What’s next? Lessons of the Liberal downfall and LGBT causes
What’s next? That’s the question everyone is asking themselves this fall – in both fashion and politics – now that the tumultuous “Maple Spring” and a summer election campaign have successfully brought down the Charest government… (Banner image: “Querelle de Brest” by Mathieu Laca, on display at Galerie Modulum until October 14).
- Will there be a maple summer?
- Student Protest: A Sea of Red… and Pink!
- Bullying in schools: Is the government doing enough?
Even though they enacted one of the most explicitly pro-gay policies in the hemisphere last year, and showed an uncanny ability to retain Montréal’s middle class support over their two terms in government, the Liberals have returned to the back seat, as the official opposition, due to one primary failure: their disdain for Québec youth.
Many will point to the looming corruption scandal(s) as the reason the precious undecided “centrist” voters may have sided with either the PQ or the CAQ, but the real change in 2012 compared to other years was not on questions of ethics (nor federalism, nor economics). Charest’s deadlocked conflict against the student movement and his arrogance towards its mass democratic efforts were repulsive to many of the centre-left who traditionally flocked to the Liberals as Québec’s prime federalist party. The margin of the Parti québécois win was less than 0.7% of all votes cast, or about the same number of people who came out on one of the biggest demonstrations of the 22nd of May or June: just over 300,000. Perhaps this was partly coincidence, but it clearly shows what really brought about the Liberal downfall: Québeckers got out and expressed their opinions at the polls, as they did on the streets, with the highest voter turn-out in over a decade. Although the Québec’s elections office has not yet released its analysis of September 4th’s contest, it’s easy to deduce that a huge number of otherwise disinterested voters were mobilized by two seasons of protest and heated political discourse.
On the gay agenda, the Parti québécois is unlikely to carry out any significant policy shifts, as the newly named Justice Minister Véronique Hivon confirmed to Etre in an interview in August. The PQ record on gay rights was already solid, and now the Bureau de lutte contre l’homophobie and other Liberal initiatives will likely remain untouched by the party switch. Jean-Marc Fournier, an architect of the 2011 Plan de lutte (and staunch opponent to the federal Conservatives’ much-maligned Omnibus Crime Bill), retained his seat in Ville St-Laurent, with his reputation amongst the LGBT community largely intact (minus all those who opposed Bill 78).
If the Marois minority government can last, we can only hope it will go further in areas where the Liberals were obstructionists: ordering the État Civil to change its requirements for gender designation and name changes for transgender people, and reinstating a high-school sex education curriculum virtually abolished by Charest in 2005. What plays in the favour of the PQ making these much-needed changes is that they need not obtain National Assembly approval to make them. We can now appeal to the intelligence of Mme Hivon to make life easier and safer for trans people, and it can only be hoped that Marois’s Education Minister Marie Malavoy will do what is needed and reestablish a Québec-wide sex-ed strategy that will inform and empower LGBT teens, who are disproportionately affected by the lack of STI resources in schools. Fittingly, Malavoy is the woman who ousted Charest in his own riding of Taillon last month. Monsieur Charest can now literally take a lesson.
So what’s next? A whole lot of work to do, as always.