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Editorial: Who will lead us through these critical times?

With a new Quebec government about to be elected, and as the Harper government in Ottawa stumbles in its first weeks, we have a message for our readers and politicians alike: This is no time for adventurism.

We see the world economy teetering from crisis to crisis, we watch our savings dry up, and more than ever we need strong, stable, sensible government. That is why the Quebec Liberal Party under Jean Charest is the best choice in this provincial election. Yes, the Liberals take voters in west-end Montreal for granted. Still, there are some excellent candidates and with them we still have some clout.

The alternative, as far as having the required number of seats to form a government, is the Parti Québécois under Pauline Marois. With their social-democratic stream, they can be effective in opposition. But the last thing Quebec needs right now is a party committed to breaking up the country taking power, even if the PQ has shelved for now a referendum that would enable such a cataclysmic process to begin.

We dismiss Mario Dumont and his ADQ because they want to go too far, too fast in enabling private health care, and other ill thought-out policies, such as dismantling school boards. We like the Green Party and its call for a saner approach to the deterioration of our environment.

We also appreciate Québec Solidaire and its fight for social justice with such policies as raising the minimum wage from $8.50 to $10.50 and indexing it to the cost of living so the working poor can survive. But between both parties, only Dr. Amir Khadir in Mercier riding has a chance of being elected and we would welcome his defeating the PQ’s Daniel Turp there. If Jean Charest does get a majority this time, we have confidence he will be well placed to get the English super hospital built, reinforce our health care system and maintain our universities with gradual and relatively slight $50-a-semester increases in tuition, which will remain the lowest in Canada.

Stephen Harper, on the other hand, did not get the majority he hoped for when he broke his commitment to fixed elections every four years. He lost it because of miscalculations in Quebec, especially the $35 million in cuts to grants for culture that to many revealed the government bias inherent in his ideology.

Then, without a clear mandate, he tried to pull what can only be described as a dirty trick: Instead of announcing spending programs to stimulate the economy and help hard-hit manufacturing and forestry, his finance minister tried to insert more right-wing ideology. Jim Flaherty had the nerve to attempt first to deny civil servants the right to strike for three years, and second, to cut the $1.95 per vote subsidy to political parties. Both these proposals have since been withdrawn.

On the first point, there is no justification at this time for denying workers, be they in the public or private sector, the right to withdraw their work as a pressure tactic in contract negotiations, except when public safety is involved. As for the crisis around the subsidies to political parties, the Conservatives were beating a hasty retreat in an attempt to avoid being defeated on a confidence motion. This could have set in motion a bid by the opposition parties to cobble together a coalition. The alternative is another costly federal election, surely not in anyone’s interest, including the Liberals as they prepare to replace Stéphane Dion. Harper’s ploy has backfired, revealing a manipulative streak that this country could do without. We would prefer a cooperative approach, one that takes into account that this still is a minority government, and inspires, rather than reeking of rank opportunism.



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