Sunday, April 22, 2012

Oligarchic Rule Begets Crisis of Legitimacy in Quebec

In a democracy, there is a consensus that the rule of the majority is legitimate. Those who disagree with the will of the majority must respect the fact that they are in the minority and go along with the desires of the majority.

However, what happens when political decisions are made by a minority that has attained its status as the ruling oligarchy by fraudulent means?

Are those who disagree with the decisions made by an oligarchy that has obtained the power in such a way obliged to respect those decisions?

This is the nature of the social unrest that is fueling the violence of the university and college student strike in protest of a 75% rise in their tuition fees.

Keep in mind that from the Quebec point of view any comparisons to tuition fees in the rest of North America is moot since post-secondary education in France as in other European countries is free. Obviously, whether or not to charge tuition fees for post-secondary education represents a societal choice. As a result, how this decision gets made is of utmost importance for those who are affected, students, parents, and the society at large.

Remember the furor over the MacLeans magazine cover that touted Quebec as the most corrupt province in Canada. Well, the dust has settled and for most of us living here in Quebec there is little doubt that this indeed our reality. The only question that remains to be answered is how far and how deep does the corruption go?

From what we can tell so far, the entire political system is rotten to the core. Groups of individuals, including politicians (municipal and provincial), lobbyists, directors of engineering firms and construction companies, union representatives, and members of the criminal element actively collude to defraud the public under the guise of public works projects. It seems that members from each sector have a finger in the pie. At worst, public money is skimmed and then repurposed as contributions from the private sector to the political parties to finance their campaigns.

Needless to say, there has been a significant breach of trust, so much so that there exists amongst the population considerable doubt with regard to the legitimacy of Quebec's political institutions.

Consequently, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the segment of the society that has the least to lose over the short-term but the most to lose over the long-term refuses to go along with a decision made by a government which is perceived to be corrupt.

Why should they?

Rule of law is a pale substitute for government of, by, and for the people, especially when a self serving minority draws up the laws and then selects those who will interpret them.

At some point in time, it may occur to a sector of the population to contest more than just the decisions made by the ruling oligarchy and to contest the legitimacy of the political institutions that bring forward this particular power structure.

To do so would require a not so quiet revolution.

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