Relative Extremism in Politics
At the time of writing this column, the provincial election is just winding down, and the CAQ are romping towards victory. Such continuity has not always been the case elsewhere. In many cases, local parties referred to as being on the extreme right have come to power in countries that have usually steered clear of their approaches in the past.
An interesting example is Sweden. The party considered to be on the extreme right by Swedish standards is called, ambiguously, the Swedish Democrats. They claim that past immigration policies in Sweden have been a failure, but they do support receiving immigrants who will work and contribute to Swedish society, and assimilate culturally. A fundamental aspect of their platform is that immigrants need to become more proficient in Swedish. Those who do not wish to assimilate culturally and learn Swedish would be encouraged to leave Sweden. They feel that multiculturalism is not compatible with maintaining Swedish culture, and propose a values test for immigrants before they could receive citizenship. They are at the same time supportive of Sweden’s social safety net, and of gay marriage (though not of adoption for same-sex couples).
Many other European countries have extreme right parties with far more radical positions, such as in Italy where the party that recently won the right to form government supports explicitly stopping Muslim immigration. And the above is only a partial list of their positions. But it’s interesting that so many of their policies on immigration are shared by the mainstream governing party of Quebec. Clearly what is considered extreme in Sweden is seen as being reasonable in many other parts of the world, Quebec included.
On the flip side, policy proposals by Republicans in the U.S., by any measure a mainstream party there, are seen as extreme and non-starters across most of the political spectrum here, both in Quebec and across Canada generally. This certainly includes the CAQ. A few examples include separating migrants from their children at the border, stopping immigration from certain countries entirely, allowing seemingly limitless access to arms, and severe or complete restrictions on abortion. The idea that the American groups proposing such ideas have governed and will likely do so again is striking. Such policies that are by many measures mainstream in the U.S. are touched by almost none of the extreme right parties in Europe, and have no uptake in Canada at all. Even the People’s Party of Canada, which tends to represent the extreme right here, goes nowhere near many proposals that Republicans have been making for years.
Noteworthy in terms of extreme positions within Quebec is that Québec Solidaire, which absorbed Option Nationale in 2017, proposes to declare Quebec an independent country during a first mandate without calling a referendum on the matter. This somehow attracts little attention.