The Quebec Election: A Historic Moment!

September 7, 2012, 2:20 PM EST

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By Sylvain Martin, CAW Quebec Director

The date of September 4, 2012 will go down in Quebec history as both a happy and a sad day. It was a happy day, because for the first time in Quebec history, a woman was elected premier. Congratulations are due to Ms. Marois for her election. You may recall that, barely six months ago, many people were predicting that Pauline Marois wouldn't even make it past the holidays, notably due to unrest within the party coupled with the defection of several of its members. She successfully overcame all these challenges and we can be thankful for the tenacity and leadership shown by Ms. Marois.

However, September 4 will also go down as a sad day in Quebec history because of the deadly attack targeting Pauline Marois and what she represents. The future will reveal the underlying motives of this crazed individual. These actions must be strongly denounced and, especially, we must all keep in mind that one worker was injured and another killed for no reason at all.

The outcome of the election is nothing short of surprising. Nobody would have predicted such a strong showing by the Liberals, particularly considering that just before the election was called, poll after poll revealed record levels of dissatisfaction with their party. And what about the CAQ, which steadily increased its support during the campaign to stand at 29% in the end? As for the PQ, it conducted a stable campaign but was not able to rise as high in the polls as hoped. Finally, with an expert hand, Françoise David was able to rise to the challenge during the leaders' debate and to take the riding of Nicolas Girard, a highly appreciated PQ MNA.

In the days ahead, we can expect a series of analyses of the election results accompanied by a succession of speculations - the famous "What ifs.?" What if the left-wing vote had rallied? What if the CAQ hadn't wrested seats away from the Liberals? What if the Charbonneau Commission had been held before the election? If! If! If! For my part, I'll leave the speculation up to the political analysts and armchair quarterbacks. Just for fun, I'll allow myself one or two, but I'd especially like to talk about the future.

We are coming off an election and this is the best time to prepare for the next one. An election is like a collective agreement. As soon as it is signed, a serious bargaining committee gets to work preparing its renewal on a daily basis - and that's how it should be done. We need to prepare now to avoid meeting at the start of the next election campaign faced with the dilemma of knowing full well that, as a labour organization, it is our duty to get involved in the campaign, to analyze the political programs and to make recommendations to our members, while knowing that we can't tell them who to vote for because experience has shown us that this formula doesn't work. They expect our recommendations to be backed by solid arguments.

The challenge I am proposing is that we get a head start by politicizing our members right now, that we discuss with them the political issues we are faced with on a daily basis and that we defend the idea that a union that is not politically active neglects an important part of its mission as a force for change in society, because all political decisions directly affect not only our daily lives, but also our lives at work.

A union that doesn't get involved in politics can be compared to a union that doesn't negotiate occupational health and safety clauses in its members' collective agreements. No responsible union would ever think of doing such a thing.

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