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Montréal : Politicians play power games as people take the streets on election night

by Stefan Christoff

Montréal : Politicians play power games as people take the streets on election night
Montréal : Politicians play power games as people take the streets on election night

Taking the streets last night in Montréal in the hundreds, to protest a deeply manipulative and cynical election campaign, was politically important and inspiring.

At the election night manif de soir, chants rang out against a largely corrupt political system, calling for l'autogestion and direct democracy, responding to mainstream politics as regulated by elites with corporate financing. Moving down the streets, flanked by heavily armed riot police, people were also raising their voices against austerity, chanting against the PQ and the incoming Parti libéral du Québec (PLQ) majority.

Symbolically the demonstration was significant, as it spoke to a living collective memory in Montréal, recalling the spring 2012 student strike nightly protests.

On the streets, people were collectively asserting an uncontrolled political space, voicing ideals from the heart, demanding the impossible, celebrating ideas that fall outside of the constrained and conservative landscape of politicians. As mainstream political power continues to deepen economic inequality and ecological destruction here in Québec and globally, these radical spaces, on city streets at protests around the world, are urgently important and essential to shaping the political ideas of our future.

Responding to Québec elections with a night protest was crucially important because it sets a grassroots tone, a street politics response, to the distressing reality of a Liberal party government. Most certainly the success of yesterday’s election night action, despite recent mass arrests and sustained police repression, wins political room to continue protests over the weeks and months ahead.

In many ways a spirited demonstration on election night, flying in the face of a ridiculous ban on free protests in Montréal under the P6 bylaw, stands as a grassroots call for sustained popular protests against austerity this spring, as a deeply corporate oriented Liberal government assumes power.

Election results last night were certainly not an embrace of the Liberals, but more a popular rejection of a racist vision of Québec nationalism articulated by the Charte des valeurs québécoises. Most certainly the Liberals won an election majority due to politically strategic opposition to the charter, but now post-election will move to distort and play their victory to impose violent austerity policies on the people of Québec.

Shadowing the political manipulation to come under the Liberals, over the last eighteen months the Parti Québécois (PQ) government callously violated their fall 2012 election win, a victory that took place within the context of a student uprising against neo-liberal moves by the Liberals to hike university tuition fees. PQ politicians made some calculated gestures toward the student movement shortly after taking control of the halls of power in Québec City, like canceling the major tuition hike proposed by the Liberals, but throughout most of the PQ minority government economic policy moved toward austerity and away from the egalitarian visions for social justice expressed on the streets during the (g)rève générale illimitée.

PQ politicians hiked tuition with an indexation plan, that over time will result in even higher tuition fees that once proposed under the Liberals. While beyond tuition hikes, the PQ fully embraced an austerity mentality, defined by the logic of déficit zéro, that also lead to a proposed hike in public day care fees and the sustaining of a tax on public healthcare. Although many PQ politicians pinned a carré rouge on their designed suits during media scrums in 2012, their economic legacy is most certainly defined by austerity-driven policies that only deepen the already astounding poverty rates in Québec.

Last week l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ) mobilized for a massive, pre-election, anti-austerity demonstration, pulling more than ten-thousand people onto the streets, a beautiful action that firmly targeted PQ hypocrisy. Now most certainly ASSÉ and the broader student movement, are facing a major battle against the Liberals, who will deepen attacks on university accessibility.

At the anti-austerity demonstration last week and on the streets last night, people were collectively asserting an alternative political narrative, rooted in a grassroots rejection of austerity economics and corporate capitalism. Calling out politicians, from the PQ to the PLQ, for cynically exploiting the political process to advance social and economic policies that only deepen economic inequality and injustice in our society.

Stefan is a writer, musician and community activist living in Montreal @spirodon

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Stefan Christoff (Stefan Christoff)
Montreal, Quebec
Member since Avril 2010


Stefan Christoff is a Montreal-based journalist, community organizer and musician.

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