PQ, secular charter defeat celebrated in Montreal

If the Parti Québécois mission was to “divide and rule” with its secular charter, it failed last night. Now members of the Montreal community want to focus on more important issues, like education.

EMSB and ASSÉ want to bring different education issues back to forefront with new Liberal government

PQ leader Pauline Marois takes the stage after her party was defeated in the provincial election Monday April 7, 2014 in Montreal. Marois lost her seat in Charlevoix-Cote-de-Beaupré to Liberal candidate Caroline Simard. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

If the Parti Québécois mission was to “divide and rule” with its secular charter, as Shaheen Ashraf of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women put it, it failed last night.

The PQ and its now-former leader Pauline Marois were handed a crushing defeat when the final numbers of the 2014 Quebec election were tallied.

Ashraf told CBC Daybreak host Mike Finnerty on Tuesday morning that she couldn’t be happier to see the result of the election and the demise, at least for now, of Bill 60.

“[I’m] elated. I know democracy works. The people have spoken, chosen, and I am really happy that Quebecers are not racist. I have my confidence back,” said Ashraf, the secretary of the Montreal chapter of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women.

PQ was ‘irresponsible’ with charter

Former Bloc Québécois MP and president Indépendantistes pour une laïcité inclusive Jean Dorion said the PQ is now paying for some major miscalculations it made when it bet on Bill 60.

We’re not about to celebrate the return of a Liberal majority government.- Bejamin Gingras, ASSÉ 

The division created by Bill 60, when it was leaked in August 2013, was believed by many to be an invented wedge issue meant to send Quebec into an identity crisis that would eventually pave the way to a referendum.

"Of course some people have misconceptions about intercultural relations and about the Muslims especially who were the main target of the [secular charter]," Dorion said.

"I think you can exploit that or you can try to diffuse that when you are a responsible government," he continued, adding that the PQ had been “irresponsible.”

Couillard unites anti-charter contingent

Ashraf said the charter debate made her feel uncomfortable in Quebec and prompted her to consider leaving. Now that the PQ has been defeated, she said she feels at home once again.

“We all have our languages, and we all have our ways of dressing and we all have our different cultures, but we work together,” Ashraf said.

Her message echoed the words of incoming premier Philippe Couillard, who repeatedly touched on bringing Quebecers together in his victory speech last night.

Angela Mancini, chairwoman of the English Montreal School Board, said she was also pleased to see a majority government, and a Liberal one at that.

She said she hopes the Liberal win will kill Bill 60 “as we’ve known it,” and is now looking forward to having a new education minister to work with.

“We were disappointed education has taken a bit of a back [seat],” Mancini said.

Education put on the back burner

ASSÉ student union spokesman Benjamin Gingras told CBC Daybreak that he, too, was disappointed about education being relegated to the back burner during the 2014 campaign.

The student union organized a large demonstration against austerity last week that brought with it underpinnings of the 2012 student protests that stretched on for nearly six months.

“Education was so absent as an issue in the electoral campaign that it’s hard to know what [Couillard’s] plans are. All we know is that he is in favour of indexation, but we don’t know the rest,” Gingras said.

Gingras said he wasn’t surprised by — or pleased with — the Liberal win.

"We’re not about to celebrate the return of a Liberal majority government," Gingras said.

However, he said, he would have been just as unhappy with a new PQ government. 

“[The PQ] showed contempt toward the population,” he said, referring to Bill 60 and economic austerity measures. ​

“In either case, we will be in the streets,” Gingras continued.