds.

For the battleground that was allegedly Montreal according to the Rest of Canada (ROC), the city was packed with friendly visitors. It could definitely be seen how concerns over public safety due to the student movement for earlier events in the city, such as the Montreal F1, could be seen as alarmist and misplaced by Quebeckers and opposition groups . The city was not at a standstill at the start of what could be game-changing election season. The libraries at Le Université du Québec à Montreal (UQAM), the centre of all student protests in the province saw line ups of bookworms waiting for doors to open on Sunday morning. At Parc Mont Royal, paths were clogged with Saturday afternoon joggers and cyclists. The Montreal police presence around the city was less than Toronto’s on a slow day, despite the high density of youth gathered for Osheaga and the Otakuthon anime convention. If not for the election posters and the heavy presence of la carré rouge on shirts and satchels, it was hard to tell that the province currently faced probably one of its most transformative elections in more than a decade.