A few years ago, Québec solidaire was the main opposition party, “preparing to govern”, while the Parti Québécois was on its last legs. Today, having “moved to the center”, QS stagnates in the polls around an eternal 16 per cent. Meanwhile the PQ has risen from the ashes and leads the polls.

This is entirely the fault of QS leaders, who missed a golden opportunity.

The Coalition Avenir Québec’s honeymoon is definitely over, as scandals and decisions revealing its complete disregard for Quebec workers pile up. As muted anger rumbles against the rotten status quo, a left-wing party which offers workers radical solutions to the problems of capitalism in crisis could generate enormous enthusiasm. 

Instead, QS stubbornly plays into the PQ’s hands. In search of an elusive “center-left sovereignist” electorate, Québec solidaire constantly repeats the most narrow-minded nationalist rhetoric. 

In the “debate” on immigration, QS accepts the reactionary premise of the debate that there is a “problem” with immigration, rather than denouncing this distraction. QS MNA Guillaume Cliche-Rivard even echoed the nationalist right’s rhetoric that Quebec “has done its share”. He proposes to bus immigrants arriving in Quebec to other provinces, but rest assured, he says he will do so with “compassion”.

QS also pathetically repeated the CAQ and PQ’s complaints about Justin Trudeau’s refusal to give Quebec full control over immigration. As if QS didn’t understand that the CAQ and PQ are making a big deal out of this to stir up national divisions and win a few votes. 

Speaking of federal-provincial turf wars, QS MNAs echoed PQ rhetoric and railed against federal “encroachment” on provincial jurisdictions with the NDP’s new (and very meager) dental and pharmacare programs. Workers will be happy to know that QS is defending them against evil federal pharma and dental care plans.

While working people go hungry in shabby apartments, the party is putting more and more emphasis on independence. It has, for example, launched the “Nouveau Québec” campaign to promote independence. The consequence will be to push QS ever closer to the “sovereignist movement”… i.e., the Parti Québécois. 

MNA Sol Zanetti even made an Instagram post in which he rejoiced that the next election would be a “pre-referendum election” and that his “dearest dream is becoming more and more a reality”. Is he a PQ MP? Because the only thing he could be referring to is the prospect of the Parti Québécois taking power in the next election.

No wonder then that radicalized youth and workers are abandoning the party—all the more accelerating its transformation into yet another parliamentary party of careerist politicians. A recent email from a QS Regional Association to Montreal members gives a rather striking picture of the moribund state of the party’s internal life: it bore the headline “Québec solidaire Montréal 2024 AGM—Help us reach quorum”…! 

Meanwhile, the PQ is up in the polls, comfortably more than 10 points ahead of the CAQ in voting intentions. It’s likely that former PQ supporters who went to the CAQ in 2018 are simply returning to their old home. The tide really turned for the PQ when it took a principled stand against the oath to the King—while QS dithered limply.

This was far from inevitable.

It seems that Québec solidaire’s leaders studied at the Mulcair school of political strategy: copy your opponent’s policies in a way that’s insufficient to please their electoral base, but enough to alienate your own. With this brilliant strategy, Thomas Mulcair, at the helm of the NDP during the 2015 federal election campaign, managed the feat of wasting the huge enthusiasm for the party, which was first in the polls, and led it instead to a crushing defeat ending in third place.

But who wants the knock-off when the original is available? 

When Québec solidaire was founded in 2006 by a coalition of anti-capitalist groups and parties, it raised hopes it could become a genuine socialist party representing the Quebec working class. 

Since then, it has “moderated” under pressure from the capitalist establishment, gradually abandoning its anti-capitalist roots. 

Now that it can no longer generate the same enthusiasm, the party is looking for panaceas, and imagines that a nationalist turn will be its salvation. In the process, it is turning into a cheap copy of the PQ. On this road, Québec solidaire will find only defeat.