Quebec Solidaire seeks Quebecers input on reopening the province

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Quebec Solidaire (QS) is launching a series of virtual assemblies to take the pulse of citizens on the way out of the COVID-19 crisis.

The House Leader, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, said he believes that the government has so far been given a free hand to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, but that a societal debate is essential now that deconfinement is taking place.

According to him, Premier Francois Legault is “especially in a hurry to start the machine again,'' having instructed the Ministers of Finance, Economy, Labour, as well as the President of the Treasury Board to lead Quebec’s recovery plans.

But this ministerial squad has never been given “the mandate” to reinvent Quebec “and cannot legitimately make decisions that are so decisive for the future,” argued Nadeau-Dubois.

“The social challenges that we will have to face in the coming months are major and must be debated democratically,'' he said.

“In a month and a half, everything has changed, '' Nadeau-Dubois said. "It forces [Legault] to consult, to be in dialogue with society.”

The leftist party is putting forward a program of workshops and online discussion panels, with guests such as the philosopher Alain Denault, the co-founder of Equiterre Laure Waridel, and the ex-coordinator of the Front d’action populaire (FRAPRU) in urban redevelopment Francois Saillant. This initiative also includes a series of eight “kitchen assemblies,” where elected officials can interact with citizens about post-crisis Quebec.

The first video conference took place last Tuesday, with Sol Zanetti and Catherine Dorion. Close to 150 participants joined them to discuss the treatment of seniors. Sunday, it will be Andres Fontecilla and Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois' turn to lead the discussion, this time on the theme of inequalities accentuated by the pandemic.

Upcoming kitchen meetings have about 400 registrants, said Nadeau-Dubois, who sees this as a sign of a desire to collectively reflect on the lessons to be learned from the current situation.

PARTIAL INVOLUNTARY ERASURE

Until recently, opposition parties had kept a low profile by not questioning government directives.

MNAs agreed in mid-March to a suspension of parliamentary work until April 21. They have since agreed to extend the closure of the National Assembly until May 5, but they had to be vocal in order to have virtual parliamentary committees by then.

Nadeau-Dubois denied that it was a deliberate choice made by QS.

“From the moment the National Assembly is closed, when we are in our constituencies, buried under citizens’ requests for help, when we are also confined, it becomes much more difficult to participate in the debate," he explained, noting that the media have also chosen to focus their efforts on relaying the government's message.

He nevertheless recognizes that the role of QS is entering a new phase, where it will have to relaunch the democratic debate and show that the crisis, despite its tragic nature, represents an opportunity to be seized.

“The worst thing that could happen is that we had a crisis like this, that we lost so many lives, made so many sacrifices, and that afterwards, everything continues as before,” he said. “That we don't learn our lesson and we make the same mistakes again. That would be the worst case scenario.”

This article by La Presse Canadienne was first published May 2, 2020.

 

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