Québec 2019: The Blueprint for Success

 

Since the beginning of my campaign I have emphasized the crucial importance of the next leader of the NDP being able to regain the confidence of Quebecers and the need to unite progressive forces across the country.

When Jack Layton became party leader in 2003, the goal of increasing our support in Quebec was a priority. After all, Quebec was the place where social democratic ideas flourished, including the nationalization of hydroelectricity, the high level of unionization, the vigor of movements and social groups, the creation of affordable early childhood centers, and even pay equity.

The work we undertook was colossal. Let’s recall that the history of the NDP in Quebec since the 1960s had been a series of failures, notably caused by confused positions on the question of the Quebec nation, which has dominated the province’s political scene since the Quiet Revolution. At the time, the NDP’s political offerings simply did not live up to the expectations of Quebec’s citizens.

Jack and his Quebec team, of which I was a member, took the bull by the horns to modernize the NDP's approach to Quebec. This courageous political shift took the form of the adoption of the Sherbrooke Declaration in 2006.

The Sherbrooke Declaration, which is still at the heart of the party's program, finally allowed the NDP to be in tune with Quebec, allowing its citizens to take a fresh look at Canada's only social democratic party.


In adopting the Sherbrooke Declaration, the NDP recognizes Quebec’s national character, which is founded in particular on:

  • A majority French-speaking society whose French is recognized as a working language and as a common language in public spaces;

  • A culture unique in the Americas, expressed in a sense of identity and belonging in Quebec;

  • A unique history;

  • Political, economic, cultural and social institutions, including institutions of both the state and civil society.

The Sherbrooke Declaration also affirms Quebec's right to self-determination through a simple majority vote. In addition, the NDP adopts the principles of asymmetric federalism, which we believe represents the best way to reconcile the Canadian federal state with the reality of Quebec’s national character.

The principle of asymmetry means that Quebec must have its own means and authority, particularly with regard to identity and the French language. Asymmetry also allows Quebec to have a right of withdrawal from federal spending in its fields of jurisdiction, with full compensation.

Jack was convinced that a breakthrough in Quebec would pave the way for a first NDP government in Ottawa. He was absolutely right then, and that’s still true today.

In 2015, despite a tough election campaign, particularly in Quebec, the NDP managed to elect 16 high-profile MPs in almost all regions of the province. One in four Quebecers gave us their vote and their confidence in the face of the Liberal tidal wave of support. This proves that we have a strong foundation, and now it’s time for us to rebuild the house.

The post-mortem report on the 2015 election is clear: in 2019, we must ensure that we can offer a platform that appeals specifically to Quebecers, and responds to their realities and concerns.

 

In order to be ready for the next election campaign in 2019, the following is my proposal for a plan for Quebec:

  1. A Bold, Progressive Agenda

Since the beginning of the race, I have put forward a series of ambitious proposals that would radically transform the country, focusing on our collective interest and with the central objective of leaving no one behind. I am convinced that my bold plan represents a successful approach to win back the hearts of Quebecers, as well as a blueprint to unite progressive forces across the country.

My progressive plan is in tune with Quebec’s evolution over the last 40 years: in it, I propose the introduction of a basic income to eliminate poverty - a major reform of our tax system so that the more affluent among us and big business finally pay their fair share. I’ve also put forward a plan to tackle tax evasion, white collar crime and tax havens, as well as thoroughly modernize Canada’s tax system. In addition, I’ve introduced a concrete plan to achieve climate justice by tackling the most significant challenge of our time and creating a transition to renewable energies that supports our workers and communities.

       2. Update our political offer in Quebec based on the national character of the province, in particular:

       a) Apply Bill 101 to businesses in Quebec that fall under federal jurisdiction

French is an official language of Canada and the official language of Quebec. Bill 101 has been central to maintaining Quebec’s Francophone character, and the federal government should support Quebec so that French can continue to be at the heart of the province’s identity.

Under Jack Layton, the NDP supported the adoption of a bill on the application of Bill 101 in businesses under federal jurisdiction in Quebec. Unfortunately, Liberals and Conservatives opposed it.

If elected leader, I would recommend that the application of Bill 101 in businesses under federal jurisdiction on Quebec territory be an election commitment for the NDP.

     b) Recognize that the National Assembly of Québec has all the authority and rights to legislate on issues of secularism and in its jurisdiction.

Secularism is a profoundly progressive value that takes different forms throughout the democratic world. The models of the application of secularism differ in democratic countries and are adapted to the values, culture and history of those respective nations.

Since the Quiet Revolution, Quebec has placed secularism and the religious neutrality of the state at the heart of its evolution. It is clear that the history of the pervasive role of religion on the daily life of Quebecers is profoundly different from that of the rest of the country.

The history of the influence of the Catholic religion in Quebec has so far marked the debates on the application of secularism in Quebec. As such, each of the four political parties represented in Quebec’s National Assembly today has formulated its own proposal on the application of the principle of secularism.

The Quebec Liberal Party, the Parti Québécois, Coalition Avenir Québec and Québec Solidaire each uphold the ban on face coverings in public services. In addition, the PQ, the CAQ and Québec Solidaire also proposed prohibiting the wearing of religious symbols for individuals in positions of authority representing the state, such as police officers, prison guards, prosecutors and judges.

Quebec's different view of secularism from the rest of Canada is not a minority current, but a broad consensus among the province’s political class. The last ten years of debate on the issue in Quebec have not yet led to a consensus on the exact model to be followed, but by putting forward the recognition that the National Assembly holds all the authority in its jurisdiction on this issue, I am making it clear that above all, an NDP leader must respect Quebec’s national character.

My personal position on the wearing of religious symbols is clear: I do not believe that the state should dictate what people can wear. Many Quebecers agree with me, but in the end I am convinced that the final decision must remain with Quebec’s National Assembly.

 

       c) Enact legislation on obligation of bilingualism among Supreme Court judges

Francophones in Quebec and Canada have the right to be heard and understood in their language of use by the judges of the highest court of the land.

We can not allow ourselves to be subject to the goodwill of successive Prime Ministers. It is time for us to enact legislation on the obligation of bilingualism among the judges of the Supreme Court so that Francophones around the country enjoy equal treatment.

     d) Be open to dialogue so that in the long term, Quebec can consent to sign the Constitution.

The non-signature of the 1982 Constitution by Quebec is a historic and national mistake that must be corrected. The fact that the largest French-speaking province (and second-largest province in terms of area) in our country did not sign that fundamental document is more than just a mere detail of history.

Since 1982, there have been attempts to remedy the situation, without success. I understand that the word constitution is a warning signal for many Canadians, including the vast majority of politicians. But I reject the idea that the fundamental law of our country is untouchable, and that it would be a distraction from the "real" stakes.

Our constitution must be a reflection of the evolution of our country and our society. I subscribe to the vision that it is a living tree that must adapt to changing realities. And a constitution without Quebec as a signatory is a reality that cannot be erased.

The current government of Quebec has put forward a constructive proposal for dialogue. Future Quebec governments may also want a good faith approach. If elected leader of the NDP, I would be open to dialogue with Quebec to correct this historical error.

Let me be clear, I do not believe this work will necessarily take place in the short term. Besides, the current government of Quebec has not asked for it. It’s obvious that 25 years of silence on the subject has encouraged inertia. On the other hand, I sincerely believe it is the duty of a federal leader to listen and to discuss in good faith. For as the old adage says, one must learn to walk before learning to run.

 

     3. Reinvigorating the NDP organization in Quebec

The key to the NDP's success in Quebec must also be centered on our ability to build an effective organization in the province. We must ensure that the NDP is present in every region of Quebec and that we have our finger on the pulse of the population.

To this end, I propose that we put our ambitions on the right track by hiring organizers from all over Quebec. These change agents will liaise with local associations, MPs, party members and potential candidates to rebuild a political force for the 2019 election.

Once elected to the leadership of the NDP, I pledge to hire 10 dedicated organizers for Quebec. These organizers will be distributed across the province in order to target 60 identified constituencies that are either incumbent ridings or that are winnable for the NDP (see Table 1.1 below).

Quebec at the heart of our approach

In the mid-2000s, the modernization of the NDP's political offering for Quebec was achieved, in particular by the activism of a new generation that contributed to the revival of the NDP in Quebec. I was part of that generation.

Jack knew that in order to increase membership, activists must be central to the process. These activists represent some of the deepest roots of the NDP in Quebec. Many have been candidates, and some are even MPs now.

My proposal to modernize the NDP’s approach in Quebec will follow the same path. I want to engage our Quebec MPs under my leadership, as well as members of the Quebec section so that we can all pull together and be proud of the work we have accomplished.

Québec identity is central to Canadian identity. The objective of modernizing the Sherbrooke Declaration is to enshrine clear principles that will allow Quebec to remain the Quebec we all love: francophone and culturally vibrant.

I entered this race to become the next leader of the NDP and the next Prime Minister of Canada. Quebec is at the heart of my approach. Indeed it must be at the heart of any NDP approach - no matter what part of the country we come from.

 

Table 1.1 Distribution of Electoral Ridings in Quebec

Region

MPs

2nd place

Total Seats

Targets

Vote Share and rank

Gaspésie-Bas-Saint-

Laurent

1

1

4

4

30.3% (2)

Lévis-Beauce-Chaudière-Appalaches

0

0

4

1

14.9% (4)

Eastern Townships-l'Estrie

2

3

7

6

27.1% (2)

Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean

1

2

3

3

29.1% (1)

Capitale-Nationale

0

3

7

4

21.2% (3)

Abitibi-Temiscamingue-

Northern Quebec-Côte-Nord

2

0

3

3

32.3% (1)

Mauricie-Lanaudière

2

1

7

7

27.4% (3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Laval

0

4

4

4

22.1% (2)

Montreal North Island

0

4

5

1

21% (2)

Montreal East Island

3

0

4

4

36.5% (1)

Montreal Centre

1

4

6

4

24.3% (2)

Montreal West Island

0

0

3

0

13.8% (3)

Montérégie

3

1

7

7

27.7% (2)

South Shore-Haut-Saint-Laurent

1

2

5

3

24.7% (2)

Laurentides-Mirabel

0

4

6

6

27.7% (2)

Outaouais

0

3

3

3

26.7% (2)

Total

16

32

78

60