Anglophones tend to have a very one-dimensional view of the people who support the Parti Québécois. The stereotype is someone who’s not very intellectual, irrationally separatist, and xenophobic. To be fair, that’s unfair to the majority of the party’s supporters, and some of their candidates as well. To get a better understanding of the Péquiste mind, I spoke with Marcos Archambault, the twenty-one year old PQ candidate for Vaudreuil, a riding just off the island of Montreal. Archambault attended a public English elementary school and a private high school in Westmount; he is trilingual and currently studying translation at the Université de Montréal. Here is my conversation with him.
You’ve been with the PQ for a long time and you ran with them in the 2012 election. Why do you support the party?
Because it’s a social-democratic party. It looks out for the better needs of the citizens and supporting them with social programs that meet their needs. It’s a party of ideas and it’s a party that comes from the members: the program and the platform comes from the members. Members of the party can come up to the microphone and say whatever they want. It’s purely based on what the members want. That’s one of the reasons why I support the PQ: the structure of the party is logical and it comes from the grassroots.
Secondly, it’s a party that has a future and a vision for Quebec. I’m not a great fan of the status quo because we’re very caught up with issues like the debt and the Liberals propose no change to the status quo. We have a vision for the future, for the economy of Quebec. We want to enrich Quebec with jobs and the government has been doing well so far in that matter. Forty-seven thousand jobs have been created, and 27,000 of those jobs are full time paying jobs. If you look at the Liberal governments from 2003 to 2012, they have a horrible track record when it comes to jobs. We’re creating conditions to help entrepreneurship. And I think that’s what’s important to Quebecers in this election.
But one of the main reasons I support them, and the raison-d’être of the PQ, is Quebec sovereignty. You can’t talk about the PQ without talking about sovereignty. It’s a very interesting project for the future of Quebec. I think it deserves Quebecers’ attention because the sovereignty project includes all Quebecers, not only Francophone Quebecers but Anglophone Quebecers—they need to feel that they can have a place and a say in a new country. I think that’s a fabulous project. We have to be honest with each other here: we have to recognize that fundamentally, Quebec is different from the rest of Canada. There is a significant difference. I’ve traveled across Canada and I can tell you that difference as soon as I step off the plane. Based on values, we’re different. On every single level Quebecers are different, and I think it’s hard for someone to ignore that.
You say PQ members are social-democrats, but recently it seems the party has taken a more pragmatic and traditional route. Why not support Québec Solidaire instead?
In my opinion, Québec Solidaire isn’t a sovereignist party. Their leftist-socialist priorities are too extreme and will never meet Quebecers’ needs.
You’re saying an independent Quebec would be very open and inclusive to everyone, but what’s your take on the Charter of Values? Doesn’t that take away the rights of people to wear certain types of clothing? How does that fit into the PQ’s vision of a country?
We have to be careful with the words that we use like ‘taking away rights,’ because nothing stops a person that practices a religion from believing what they believe. But there’s a fundamental principle in Quebec where we have evolved over decades to accept that the state is secular. It started with taking religions out of schools. We gradually took religion and religious instruction out of schools because religion is a personal and a private issue and it’s a personal conviction.
Being neutral on religion doesn’t favour one religion over another and people who work for the state and represent the Quebec government have to also comply with that neutrality. When we wear religious symbols, there’s a message that comes with it, and all those values that are associated with the religion in question are transmitted.
I don’t think anyone could disagree on equality between people of different religions. That’s why we’re doing the Charter, providing equality of treatment towards people of different religion so that no one receives special favours that shouldn’t be made. It’s a principle, and we live in a democracy where everyone is entitled to their own point of view, people are allowed to criticise the Charter, that’s the beauty of democracy.
I can tell you that I’ve been going to my riding just about every day since the beginning of the campaign, and the people I meet in the streets, whether they’re Péquiste, Caquiste, Liberal, Anglophone, Francophone, Allophone – there’s a good number of them, I’d say the majority of them, that want the Charter.
Do you think the Charter is the most important issue of the election?
I can tell you that I am a representative of the PQ in Veudreuil because I want Quebec to adopt a Charter of Values because Quebecers see that we’re at a certain point where we have to cross this path. It’s for society and we have to accept the fact that it’s beneficial for the society and will help promote social cohesion among all Quebecers. People who wear religious symbols will see that this Charter is beneficial to them too.
A lot of people have accused us of being inspired by the French policies but it’s completely false. All we’re asking is that the employees remove their religious symbols on their hours of work, only while they’re working. They can wear them after, but it sends a clear message that when you represent the state, there’s no religious symbols. It’s true that workers have rights and some people will be disappointed by the Charter. In politics you can’t please everyone, but in general the people who are using the services of the Quebec government and going to the hospital and get served for their driver’s license renewal have rights too. If Quebecers want a neutral environment in their relations with the government, we have to respect that too. Quebecers using the services are much more numerous than Quebecers serving Quebecers.
Should that be applied to the private sector?
The private sector right now shouldn’t be touched by the Charter of Values because, as Minister Bernard Drainville said, it’s a Charter to affirm our values in the relationship the government has with its citizens. The government has no say really when it comes to private enterprise.
The majority of Quebecers want the Charter, so we’ll do everything we can so that they can get it. That’s what a government does; it responds to the needs of the population. A government who acts against its population and creates conflict, like we saw before the last election in the student crisis in 2012—that’s a government that doesn’t listen to its population. Our government has respected the needs of the population, and it comes to the same with the Charter.
I thought it would be interesting to talk to you since you went through the English school system. What are your thoughts on Francophone parents having the choice of where to send their kids to school?
I went to an English public elementary school and then I went to Selwyn House in Westmount. My mom was sent to English school when she was young, and, because of that, she can transfer that right over to me. So I was able to go to Selwyn House and it’s a school that I really enjoyed and it’s a community that I really respect. I still sometimes drop in and say hi to the teachers. But to get back to your question, Anglophones have that choice, because the government guarantees that people can be taught in the mother tongue.
But it has to be clear that the official language in Quebec is French. It’s as simple as that. Eighty per cent of Quebecers speak French. And if you look at the government in the past 18 months, we kept intensive English programs in grade six classrooms. If I’m not mistaken, there are kids who can go through a large portion of their school year in English classes to learn a second language. It’s beneficial to know a second language, or a third or a fourth. So that’s great. I speak three languages and there’s not a day where I regret it.
But it’s very important to distinguish individual bilingualism from public bilingualism. We have to realize that Quebec is the only French speaking society in North America and make up two per cent of the population, we have to give ourselves tools to preserve that, and Bill 101 is one like that. I think Anglophones recognize that too. They recognize that part of who they are and where they live and what makes it special is that we speak French here. It’s rich for Quebec and helps us in every way, even tourism. I don’t think Bill 101 has hurt anyone in Quebec.
In your riding in the last election, the PQ only won 21% of the vote. But 33% of the population is Anglophone, a key demographic you could tap. Why should Anglophones vote for you?
Because I’m going to serve them. Because Anglophones have to realize that they are in Quebec and that they are different and they make part of what Quebec is. They’re just as Quebecer as anyone else.
I encourage Anglophones to take part in politics and to have a say. If I’m elected in Vaudreuil, I will serve Anglophones too. I mean, I’m trilingual, I can converse and talk and represent the preoccupations of the Anglophone community and it’s all to their advantage and it’s all to my advantage. I will serve the whole Vaudreuil population if I win, not just the people who voted for me. It’s very important to realize that.
Thirty-three per cent of the population is significant, and it’s important for me to solicit the Anglophone vote because I can represent them. I have projects for the riding like building the hospital. I think everyone wants to see that hospital being built. For the past 15 years, we’ve been talking about a hospital and the Liberals have always been elected in the region and the hospital hasn’t gone anywhere. When the Liberals were in power, the hospital wasn’t even budgeted, there wasn’t a piece of land selected to build this hospital, and Vaudreuil is the only suburb around Montreal without a hospital. If you have to travel to Montreal for a hospital in an emergency, you might not make it in the ambulance. It’s a question of life and death. And I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure the people of Vaudreuil have a hospital as soon as possible. And I have the courage and determination to go as far as I can so that the hospital actually gets built. That’s what’s important to me.
All my actions in the riding will take into account my goal to improve the quality of life of my constituents. That’s the job of an MNA. I’m here for all Quebecers.
This interview was edited and condensed for the purposes of clarity and succinctness.
Original article posted HERE