Strength in Democracy party taps into voter dissatisfaction with main parties

Canadians may be surprised to learn there is a sixth federal party vying for their vote with a slate of candidates that includes three incumbents — the same as the Greens and two more than the Bloc Québécois.

The party's slate includes 3 incumbents and two candidates from outside Quebec

Jean-François Larose was elected in 2011 under the NDP banner in the Montreal riding of Repentigny but defected from the party last fall. He joined forces with Jean-François Fortin, an ex-Bloc Québécois, to launch Strength in Democracy. (strengthindemocracy.ca)

Canadians may be surprised to learn there is a sixth federal party vying for their vote with a slate of candidates that includes three incumbents — the same as the Greens and two more than the Bloc Québécois.

Strength in Democracy, otherwise known in Quebec as Forces et Démocratie, wants to give its MPs more independence to represent their regions' interests in Ottawa.

The party was created last fall by two Quebec MPs with a third incumbent from la belle province recently joining their ranks.

With a slate of 12 candidates so far — including one from Ontario and another from Newfoundland and Labrador — and three more to be announced this week, Strength in Democracy leader Jean-François Fortin announced the launch of the party's English website earlier this week.

Jean-François Fortin is the leader of Strength in Democracy, a new federal party he launched with Jean-François Larose. Fortin was elected in 2011 under the sovereigntist banner of the Bloc Québécois. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Fortin was elected in 2011 under the Bloc Québécois banner in the riding of Haute–Gaspésie–La Mitis–Matane–Matapédia. He left the separatist party last August and sat as an Independent for two months before launching Forces et Démocratie. He is running in the same riding again this election.

Neither federalist or sovereigntist

Jean-François Larose, who was elected in 2011 under the New Democratic Party banner in the Montreal riding of Repentigny, quit in Oct. 2014 to join Fortin.

The two recently welcomed Manon Perreault, who was also elected under the NDP banner during the orange wave that swept la belle province in 2011. She was found guilty in July of mischief after she falsely accused a former employee of theft — a ruling she is appealing.

In a wide-ranging phone interview with CBC News, Larose said the startup party was born out of a dissatisfaction with a parliamentary system that gives party leaders too much power, leaving backbench MPs with tightly-controlled scripts and little say in how they represent their constituents in Ottawa.

'If you want to elect someone that is a puppet... that's not what I'm offering.' -  Jean-François   Larose , president of Strength in Democracy

"If you want to elect someone that is a puppet," said Larose, "that's not what I'm offering. But if you want to have MPs that have the freedom to really do their work, I think the choice is very clear."

Larose is not running in Repentigny where he was elected but has chosen instead to run in the Montreal riding of La Pointe-de-l'Île, where his former caucus colleague Ève Péclet is the incumbent.

This is also where Mario Beaulieu, former Bloc Québécois leader, is running as a candidate. His short time as the leader of the BQ was mired with internal party strife before Gilles Duceppe came out of retirement to replace him in June.

While a vote for Larose may very well eat into the support of both the NDP and the BQ, Larose said that Strength in Democracy is neither a federalist party nor a sovereigntist one.

"We're neither," said Larose on Wednesday. "We're a regionalist party."

'No oilsands — period'

At its core, Strength in Democracy is a left-of-centre, progressive party that would consult widely to arrive at a consensus before declaring itself on policy issues.

CBC News asked Larose for his position on a wide range of issues from the economy, the environment and energy, to the Canadian mission against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Among other positions, Larose said he was against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and the Kinder Morgan pipeline. He also opposes the Energy East pipeline because "citizens don't want it, it's not clean, it's dangerous and it's high-risk."

He agreed with the assessment by NDP candidate Linda McQuaig that if Canada is to meet its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions "oilsands oil may have to stay in the ground."

"I'd go even further, I think there should be absolutely no oilsands — period," Larose said. "I'm sorry but it's an environmental catastrophe... creating jobs is one thing but when you do it to a point where you destroy your planet, to me that is absolutely unacceptable especially coming from Canada."

A responsible government, Larose said, would look to reducing its dependence on oil and gas and focus on developing and investing in alternate sources of energy.

Strength in Democracy president Jean-François Larose also had this to say:

  • On the party's priorities: Democratic reform and regional empowerment
  • On raising income taxes: Canadians are "too taxed" and deserve better services for the amount of taxes they pay.
  • On reducing taxes for small businesses: "They certainly need more help than they get right now."
  • On imposing a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system: "People are overtaxed so a carbon tax is something I worry about."
  • On the Senate: Reform it, don't abolish it. "All senators should be independent." He would support Justin Trudeau's plan to have an arm's length, expert panel appoint future senators.
  • On the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, the Kinder Morgan pipeline and Energy East: "No," to all three.
  • On the Canadian mission against ISIS in Iraq and Syria: "I don't think Canada should be in a position to bomb or to kill. I think before that we should contain."
  • On Quebec sovereignty: "No, absolutely not."

If Canadians elect a minority government in the fall, Larose said Strength in Democracy MPs could play a key by setting aside partisan bickering and working with other parties to pass legislation in everyone's interests.

The startup party counts at least 5,000 members and hopes to run a slate of 40 candidates ahead of the federal election on Oct. 19.


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