To no great surprise, after weeks of pointless media chatter, we are headed towards a provincial election in five weeks. Given all the pre-announcement posturing, the only uncertainty was the precise date.

Now we know. Those of us who still persist in voting will be doing so on April 7, 2014.

We older folks are hoping that the climatological “polar vortex” will have lifted by then so the exercise of our franchise will be less physically painful.

The superstitious may take heart that the groundhog-predicted six weeks of deep freeze should have ended by then. The more cynical among us, on the other hand, are wishing that somehow the political class will have learned from the “Groundhog Day” movie that the point is to remedy one’s previous mistakes day by day and become decent human beings in the process.

Fat chance! The political animal seems to be a species apart, or at least a sub-species rather different from your ordinary citizen. We citizens have signalled overwhelmingly that what we want from our governments as a society is human decency for all and a reasonable modicum of moral probity on the part of our governors.

The political machines of the three parties with a snowball’s chance of forming a government, on the other hand, are much of a muchness—all equally determined to run on evasions, cover-ups and downright lies to the public, combined with an orthodox “screw the poor” austerity agenda designed to attract the more affluent who can put money into party coffers, assured that the bread cast on those waters will be returned tenfold when the party gets in and defunds yet more of the social contract with the general public.

We of the Internet-savvy “chattering classes” have had more than enough to say about the separation vs. federalism split, the rather different division over the so-called “secular charter,” and the odds that yet more people will be heading west on the 401 over the Quebec economy.

The contingent that speaks out about such matters as the the environmental risks inherent in the “Plan Nord” of the Quebec Liberal Party, the potential exploitation of Anticosti fossil fuels (PQ and PLQ alike), and the “cut taxes and regulations” agenda of the Coalition Avenir Quebec is considerably smaller. None of the three major parties makes much pretense of caring about the future impacts of a short-term, unsustainable exploitation of resources. None of them pays more than lip-service to such matters as the ongoing desperate shortage of family doctors, affordable housing, mental health services, worker health and safety…

Well, after all, we all know households with incomes of $90,000 a year and up have the means to avoid those inconveniences and would rather see public money go into private-sector pockets, if it has to be paid to the taxman in the first place. We also know how short-sighted political calculations (like their financial counterparts) pay off quickly, and the “apres moi, le Deluge” approach has been so heavily promoted as the very soul of capitalism that thinking even ten years ahead is unthinkable.

The upshot is that the chill is on, and likely to continue well beyond April 7th, no matter who gets how many seats. Pollsters aside, nobody can safely predict exactly how the vote will split, given the multiple issues over which real live Quebecois voters are divided, and the nature of our first-past-the-post system guarantees that the ignorant resident of St-Jean-de-Rubber-Boot counts for more than the struggling single mother or disabled worker or “new Canadian” living in Montreal.
Besides, the investing classes tend to live outside the metropolis so their already-well-vested interests get an additional boost from riding boundaries and the tit-for-tat rule of politics encourages them to spend some of their disposable income on politicians’ campaigns.

In other words, the less-affluent half of the Quebec population go into this election knowing full well that whoever does form the government, their own “polar vortex” will continue to freeze them out. The only candidates who truly speak for their interests are found in the “fringe” parties like the Parti Vert and Quebec Solidaire or running as independents with little hope of winning and still less of influencing policy over the next few years. We may be picking up our half the tab for the $80 million plus this election will cost but that won’t be buying us a thing.

My advice: invest what cash you’ve got in rice and beans and canned goods (the winter of *our* discontent is long from over), vote for the local candidate who shows any sign that human decency might trump political expediency, and make a point of telling the winners what you want them to do. If enough of us do that, in the long run it will be in their interest to listen. It wouldn’t hurt to give some thought to proportional representation, either: it would be nice if everyone’s vote counted equally for a change.

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