Sun. Feb 25th, 2024

Analysis | Quebec solidarity: yin and yang

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With the election of Émilise Lessard-Therrien, Québec solidaire respects the “tradition” between ideology and pragmatism, writes Sébastien Bovet.

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The activists of Québec solidaire have therefore chosen yin and yang by the skin of their teeth. Two “complementary” co-spokespeople: Émilise Lessard-Therrien comes from rural areas, from Abitibi-Témiscamingue. Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, from Montreal. One is not a deputy, the other is elected. A priori, one embodies the more ideological Quebec Solidaire (QS), the other, the more pragmatic QS. Tradition is respected.

This was the case with Manon Massé and M. Nadeau-Dubois and also, to a certain extent, with Amir Khadir and Françoise David. Over the years, this cohabitation has been harmonious.

This time, Ms. Lessard-Therrien expressed the legitimate ambition of ;to one day be a candidate for the post of Prime Minister, a position which currently belongs to Mr. Nadeau-Dubois; members will decide a few months before the next elections in 2026.

The arrival of a new co-spokesperson could encourage some dissatisfied people to let themselves be tempted by a wind of change, by a different approach. The danger, obviously, would be to create clans, internal divisions that a party does not need. It is not said that this will happen, but let's say that the risk is greater than with Ms. Massé.

For the rest, Émilise Lessard-Therrien, with only one support in the caucus (Christine Labrie had four, Ruba Ghazal had two), perhaps causes a surprise from the outside. His very narrow victory – 50.3% of the votes in the second round – will also require a little glue to bring the activists together.

At the same time, the race was not acrimonious. Ms. Lessard-Therrien's challenge will be to help position QS as an alternative solution rooted in the region, something it sorely lacks.

The party is an important moment in his history: he is torn between activists who want him to remain faithful to his ideology and those who want more pragmatism to broaden the electorate.

A resolution gave us an example this weekend: it proposed eliminating the QST on used goods and repair services. Activists introduced an amendment to exclude auto repairs. The amendment was defeated, allowing QS to signal that it is not against the automobile, especially in areas where public transportation is nonexistent. To broaden its support, the party must absolutely combat this image of anti-auto and overtaxer.

A small cloud of worry hovered over Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois as he submitted to the equivalent of a vote of confidence. By his own admission, he was stressed.

In fact, delegates had a choice between him and….an empty chair as the party's male co-spokesperson. The strong electoral disappointment, the ceiling at 15 or 16% in voting intentions and the harsh criticism of former MP Catherine Dorion had caused a certain instability.

A member of his entourage expected around 85%; the 90% obtained will undoubtedly reassure Mr. Nadeau-Dubois. This is slightly lower than the 94% obtained just two years ago.

Generally, the threshold for a satisfactory vote of confidence is set at 80%. Between 70 and 80%, we understand that the activists are sending a message without necessarily demanding the departure of the leader.

Saturday, Mr. Nadeau-Dubois had pronounced a speech charged with emotion. With tremors in his voice, he spoke of a deep questioning, a reflection on his political commitment and the possibility of abandoning everything. A disillusioned person would say that he wanted to attract the sympathy of activists to increase their support for his vote of confidence. Maybe.

But above all he was sincere. There is a high personal cost to being in politics; the first affected are family members. At the back of the room, his wife received a hug from a political advisor. His one and a half year old daughter applauded with the audience. The rituals of political gatherings are learned early!

Besides, parentheses: there are often children in these rallies, whatever the party. At a time when it is easy and sometimes fashionable to sugarcoat the backs of politicians and activists, we must recognize that the time they invest and the personal sacrifices they make in the course of their political commitment are underestimated. It's all well and good, Gatineau, but there are limits to staying cooped up for two days in a convention center.

The table of little treats

Organizers learned the hard way that playing in the major leagues, renting a convention center rather than a CEGEP or community hall, increases costs. It's expensive, we were told, reminding us in passing that QS had the idea, quickly abandoned, of charging $17.50 for our accreditation badge. The Gatineau Convention Center controls practically everything, including the food. The first victim was the table of little sweets and its legendary sugar and cream squares offered free of charge. The disappointment was palpable.

The coffee

Coffee dishwater was almost unanimously opposed. Speaking of dishwater, there was no soapy water tray to wash the cups. No spaghetti to brew said coffee either. You had to use a wooden stick. Two traditions set aside, not by abandoning a conviction but by contractual obligation, we were told.

The rocks in Manon

In his speech on Sunday, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois taught us that Manon Massé carries rocks in her pockets. For what? It allows him to ground, it seems.

Applause

QS activists have gotten into the habit of applauding with their hands in the air, silently. It looks a bit crazy on TV, but it has the advantage of minimizing wasted time (during silent applause, the speakers can continue talking). We have seen a shift in this practice, with hands in the air regularly mixing with hands that clap.

It's far away, Gatineau

To fill a downtime, MP Sol Zanetti transformed himself into a crowd entertainer. Are there people from Montreal? Response in the room: YYYYYYYY!Are there people from Gatineau?YYYYYYYYY!Are there people from Gaspésie?Yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. of the North Shore?Yé.

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