Political posters in my neighborhood. The man in the photo is our current representative in the National Assembly in Quebec, his name is Amir Khadir. The fact that he could be elected here speaks volumes about why I want to live here - read the link to see why.
Today, a provincial election, and I cannot vote. I'm not pleased about this; it makes me feel helpless. But, as permanent residents but not-yet-citizens, that's the rule. I hope I can vote in the next one.
Many people, myself included, are not entirely pleased with the choices. Yesterday I did an online "how do you stand" survey on the CBC website, which asks for your (completely anonymous) views on the major issues, and then not only shows whcih party you are closest to, but you how you stand on each issue in relation to all of them, and gives you tools for understanding and studying the results. It was the most sophsiticated tool like that I've ever seen; I was impressed and fascinated. The problem is that while my views are closest to the Greens; to Quebec Solidaire, a new party trying to get established; and even to the Parti Quebeçois in some areas, the latter two are separatist, and I don't want that. (I agree with Quebec Solidaire's basic platform; what I'm not sure about is its economic viability. But I remain open to hearing more. Most people agree that Françoise David, Quebec Solidaire's spokesperson along with Amir Khadir, won the recent debate.)
The Liberals, under Jean Charest, have held power for the past nine years. There have been a number of corruption scandals, and I think Charest's recent handling of the student strikes was arrogant, conservative, and wrong-headed. It's time for him to go. But the Liberals are a national party; they want Quebec to stay part of Canada, and on the surface they seem more sympathetic to the anglophone and immigrant minorities. But are they really?
In the end, I am here because I like what Quebec stands for. I like it different drummer, its refusal to go the way of Stephen Harper. I like its pacifism, its socialism, its sense of restorative justice, its stubbornness about putting the welfare of the whole society first and individualism a little bit further down. And I want it to stay that way.
All the polls indicate that a referendum on sovereignty wouldn't pass; it has failed twice already, but the issue doesn't die. The Parti Quebecois seems likely to win, and what distresses me about their rhetoric is that it continues to be informed by the past, and to look inward, from a point of view of insecurity, cultual protectionism, and even paranoia, when Quebec can and should be looking outward, toward the future. Provinicialism serves no one, and it absorbs a huge amount of energy that could be placed elsewhere. French society and language are well protected here, and loved and appreciated even by many - like me - who are not part that culture by birth. It's time for fear of the outside, of the other, to be relegated to the past, and a new attitude of openness and outward-looking to begin to shine. Quebec is unique in North America, not just for its language and its culture, but for its determination to hold to decent and honorable social and democratic values while other so-called democracies are really run by the rich and powerful for their own interests. We can all be proud of that, and champion it strongly.
This is the first election here that I've really cared about, and I thnk that means I really feel this is my home. So even though I won't be casting a vote, I'll wait for the results tonight with interest, and hope that whatever happens, we can raise a new generation of leaders who represent all of Quebec, who are committed to protecting our shared values, and to looking outward, and forward.