Pauline Marois’ assaults on democratic values
Given the close scrutiny that surrounded the recent Alberta election, it is somewhat surprising that more attention is not being paid to the genuinely alarming things coming out of the mouth of Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois.
During the Alberta campaign, every gaffe committed by a member of the right-wing Wildrose Party became a national news item. The Toronto media, in particular, lapped it up — because it played to our outdated stereotype of Alberta as a land of rural hicks. Yet nothing that was said in the Alberta campaign can compare to the declarations of Ms. Marois, who has easily established herself as the most xenophobic major-party leader in all of Canada.
So why has there been comparatively little uproar over Ms. Marois? It is as if Canadians in the rest of the country have become so accustomed to watching Quebec nationalists bottom-feed for votes that we no longer are shocked by it. But Quebec is, after all, part of Canada. And Ms. Marois might become the province’s next premier on Sept. 4. Surely, it is worth rousing ourselves to pay attention to the fact that this woman is proposing policies that are unconstitutional and even bigoted.
This week, for instance, Ms. Marois revived a 2007 proposal that would bar non-French speakers from holding public office in Quebec. It would even bar non-French speakers from funding political parties or petitioning the legislature. As many aboriginal leaders have pointed out, one of its primary effects would be to bar virtually all First Nations figures, especially older ones, from electoral politics. (Even today, many aboriginal students study only English and their ancestral tongues.)
Indeed, the idea is so outrageous that on Wednesday, the PQ was forced to backtrack — putting out a statement to the effect that anyone already residing in Quebec, of whatever linguistic ability, would be excluded from the language requirement. Yet even this leaves open the possibility than a non-French-speaking Canadian citizen who arrives in Quebec in the future — whether from Toronto, Yellowknife or Madrid — would be unconstitutionally stripped of his or her democratic rights because they don’t speak one of this country’s two official languages. It is a disgrace that any serious politician in Canada would think to propose such a plan.
And yet, this doesn’t even rank as the worst idea Ms. Marois has put forward this month. Her proposed “Charter of Secularism” would prevent public-sector workers from brandishing “conspicuous religious signs.” But the rule doesn’t even pretend to be non-discriminatory: Crosses and crucifixes — like the big one that hangs in Quebec’s National Assembly — would be exempt, while Muslim headscarves, Jewish yarmulkes and Sikh kirpans would be prohibited. As I noted last week, “the law would be a lot more clear if the word ‘conspicuous’ were simply replaced with ‘ethnic.’ Ms. Marois is just fine with religion per se. It’s the kind that comes with an accent and a suntan she doesn’t like.”
Not all of Ms. Marois’ ideas are creepy and discriminatory. Some are merely terrible. For instance, her plan to bar non-Anglophone-raised students from attending English junior colleges (CEGEPs) has raised the ire of thousands of students, most of them francophone. And for good reason: Many of these students rely on anglo colleges to perfect the English skills they will need in the working world. These are the same student voters whom Ms. Marois has been courting with her cynical toadying to the protest leaders who reject Jean Charest’s (sensible) tuition increases.
In a desperate bid to play to that constituency, Ms. Marois is telling university students not to pay their tuition fees. The decision came after the party discovered on Tuesday that Concordia, McGill and UQAM already have sent students a tuition bill, including the annual $254 increase planned by Mr. Charest’s budget, payable by Aug. 31. The PQ’s spokesperson on the matter of post-secondary education, Marie Malavoy, told Le Soleil: “If I were a student, I would not pay my bill before the election.”
Quebec’s education system is starved for cash — which is why Mr. Charest realized that the previous tuition structure was unsustainable. And the major universities that have hiked their rates accordingly already have earmarked the money in their budgets. Ms. Marois’ gesture to students, which essentially tells them to cheat universities of the money they legally are owed, is crass populism taken to irresponsible lengths.
Fortunately, many voters seem to have had enough of Ms. Marois’ extremism: A new National Post poll suggests that the Liberals have overtaken the PQ in total voter support. One hopes this trend is sustained: Quebec under Ms. Marois would be a scary place for anyone who does not subscribe to her disturbingly undemocratic attitudes.
Read the original article by Jonathan Kay at http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/08/23/jonathan-kay-pauline-marois-assaults-on-democratic-values/