Quebec’s election is now its third week. Since the start, it has generated substantial coverage in ethnic media, in particular among the media that cater to Arab communities. Two stand out, namely Montreal’s Sada Al Mashrek (Echo of the Orient), an Arabic bimonthly with a Lebanese focus, and Atlas Montréal, a French-language bimonthly centred on Montréal’s Moroccan community.
In a number of editorials, Sada Al Mashrek looked at the participation of people of Arab origin in the political process. One piece noted that voters of Arab background have tended to be inactive in elections, but that trend appears to be changing among those born or raised in Quebec who are more politically aware and willing to exercise their rights as citizens. It cites the example of two Quebec Liberal Party candidates, Mohammed Barhone and Marwah Rizqy, both from Morocco. In their cases, their candidacy is not mere tokenism because they are running in ridings where they have good a chance of getting elected.
At the same time, the paper also focused on issues that are specific to Quebec, which newcomers might find hard to understand but might still affect them, like the ever-present existential fear of a small francophone society in English-speaking North America. One of the paper’s contributors, Habib Zaarour, writes that while independence or sovereignty is not on the agenda in this campaign, its surrogate—identity politics—is. Another article acknowledges that so much revolves around competing views of what Quebec is and what the province must do to preserve its unique culture in an increasingly multicultural environment in a huge country like Canada. The question for Arab communities is how they can grasp all this while contributing to Quebec’s political and economic future.
The other paper, Atlas Montréal, focused on specific issues, namely gender, fixed date elections and immigration. It noted for example that women appear to have closed the gender gap, at least, in terms of representation since almost half (45.7%) of all candidates are women, a historic record, a trend, the paper attributes to the fact that women are better educated in general and better educated than men, hence attractive human capital for the various parties.
Turning to the election as a process, the paper cited Laval University political scientist Marc-André Bodet, who believes that a fixed date means less uncertainty and arbitrariness in the electoral process and more advantages to opposition parties who can better prepare themselves. But a fixed date also means a long pre-election campaign and government pre-election announcements geared to favour the ruling party.
Atlas-Montréal also covered the first unofficial leaders’ debate at Montreal’s Concordia University. One of the topics that saw sparks fly was Legault’s proposal to refuse Canadian citizenship to immigrants who fail to pass a French-language test. In defending his case, the CAQ leader François Legault noted that the PQ proposes language tests for immigrants before they come to the province.
As the campaign unfolds, MIREMS will continue to monitor ethnic media for their coverage of the election and present the various ethnic perspectives in the matter.
Written by Pierre Rossi