Thursday, February 1, 2007

How Does a PQ Implosion Impact Quebec's Labour Movement?

The mainstream media has had much to say about the PQ's apparent implosion. However, the impact of this "seismic shift" hasn't really considered what impact, if any, it will have on SPQ-Libre, a trade union tendancy within the PQ, or Quebec Solidaire, Quebec's upstart left-wing sovereignist party. In her Toronto Star article, Chantal Hebert writes:

These days, it seems that André Boisclair cannot get out of bed in the morning without putting a foot wrong. Under his leadership, a 16-point lead on the Liberals has turned into a three-point gap the other way.

Over that 15-month period, Boisclair has become a leader under siege. Quebec's influential union leaders are openly critical of his leadership. Hardly a day goes by without a presumed PQ star candidate bowing out of the upcoming campaign. Ex-premier Bernard Landry is said to actively want his old job back. Unconfirmed rumours of a putsch have been circulating for weeks.

It would seem that all of these factors would would work to create a serious political opening for Quebec Solidaire, even if such a trend is not yet apparent in public opinion polls. In particular, the union leadership's disenchantment with the opposition PQ should work to the advantage of a left-wing alternative, especially given that SPQ-Libre has been openly critical of Boisclair, even sending a letter to La Presse condemning the PQ leader for having recently praised the "New Labour" approach of Tony Blair.

That said, any labour support given to Quebec Solidaire would probably not come in the form of an official endorsement. Quebec unions are far more influential than their counterparts in the rest of North America -- they are unlikely to officially back a sure loser. In addition, trade unions in Quebec have increasingly been loathe to endorse parties in election campaigns, preferring instead to evaluate the platforms of each party and identify which one comes closest to the goals and aspiration of the movement. In the case of the last provincial election in Quebec, unions called on their members to vote against the right-wing Action Democratique du Quebec (ADQ) without indicating which alternative was most worthy of labour's support. It could be the case, that unions adopt the same strategy given the ADQ's recent bump in the polls. If that is the case, unions will be no better off than they were demonstrating against the assault on trade union freedoms carried out by Charest and the Liberals.