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Kory Teneycke in Sun-TV studios in Toronto. Mr. Teneycke will the be keynote speaker at the first forum held by the Réseau Liberté Québec (Quebec Freedom Network). (Jennifer Roberts for The Globe and Mail)
Kory Teneycke in Sun-TV studios in Toronto. Mr. Teneycke will the be keynote speaker at the first forum held by the Réseau Liberté Québec (Quebec Freedom Network). (Jennifer Roberts for The Globe and Mail)

Libertarian group seeks to shift the political focus in Quebec Add to ...

For now they're just a small band of libertarians seeking to replace the sovereigntist-versus-federalist divide in Quebec with a new brand of political confrontation between the right and the left.

They call themselves Réseau Liberté Québec, or the Quebec Freedom Network, and could be considered Quebec's version of the right-wing populist Tea Party in the United States.

Each of the six founding members has put up $500 to rent a hall in a Quebec City hotel for the group's first major gathering on Oct. 23. Donations are coming in and the group hopes to attract more than 200 people at $25 a head, believing the fledgling effort will grow into a grassroots right-wing movement.

"This will be a place for the right to come together," said founding member Joanne Marcotte, whose documentary L'illusion tranquille criticized Quebec's welfare state. "People with right-wing views can't express themselves, they have nowhere to meet and are dispersed. This will be an opportunity to create a movement."

Éric Duhaime, a spokesman for the group, believes that the right-wing Action Démocratique du Québec, though its support fizzled in the last election, has shown that the province is ready to embrace right-wing ideas and break with the left-wing nationalism that has dominated Quebec politics for the past half century. The Quebec Liberal Party and the Parti Québécois are too far to the left, he says, and the faltering ADQ not far enough to the right.

Rather than launch a new political party, the group believes it can influence public policy by introducing the traditional right-wing ideals of smaller government, lower taxes and more free enterprise into the province's political discourse.

"There's a sort of left-wing consensus within Quebec's elite and it's very difficult to break out of that straitjacket," Mr. Duhaime said. "We have to stop being afraid of the taboos and clearly identify ourselves as right-wing."

Mr. Duhaime, a former ADQ staffer who worked with former Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day (the party ultimately merged with the Progressive Conservatives to form the Conservative Party) now defends his views as a columnist with the Québecor media chain, owned by conservative ideologue Pierre-Karl Péladeau.

Kory Teneyke, former director of communications for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and currently vice-president of development for Mr. Péladeau's Sun TV News, will be the keynote speaker at the group's forum next month.

"He will talk about the bias of the left in the mainstream media in Canada. The bias on the left is much worse here in Quebec," Mr. Duhaime said. "Quebeckers are much more unionized, more heavily taxed and offer much more subsidies for small political groups promoting the left at the community level. The battle [for the right]is much harder here than anywhere else in North America."

For Québec Solidaire, the province's left-wing pro-sovereignty party, right-wing ideology in Quebec is already a dominant force dictating the province's political agenda. How can entrenching the interests of big business advance the needs of average Quebeckers, co-leader Françoise David asks.

"Let's be serious. To say that the Quebec media has a left-wing bias, that must be news to Mr. Péladeau," Ms. David said. "And to call the Liberals left-wing, that's quite an exaggeration."

Ms. David believes the new right-wing group may be nothing more than a shell organization for Mr. Péladeau and other big-business interests seeking to impose a right-wing agenda.

"Will Quebeckers allow themselves to be seduced?" she asked. "I hope not."

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