When Québec’s major party leaders gathered a few days ago for the only multi-party debate in advance of the election for Québec’s Assemblée nationale on Sept. 4, voters saw three familiar faces: Jean Charest, leader of the Parti libéral du Québec (Liberal Party, or PLQ) and the province’s premier since 2003; Pauline Marois, leader of the sovereigntist Parti québécois (PQ), and François Legault, a former PQ minister and leader of the newly-formed and more center-right Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ).
They also saw a less familiar face: Québec solidaire spokeswoman Françoise David who, along with spokesman Amir Khadir, are the two “spokespersons” for Québec solidaire, a stridently leftist, environmentalist, feminist and sovereigntist party founded in 2006 when several smaller parties merged.
David wasn’t a wholly outsized presence in that debate, but to the extent it was David’s first introduction to many Québec voters, her above-the-fray tone seemed to make a favorable impression.
David and Québec solidaire are, by far, the most leftwing and anti-neoliberal of the four parties (and party leaders) featured in last week’s debates:
- On student fees, not only does David oppose tuition increases for students, but was the only party leader to wear a red square — the symbol of student protesters — on stage (even though Marois wore it in solidarity with students last spring and has come out strongly in opposition to tuition hikes).
- On the environment, David has criticized Charest’s Plan Nord, designed to boost mining and other economic efforts in northern Québec, and her party is downright hostile to Québec’s asbestos industry (Québec is essentially the only main producer of asbestos in North America and Europe).
- On sovereignty, Québec solidaire is firmly in favor of an independent Québec, in contrast to theMONDAY’S PIECE> nuanced “wait and see” approach that Marois has taken.