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Quebec Solidaire loses longtime member after deciding men can't run in byelections

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Self-described feminist Olivier Bolduc has stood three times for election with leftist Québec solidaire, but now that the party has banned men from running in byelections, he gave up his membership in protest.

At its weekend convention, Quebec's second-largest opposition party adopted a resolution to accept only women and non-binary people as candidates if any byelections are triggered over the next year.

Bolduc, who faced opposition from party brass — who wanted a female candidate — when he ran and won the nomination race to represent Québec solidaire in an October byelection, said the resolution was a step too far.

"I don't think that men are oppressed in Quebec, I think that we have to recognize that white, heterosexual men have a systemic advantage," he said Tuesday in an interview. "But when we look at the efforts that certain people have made and the contribution that some men make, we have to recognize that as well."

Québec solidaire lost that October byelection, coming in third behind the victorious Parti Québécois and the governing Coalition Avenir Québec, leaving his former party with 12 members in the legislature: four women and eight men.

Bolduc says the resolution will alienate people, like him, who share the party's values, at a time when it should welcome their help if it wants to form government. If the party wants to reduce inequality in Quebec society, such as that between men and women, it has to win power, he added.

"You have to attract quality candidates, you can't discourage people from giving their time to a party, from getting involved, from feeling welcome," he said.

The former candidate says the party hasn't done enough to attract female candidates and the resolution is an attempt to make up for lost time. In the two byelections since the 2022 general election, Québec solidaire has nominated men, including in March 2023, when it won. In the 2022 election, the party nominated a man to stand in a Quebec City riding that had previously been represented by a woman.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, one of Québec solidaire's two co-spokespeople — the party doesn't have leaders; rather, it nominates both a man and a woman as spokespeople — said the ban on men is temporary. During the party's 2024 convention, it will review its constitution and look at other ways to increase female participation, he said.

"There's this very strong consensus in Quebec society that it's important to have gender parity in politics," Nadeau-Dubois said in an interview Tuesday. "I think everyone agrees that in politics, we should have a fair representation of women. Unfortunately, right now, at Québec solidaire we are missing that target."

He said his party is trying to determine ahead of the 2026 general election how it can ensure more women are elected and not just nominated. "We have always had parity in our candidates, that's the easy part, the difficult part is to make sure you have parity the day after the election," he said.

Nadeau-Dubois said that while he respects Bolduc's position, the former candidate could have participated in the weekend convention and made his case in front of delegates, adding that a strong majority of members approved the motion.

Pascale Navarro, author of the 2015 book “Women and Power: The Case for Parity,” said Québec solidaire's resolution is largely symbolic — no byelections are scheduled. But the motion, she added, is a good step forward.

"On principle, I agree, I don't think there's any other way than by imposing rules," she said, adding that it will take more than regulations to increase women's participation in politics. Parties, she added, also need to consider how to keep women from leaving.

Meanwhile, Québec solidaire, Navarro said, is sending the message to party organizers that they need to concentrate on finding women candidates, and it lets women know that the party wants them to get involved.

"It's not that they're rejecting men," she said. "It's that they're choosing a strategy, it's not an issue of excluding men."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2023. 

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