Tag Archives: coalition avenir quebec

PQ bids adieu to short-lived leader Péladeau

Pierre Karl Péladeau lasted less than a year as the leader of the pro-independence Parti Québécois. (Facebook)
Pierre Karl Péladeau lasted less than a year as the leader of the pro-independence Parti Québécois. (Facebook)

Less than a year into his tenure as the leader of the sovereigntist Parti québécois, Pierre Karl Péladeau abruptly stepped down on Monday, sending political shocks waves throughout Canada’s majority French-speaking province.Quebec Flag IconpngCanada Flag Icon

Four months after a sudden split with the wife he married in August, and now facing a custody battle over his children, Péladeau abruptly announced his resignation from the PQ leadership and from the provincial assembly, tearfully explaining that he had chosen to put his family before his ‘political project.’

Péladeau’s departure leaves the province without a full-time opposition leader, and the PQ’s troubles could cause voters to turn to an increasingly crowded field of nationalist alternatives. It’s just the latest setback for a party that’s suffered two tough decades after coming just 55,000 votes shy of winning Québec’s independence in 1995.

Jean Charest, premier for nine years as the leader of the centrist Parti libéral du Québec (PLQ, Liberal Party of Québec), sidelined the separatists for nearly a decade. For a while, the PQ fell to third place after the 2007 elections. The party’s leader at the time, André Boisclair, the first openly gay party leader in Canadian history, spent much of his leadership alienating the party’s rural, unionized base and fending off charges of drug use and financial malfeasance.

When voters finally gave the PQ a shot at governing in 2012, under Pauline Marois, the party immediately launched a needless effort to introduce the ill-named Charte de la laïcité (Québec Charter of Values), which served only to alienate recent immigrants to the province, especially Muslims, by purporting to ban religious headgear.

After Marois called early elections in a disastrous effort to win a majority government, voters instead turned back to the PLQ under its new leader, Philippe Couillard, a former provincial health minister. Marois quickly lost control over the debate when a new star recruit — Péladeau — stood on a campaign platform with Marois and, fist raised, started calling forQuébec’s independence. That forced Marois to respond to hypotheticals about a third referendum, whether an independent Québec would use the Canadian dollar and how borders would work between Canada and an independent Québec. The PQ dropped to its lowest total yet — barely over 25% of the vote.

Meanwhile, its sister party, the Bloc québécois (BQ), won less than 20% of the vote in the 2015 Canadian federal election, and its leader, Gilles Duceppe, resigned (again) after failing to win his own riding. Its 10 seats in Canada’s House of Commons is somewhat better than the four seats it won in the 2011 election, but the days when the BQ dominated the province’s representation in Ottawa now seem long gone.

After a needlessly long internal campaign, Péladeau emerged last spring as the easy winner of the PQ’s leadership election, and he defiantly vowed to make Québec a country. Almost immediately, however, Péladeau’s stumbles seem to outweigh his charms. He indulgently refused to sell the shares to Quebecor the media empire that his father once ran and that Péladeau himself ran until his decision to enter provincial politics.  His business-friendly demeanor met with skepticism from the party’s left-wing members and union activists. Many of them left the PQ for the more stridently leftist and pro-independence Québec solidaire.

Meanwhile, Péladeau was never able to steal votes from the ‘soft’ nationalist, center-right Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ), which dominates the vote in and around Québec City. Péladeau’s hardline calls to make Québec a country nearly guaranteed that the PQ would not be the beneficiary of the Couillard government’s growing unpopularity due, on doubt, to two years of spending cuts aimed to achieve a balanced budget. Though the most recent CROP poll from mid-April gave the Liberals just 33% support, the PQ drew just 26%, compared to 25% for the CAQ and 14% for Québec solidaire. 

Having already announced the province’s 2016 budget in March, and basking in a Delta Airlines decision to buy 75 aircraft from local manufacturer Bombardier, it would not be the worst time for Couillard to call an early election.

In one sense, Péladeau’s resignation gives the party a fresh start as the province starts the countdown to new elections, to be held before October 2018. Under a long interim leadership, the PQ might continue to lose right-leaning supporters to the CAQ and left-leaning supporters to Québec solidaire. The next election will be François Legault’s third as the CAQ leader, and it will be Françoise David’s fourth as co-spokesperson for Québec solidaire, and both remain incredibly popular.

But there was a sense that Péladeau’s victory last May was the last shot for the péquistes to regroup, with increasingly bilingual young voters and rising numbers of immigrants, in particular, rejecting any abrupt separation with Canada. Demographics just aren’t in the PQ’s favor, and its next leader will have none of the name recognition or star power that  Péladeau, for all his faults, brought to the PQ leadership.

Former BQ leader Gilles Duceppe (left) and former PQ minister Alexandre Cluotier (right) represent the two generational wings of the separatist movement. (Facebook)
Former BQ leader Gilles Duceppe (left) and former PQ minister Alexandre Cluotier (right) represent the two generational wings of the separatist movement. (Facebook)

Alexandre Cloutier, a 38-year-old former minister and currently, shadow education secretary, ran second in last year’s PQ leadership race, and could provide a Trudeau-like appeal to younger voters.

Jean-Martin Aussant, who left the PQ in 2012 to form Option nationale, dedicated to a more impatient brand of Québécois sovereignty, and who flamed out of provincial politics, could return as a 21st century version ofJacques Parizeau, the fiery champion of the independence movement.

Bernard Drainville, who masterminded the Marois government’s push for the Charter of Values, is another possibility, as is Jean-François Lisée, who served as minister of international relations and trade under Marois.

No doubt, old-timers will hope that the 68-year-old Gilles Duceppe, the BQ leader from 1997 to 2011 (and again, briefly, in the leadup to the 2015 election) will attempt one more comeback for the separatist cause.

Even before Péladeau’s resignation, the PQ was already facing an existential problem as a party dedicated to independence in a province where the most separatist generation is literally dying out. In a country where even former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper can call Québec a ‘nation’ without any major blowback, and where its current prime minister, Justin Trudeau, comes from Montréal’s most storied political dynasty, the PQ’s raison d’être seems even more like yesterday’s cause. Neither Péladeau nor his successor is likely to pick a fight with Trudeau, massively popular in Québec just as much as the rest of Canada,  over sovereignty.

No matter who the PQ chooses as its next leader, he or she will face difficult odds to convince Québec’s youth, its growing immigrant class and anglophones to support it as the chief alternative to Couillard’s Liberals in a political marketplace that’s more crowded with ‘nationalist’ parties than ever. In trying to be all things to all nationalists, the PQ risks its very extinction.

Mulcair loses chance to solidify NDP gains in Québec


What were Québec’s voters looking for in its provincial election?Quebec Flag IconpngCanada Flag Icon

Obviously not the hard-core separatist agenda that premier Pauline Marois did such a poor job of concealing from voters. As soon as a potential referendum on independence became the central issue of the election, Marois’s Parti québécois (PQ) immediately lost its polling lead.

Obviously not the market-friendly approach to government that François Legault champions. He’s now failed twice to convince Québec’s voters to elect the Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) into government.

Despite its massive win in today’s election, it’s not obvious that the Québec electorate was so incredibly excited about returning the Parti libéral du Québec (Liberal Party, or PLQ) to power just 18 months in opposition. The Charbonneau Commission, appointed during the previous Liberal government of premier Jean Charest, hasn’t even finished its inquiry into allegations of corruption related to the awarding of (mostly Liberal) government contracts.

Imagine, instead, if Québec voters had a fourth option — a party with the social democratic credibility that the CAQ lacks but without the PQ’s separatist agenda and without the baggage of last decade’s Liberal governments?

That’s right — a province-level  party of the New Democratic Party, or the Nouveau Parti démocratique du Québec (NPDQ).

Québec’s 2014 provincial elections would have been the perfect platform for NDP leader Thomas Mulcair to build a truly competitive provincial vehicle within Québec, and it’s a goal that Mulcair outlined after he won the NDP leadership in 2012 and again late last year: Continue reading Mulcair loses chance to solidify NDP gains in Québec

Québec election results: Four reasons why the PQ blew it


The sovereigntist Parti québécois (PQ) has lost power after just 18 months leading a minority government. Quebec Flag IconpngCanada Flag Icon

Instead, former health minister Philippe Couillard, barely a year after winning the leadership of the federalist Parti libéral du Québec (Liberal Party, or PLQ), will lead a majority government as Québec’s new premier.

Incredibly, in the riding of Charlevoix–Côte-de-Beaupré, premier Pauline Marois has lost her race against Liberal Caroline Simard, and in an address to supporters, announced she would step down as PQ leader as well.

Here’s the breakdown of the 125 ridings in Québec:

QC14 v4

When she called a snap election in March, Marois had every reason to believe that she would sail through the election and win a majority government for the PQ.

Conservative Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper was so worried about the prospect of a separatist majority in Québec that he reached out to the leaders of the other major parties, including Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau and New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair for advice. Though Trudeau and the federal Liberals endorsed Couillard and the PLQ, the Tories and the NDP have remained neutral.

With nearly 97% of the vote reporting, here are the vote totals:

qc14totalsThe last time the PQ won such a small share of the vote in a provincial election was in 1970, when it won just 23.06%, when it was running in its first election after its foundation in 1968.

The PQ has suffered what might be an even more humiliating defeat than its 2007 showing, when the PQ placed third, behind both the Liberals and the predecessor to the CAQ, the Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ) — it won just 36 seats and 28.5% of the vote.

Among the key individual races:

  • In L’Assomption, François Legault, the leader of the center-right Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) won his race against the PQ’s Pierre Paquette, a former federal MP from the sovereigntist Bloc québécois.
  • Couillard easily won a race in his riding of Roberval, which was supposed to be a difficult race against the PQ’s Denis Trottier, an incumbent since 2007.
  • In Saint-Jérome, former Quebecor CEO, Pierre Karl Péladeau defeated Liberal candidate Armand Dubois — though Péladeau played a controversial role in the election campaign, he could well become the PQ’s next leader.
  • In Laval-des-Rapides, the 22-year-old former student leader Léo Bureau-Blouin lost his bid for reelection to Liberal businessman Saul Polo.
  • In Crémazie, PQ language minister Diance De Courcy and in Saint-François, PQ health minister Réjean Hébert lost.

The CAQ had a much better night than it could have expected. It will improve on its current 19-seat caucus by a handful of seats.

There’s no doubt that the PQ campaign now seems like an incredible miscalculation, and Marois will almost certainly step down as the PQ’s leader. But how did Marois and the PQ fall so far? Here are four reasons that show how tonight’s result came about.

Continue reading Québec election results: Four reasons why the PQ blew it

In Québec, health care is the sleeper issue


Headlines throughout Québec’s raucous election campaign have highlighted emotionally charged issues, such as a new charter on secularism, a potential referendum on independence and new regulations promoting the use of French. Nonetheless, surveys show that voters routinely list health care as the top issue facing the province’s next government.Quebec Flag IconpngCanada Flag Icon

With three former health ministers leading the three top parties in the province, including Liberal leader Philippe Couillard, a former neurosurgeon, there’s no election better placed for examining how to improve Québec’s health care options.

The provincial government’s role in the health care system began in 1961, when it signed up to the federal Canadian single-payer health care system and began reimbursing hospitals for medical services. A decade later, in 1971, Québec first agreed to reimburse services for non-hospital costs, and the provincial government began opening its own health clinics. Today, health care costs consume 51.8% of the province’s budget, excluding debt service. Governments of the past decade from both major parties have routinely increased health spending, even while attempting to rein in spending for other areas.

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RELATED: Peladeau candidacy transforms Québec provincial elections
RELATED: Will bilingualism doom the Liberals in Québec?

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Even before the Parti québécois (PQ) started slipping in the polls, Québec voters already disapproved of Pauline Marois’s performance as premier by a margin of nearly 2-to-1. It’s hard to believe that perceptions about her government’s performance on health care didn’t play a huge role in that. Though the PQ’s support started crumbling with a series of mishaps that brought a new independence referendum into direct focus, voters were already pre-disposed to flee Marois, who hasn’t kept her 2012 campaign promise to roll back an unpopular health tax introduced, ironically, by the Parti libéral du Québec (Liberal Party, or PLQ) that now is now projected to win a majority government after Monday’s vote. Continue reading In Québec, health care is the sleeper issue

Will bilingualism doom the Liberals in Québec?

Bill 14 Protest,

One month ago, on the popularity of premier Pauline Marois’s push to enact a ‘secular charter of values’ (la charte de la laïcité) that would ban the wearing of religious symbols, including the Muslim hijab, it seemed like the sovereigntist Parti québécois (PQ) was headed for a huge victory on the basis of ‘cultural’ values that, for once, had little to do with Québec independence or with the status of the French language in the province. Quebec Flag IconpngCanada Flag Icon

Two weeks ago, that conventional wisdom was upended, as the PQ’s star candidate Pierre Karl Péladeau and Marois spent days speculating about a potential independence referendum and how Québec might separate from Canada and still retain the Canadian dollar and open borders with the rest of Canada. The sudden return of the independence debate to the campaign agenda seemed to scare many votes into the arms of Philippe Couillard, the new leader of the Parti libéral du Québec (Liberal Party, or PLQ), which has been out of power for barely 18 months after nearly a decade in power.

Now, after the final debate among the four main party leaders last week, Couillard’s comments in defense of bilingualism have shifted the debate once again to yet another controversial issue — the proper role of the provincial government in promoting French and/or English within Québec.   

Last Thursday night’s debate was vastly different from the previous debate. Whereas Marois took much of the heat in the first debate, Couillard received more criticism in the much feistier final debate — likely because polls increasingly show that the Liberals have not only recaptured the lead from the PQ, but that it could win a majority government.

Amid all the sniping, however, Couillard’s comments about bilingualism stand out:

“Bilingualism isn’t a threat,” he said. “Knowledge of English is indispensable.”

To American ears — or, possibly, to Ontarian or British Columbian or Albertan ears — that shouldn’t be controversial. But in many regards, the French language debate is even more fraught than the referendum debate, because it’s not as hypothetical as an independent Québec.

The province’s 8 million citizens comprise a tiny island of French speakers within a sea of 341 million (mostly) English speakers in the United States and Canada. Without the Québec government’s interest in protecting the French language, English might easily overrun French as the language of Québec commerce and industry, putting the province’s native French speakers at a disadvantage in North America’s French-speaking heartland.

Continue reading Will bilingualism doom the Liberals in Québec?

LIVE-BLOG: Québec leaders debate tonight


Check in at Suffragio tonight at 8 pm ET for a live-blog of tonight’s leaders debate, the first such debate in Québec’s election campaign. Québec’s voters go to the polls on April 7.Canada Flag IconQuebec Flag Iconpng

(You can read previous coverage of the current Québec election, the Marois government and the 2012 election here).

Update, 8:00 pm: Here we go! The live-blog continues below the jump.

Update, 10:00 pm:  So who won? Who lost?

Liberal leader Philippe Couillard more than held his own in this debate — it’s hard to believe it was his first leadership debate.  He was calm, he was cool, he looked like a premier.  He didn’t refrain from engaging premier Pauline Marois, and he certainly scrapped over several issues, including the PQ’s proposed Charter of Values, Marois’s record on job creation and on Marois’s leadership.

Marois played defense all night long, and not only because she’s defending her existing government.  Her attempts to blame the previous Liberal government of Jean Charest, I think, fell flat — those attacks could have been more effective.  But just about everyone ganged up on Marois tonight, and she was alternatively aggressive and defensively brittle — and that’s even before the debate turned to the sovereignty issue.  It wasn’t her best night.

François Legault obviously believes he has more votes to win from the PQ than from the Liberals — and it showed in the way he went after Marois.  Legault took plenty of shots at Couillard too, especially in trying to defend his image as the clear champion of the private sector in the election.

Françoise David of Québec solidaire was perhaps even more calm and collected than Couillard, and a thoughtful presence on the stage tonight — it’s the same tactic she used in 2012 during the debates, and it largely worked tonight, too.  But she has the luxury of being able to float above the fray because her party’s in fourth place.  Like Legault, she targeted Marois much more than Couillard.  She was particularly effective with her deliberate answers on religious freedom and the Charter, and her attempt to reclaim the sovereignty issue from the PQ.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night is how little revolved around the question of sovereignty and Québec independence.  About half of the sovereignty section, which itself ran about 30 to 40 minutes, was devoted to the issue of the Charter.  Also missing from the debate was any mention of Marois’s early attempts to rewrite Bill 101 on the use of French language, which have now fallen by the wayside with the debate over the Charter.

Nothing in tonight’s debate will reverse the growing trend toward the Liberals and away from the PQ.  That doesn’t mean Couillard will certainly be Québec’s premier, but he did nothing tonight to disqualify himself.  Marois’s aggressive defensiveness played poorly to me, and she did nothing to help her cause along undecided voters. David, especially, may have pulled a few voters away from the PQ tonight.  It will be interesting to see if she and Legault, in particular, will focus their aim on Couillard if the Liberals’ polling lead grows even further over the next week or two.

Continue reading LIVE-BLOG: Québec leaders debate tonight