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PAH: A conversation with Luc Harvey, leader of the Conservative Party of Quebec

The Conservative Party of Quebec has more campaign posters in some parts of Montreal and the South Shore than both Option Nationale and Québec Solidaire, but receives hardly any media attention. The PCQ was formed in 2009 and boasts over 700 members. They have 27 candidates running in the September 4th election under the leadership of Luc Harvey, a former Member of Parliament for the federal Conservatives. I interviewed Mr. Harvey to get a better idea of where the party stands.

Why resurrect the Conservative Party in Quebec?

I was in France when the financial problems began in Greece. Here in Canada, the media didn’t show how big the problem was in Greece and now you see this type of problem in Spain and in France. When the debt is out of control, we lose our ability to make our own decisions; bankers will make our decisions for us if we don’t move. It is the reason why Daniel Petit and I took the decision to go ahead with the Conservative Party of Quebec. That’s the base of the story.

What is the main difference between your party and the CAQ?

The CAQ was on the right at the beginning, now they’re on the left. They are proposing extra spending close to four billion dollars when we know the debt is completely out of control. They know they are making this promise and they know they will not be able to support it and deliver it because it’s impossible. They take the voter to be stupid enough to believe in this kind of promise. They have no right wing positions anymore. You don’t know if they’re federalists and you don’t know if they sovereignists. Mr. Legault was a hard line PQ supporter for 40 years and now he’s ready to vote No in a referendum? The CAQ is the PQ 2.0. It’s the same thing. They’re a bit more to the right, but they’re center-left.

So you believe the CAQ started off as a right-of-centre party?

When you say ‘a right party’, you say it’s less state, less civil service, more liberty, but François Legault is for a strong state. He made some commentary like ‘we should take the control of our companies, and when the cleanup will be done, we’ll start to talk about independence again.’ It’s like a serial killer, he can’t be rehabilitated. In ten years, the Conservative Party will still be there and the CAQ will be done. It’s a prediction because, what are they there for? The PQ is there for the independence of the province of Quebec, but at least they have a clear position. What is a clear position by the CAQ? For education, they want to shut down school boards, but they’ll take that money and they give that in an extra 20% salary for the teachers. You take from Jean-Marc and you give it to Paul, it’s no change.

The Conservative Party of Canada only received 16.5% of the vote in Quebec in 2011. As a provincial party with similar federalist policies, how will your party try to connect more with Quebeckers?

First of all, a lot of people think we’re the same thing, but when we talk about the Liberal Party of Canada and the Liberal Party of Quebec, it’s not the same. It’s not supposed to be the same thing when we talk about the Conservative Party. Its two different administrations and two different leaders. I have a lot of respect for Mr. Harper, but we are making our own decisions.

Is there one policy of Mr. Harper’s that you disagree with?

If I have an issue with Mr. Harper, it would be spending power in provincial jurisdictions. If we are able to fix the federal government’s intervention, I think for the PQ it would be finished. They would no longer have any issues to defend. The fiscal imbalance and the power to expand in provincial jurisdiction could be fixed and it would not only be good for the province of Quebec but for the rest of Canada too. Just look at health. It is a provincial jurisdiction, but the federal government has something like 18,000 civil servants working for Health Canada. That doesn’t make sense. Just give the money to the provinces and each province will be able to give good services. It’s the kind of jurisdiction that the federal government has nothing to do with.

I noticed that the party still doesn’t have an English website or an official language policy, so –

We have somebody who’s working to fix a bug on our website, but our website is already translated in English and it should be available soon. Everything was done in English, it was very important to me. My wife is English, and because of this we got the chance to choose which schools our kids would go to. I have two kids in an English college and university – as you know I have six children – and we have one kid in French school because it’s important for him to learn French correctly. We need people who are able to speak both languages, I believe in that very strongly. Our population would be much better if we were able to speak two languages. The kinds of positions we hear from the PQ are completely crazy in 2012.

Do you see any need for the French language to be protected by Bill 101 type laws?

I want to be sure that the English population understands that Quebec was so strong when we were able to work together. Quebec was the leader in Canada, Montreal was the metropolis of this country, and now Montreal has lost everything. I spent a lot of time in Africa and you could be in a third world country to see these kinds of roads, bridges and tunnels. It’s completely crazy and it’s unacceptable.

What are the party’s realistic expectations for this election?

Our goal for this election was to explain to the population that the Conservative Party of Quebec is now there and that we are the real alternative for the right-wing voters in the province. That is our first goal. Our second goal is to position ourselves and explain our positions. But it is hard at the moment. The media just aren’t interested in us. My expectation today is a minority government and when Mr. Charest will be in trouble with the Commisson Charbonneau – maybe in February or in March – we will go again in an election. If we can have four or five candidates elected in September, it will be perfect start for the next election.

What would you say to people who would consider voting for the Conservatives, but choose instead to vote strategically to block a certain party?

Some people really don’t want to see Jean Charest back and they will vote for the party they’re sure will kick them out. For others, it’s the PQ, and for other’s it’s the CAQ. I think to vote in function of your convictions would be the better choice. That will help the party that will give you the real opportunity to change and to help the party that will be able to take a right position in the province. We haven’t seen a right position in the province for the last 40 years. The ADQ mixed some right positions with some left positions, but when you make a left and a right position at the same time, you will be in contradiction. When you start to be in contradiction, you lose your credibility. It’s the reason you can’t be in the middle. You can’t have a bigger and a smaller government at the same time.

In all the party’s campaign signs, the candidates wear a striped coloured square on their lapel, a play on the student protester’s red square. What does your square mean to you?

For the moment we don’t really want to talk about that because there’s no more debate on the red squares, but our slogan in English is ‘A Square Fit’ and ‘Carrément mieux’ in French. It’s a kind of way to bring the discussion towards reconstruction of the province. There’s no reason to see Quebec so weak in Canada and so weak financially. If Quebec is a country tomorrow, we will be the country with the fifth largest debt in the world, it’s unacceptable. I have six kids and it’s not the kind of heritage that I want to leave to my kids.

You can see more of the Conservative Party platform by clicking here.

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