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2024 – Solidarity in Quebec

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Should Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois go? No, say the activists I spoke to. This week I spent many hours on the phone with solidarity workers. No one wanted him to go. And yet the co-speaker's future remains under threat.




“He is our best player. We would like to keep him, but he has to learn to listen…”

But instead, Nadeau-Dubois has opted for a “double or nothing” strategy, shifting the responsibility back to activists. He is asking them to support his “Saguenay Declaration,” which proposes reorienting the party and simplifying its proposals in order to win over less left-wing regions and voters.

What will happen if the delegates at the National Council reject the core of the text this weekend? The text remains vague and worrying.

“I agree with a lot of what's in the document,” admits a former candidate. “And yet I'm angry. I want a co-spokesperson who will mobilize us. No blackmail.”

“The Saguenay Declaration should not be a vote of confidence!” asks another former candidate. By bringing the issue back to himself, he is only making the problem worse.”

Forget the terms “pragmatist,” “dreamer,” “realist,” “cloud-digger,” and the other usual clichés. The crisis shaking the party is more subtle and profound.

Nadeau-Dubois wants to lead his party out of perpetual opposition and bring it closer to power. Several activists are skeptical. They fear that the co-spokesperson will distance the party from its members and bring it closer to the parliamentary wing.

The tension is not new.

It started after the 2022 election campaign. Québec Solidaire (QS) had the biggest budget and the best team in its history. The party gained one MP but lost 15,000 votes. There were almost twice as many men as women in its delegation. And in 83% of rural districts, its support has declined.

It was the first act of the crisis.

The second was the publication of the essay by Catherine Dorion, which criticizes GND and its environment. The polarizing author likes rebellious attitudes. The conflict was personalized. But basically the criticism of MMe Dorion was shared by several bona fide activists.

The third act came in April with the resignation of Émilise Lessard-Therrien, barely five months after being elected co-spokesperson. Other women followed suit shortly afterwards by slamming the door on the party.

According to these dissatisfied people, QS is “professionalizing” and personalizing itself around its male co-speaker. And in the process, it is slowly losing its soul.

Communication is focused on the leaders. Their image is clean and sleek. “But the leaders who are popular at the moment are the ones who are perceived as more authentic,” recalls a former consultant.

Factual debates are quickly settled behind the scenes. One activist cites Facebook as an example. Last year, CAQ and PQ boycotted advertising on this social network. Surprisingly, however, there was no solidarity. “If we are not even able to stand up to a multinational like the others, what good are we?”

This position was not submitted to the members for debate.Me Lessard-Therrien had expressed his dissenting opinion. She had to pull herself together.

Such compromises are normal in a party. But Québec solidaire should be a decentralized organization that is committed to its members. And feminist at that.

The new co-spokesperson never had the visibility she wanted. This is partly normal. She lived in Témiscamingue and was not a member of parliament. His opponent, Ruba Ghazal, had also pointed out this risk during the election campaign. QS was in deficit and did not have enough money to hire additional staff. Since she was not elected, she had no right to benefit from the parliamentary resources that Manon Massé and GND had access to.

However, that does not explain everything. The arrival of MMe Lessard-Therrien was offered a rare chance to gain a foothold in the region, but when RDI organized a debate on immigration, Mr. Nadeau-Dubois was sent.

This picture was circulating internally…

IMAGE PROVIDED

A meme based on a scene from the American series The Office. It reads: “The company asks you to find the difference between this picture and this one. — It's the same picture. »

In an interview with Channel One, MMe Lessard-Therrien acknowledged that the 2022 campaign had been bad. The press officer assigned to him – who also works with GND – criticized him for demobilizing remarks. However, it was obvious that other MPs had already explained this.

It is true that the co-speaker gave up very quickly. The party did not have time to come up with a new plan to help him.

But that does not change the problem that existed before his departure and continues to exist.

Two days after the resignation of Mr.Me Lessard-Therrien, GND, took the initiative again. He shifted the focus to another question: how to transform QS into a “government party”?

These deliberations had been underway for several months. After the election disappointment, QS started a tour of the regions.

One would have expected, however, that the diagnosis would be presented to members. But Mr. Nadeau-Dubois immediately moved on to solutions with his “Saguenay Declaration”. It aims to simplify and reorient the party's offer at least a little. Details would follow soon. According to the proposed schedule, the program will be rewritten in the fall of 2025 and the platform for the next electoral campaign adopted in the spring of 2026.

Activists feel rushed. “We would have liked him to present his vision in the race for the speakership last fall. He speaks about it afterwards, in a tone reminiscent of an ultimatum…”

Despite everything, a transition is taking place. In Saguenay, amendments are being tabled that will take more time. This compromise could unite the dissatisfied without rejecting Mr. Nadeau-Dubois' vision.

Because the co-speaker will be able to put forward good arguments in the future.

The change desired by the co-speaker takes place on two levels. He wants a platform that can bring him to power. And he also wants to be able to use it.

As for the first aspect, the debate promises to be endless.

A QS clan defends left-wing populism. It claims to belong to the people. Why is it not winning? Because the media and economic elites are alienating it and because the popular movement has not got off the ground. We must sow hope and revolt everywhere.

Another camp, on the contrary, notes that voters clearly distrust QS. With them, pedagogy will not be enough. We have to make certain ideological compromises. It is better to be in power and implement 70% of your program than to praise it 100% in opposition. This is similar to the speaker campaign of Christine Labrie, who admitted that QS's environmental commitments had created a “repulsion effect”.

But how far do you have to go to reach the voters?

“If we look too much like an imitation of the PQ, it is risky. People will prefer the original version,” fears a long-time QS activist.

The left does not want to lose the only medium for spreading their ideas. But the term “pragmatism” has another meaning.

When a party is about to take power, it forms a transition committee. It decides which commitments should be implemented, how and in what order. QS has never carried out this exercise. For example, we do not know who would negotiate a nationalization, at what price, with what timetable and with what consequences for the rest of the economy.

In this sense, Nadeau-Dubois's “pragmatism” does not mean sacrificing his ideals. It is rather a method of translating them into an applicable government program.

This approach is compatible with a transformative vision of society. A good example is housing. Reforms such as a rent register would have only a limited impact. The left prefers a comprehensive plan that tackles the problem at its roots by combating real estate speculation and developing another non-profit model. And precisely because the change is so big, a concrete, quantified and applicable plan is needed.

But for QS, the debate has taken a worrying turn in recent weeks.

“The Saguenay declaration talks about unification, but above all I see clans forming around me. And I myself don't even know which clan I belong to anymore…” says another former candidate who, like several other activists, cannot travel to Jonquière.

Which brings us back to the starting point. Even if the voltage is high, it can also drop quickly. Provided that an interception signal is given.