Quebec politics are never simple. Navigating the shark-infested waters of language politics, sovereignty, and economic crises would unnerve even the most experienced politician. No one would call the Québec Solidaire inexperienced after nearly 15 years of campaigning but for a party that's seemingly in touch with the concerns of young people, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, Manon Massé, and the entire Québec Solidaire crew still have tons of uncharted waters to navigate.
While Québec Solidaire's platform is rather straight-forward and has clear goals, the party has a hard time convincing the population.
Nadeau-Dubois isn't worried, however. For him, Québec Solidaire's "new vision" for Quebec sets it apart.
This vision includes an increased social safety net, a strong environmental policy, and yes, even Quebec's independence or as he calls it, "Quebec's right to self-determination."
And now, in an era of economic uncertainty brought on by a worsening global pandemic, Nadeau-Dubois and Québec Solidaire believe it's their time to take up the mantle and lead the province into a new era.
MTL Blog sat down with Nadeau-Dubois to discuss everything from the sovereignty issue, the pandemic, and the housing crisis.
Questions and responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.
If there was a Québec Solidaire government, how would you have handled the pandemic better?
The main vulnerability of Quebec society that was exploited by the virus was happening for more than 20 years.
Budget after budget, we have reduced the importance that we put in public services, especially the health care system. It's been years that the government has known that this problem existed and we did nothing.
There is an unbelievable disconnect between the official message and the reality on the ground.
That disconnect is for me and for Québec Solidaire, the main problem that has to be solved now that we are at the dawn of a new wave of COVID-19.
What would Québec Solidaire do to rebuild the economy and to make sure that we're better equipped to deal with a humanitarian crisis?
We think now that there is an opportunity — and it's tragic that opportunity had to come with the pandemic — to rebuild the Quebec economy in a new way.
This means strengthening our social safety net, reinvesting massively to decentralize all health care systems, and to make sure that the first solution that we propose to elderly people when they have health problems is not to put them in a CHSLD but to bring resources into their homes and take care of them.
Essential workers are the backbone of our economy and they deserved to be paid better than a minimum wage that is not enough to be above the level of poverty.
A lot of young Montrealers are really enthusiastic about your platform. But they're hesitant to support Québec Solidaire because of the sovereignty issue. What do you have to say to those people?
The thing that I want to say to those people is that you have to separate the old conceptions of independence.
What really differentiates our project of independence of the ideas put forward by the Parti Québecois for years, is that for independence, in order to have its full potential, has to be a project of social and political transformation.
It's inconceivable to realize Quebec's independence without a strong and honest alliance with First Nations. It's not a contradiction that we are a sovereigntist party and also the party that is I think, one of the best allies of Indigenous people in Quebec.
Unfortunately in the last decade or so there has been a shift towards a less inclusive and more conservative idea of Quebec independence. That's one of the things we're trying to fight.
For us, independence is a project that is oriented towards the future and towards the creation of a better society for every Quebecer, no matter their origin, the colour of their skin or where they come from.
For the QS, is there a solution to the housing crisis and if there is one, how are you going to accomplish it?
The situation of the housing market in Quebec in general and more specifically in Montreal is very disturbing. I think it is a national emergency.
It's a collective responsibility of the government to make sure that everyone can live not only with a roof over their head but with dignity and without being impoverished by the price of that roof.
The Quebec and Canadian governments have to reach a deal to give considerable investments in social housing. Not only social housing for the poorest people of Quebec but also social housing for the middle class and for families in Montreal. We need to get away from the idea that social housing is only for people that are the poorest of the poor.
The fact that there is no plan, no action, no concern whatsoever about that issue at the CAQ is a clear sign that there is a complete disconnect between that government and the reality of Montrealers.
A strong investment in social housing is also an ecological policy because by making sure that people can financially stay inside cities, you actually stop the proliferation of suburban areas.
If you are looking for somewhere to live with two or three children in Montreal, you better be rich or you better have a very good job because it is not easy at all.