Tag Archives: quebec solidaire

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.

Péladeau could be last shot for Québec independence movement


It wasn’t a surprise that Pierre-Karl Péladeau won the leadership of the Parti québécois (PQ) last weekend.Quebec Flag IconpngCanada Flag Icon

Péladeau, the former CEO of Quebecor, the province’s leading media corporation, took the leadership easily on the first ballot with 57.6% of the vote. He easily defeated Alexandre Cloutier, a young moderate who nevertheless placed second with 29.21% of the vote, and Martine Ouellet, a more traditional PQ leftist. But Péladeau’s victory was sealed earlier this year when the momentum of his campaign forced heavyweights like Jean-François Lisée and Bernard Drainville out of the running.

Péladeau, accepting the party’s leadership with a vow to ‘make Québec a country,’ has a huge task ahead.

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RELATEDPéladeau continues march to PQ leadership

RELATED: Québec election results — four reasons why the PQ blew it

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After just 18 months in office, the province’s voters rejected the minority PQ-led government in April 2014, restoring to power the Parti libéral du Québec (PLQ) under the leadership of former health minister Philippe Couillard. It was a disastrous defeat for the PQ and for premier Pauline Marois, who lost her own riding in the provincial election. Péladeau, who thundered into the election campaign as a first-time candidate, quickly overshadowed Marois with talk of a fresh independence vote for the province, forcing Marois to spend weeks talking about hypothetical referenda, currency and border questions. Arguably, the PQ never subsequently regained a credible shot at winning the election.

Moreover, Péladeau has sometimes stumbled throughout the months-long campaign often designed as an exercise in rebuilding. He never fully repudiated the party’s disastrous (and many would say illiberal and racist) attempt to enact the charte de la laïcité (Charter of Rights and Values) that, among other things, would have banned government employees from wearing any religious symbols. In March,  Péladeau said that ‘immigration and demography’ were to blame for the independence movement’s waning support. As a media tycoon who has pledged only now upon his election as PQ leader, to place his Quebecor stock in a blind trust, leftists throughout Québec remain wary of his leadership. His battles to defeat unions as a businessman are as legendary as his temper.

The latest Léger Marketing poll from April 11 shows the PLQ with a stead lead of 37% to just 28% for the PQ. François Legault’s center-right, sovereigntist Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) would win 21%, and the pro-independence, leftist Québec  solidaire would win 10%.

All of which makes it baffling that Péladeau’s rise to the leadership has been so effortless. With the future of the struggling independence on the line, the party faithful never really forced Péladeau to fight for the leadership. It’s a lot of faith to place in such a political novice — and no one really knows whether he’ll turn out more like Lucien Bouchard or Michael Ignatieff.  Continue reading Péladeau could be last shot for Québec independence movement

Péladeau continues march to PQ leadership


Barring any surprises, Pierre Karl Péladeau, a successful businessman in the Québéc media space who entered politics for the first time last year, will become the new leader of the separatist Parti Québécois (PQ).Quebec Flag IconpngCanada Flag Icon

Though he was already the overwhelming favorite in the leadership election, Péladeau’s leadership hopes were almost reinforced by Bernard Drainville’s decision earlier this week to drop out of the contest, endorsing Péladeau. Drainville was the architect of the last PQ government’s disastrous attempt to enact the charte de la laïcité (Charter of Rights and Values) that would have banned government employees from wearing religious symbols and that critics argued would unfairly restrict the freedom of Muslim and other non-Christian recent migrants to Québec.

Drainville left the race after falling not only far behind Péladeau, but also behind Alexandre Cloutier, a member of Québec’s National Assembly since 2007, and a former minister for Québec’s north and Canadian intergovernmental affairs.

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RELATED: Péladeau candidacy transforms Québec provincial elections

RELATED: Québec election results — four reasons why the PQ blew it

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The vote follows the swift defeat of Pauline Marois’s minority government in April 2014. After Marois lost her own constituency in the election, she announced her resignation as party leader. When former Bloc québécois leader Gilles Duceppe declined to run for the leadership, Péladeau quickly emerged as the leading candidate. PQ members will cast a first ballot between May 13 and 15, with a second ballot to follow if no candidate wins a majority.

In the latest Leger poll from early April, Péladeau had the support of 59% of PQ voters, compared to just 13% for Cloutier and 9% for Drainville.

If he succeeds next month, Péladeau will lead a party as much in the wilderness as it’s been since its creation in 1968. Continue reading Péladeau continues march to PQ leadership

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

Péladeau candidacy transforms Québec provincial elections


When Québec premier Pauline Marois called a snap election earlier this month, the conventional wisdom was virtually certain on two points: that Marois’s sovereigntist Parti québécois (PQ) would win a majority government and that the election would turn on the Marois government’s introduction of the Charte de la laïcité (Quebec Charter of Values). Quebec Flag IconpngCanada Flag Icon

Less than two weeks later, one poll today shows that the PQ is actually trailing the more centrist, federalist Parti libéral du Québec (Liberal Party, or PLQ).  The CROP/La Presse poll finds that the PLQ would win 39% of the vote, the PQ would win 36%, and François Legault’s struggling, center-right, ‘soft’ sovereigntist Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) would win just 13%.  Québec solidaire, the more leftist, sovereigntist alternative, wins 10%.  The PQ still leads among Francophones by a margin of 43% to 30%, though the Liberals win 71% of Anglophones.  Far from winning a majority government, Marois could actually lose her minority government if the Liberals keep gaining strength.

What’s more, the emergence of former Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau (pictured above, left, with Marois) as a PQ candidate fundamentally transformed the election’s focus away from the cultural issues surrounding the religious freedom debate and the Charter of Values — and toward the issue of Québécois independence.  Right now, that’s working to the benefit of Liberals, because a majority of Québec voters today oppose independence.

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RELATEDMarois calls snap election with eye on Québécois separatist majority

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Péladeau, when he announced his candidacy last Sunday for the PQ, surprised everyone by declaring his strong support for Québec’s independence.  That took the focus off Marois’s Charter of Values and put it squarely on whether Marois will call a referendum if the PQ wins a majority government on April 7.  Marois herself spent last week musing about an independent Québec,  including post-succession monetary policy and retaining the Canadian dollar.

That made it look as if Péladeau is more in control of the PQ campaign than Marois, thereby undermining Québec’s sitting premier. This week, with the PQ’s poll numbers declining, Marois is now trying to avoid talking about the sovereignty issue and limit the damage from her star candidate’s outspoken entry into provincial politics.

The idea was that Péladeau, as a well-known businessman, would give the PQ more credibility on economic policy, thereby peeling away some of the more economically conservative voters that previously supported Legault and the CAQ in the last election — and maybe even some Liberals.

Instead, all the talk about sovereignty and independence has given Liberal Party leader Philippe Coulliard an opportunity to frame himself as the candidate talking about ‘real issues,’ including his plans to cut taxes while also cutting spending in order to balance the province’s budget.  Polling data from the past week suggests that former CAQ voters are moving to the Liberals instead of to the PQ.  What’s more, the conservatism of Péladeau as the PQ’s top candidate seems to be pushing some PQ voters toward supporting Québec solidaire instead.  Continue reading Péladeau candidacy transforms Québec provincial elections

Marois calls snap election with eye on Québécois separatist majority


Despite polls that generally show a slim but steady lead for Québec premier Pauline Marois’s government, her decision to call snap elections after just 17 months in office leaves her party, the sovereignist Parti québécois (PQ) is hardly a lock to return to power, let alone to win a majority government.Canada Flag IconQuebec Flag Iconpng

That makes the April 7 race to elect all 125 members of the Assemblée nationale (National Assembly) an incredibly high-stakes moment in Québécois politics — and, by extension, Canadian politics.

In contrast to the September 2012 election, essentially a referendum on a decade of rule by the Parti libéral du Québec (Liberal Party, or PLQ) and premier Jean Charest, the upcoming spring election will instead be a referendum on Marois (pictured above) and whether the province is willing to entrust a majority government to Marois’s separatist, leftist party.  If Marois loses, it will take the wind out of the sails of the sovereignist movement in Québec, especially just a year before federal elections in Canada in which the Bloc Québécois, a PQ-affiliated party meant to represent the province’s interest in Ottawa.  If Marois wins, it might be the last opportunity for the Meech Lake/Charlottetown generation of Québécois politicians to push forward with a third (and possibly final) referendum on Québec’s independence.

If Québec held its provincial election tomorrow, Marois would win a majority government, according to polls.  But that’s hardly much comfort — there are at least five reasons to doubt whether Marois can truly pull it off: Continue reading Marois calls snap election with eye on Québécois separatist majority

An amazing 48 hours in Québec

Well, there’s not much I can add to what the Canadian — and indeed, the Québécois, media — have covered in the past 48 hours.

But let’s just recount:

  • In Tuesday’s election, the Parti québécois (PQ) finished first with 31.94% with 54 seats.
  • Premier Jean Charest’s Parti liberal du Québec (Liberal Party, or PLQ) came a very-much closer-than-expected 31.20% with 50 seats.
  • The newly-formed Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) trailed narrowly with just 27.05%, but won just 19 seats.  That’s surely somewhat of a disappointment for its leader, François Legault, but the party did very well in the Québec City region and former Montréal police chief and anti-corruption figure Jacques Duchesneau won a seat.  Nonetheless, the CAQ was the significant gainer in the election and Legault has an excellent chance to build upon his success.
  • As such, the PQ leader, Pauline Marois, will form a minority government, and Marois will the first woman to become Québec’s premier, although it seems likely that we’ll see new elections long before the five-year government runs its course.
  • Marois’s victory speech was marred by a horrific assassination attempt, which left one man dead and another injured.
  • Léo Bureau-Blouin — the articulate 21-year-old and student spokesman — won his seat for the PQ in Laval-des-Rapides.
  • The leftist Québec solidaire won both seats for Amir Khadir and rising star Françoise David, but achieved a total vote of just 6.03%.  That, however, combined with the 1.90% that the breakaway sovereigntist Option nationale won likely hampered the PQ in its efforts to win a majority government — that’s nearly 8% of the electorate that would likely not have supported the PLQ or the CAQ.
  • Charest stepped down as leader yesterday after three decades in political life and after nine years as Québec’s premier.  Charest lost his own election district, Sherbrooke, which he has represented in either the federal House of Commons or Québec’s Assemblée nationale.
  • Marois has already started to move forward on ending Charest’s planned tuition hikes on students, the controversial Bill 78 limiting street protests and introducing changes to Bill 101, strengthening and enhancing the French-language requirements in the province.

Québec votes today

Canada’s only French-speaking and second-largest province goes to the polls today to elect the 125-member Assemblée nationale — Quebec’s politics are a fascinating subset of Canadian politics (notwithstanding the fact that the election will likely have a minimal impact on federal Canadian politics).

Rather than try to provide my own rundown and projection, I’ll leave it to Éric Grenier of ThreeHundredEight: his ridiculously detailed (and amazing) projection calls for a majority government led by the leftist, sovereigntist Parti québécois (PQ), although just barely.

Polls show three top parties since premier Jean Charest announced snap elections and kicked off the campaign on August 1:

  • Charest’s own Parti libéral du Québec (Liberal Party, or PLQ) — Charest has governed the province since 2003, and the Liberals are seeking their fourth consecutive mandate in the face of charges of corruption (the Charbonneau Commission is looking into whether the government traded construction contracts in exchange for political financing) and a government that’s not done enough to boost the economy, despite a flashy plan to develop northern Québec.
  • The PQ, led by Pauline Marois, which is looking to return to provincial government after nearly a decade.
  • The Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ), led by François Legault, which was formed just last year and which lies vaguely to the right of the PLQ, although not in every way, and which lies somewhere between the sovereigntism of the PQ and the federalism of the PLQ (Legault, a former PQ minister, once supported the 1995 referendum on Québec’s independence, but has said any CAQ government will not pursue a new referendum).  The CAQ’s recruitment of quality candidates has been a boost, none of which more so than former Montréal police chief Jacques Duchesneau, whose presence in the election has been a constant reminder of potential PLQ corruption.

Grenier forecasts 63 seats for the PQ, just 33 seats for the Liberals and 27 for the CAQ.  If true, it would be a bloodbath for Charest’s Liberals, who would stand a chance of being pushed not only out of government, but into third place (while the CAQ becomes the Official Opposition) — it would likely also mean that Charest himself would lose his seat in Sherbrooke, a district where he’s been winning elections since 1984.

Roughly speaking, the PLQ is expected to hold its own in Montréal and its suburbs, where most of the province’s anglophones live (although they comprise 10% or so of the electorate, English-speakers tend to vote en masse for the Liberals, even though there are signs that some may be considering the CAQ).  The CAQ is expected to do well around Québec City further north, and the PQ is expected to do well everywhere else.

A key question will be whether two smaller more radically leftists and sovereigntist parties, Québec solidaire (whose spokeswoman Françoise David performed well in the party leaders debate) and Option nationale, succeed in taking away votes form the PQ — Marois has tread very lightly on the sovereignty issue, making it clear that she’s more interested in governing the province than arranging another referendum.

Increasingly less important over the course of the campaign has been the tuition fee issue — student protests over tuition hikes that shut down Montréal universities, and Charest’s police-heavy (some might say unconstitutionally repressive) response, brough international attention last spring.  Despite Marois’s opposition to tuition hikes and a high-profile PQ candidate in 20-year-old student leader Léo Bureau-Blouin, the issue has not had the salience you might have expected just a few months ago.

I am traveling most of Tuesday, but hopefully will have some brief thoughts much later tonight when we have an idea of which party — PLQ, PQ or CAQ — has won the most seats and whether they’ll command enough seats to have a majority government.

In the meanwhile, a little Céline Dion to help set the election day mood, and of course you can follow all of Suffragio‘s coverage of the election here.

À bientôt!

The key to Québec’s election are the CAQ-leaning francophones, not anglophones

If voters support the parties in next Tuesday’s Québec election as shown in the latest Leger Marketing poll, it will be with a burst of support among francophone voters for the newly-formed Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ).

That poll showed, essentially, a three-way race, with the sovereigntist Parti québécois (PQ) leading at 33%, with 28% for the CAQ and 27% for premier Jean Charest and his Parti libéral du Québec (Liberal Party, or PLQ).  Showing the volatility of the race, another poll last week showed Charest’s Liberals with a 35% lead to just 29% for the PQ and 24% for the CAQ.

Although so much has been made of anglophone voters — and their openness to the CAQ — anglophone Quebeckers, which make up roughly 10% of the Québec electorate, are still mostly captive to premier Jean Charest and his Parti libéral du Québec (Liberal Party, or PLQ).  Despite support from the prominent anglophone politician Robert Libman, the CAQ attracts just 15% of the anglophone vote to 67% for the Liberals (the PQ wins just 9%).

Francophone voters, however, split as follows: 38% to the PQ, 31% to the CAQ, 18% to Charest’s Liberals, 9% to the stridently leftist and sovereigntist Québec solidaire and 3% to the sovereigntist Option nationale, which received the high-profile support of former PQ premier Jacques Parizeau over the weekend.

It should be fairly clear that the 12% of francophone voters supporting Québec solidaire and Option nationale would otherwise be supporting the PQ in this election.  Remember that the first-past-the-post system means that the election next Tuesday will really be 125 separate elections in each election district, so in a close race, that 12% could make the difference.

But to me, the real key to the election is where François Legault and the CAQ are pulling their 30% share of francophone voters, and there are two options:

If the CAQ’s francophone support is coming predominantly from voters who have already decided that they won’t vote for Charest, the CAQ is competing for the same pool of voters as the PQ, which could ultimately lead to Charest pulling off a victory and a minority government.

If the CAQ’s francophone support is coming from voters who, for whatever reason, are attracted to its centrist / vaguely free-market platform, the CAQ is competing with the Liberals, which could allow the PQ to win a minority government.

Given that the election is in large part a referendum on Charest, on Liberal corruption and on the economy that Charest now owns after nine years in office, and given that the CAQ has been purposefully vague about its platform, I think the former is much more likely the case, and it’s why, despite what some polls show, the chances of a fourth consecutive mandate for the Liberals is still a very real possibility. Continue reading The key to Québec’s election are the CAQ-leaning francophones, not anglophones

Will Québec solidaire break through in next Tuesday’s election?

When Québec’s major party leaders gathered a few days ago for the only multi-party debate in advance of the election for Québec’s Assemblée nationale on Sept. 4, voters saw three familiar faces: Jean Charest, leader of the Parti libéral du Québec (Liberal Party, or PLQ) and the province’s premier since 2003; Pauline Marois, leader of the sovereigntist Parti québécois (PQ), and François Legault, a former PQ minister and leader of the newly-formed and more center-right Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ).

They also saw a less familiar face: Québec solidaire spokeswoman Françoise David who, along with spokesman Amir Khadir, are the two “spokespersons” for Québec solidaire, a stridently leftist, environmentalist, feminist and sovereigntist party founded in 2006 when several smaller parties merged.

David wasn’t a wholly outsized presence in that debate, but to the extent it was David’s first introduction to many Québec voters, her above-the-fray tone seemed to make a favorable impression.

David and Québec solidaire are, by far, the most leftwing and anti-neoliberal of the four parties (and party leaders) featured in last week’s debates:

  • On student fees, not only does David oppose tuition increases for students, but was the only party leader to wear a red square — the symbol of student protesters — on stage (even though Marois wore it in solidarity with students last spring and has come out strongly in opposition to tuition hikes).
  • On the environment, David has criticized Charest’s Plan Nord, designed to boost mining and other economic efforts in northern Québec, and her party is downright hostile to Québec’s asbestos industry (Québec is essentially the only main producer of asbestos in North America and Europe).
  • On sovereignty, Québec solidaire is firmly in favor of an independent Québec, in contrast to theMONDAY’S PIECE> nuanced “wait and see” approach that Marois has taken.

Continue reading Will Québec solidaire break through in next Tuesday’s election?

Charest comes out swinging in first Québec debate

The party leaders of each of the four main political parties in Québec held their first debate Sunday in advance of the province’s September 4 election, with three additional one-on-one debates to follow tonight, Tuesday and Wednesday.

It’s always difficult to tell whether debates will change the dynamic of an election campaign, and it’s no different in this election.

Going into the debate, it was expected that the leader with the biggest target would be Jean Charest (pictured above, second to left), the leader of the centrist, federalist Parti libéral du Québec (Liberal Party, or PLQ) and premier of Québec since 2003.

The PLQ, according to recent polls, is struggling against the leftist, sovereigntist Parti québécois (PQ), and the new sorta-center-right-ish, sorta autonomous-ish Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) is polling an increasingly strong third place — a poll released Friday night showed the PQ with 35% to just 30% for the Liberals and 25% for the CAQ.  Most ominously, the poll shows that for the first time, anglophone voters are not supporting the Liberals en masse: although the Liberals still lead among non-francophone voters with 62% to just 20% for the CAQ, that result marks a fairly staggering loss for a party that normally has a monopoly on native English speakers, which comprise 10% of the Québécois electorate.

So on Sunday night, it was thought that PQ leader Pauline Marois (pictured above, second to right) and CAQ leader François Legault (pictured above, far left), as well as spokeswoman for the far-left Québec solidaire, Françoise David (pictured above, far right) would all target Charest — on his record on tuition fees, on a damaging and ongoing corruption inquiry, on his controversial plan to develop northern Québec.

That quite didn’t happen, as Marois and Legault and David targeted one another — and an aggressive Charest went on the offensive against both Maoris and Legault.  For example, he went directly at Marois and Legault for supporting cuts in the PQ-led administration of the 1990s (Legault is a former PQ minister), he attached the PQ for its past corruption scandals and he went directly on the attack on the issue of sovereignty:

Mr. Charest charged that the PQ’s main objective will be to achieve sovereignty and hold a referendum “as quickly as possible. She has set up a committee to achieve it,” he warned.

Tonight, Charest will face off in a one-on-one debate against Marois.  Tuesday night will feature Charest and Legault, while Wednesday night will feature Marois and Legault.

The French-language La Presse‘s recap and the English-language Montréal Gazette‘s recap largely concurred: Continue reading Charest comes out swinging in first Québec debate

Charest makes it official: Québec goes to the polls September 4

Jean Charest, Québec’s premier since 2003 (pictured above), has dissolved his province’s Assemblée nationale and called a snap election for September 4 — just 33 days away.

His Parti libéral du Québec (Liberal Party, or PLQ) will be seeking its fourth consecutive mandate and Charest will be leading the PLQ for the fifth consecutive time since 1998, when he first left Canadian federal politics for Québecois provincial politics.  He’s been a decade-long fixture of the province’s government, and he starts out the race with even odds at best.

His main opposition is the sovereigntist (and leftist) Parti québécois (PQ), who leader, Pauline Marois, makes Charest look like a star campaigner.

But further to the right is former PQ minister François Legault, whose Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), a new center-right party formed only earlier this year, will attempt to pull votes from both the PQ and the PLQ.  Further to the left, Québec solidaire will also attempt to pull seats from the PQ and, to a lesser extent, the PLQ.

So what are the starting positions for the parties? Continue reading Charest makes it official: Québec goes to the polls September 4