The major trade union centrals of Quebec and the MASSE coalition, a group formed in solidarity with the unemployed, held a series of mass rallies with the biggest one in the town of Thetford Mines in late October. Over 3,000 people from about twelve towns and cities from across Quebec marched to the offices of Christian Paradis, MP for Mégantic-L'Érable (and Stephen Harper's Quebec lieutenant). Coordinator of MASSE Marie-Hélène Arruda told the rally that "The Conservatives, with their ideology [...] will define by regulation what is a decent job, that is to say a position that an unemployed person cannot refuse for fear of losing their benefits.”
Student legal struggle continues
Drawing attention to the hundreds of students still facing charges from the Quebec student uprising last fall, former spokesperson of the CLASSE, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, was convicted November 1 of contempt of court because he publicly criticized a court injunction ordering picket-lines to disperse during the student strike. The judge (who has been linked as a donor to the former Charest Liberal government) based his ruling on a 1972 court decision which tried to smash the Common Front of public sector unions. A support campaign has been launched at www.appelatous.org to fundraise for an appeal. Meanwhile, the PQ government have announced an education summit to take place in mid-February, with preparatory meetings and consultations starting at the end of November, about the question of post-secondary education funding.
Corruption inquiry exposes P3s
More revelations have been coming forward at the Charbonneau Commission, especially the testimony of ex-construction boss Lino Zambito which has implicated the Liberal party, as well as their political machines on the municipal level and construction firms, into a web of graft with the Mafia. Media headlines have focused on Montreal mayor Gérald Tremblay’s resignation, the implosion of his Union Montreal party, and now the Mayor of Laval quitting. But the Montreal Gazette has also said that Zambito reported “Public-private partnerships, the sort that are blooming in Quebec to yield hospitals, roads and cultural facilities, are fertile ground for corruption and collusion” because, once big consortiums are ‘awarded’ the contract, the only risk is held by the public sector. One of the biggest P3 projects in Quebec, the McGill University Health Centre, has long been a target of criticism by labour and is currently under police investigation.
QS co-spokesperson steps down
The long standing co-spokesperson of the left-wing political party Quebec Solidaire has stepped down. Amir Khadir was the first “Solidaire” elected to the Quebec National Assembly and the founding leader of the predecessor of QS, the Union of Progressive Forces – which was formed as a federation of left groups including the Communist Party of Quebec. Khadir will maintain his seat in the National Assembly. Québec solidaire's constitution requires two national spokespersons: one from the legislature and a second from outside it, called a "porte-parole extra-parlementaire", who is not an MNA. The latter also assumes the role of president of the party. A young person is expected to be chosen.