Over 400 people ‘welcomed' Harper yesterday in northern Quebec to tell him that he was NOT welcomed there. Val D'Or is one of these hard-hit communities where the decline of the lumber industry has put thousands of people at risk. It's also a mining area where the situation is better, but where permanent jobs are not that many since the industry is heavily mechanized now. All in all, Quebec's peripheral regions are almost all in the red. The primary sector is squeezed, while manufacturing was never developed. And of course, these regions cannot compete in the service industry or high tech. Remains tourism, an iffy business on many counts. The results are devastating with the rise of poverty and exclusion. In many areas, only pensioners remain with a handful of young people, creating a vicious circle of marginalization.
This is what the 400 people came to say to Harper. Workers came from the FTQ and the CSN, so were many concerned citizens from a large environmental local coalition called l'Action boréale, started a few years back by poet-singer Richard Desjardins. Desjardins has made wave with his movie, ‘L'Erreur boréale', describing how our forest was devastated by big local and foreign multinationals. His film in fact triggered a local environmentalist movement that became rooted in the communities because it was related to their lives.
All of these folks basically said that the Harper government with his neglect of communities, his contempt for environmental issues and his broadly ultra right agenda was not acceptable in this part of the world. Harper's spin doctors and media ‘experts' have tried to control the damage by downplaying his visit there. But the message was loud and clear for most of Quebec.
And so it goes in this wonderful world of the election ...
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