Sunday, May 28, 2017

Québec solidaire: No to an electoral pact with the PQ, Yes to a united front against austerity, for energy transition and for independence

Delegates at May 2017 QS congress

by Richard Fidler

MONTRÉAL – As expected, the 500 delegates to the congress of Québec solidaire (QS), held here May 19-22, voted to work toward a fusion with Option nationale, debated and adopted the remaining part of the party’s draft program with few major amendments, and elected a new leadership headed by “co-spokespeople” Manon Massé and Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.

Most of these achievements, however, were overshadowed by the debate on a proposal by some of the outgoing leadership that the party attempt to negotiate an “electoral pact” with the Parti québécois (PQ) for the 2018 Quebec general election, as offered by PQ leader Jean-François Lisée, that would entail an agreement to abstain from standing candidates against each other in some counties (ridings) deemed “winnable” by the other party. After a passionate debate the congress voted by more than two-thirds to reject this proposal (Option B, as amended) and in favour of a resolution (Option A, as amended) proclaiming that “Québec solidaire aims for a genuine united front against austerity, for energy transition and for independence.”

But no sooner was this debate over than Québec solidaire was confronted with the need to clarify its own scenario for achieving independence and the strategic forces it looks to for this purpose. More on that later, below.

In six points, the adopted resolution sets out these goals, which it presents as the QS response to a debate recently opened among the parties promoting independence, a debate usually referred to as one on “sovereigntist convergence.” That debate, conducted within a coalition of parties (including QS) in “OUI Québec (Organisations unies pour l’Indépendance),” is not addressed specifically to electoral strategy in 2018, however. Instead, it is focused on developing a common strategy for a long-term fight for independence, the PQ having postponed debate on its pro-sovereignty option to a future election, probably in 2022.

Québec solidaire, the adopted QS resolution says, “takes the opportunity offered by the debate on sovereigntist convergence”

1. “to reaffirm the principles underlying its existence as an alternative to the neoliberal policies implemented for the last 30 years in Quebec”;

2. “to reaffirm that it rejects policies of cultural, ethnic or racial exclusion”;

3. “to reaffirm that its political project aims not for the separation of a country but for the independence of a people through a political project that cannot be totally realized within the framework of Canadian federalism”; and

4.”to reaffirm that it will link the national question with the issues of reform of our democratic institutions, the energy and climate transition, the protection of public services and social programs, and the fight against poverty and inequality on the basis of a feminist, inclusive and civic vision of the Quebec nation and in solidarity with the First Nations and their right to self-determination.”

The resolution adds:

5. “Québec solidaire announces forthwith its intention to make the independence of Quebec one of the issues in its struggle during the 2018 general election and invites Option nationale to ally with it around this perspective. Québec solidaire rejects the proposal of the PQ and its scheduled postponement of the fight for independence for many years”;

6. “Failing a mutual agreement with Option nationale, Québec solidaire will run candidates in all 125 Quebec ridings promoting parity of women candidates, including in major ridings. It will not form an alliance with parties that subscribe to neoliberal practices or policies of exclusion.”

No pact this time, or ever?

Much of the debate on the respective options centered on the record of the Parti québécois, both in and out of government, as a party that since its founding in 1968 had abandoned its promise of making Quebec an independent sovereign and inclusive country with a progressive social agenda. Many delegates, particularly young women from minority ethnic communities and activists in the party’s anti-racism committee, denounced the PQ’s sponsorship while in government recently of a “charter of Quebec values” that was designed primarily to impose a dress code on Muslim women if they were to be eligible for social services that are otherwise available to all Quebec citizens.

As I reported in a recent article, the debate on these options in the party in recent months has revealed a deep and wholly understandable reluctance of QS members to any association with the PQ which, they say, would tend to mask Québec solidaire’s identity as a progressive alternative to the neoliberal parties, including the PQ, and undermine the QS attempt to build alliances between the party and “some social and political movements that share the same inclusive vision.”

This vision, as defined by the party’s National Council in November 2016, included

Quebec independence, an end to austerity, equality between men and women, recognition of the diversity of Quebec’s population, support of First Nations and Inuit self-determination, an ecologist transition including an end to hydrocarbons development, and reform of the electoral system that would include representation of parties in the National Assembly in proportion to their respective share of the popular vote.[1]

For many members this list of criteria, consistent with the pursuit of broader links to the indigenous population and progressive social movements, simply excluded the Parti Québécois as a partner in an agreement like the one proposed by the PQ and the Option B supporters.

During the debate, a young delegate wearing the Muslim hijab said this was her first party congress but now, for the first time with the adoption of Option A, “I can see myself as an independentist.” A young woman of East Asian origin said she was a former PQ supporter but Option B was just “a gamble.” Urging other delegates to vote for Option A, she said to tumultuous cheers that if it prevailed “I’m sure [PQ leader] Jean-François Lisée will blame it on the ethnics.”

The QS congress was preceded by a very public campaign by the PQ and its supporters — not least the daily newspaper Le Devoir[2] — to influence the QS debate in support of Option B.

What the PQ proposed

Early in May, PQ leader Jean-François Lisée issued an open letter to Québec solidaire signed by the PQ’s executive council promoting his proposal of an electoral pact between the parties that would help to elect the PQ to government with the promise that if elected the PQ would introduce a proportional representation regime for subsequent elections similar to the one proposed by Québec solidaire, although without providing any details. However, since the 2018 election would be held under the existing first-past-the-post electoral regime, he said, the parties should sign his proposed pact.

“This pact,” he said, “would be made around some common well-identified proposals, in particular the rejection of lower taxes, a reinvestment in health, social services, education for families, and justice; rejection of the proposed Energy East pipeline, and the establishment of robust measures to accelerate the ecological transition away from oil; ratification of the UN convention on aboriginal rights, strengthening of French as the language of work, and, as mentioned previously, reform of the electoral system.”

Noting that an Option C in the QS debate proposed postponing a decision on an electoral pact to the QS convention next November, Lisée urged Québec solidaire members to adopt his proposal at its May congress. Any delay, he said, would pose “almost insurmountable obstacles” since the PQ hoped to endorse the promised agreement at its congress in September when it would be adopting a revised program for the party that had already been adopted by its leadership.[3]

Amir Khadir’s position

Shortly before the QS congress Amir Khadir, a QS member of the National Assembly and a supporter of Option B, published his own conception of the possible division of seats under an agreement with the PQ. It would have QS refrain from running in 21 ridings that the PQ considered “winnable,” while the PQ would not run candidates in nine ridings that QS deemed “winnable”— five in Montreal and four in regions outside the Metropole. This, Khadir said, was a one-off tactical proposal for 2018 aimed at possibly winning a proportional representation regime for subsequent elections. Québec solidaire would be free at any moment to break this agreement if the political context and the decisions of the PQ, which he admitted could be problematic, necessitated it. However, he argued that the electoral mathematics had forced the PQ toward “a less toxic progressivism on the identitarian plane and sometimes seems to make important concessions.” (As to the claim of the PQ’s “less toxic” appeal to identity politics, see my note 3 below.)

Khadir acknowledged the fear by many QS members that an alliance with the PQ such as the one he supported would be perceived by many QS allies as an opportunist compromise, but he compared this maneuver to two recent experiences. One was French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s probe of a possible agreement between his party France insoumise with the Socialist party candidate Benoît Hamon prior to the first round in the 2017 election. Although unsuccessful, France insoumise had demonstrated that the Socialist party, with its disastrous record in office, could not represent an alternative to France’s “catastrophic political situation.”

Khadir’s other example of electoral maneuvers was Bernie Sanders’ campaign within the Democratic party’s presidential primaries which he said, had brought many issues and progressive demands into public debate. And Sanders had never refrained from criticizing the record of the Democrats and the Clintons while they were in office. Similarly, he thought, Québec solidaire could maintain an uncompromising critique of the PQ before, during and after the election.

All to no avail. Speaking midway through the congress debate, Khadir repeated these arguments but without the passion and determination for which he is known, admitting that he had been “strongly affected” by the members’ critique of the PQ during the debate and the confidence they displayed as to Québec solidaire’s potential to project a real alternative to the neoliberal parties.

A will for real change

That was also the spirit conveyed by the party’s new leaders after the vote on alliances. “Our congress,” said Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois,

“opted for change. Our members decided to create a vast movement to transform Quebec. They decided to work with people who want a real change, working to achieve a government that is really progressive and independentist. The members don’t want Québec solidaire to serve as a stepladder to the Parti québécois to help it attain power.”

GND did not speak for or against either option during the congress debate, although he had earlier indicated his support for Option B, adding that he was prepared to await the next congress to settle the matter.

Manon Massé added that “by voting for Option A [as she did at the last minute] the members told us today that it is not through electoral calculations that we will beat the Liberals in 2018. In some ways it is a vote of mistrust toward the Parti québécois and its leader Jean-François Lisée. But it is also a vote of confidence toward Québec solidaire as a party of the future....

“During our weekend debates, the delegates who rejected pacts with the PQ did so mainly on the basis of principled arguments. Those present noted this. Now we are aware of the responsibility that falls to us to explain this decision and to propose a new way to dislodge the neoliberals from power. That is why we hope to build a vast political movement that brings together the progressives well beyond Québec solidaire. It is time to turn the page on the idea of electoral pacts.”

Reactions to the vote

Predictably, the congress decision was met with a storm of criticism, even derision, by PQ leaders and their supporters in the media. Le Devoir editorials and columnists speculated that now the PQ would be inclined to turn in its search for allies to the right-wing Coalition Avenir Québec, a party with a large clientele among former PQ and Liberal supporters — an indirect acknowledgement of the opportunist nature of Lisée’s failed proposal to Québec solidaire.

The critics also included some liberals of a progressive disposition who have worked with QS on election reform, such as the Mouvement Démocratie nouvelle (MDN), which maintained a booth at the congress. Among others were two members of the panel headed by Nadeau-Dubois (Karel Mayrand and Alain Vadeboncoeur) that had toured Quebec months earlier to hear ideas from ordinary Québécois on how Quebec could advance in the coming months and years.[4] Mayrand, who is Quebec head of the David Suzuki Foundation, told Le Devoir that he was “enormously disappointed with a party that wants to do things differently but reacts exactly like all the others.”

In a Le Devoir op ed piece Jean-Pierre Charbonneau, a former PQ minister and speaker of the National Assembly, expressed his feeling of “betrayal” by Québec solidaire. He had worked for a year with the MDN to get the PQ and CAQ leaders to agree to put proportional representation in their platforms for the next election, and now QS was renouncing a pact with them on the grounds that beating the Liberals was not a radical social agenda (projet de société). Well, “scrapping the old election procedure and creating a new political culture that would induce more collaboration through governmental coalition was for me a change of paradigm, indeed a projet de société.”

Some critics were more measured in their response to the QS congress decision.

Feminist blogger and columnist Francine Pelletier saw the debate on alliances as one between Idealists and Pragmatists, awarding them respectively a score of 1-0. Although she seemed more sympathetic to the QS “realists” who favoured an alliance with the PQ — a “recurring debate like the cuckoo in the clock” — she noted that “more women than men held to the hard line against the PQ.”

“If ever you were still looking for proof that the PQ made the error of its life by playing the identity card, it was fully on display here. How can we ally with a party that arrays a part of the population against the others?, they said. More than mere wariness, among these women — notably racialized, and among the Anglophones — there was a palpable feeling of anger, fully shared by the meeting.

“And that was certainly the best argument for rejecting an alliance. Eleven years after its founding, the ‘little left party’ has some solid bases where the Parti québécois is lacking: among the minorities, among more and more Anglophones and among young people. It casts a wide net although not a deep one. Forming an alliance with the PQ risked endangering this diversity in addition to demotivating members who have laboured in the shadows for many moons. And agreeing to do ‘the big mambo with the PQ,’ wasn’t that precisely making the error charged against it? To turn one’s back to one’s principles out of pure electoral calculation.”

On the other hand, Pelletier said, the men tended more to advance strategic arguments: the proposed alliance would bring electoral reform that in the long run would get Québec solidaire into “the temple of power.” Between Options A and B it was, she thought, a Hobson’s choice (une dilemme parfaitement cornélien).

QS activist Pierre Mouterde, writing in the pro-QS online journal Presse-toi à gauche immediately after the congress, expressed concern over the emotional attacks on the PQ. Mouterde was a supporter of Option B although he had urged the vote be postponed until the next QS congress.

“Whatever the option each may have finally privileged... it must be recognized that the debate, in the little time available (100 minutes), took a strange turn, swept and then engulfed by the identitarian questions raised by the militants of the anti-racist committee, who... exacerbated a visceral anti-PQ sentiment that cut short any political, cool and deep thinking about the type of relationships it would be possible to have with it in the circumstances of 2018.

“This emotional drift over identity issues, moreover, could in the medium term — if it is not skilfully handled — be rather problematic for QS. For after all, this appeal by the anti-racist committee members to take into account the aspirations of the so-called “racialized” cultural minorities also has its necessary obverse: how to achieve this concretely when at the same time we are an independentist party that is fighting for a common language, secular values shared collectively... in favour of the same positive vision of life in common and the sharing of economic resources? And on that, apart from the blackmail about tearing up one’s membership card if Option B passed [a reference to a threat by one participant in the debate], it was radio silence!”

Mouterde thought the congress, in adopting Option A, had missed an opportunity. By voting to go it alone, “we also shut ourselves off from the hopes for unity and social change that exist outside the QS ranks....”

And the social movements?...

What, then, of the other side of the November QS national council resolution, which had proposed not only an opening of discussions with other pro-sovereignty parties about electoral alliances but also an attempt to consult progressive social movement activists outside Québec solidaire on their ideas about how to overcome the obstacles they encounter in the present political context?

QS member and social housing activist François Saillant reported to the congress on the work of the party’s committee on “Political Renewal.” It had held two regional meetings in late March in Sherbrooke and Saguenay. Although they attracted only 25 persons, the majority were not QS members. They came from trade unions, community, feminist and ecologist organizations, municipal politics, and cultural and farming communities. Overall, the participants’ response was very positive to Québec solidaire’s initiative, Saillant reported.

“They identified the principles and issues that could be contained in common platforms... In terms of principles, a green and interdependent [solidaire] economy, redistribution of wealth, participative democracy, inclusion, recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples. Among the concrete issues identified were reform of the electoral system and a Constituent Assembly. In Saguenay there was a consensus on strong advocacy of Quebec independence... but not in Sherbrooke where the pertinence of advancing this issue in the next election campaign was openly questioned.”

In both locations, Saillant reported, possible agreements with other parties were discussed. Some participants were keen on this, others more critical.

A committee member had also led a workshop on “The Spring of Alternatives” at a Quebec City regional social forum.

Attendance at these events has been modest, but participants were positive to the QS approach, and the committee intends to continue its consultations with social and political movements, the next stage being a national (Quebec) meeting on June 13, Saillant said.

A disconcerting moment

That the debate over relations with other pro-sovereignty parties is not finished was brought home in the closing minutes of the congress, on May 22, when outgoing co-spokesman Andrés Fontecilla reported on the party’s participation in OUI Québec, the coalition of pro-sovereignty parties (PQ, ON, QS and the Bloc québécois) working to develop a “convergence” on a common strategy in the fight for independence beyond 2018. For reasons that were unclear to most delegates, they were asked to vote that the session be held behind closed doors, and media observers were excluded. A written report was handed out, and then recollected following the report, which was read aloud by Fontecilla.

The gist of the report was that Québec solidaire had been successful in convincing the other parties that a popular referendum on sovereignty should be accompanied by the appointment of a Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution, a proposal championed by QS for years. Fontecilla alluded to some outstanding differences over the nature of this Constituent Assembly, but gave few details. “We were isolated,” he said.

That evening, after the congress had closed, Radio Canada revealed that all four parties in OUI Québec had reached an agreement several weeks previously on a “road map” (feuille de route) for accession to independence. It had been signed by the representatives of all the parties, including Andrés Fontecilla and Monique Moisan for Québec solidaire. According to the chair of OUI Québec, Claudette Carbonneau, Québec solidaire had requested that the agreement be kept secret until after the QS congress vote on electoral pacts for the 2018 election, which was not the subject of the “road map.” However, Québec solidaire had not yet disclosed the existence of that agreement.

The Parti québécois leaders now turned their anger at Québec solidaire  against the party leadership’s alleged concealment of the “road map” toward sovereignty. “Sabotage,” chimed in Le Devoir. Some QS members too were disconcerted. The party’s proceedings in OUI Québec had not been discussed during the pre-congress debates, and the party leadership had issued no report on them prior to the congress. And why the secrecy about the report?

On May 24 Radio-Canada disclosed the existence of an email by Andrés Fontecilla on behalf of Québec solidaire informing OUI Québec that the QS national coordinating committee was opposed to the agreement he had signed in good faith. And on May 25 the chair of OUI Québec, expressing her exasperation, released the text of the agreement as duly signed by Fontecilla and Moisan on behalf of Québec solidaire. I have translated the full text into English; it is appended to this article.

Manon Massé offers a clarification

Also on May 25, QS spokeswoman Manon Massé released a statement explaining that in the national leadership’s opinion the party’s co-signatories of the agreement had “misjudged the situation” in signing it in good faith. The question of an electoral pact was one thing, the question of convergence on the process of accession to independence was another. The congress had addressed the first issue and left the second for later debate. Even the PQ, by relegating the question of a referendum on sovereignty to a second mandate, had removed that issue from the proposed 2018 pact. Option A, she implied, had confused the issue by presenting its response to the proposed electoral pact as a general response to the debate on sovereigntist convergence.

As to the party leadership’s objection to the all-party agreement, Massé explained, “it does not require a sovereigntist government to hold the constituent assembly during its first term in office and it does not propose a projet de société, for example.” Massé urged supporters of Quebec independence to “follow the example of Catalonia, to conduct a real campaign to promote a projet de société for a sovereigntist Quebec....

“We should stop putting the cart before the horse. We must all do better, QS included, on this front. We must first convince the Québécois of the benefits of independence, that’s the real urgency and that is why in our opinion the question of a projet de société is essential if we are to win those who are not convinced.”

Once again, the mandate of the Constituent Assembly

But are these the only reasons why the QS leadership rejected the text their representatives had signed? With one exception, there is really nothing in the text to which QS could object. That one exception, however, directly contradicts the QS position on the Constituent Assembly, which Manon Massé aptly describes as “one of the pillars in our project.” And that is the text’s assertion that the Assembly’s mandate is to develop “the constitution of an independent Quebec.” That phrase appears four times in the text. QS has consistently refused to impose such a mandate on the Assembly, preferring to leave the question open as to whether the “constitution” to be drafted is that of an independent state... or merely of a province within the federal system, however reconceived. On this it differs with all the other independentist parties.

This issue is now clearly on the agenda for debate within Québec solidaire. The QS representatives who signed the proposed “road map” are experienced politicians who must have known what they were doing. As I explained in an earlier article, the issue will come up again if Option nationale accepts the QS invitation to engage in a rapprochement pointing toward fusion in one party. And the party’s new spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois has indicated he favours assigning the Constituent Assembly with a clear mandate to design the constitutional framework of an independent state.

In fact, the adopted resolution on the proposal of fusion between QS and Option nationale states (point 4) that “in this process of discussion leading to fusion, QS undertakes to discuss in its authoritative bodies the development of political campaigns on the independence of Quebec and the means by which to accede to it.” The move toward closer relations with ON is a clear indication that QS is prepared to collaborate with other political forces genuinely committed to building an independent Quebec with a professed interest in doing so around a progressive social agenda.

Manon Massé reiterated Québec solidaire’s commitment to continue working within OUI Québec. But she said she agreed with Claudette Charbonneau, who had proposed putting these discussions on hold for now. “We hope that in the near future we will be in a position to agree with the partners in OUI Québec and that we will be able to table a work proposal which, I hope, will be adopted by our members.”

After 11 years, QS now has a program, or almost

As to the debate on the final tranche of the party’s program, which occupied most of the congress’s time, the draft programs covering justice issues, agriculture, regional development and international policy and solidarity were largely adopted with few major amendments.[5] In the haste to process many proposed amendments, however, it was hard to avoid some confusion on what exactly was being proposed.

An unfortunate example was the fate of a section of the international policy draft resolution that called for an independent Quebec to withdraw from the imperialist military alliances NATO and NORAD. A proposed amendment by QS Gouin riding would replace this demand with the words “will exclude participation in international bodies contributing to militarism and to interventionism without a UN mandate.” NATO does in fact act sometimes under UN mandate, as it did recently in its bombing of Libya, to cite only one example. The delegates adopted this amendment by majority vote. But then they adopted, also by a majority, an amendment proposed by QS Capitale-Nationale (Quebec City) that denounced the growth in Canadian military budgets and called for “Canada’s immediate withdrawal from NATO and NORAD.”

After some debate a much-anticipated proposal that an independent Quebec be “a country without an army,” with differing options as to whether a proposed national civil defense force should include a military component, it was agreed to postpone further debate on this until after the 2018 Quebec election.

By adopting (finally) an international component to its program the party adds an important dimension to its perspective, one that reinforces its identity as a pro-sovereignty party.

The party hopes to publish its complete program by September of this year. A QS congress in November will select which demands it wishes to highlight in the platform it will present in the 2018 election.

A final thought...

This was an important congress for Québec solidaire. But it left hanging many issues that the party will have to confront in the near future, and not only the ongoing issue of sovereigntist convergence. There is still a naive illusion in the party that majority support for independence can be won largely through advancing compelling arguments, and there is a dangerous tendency to discuss the independence project without reference to the inevitable opposition by the federal state and the need for a strategy to confront it. Bernard Rioux, an editor of Presse-toi à gauche, alluded to this toward the close of his report on the congress. I quote:

“We need a party that understands the need to confront the domination of the economic and political oligarchy and that conceives its construction and alliances starting from that imperative. A party that understands that victory against the oligarchy depends on the unity and mobilization of the social movements and their capacities to put an end to the neoliberal offensive....

“Building a political alternative to neoliberalism and the Canadian state means participating in a reconfiguration of civil society and the strengthening of all the anti-systemic forces so they can oppose the demands of the ruling class. For real power is not confined to government services or the parliament. It is concentrated as well in the economic apparatus, the banks and the major corporations, in the state bureaucracy, the apparatuses of repression and the state ideological apparatuses. A true resistance front posing an end to austerity... can only be achieved through strengthening capacities for struggle of the various social movements and expressing this readiness to struggle in a party that is capable of resisting the pressures ... of the ruling class.”

The congress vote on alliances was a step in that direction, said Rioux.

* * *


Draft Proposal on a Common Procedure for Accession to Independence

Revised, amended and adopted on April 10, 2017


The delegations of the Parti québécois, Québec solidaire, Option nationale and the Bloc québécois, parties that are committed to promoting the independence of Quebec, met between January and April 2017 under the aegis of the Organisations unies pour l’indépendance (OUI Québec) to draw up together a common procedure for accession to independence, the content of which appears below.

Constituent elements

1. Common approach for accession to independence

The procedure for accession to the independence of Quebec is based on the principle of popular sovereignty and includes:

  • the adoption of a transitional fundamental law that will serve as a legal framework in Quebec and will chart the steps toward independence:
  • the establishment of a Constituent Assembly with responsibility to develop a draft constitution of an independent Quebec pursuant to broad public consultation;
  • a referendum that will enable the Québécois to state their position both on Quebec’s political status and on the draft constitution of an independent Quebec developed by the Constituent Assembly.

These elements are now an integral part of any procedure leading to the independence of Quebec.

2. Creation of the Constituent Assembly

The Constituent Assembly is established by a law of the National Assembly that determines its duration, mandate, methods of appointment, terms of functioning, and powers.

This project, which must be carried out within a single term of governmental office, will first be subject to a strong electoral commitment by the independentist parties which, in this scenario, constitute a parliamentary majority.

3. Mandate of the Constituent Assembly

The Constituent Assembly has the following mandate:

To organize an extensive public consultation, to hear from specialists it considers appropriate, and to draft [1] a proposed constitution of an independent Quebec which addresses the following themes:

  • Values, principles, rights and responsibilities to be provided for in a Quebec constitution;
  • Division of powers between the Quebec state and the regions, to ensure the development and fulfilment of the Québécois;
  • Institutions and political system of the Quebec state;
  • Relations with the First Nations and Inuit; and
  • At the conclusion of its proceedings, to convey the draft constitution, its report and its recommendations to the National Assembly.

At the end of the process, the National Assembly undertakes to publish the draft constitution, report and recommendations of the Constituent Assembly within a period provided by law, and will ask the Chief Electoral Officer of Quebec to organize a referendum that will enable the Québécois to state their position both on the political status of Quebec and on the draft constitution of an independent Quebec developed by the Constituent Assembly.

4. Composition of the Constituent Assembly and appointment of its members

The composition of the Constituent Assembly must ensure an equitable representation of society that reflects the following criteria:

  • Parity of men and women (threshold 50% women)
  • Representativity of administrative regions
  • Representativity of social groups
  • Representativity of diversity
  • Representativity of the historic Anglophone minority

Pursuant to the resolutions of the National Assembly of March 20, 1985 and May 30, 1989 recognizing the rights of the First Nations and the Inuit, they are respectively invited to participate in the proceedings of the Constituent Assembly with a status and a role to be determined with them.

The members of the Constituent Assembly will be designated according to the following methods:

To guarantee the equitable representation of society provided for above, the National Assembly will widely solicit nominations for appointment of members of the Constituent Assembly [3].

The parties will continue their proceedings in order to determine consensually another mode of appointment of members of the Constituent Assembly, which might include, for example, election by universal suffrage or any other mode of designation*.

* * *

The delegations of the following political parties have agreed on this proposal, which they have agreed to submit for adoption to their respective party congresses:

For the Parti québécois: Véronique Hivon and Alain Lupien

For Québec solidaire: Andrés Fontecilla and Monique Moisan

For Option nationale: Sol Zanetti and Viviane Martinova-Croteau

For the Bloc québécois: Kédina Fleury-Samson

These proceedings were conducted under the aegis of OUI Québec represented by Claudette Carbonneau and Jason Brochu-Valcourt, respectively president and vice-president of the organization.

Signed at Montréal, April 10, 2017 [2]

[1] The draft constitution will be written in accordance with the gender-sensitive spelling rules defined by the Office québécois de la langue française.

[2] The original version signed by the representatives of the delegations cited above shall serve as proof thereof.

[3] The number and proportions of the members of the Constituent Assembly designated by one or another of the methods provided above remain to be determined. Furthermore, members of the National Assembly are excluded from the proceedings of the Constituent Assembly.

Translator’s note: I have followed the numbering and location of the notes as they appear in the original French text. The asterisk (*) in the text is not accompanied by any corresponding note.

[1] Richard Fidler, “Major decisions face Québec solidaire at its forthcoming congress.”

[2] On the eve of the QS congress, Le Devoir and Le Journal de Montréal (the latter a part of the media empire owned by former PQ leader Pierre-Karl Péladeau) published a poll they had sponsored which purported to find that 87% of voters identifying with either the PQ or QS favoured an alliance of the two parties to defeat the governing Liberals.

[3] It is worth noting that this program promises that a PQ government would “amend the burden of proof in matters of religious accommodation in order to put an end to unreasonable religious accommodation,... require that all officials, employees and agents of the state have their faces uncovered in the performance of their duties,... require all citizens to receive state services with their faces uncovered,... prohibit employees in the public and parapublic sectors, during their working hours, from wearing clothing covering their entire body other than the face... in particular the chador,... prohibit persons in authority, educators in childcare facilities, teachers in the preschool, elementary and secondary schools to display their beliefs, including religious convictions.” These are precisely some of the divisive provisions of the PQ charter of values that were denounced by feminist and human rights proponents.

[4] The panel, Faut qu’on se parle (literally “We must speak to each other”), produced a book Ne renonçons à rien (freely, “Don’t give up on anything”) with its findings. Ironically, of the eight “priorities” in Québécois concerns that they listed, none mentions Quebec independence.

[5] For an English translation of the original draft of the resolution on altermondialisme, see Québec solidaire: a global justice party.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Québec solidaire: a global justice party

Here is my translation of the original draft resolution on international policy proposed for debate and adoption at the Québec solidaire congress in Montréal May 19-22. It includes, in addition to the numbered sections that are up for adoption as amended by congress delegates, the introductory comments for each topic that were provided by the party's policy committee.


As I explained in my previous post, proposed amendments from local and national associations and bodies of the party were edited by a synthesis committee for debate at the congress. “For the most part the synthesis document,which also publishes each of the suggested amendments with an explanation of why it proposes adoption or rejection, does not fundamentally alter the draft proposals.”


– Richard Fidler


* * *


Québec solidaire: a global justice party


The globalization of markets promotes a world of exploitation, competition and domination. In contrast, global justice (altermondialisme) demands “another possible world”: a world of inclusion, cooperation and solidarity. Québec solidaire has been a global justice advocate since it was founded. Its politics are based on the following principles:


-          against imperialism and for a genuine international solidarity;

-          for preventing violence and building peace; and

-          for fair and equitable international trade.


Where does the global justice movement originate?


Since the 19th century, an internationalist tradition has sought to found solidarity among peoples.


In the 1990s, the movement against globalization targeted the symbols of a new world order: multinational or transnational enterprises, free-trade agreements and international financial or commercial institutions.


The current “world order” is the product of years of liberalization of the economy, privatization of public services, deregulation of financial markets, reduction of tariff barriers, etc. The anti-globalization movement has fought against this trend during summits in which chiefs of state signed agreements outside the purview of democratically elected parliaments.


The “anti” was then succeeded by the “other” as a way of proposing a democratic and solidaristic alternative to destructive neoliberal globalization.


The global justice movement established a World Social Forum (WSF) in response to the Davos Economic Forum, which each year brings together the global economic elites. The WSF has been an opportunity for many social movements — ecologist, antiwar, indigenous rights, women’s rights, etc. activists — to exchange ideas and strengthen their mutual relations.


Where are we now?


Since 2001, the social forums (world, regional or thematic) have spread throughout the globe. They have also inspired international encounters such as the World Peoples Conference on Climate Change, the Rio+20 People’s Summit, and the Sarajevo Peace Event.


The World March of Women has organized many global events that have led, inter alia, to the adoption of the Women’s Global Charter for Humanity in 2005 [2004], and important demands in 2010 and 2015.


The economic crisis of 2007-2008 led the global justice movement to criticize more generally the capitalist economy and the fact that the interests of finance capital override those of states. This critique has inspired the demonstrations of the indigné(es), the “Occupy” movement, the Arab Spring uprisings, and more generally the struggle against austerity.


Like Québec solidaire, political parties adhering to the global justice movement exist just about everywhere in the world. The environmental, social, economic, political and cultural crisis that we are experiencing originates in the contradictions of the present world system. This crisis is experienced locally, nationally and globally. Altermondialisme, global justice, is therefore central to a new projet de société, an agenda for social change.


Only a state that is fully sovereign would have all the necessary tools for such an orientation with the power to participate fully in the development of a new international policy. Nevertheless, a provincial government led by QS could


-          establish tools and policies to promote peace and fight imperialism and militarism;

-          reorient priorities for cooperation toward popular movements and progressive governments fighting for social justice and peace;

-          join its voice to those of the peoples.


4.1 Against imperialism and for real international solidarity


Major powers have dominated the world for centuries. Peoples have been subdued, exploited, assaulted. Today, this old colonialism has been replaced by what is called imperialism. The forms are different, but economic, political and cultural domination is still imposed and the right of peoples to self-determination is still violated.


This imperialism, which is preparing the ground for an unprecedented human and environmental catastrophe, serves the interests of the big monopolies and transnational enterprises. It results from the logic of the capitalist system: the search for maximum profit, the need to accumulate in order to accumulate. Rivalry between transnational enterprises in the appropriation of markets and natural resources leads to rivalry between states.


The flames of conflicts are fanned increasingly as the United State and its rivals seek to consolidate their influence. Furthermore, US maneuvers are aimed at destabilizing progressive governments in Latin America and elsewhere. Imperialist interventions are often presented as “humanitarian operations.” Acts of violence by some states are denounced in order to justify the forceful overthrow of their governments. Yet the imperialist powers shut their eyes to the rights violations committed by their allies.


Imperialism is economic and geopolitical, but it is also cultural: imposing its culture, its educational system, its music, its way of thinking and above all of consumption (in order to multiply business opportunities) — in short, its vision of the world.


Québec solidaire defends a world founded on solidarity and liberation of peoples, on the self-determination of nations, equality between men and women, environmental protection and democratization of international institutions. QS works therefore for social justice and peace, against colonialism, occupations, and militarism. It opposes all imperialist domination.


Within this perspective,

-          it prioritizes the establishment of collaboration with progressive parties and social movements worldwide that share this vision;

-          international assistance should be conceived in solidarity so as to respond to peoples’ needs and not the economic imperatives of Canada or private interests.


Proposition 4.1.1

Fight against global exploitation, poverty and exclusion


Québec solidaire will establish relations of collaboration with parties and social movements fighting in the various regions of the world for social justice, a more egalitarian distribution of wealth and for the economic and social rights of the broad majority. To fight exploitation, poverty inequalities and exclusion throughout the world, a QS government:


a)      will strengthen its relations of cooperation to express its solidarity with peoples struggling for social justice and protection of their living environment against predator and neocolonial logic


                    i.            by participating in the efforts of peoples, progressive political parties and governments to establish structures of cooperation and solidarity based on a fair sharing of resources. with a view to contributing to a new international economic order,


                  ii.            by participating actively in the huge international movement for climate justice, for example by supporting the establishment of an International Climate and Environmental Justice Tribunal, as discussed in 2010 at the Cochabamba conference in Bolivia,


                iii.            by supporting initiatives which at the global level will help reduce the ecological footprint of economic activities;


b)      along with progressive social movements and political parties will support and apply the following principles striving for social transformation in accordance with the UN guidelines on extreme poverty and human rights:


                    i.            securing respect for the rights of everyone, regardless of his or her origin or destination, including the right of appeal and rectification of their rights where they are violated,


                  ii.            integrating in law and practice the principle of transparency and responsibility of all public and private actors that are involved,


                iii.            supporting the poorest and most excluded persons and groups of persons to help them participate in the decisions that are made and in the search for and implementation of solutions that affect them;


c)      will work for recognition of the human rights and the right to mobility of migrants and refugees, particularly for climate reasons, the all-too-many victims of discriminatory and violent policies and practices throughout the world, by


                    i.            applying the principles adopted in the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, which came into force in 2003, and if possible ratifying and applying this convention;


                  ii.            participating in the drafting of an international convention on the rights of migrants inspired by the Charte mondiale des migrants proclaimed at Gorée (Sénégal) in 2011.


Proposition 4.1.2

Quebec’s role in the overhaul of the United Nations


With respect to Quebec’s place in the world, a QS government


a)      pursuant to the UN Charter, will reaffirm the sovereignty of states, participate in the transformation of international institutions and support a profound overhaul of the UN to make it truly democratic, in particular by advocating abolition of the right of veto of the five major powers and ensuring that representation and decision-making powers are not based on the assets of the member countries;


b)      under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted at the September 2015 session to implement the Millennium Development Goals, and the second United Nations Decade for Eradication of Poverty (2008-2017), will pressure the UN to ensure that this program


(i)     is focused on the rights of peoples and persons;


(ii)   tends to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030 through the establishment of a social protection platform for everyone;


(iii) is oriented fairly and responsibly to ensuring that no one is exploited, excluded or the victim of discrimination, and that all inequalities are fought;


(iv) encourage international funding of programs promoting access of all children to free primary and secondary education;

(v)   encourage internatinoal funding of programs promoting access to health services and to universal and free social services;


a.       will adhere to the International Criminal Court;


b.      will pressure the United Nations to establish a permanent emergency peace servic and commit to contributing financial and human resources to it.


Proposition 4.1.3

Mutual aid and international solidarity


To support mutual assistance and international solidarity, a QS government


a)      will support such actions aimed at long term development as well as social movements and NGOs working to that effect; for this purpose, it will devote an amount equivalent to at least 0.7% of GDP to them in accordance with the recognized international guidelines and will oversee compliance with the following principles:


                                i.            that international solidarity actions receiving state financial support involve the civil society of the host country and are consistent with international conventions,


                              ii.            that priority is given to countries with progressive governments working in unison with their peoples,


                            iii.            that solidarity actions give priority to the rights, needs and aspirations of the most deprived and most marginalized populations,


                            iv.            that funding is dedicated to long-term actions, in order to increase the chances for success,


                              v.            that solidarity actions preserve the health, diversity and capacity for adaptation of the natural environment,


                            vi.            that higher education is provided free of charge in Quebec for students from poor countries in accordance with terms to be defined,


                          vii.            that international solidarity actions are not aimed at profiting Quebec companies and accordingly are not used as a bargaining chip with the host country,


                        viii.            that the funded activities fall within the perspective that the recipient countries or regions will have no further need for assistance in the medium or long term;


a)      will orient humanitarian assistance (emergency aid) so such actions respond to the needs of the recipient populations, and in so doing:


                                i.            will support actions aimed at providing emergency help to populations whose fundamental needs are no longer satisfied because of natural catastrophes, political and ecological crises, or other causes,


                              ii.            will monitor to ensure that projects are deployed in collaboration with the community, governmental and international organizations. Where the authorities are part of the population’s problems, the guideline for assistance deployment will remain first and foremost the interest of the beneficiary populations.


4.2 Preventing violence and building peace


Are we heading toward a third world war? The global context dangerously resembles the one that preceded the Second World War, with


-          an increase in socio-economic inequalities even within the relatively well-off countries (1% vs. 99%);

-          new hotbeds of confrontation, especially in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa;

-          unending internal conflicts within some countries linked for example to the drug trade or the consequences of civil wars.


We might add the growing militarization, the rearmament of countries like Japan and the rising nuclear threat.


Until recently, the word “war” was understood to mean an officially declared confrontation between two or more states. Nowadays, conflicts instead tend to take the form of civil wars, latent confrontations, regional tensions or intervention of the major powers far from their frontiers. There are said to be at present 29 ongoing conflicts, most of them in the southern hemisphere [the global South].


Most of these conflicts are orchestrated by the West. They are an integral part of capitalist globalization and neocolonialism, an economic model based on


-          extractivism, that is, the appropriation of natural resources by multinationals, mainly western ones. 75% of mining companies have their headquarters in Canada, a legal and tax paradise for this industry;

-          the production of military equipment. Quebec is a participant, in particular in the aeronautics and communications industries, and through the research contracts awarded to our universities;

-          the arms trade, in which five permanent member states of the UN Security Council are especially involved although they are charged with maintaining international peace and security. Canada likewise has its share.


For several years now the US government has been reinforcing militarization in the context of the “war on terrorism.” Under the Conservatives, Canada increased its military spending while reducing the funds allocated to environmental protection, anti-poverty and defense of the rights of the most vulnerable populations. Canada has still not managed to spend 0.7% of its GDP on international assistance!


In addition to the economic consequences this entails, Canada’s active engagement in various conflicts and the open confrontation with the Islamic State provokes other repercussions:


-          the first terrorist-inspired attacks on our soil;

-          legislation which, under the pretext of security, restricts human rights and freedom of expression;

-          the identitarian radicalization and instrumentalization of religion not only in the Middle East but also in the West and Asia;

-          the security industry, growing rapidly and increasingly under the control of private firms that are unaccountable.


Proposition 4.2.1

Culture of peace and participation in antiwar institutions


Québec solidaire will work to introduce and develop a culture of peace. To this effect, it will support the peace movement and education for conflict prevention and resolution with the help of the education system including popular education and public institutions.


In the context of an independent Quebec, a QS government


a)      will appoint a Ministry of Peace and International Solidarity;


b)      will participate in international bodies supporting peace initiatives (e.g. United Nations Peacebuilding Commission);


c)      will exclude membership in NATO[1] and NORAD[2];


d)     will adhere to international treaties contributing to conflict risk reduction, such as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines, and the recent Arms Trade Treaty, and will fight for their implementation;


e)      will also adhere to the legal instruments and initiatives to eliminate the use of child soldiers and to contribute to their social reintegration; and


f)       will ban the production of and trade in military equipment.


Proposition 4.2.2

A country without an army


A Quebec without an army will provide itself with an intervention corps trained to assist populations nationally and internationally in catastrophes resulting from natural or human causes. Service in this corps will be for one year, and will be mandatory and universal. It may be replaced by equivalent community service under democratic control by the civilian authorities.


In addition:


Option A

Option B

Instead of an army, Quebec will create:


a)         a professional (un-armed) peace corps trained in conflict and crises prevention and in national reconstruction and reconciliation, including interventions that are targeted toward women (the major victims of conflicts, and who often bear the burden of social reconstruction).


b)         a civil defense corps specially trained in non-violent resistence techniques and provided with advanced technologies to ensure surveillance of borderse and protection of strategic infrastructures.

Instead of an army, Quebec will create an armed defense corps:


a)         whose sole functions will be defense of our borders,


b)         which cannot serve outside the country’s borders.


Proposition 4.2.3

Impact of conflicts on women and role of women in antiwar action


In regard to the major impact of conflicts on women’s security and on their role in society, a QS government


a)      will denounce militarization that for women entails increased violence, rape, trafficking and sexual exploitation;


b)      will oppose military propaganda that is based on patriarchal, hierarchical and anti-democratic values;


c)      will demand the participation of civil society and the women’s movement in negotiations aimed at settling conflicts;


d)     will aim to promote a larger role for women in the professional peace corps and/or armed defense corps.


4.3 For fair and solidarity-based international trade


Since the late 1980s Canada has signed numerous free-trade agreements, including NAFTA (Canada, USA, Mexico) and the free-trade agreement with the European Union, currently being negotiated, which is based on the same neoliberal basis as NAFTA.


These agreements are not primarily concerned with trade in goods. They are aimed at transforming public services and even culture into commodities just like wheat. They are intended to ensure that laws and regulations in force in our country are no longer a constraint for foreign investment. These agreements, negotiated in the greatest secrecy, therefore weaken the sovereignty of states.


Québec solidaire has previously stated in its electoral undertakings that such accords must cease. International trade must be established on the basis of reciprocity between nation states that ought to protect their internal trade in response to the needs of their people. The element that we add here (4.3.1a) is the preservation of the sovereignty of states that are bound by an agreement.


Three other points should pertain to international agreements:


-          the concerted struggle against tax avoidance;

-          the obligation for multinational or transnational companies to assume everywhere liability for the consequences of their activities on society and the environment;

-          the cancellation of the public debt of poor and dominated countries.


Proposition 4.3.1

Fair and solidarity-based international trade


To promote fair and solidarity-based trade, a QS government:


a)      will propose to replace the existing agreements by new trade agreements based on reciprocal respect that will preserve the sovereignty of the signatory states;


b)      will rely on its policy of international solidarity aimed at actively supporting movements and governments that share its orientations toward democracy and social justice;


c)      will take the necessary steps to exercise effective control over investment to ensure that it benefits the development  of the domestic economy;


d)     will combat tax avoidance and tax evasion together with other countries, in particular by participating in the BEPS project.[3]


e)      will support the cancellation of the public debt of the poor and dominated countries, and will denounce the use of the public debt as a pretext to impose unjust and anti-social policies on the world’s peoples.


Proposition 4.3.2

For Quebec corporate responsibility abroad


A QS government will supervise the activities of Quebec companies abroad, and in particular:


a)      establish a commission to supervise the activities abroad of Quebec companies in such matters as occupational health and safety and environmental protection. This commission will work in partnership with Quebec and foreign agencies engaged in international development and the defense of human rights. Its work will draw strongly on the international law governing human rights and the environment.


b)      will assign this body the following mission:


                    i.            to impose mandatory public dissemination of the social and environmental record of the companies concerned. This balance sheet will follow recognized international standards and will be audited by an independent certified agency.


                  ii.            to recommend prosecution of companies that are suspected of infringing Quebec laws.


                iii.            to impose sanctions against companies that are found guilty.


a)      will require that organizations in the economic sector (cooperatives, firms, etc.) account for all the costs associated with the extraction, production, transformation, distribution and marketing of products and services, in particular in connection with the international exchanges in which these organizations are involved.


[1] North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

[2] North American Aerospace Defense Command.

[3] Base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) refers to tax avoidance strategies that exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules to artificially shift profits to low or no-tax locations. Under the inclusive framework, over 100 countries and jurisdictions are collaborating to implement the BEPS measures and tackle BEPS.