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Khadir's election shows that there is considerable concern about the rightward drift of medicare within Quebec. It also shows that when the proper candidates are put forward that a left party need not imitate the third way sellouts characteristic of Labor in the UK.
TTuesday, December 9, 2008
Left-wing MD elected as Quebec gives Liberals a majority
In yesterday's Quebec election, voters returned Jean Charest's Liberal Party to majority status in the legislature by a small margin, largely thanks to the epic collapse of the right-wing ADQ.The election results marked a number of milestones. Turnout was the lowest since 1927; Mr Charest became the first Quebec premier in over 50 years to win a third mandate; and Mario Dumont, the only leader the ADQ has known, quit as head of the party after they lost 34 of the 41 seats they held going into the election.But the most important milestone with regard to the future of the province's controversial healthcare debate was the election of the physician Amir Khadir (right) in the Montreal riding of Mercier as the first-ever representative elected from Québec solidaire, the left-wing, feminist, separatist party established in 2006.The Montreal Gazette described his victory party last night as follows:
Greeted with rock star adoration by the young, hip crowd, the outspoken Iranian-born physician hailed his victory and advances in a handful of other ridings as signs Quebecers are thirsting for a new political order – one where “the economy services society” rather than the other way around.Dr Khadir, who moved to Quebec as a child, attended medical school in Montreal and went on to become a microbiologist and infectious-diseases specialist. He currently works at a hospital in the Montreal suburb of Lachenaie, and told Pierre Foglia of La Presse that he wants to keep working there one day out of fifteen. (An admirable goal, no doubt -- but we'll have to wait to find out whether it's really doable for an opposition member in a National Assembly held by only a slim majority.)His medical experience extends far beyond the Montreal area. As a member of the humanitarian medical aid groups such as Médecins du monde, the group founded by a breakaway faction of Médecins sans frontières physicians including now-French Foreign Minister Dr Bernard Kouchner, Dr Khadir has worked in Iraq, Palestine, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Cuba, Nicaragua and India.Most pertinently for his new job in government is his membership in a Quebec advocacy group known as the Coalition of Doctors for Social Justice. The group has in recent years emerged as one of the province's loudest groups opposing what it sees as, at a minimum, the Liberal government's failure to protect the public healthcare system from encroaching privatization caused by chronic funding and staffing shortfalls, or, worse, as the government's sometimes active though subtle encouragement of medicare privatization, as in the case of the post-Chaoulli Bill 33.Québec solidaire's health platform reflects Dr Khadir's thinking on the subject: he has called for banning all forms of private healthcare for medically necessary services, increased funding for prevention, and a huge expansion of the public insurance plan's coverage that would include a number of delisted services including dentistry, optometry and psychotherapy. Of course, with only one party member elected to the National Assembly, those goals won't be realized as Dr Khadir might like them to be. But given his background and his campaign's focus on the healthcare system and its continuing problems, Quebecers should expect to hear a lot of his criticism of the government's work on the health portfolio. In this campaign video, Dr Khadir outlined his thinking on healthcare with a didactic presentation (in French) on a whiteboard: Dr Khadir's radical approach to the healthcare system, by virtue of being so far left, might permit the PQ to shift its position to the left in response. "It’s the job of the left to move the center,” as the Montreal-born left-wing journalist Naomi Klein said in a New Yorker profile this month. “Get out there and say some crazy stuff! And then, suddenly, it’ll seem more reasonable for politicians to take riskier positions.”Photo: Québec solidaire
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