Fifteen years later, Quebec solidaire must prepare to assume power, says Khadir

Quebec Solidaire MNA Amir Khadir questions the government over asbestos during question period, Wednesday, June 13, 2018 at the legislature in Quebec City. Khadir will not seek re-election in the coming general election in October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

 Fifteen years after its creation, Quebec solidaire (QS) must prepare to take power in 2022, according to the party's very first deputy, Amir Khadir, who hung up his political skates in 2018.

In an interview on Saturday, Khadir, who was at the forefront of the founding of QS, was delighted that his initially "marginal" political party has become the major alternative on the left in Quebec.

In 2006, the Quebec solidaire party was founded following the merger between the Union des forces progressistes (UFP), for which Khadir was spokesperson, and Option Citoyenne, Francoise David's feminist party.

 In its first electoral test in the 2007 general elections, the party obtained less than 4 per cent of the popular vote and failed to elect an MNA.

Eleven years later, in 2018, the picture was totally different: as QS managed to win 16 per cent of the vote, had 10 deputies elected and now represents the second opposition in the National Assembly.

"It is a party that has taken up the challenge of institutionalization until now," explained Eric Montigny, assistant professor in the department of political science at Laval University.

"That is to say that there has been growth since its founding, there has been a sustained presence in the National Assembly to the point of becoming a recognized parliamentary group, which is not trivial for a political party that wants to be anti-system."

That brings challenges, warns Montigny, since the party will have to ensure a link between the parliamentary wing "which works in the institutions" and its militant "clearly anti-system" base.

However, according to Khadir, Quebec solidaire has succeeded in ensuring the unity of its troops despite disagreements, in particular on secularism and the national question.

He argues that the right-left polarization in Quebec will favour QS, to the detriment of a more central party like the Parti Quebecois.

"In this new polarization, it is Quebec solidaire which appears to me to be the left alternative, the alternative of alternation in the future," he argued. "That's why I think the people of Quebec solidaire must be ready today for everything to happen in 2022."

CHANGE THE POLITICAL STRUCTURE

Montigny underlined that like the Coalition d'avenir Quebec (CAQ) and the defunct Action Democratique du Quebec (ADQ), Quebec solidaire has helped to "change the structuring axis for Quebec politics."

"Before Quebec solidaire, the ADQ and the CAQ, what we had as a policy was yes and no to independence, which structured the political debate," he said. "The arrival of Quebec solidaire following the ADQ and the CAQ, what we have seen is a bursting of this "yes-no to independence" divide, in favour of more axes."

According to the specialist in politics, Quebec solidaire will however have to face several pitfalls for the next campaign.

For example, a party that aspires to power faces a larger barrage of questions and its proposals will be scrutinized more closely.

QS must also increase its support before the next election, which is not necessarily the case at the moment, said Montigny.

A MORE CENTRAL PARTY?

Can Quebec solidaire assume the government without refocusing on the political debate?

"The median electorate is not very on the left in Quebec," said Montigny.

According to him, it will be quite a challenge for the party to win the elections without refocusing on the debate.

Former MNA Khadir believes that the party should not compromise in order to seek power at any cost.

"There is a gain in being clear on the fundamentals, not to make unnecessary compromises just because we are in a hurry to seize power," he said. "I say, patience, but at the same time agility and openness to seize opportunities without compromising on the essentials."

-- this report by the Canadian Press was first published Feb. 7, 2021. 

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