The NDP takes on Québec Solidaire in by-election

logo for the Quebec-NDP

If you’re outside of Quebec, you may have missed news about the by-election in the Quebec City riding of Louis-Hébert. It’s Quebec’s 15th by-election since Philippe Couillard was elected in 2014. Between the Saskatchewan NDP’s Vicki Mowat’s win last week and the interesting battle between Angella MacEwan and Joel Harden for the NDP nomination in Ottawa-Centre, Louis-Hébert might not seem like the most important race for left-wing Canadians.

Louis-Hébert is important for a variety of reasons, including hilarity (both the Liberal and the CAQ had to turf their candidates mid-race because of allegations that both men were abusive in former places of work), and foreshadowing (this will be one of the last by-elections before the general election next year).

But, it’s most important for progressive Canadians because it’s the first time that the current form of the NDP-Quebec has run a candidate. Former MP Denis Blanchette is carrying the federalist party’s banner

I’m a firm critic of the existence of the NDP-Quebec, and I’ve written about this before. I’m also an active member of Québec Solidaire and I’m friends with Guillaume Boivin, the QS candidate in this election. But, I’m no hack. I’m invested in QS insofar as they offer a progressive and grassroots option for electors, while the real work of confronting neoliberalism and capitalism continues in the street.

If the NDP-Quebec was responding to a call from labour or social movements, and if their platform was unquestionably progressive, my position might be different.

It isn’t, though. From the beginning, this iteration of the NDP-Québec has been rooted in the desperate love affair that some have with Canadian federalism above all other issues. While the current dream of a sovereign Quebec as espoused by the Parti Québécois has become rotten, it’s hard to argue that Canadian federalism is a progressive arrangement that should be protected. If we truly believe in self-determination, then we must believe that people have the right to form their own constitution. This is true in Québec, where there is a history and political context that has created the modern sovereignty movement in all its forms, but also in Canada, where federalism’s perpetual re-colonization is harder and harder for the left to ignore.

So, it’s odd that now the NDP-Quebec thinks that it should assert itself on the provincial scene. The party took a beating in Quebec in 2015 and, rather than putting energy into reflecting on the Five Ws of their Quebec loss, some party activists have gone provincial.

There is no progressive argument that justifies the NDP’s foray into provincial politics. The NDP is fighting Québec Solidaire for a seat at the national assembly. The NDP is actively trying to stop Manon Massé and Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois from increasing the caucus from 3 to 4. The NDP wants people to vote for centralist federalism rather than leftist anything.

At the start of the by-election, the NDP-Quebec literally had no platform, as reported by Le Soleil. Blanchette told the newspaper that they were running because they wanted to offer an “alternative social democratic option,” though he didn’t mention alternative to what. Blanchette doesn’t have a website that I could find. The only web home of the NPD-Québec is the federal party’s website, and it doesn’t mention the provincial wing.

I couldn’t find anything that indicated that they had found their platform since. (I’ll update this if I’m wrong / if this changes).

Boivin’s platform is focused on a green economy for the riding, specifically: protect drinking water, oppose fracking and oppose Energy East; improve air quality by better regulating Anacolor, a factory in the riding, develop better urban infrastructure for sustainable development including public transit, protect agricultural lands (which make up a sizeable portion of the riding), and better wealth sharing, including support for a $15 minimum wage.

It’s hard to see the entry of the NDP-Quebec as anything other than apolitical, crass politicking based solely on the question of Quebec sovereignty. With no platform, no candidate presence and no justification for having entered the race, this amounts to an attack on progressive activists. As Québec Solidare figures its way through what it means to build a progressive and inclusive Quebec society, why does the NDP think that its presence alone, void of any political expression, is a good idea?

There are so many things that need to be fought in Quebec right now. Spending time fighting the Left is a waste of time and resources. It’s confusing and disorienting and speaks volumes about where the NDP is at.

The election is on October 2.

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