Beyond the Ballot: The wild card that is Québec
This is part of a series of regional updates by our cross-country team, who are in-jurisdiction experts regarding the on-the-ground dynamic of the Federal Election.
Historically, Quebecers have had a tendency of voting as a team – or “block voting” – and more often than not, voting in support of the leading party and the one that promises to take the province’s best interests to heart. Rarely have they supported third parties, unless they originated in the province. However, voting patterns have shifted in recent years, indicating a more unpredictable electorate.
The Bloc Québécois won the majority of the province’s seats in 2008 and Jack Layton’s “Orange Wave” subsequently transformed the province in 2011, allowing the New Democrats to become the Official Opposition. Given this inconsistent voting pattern, it’s fair to say that Quebec will definitely be a wild card this time around on Election Day.
What to expect during the 2019 campaign?
Despite ups and downs over the past four years, support for federal parties in Quebec has generally remained stable, with the exception of the NDP, which has seen its base fall since the nomination of Jagmeet Singh as leader. The Bloc Québécois continues to gain some momentum since the arrival of its leader Yves-François Blanchet. And with several seats now competitive given the NDP’s downfall in the province, we can expect federal parties to spend additional time and resources in “la belle province” in order to sway voters and hopefully get their seal of approval come October 21.
A new inter-provincial dynamic will prove to be a challenge for the Liberals
- The province is expected to be a battleground for all parties, but Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is the one that has the most to lose – and gain.
- Quebec was instrumental in helping secure Trudeau’s victory in 2015, with results exceeding expectations. Fast forward four years later, and with a Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) provincial government, he finds himself in a different situation. Of note, Trudeau as Prime Minister has gone out of his way to find areas of common interest and compromise between both governments since Premier Francois Legault took office last October. He will have to wait and see if his efforts have paid off.
- The Liberals hope to make gains in the province to make up for expected losses in Ontario, B.C. and Atlantic Canada, including rural ridings where the NDP managed to hang on to their seats in 2015.
- The Liberals have been keeping their profile up in the province over the summer months and have recruited high-profile candidates to run in this election including former Parti Québécois Cabinet Minister Réjean Hébert, environmentalist and co-founder of Equiterre Steven Guilbeault, and former Hill staffer and lawyer Marie-Chantal Hamel.
Hopes of a right-wing alliance for Scheer’s Conservatives
- Back in 2015, Quebec was the only province in which the Conservatives gained seats, going from 5 to 12. Today, the Conservatives under leader Andrew Scheer are struggling to build an alliance with Premier Legault’s party, a centre-right-leaning caucus with a base of support focused on nationalism. While provincially Quebec seems to be supporting a more right-wing government, the CAQ is more of a cousin to the federal Conservative branch, and Legault has often challenged his political counterparts on controversial issues such as infrastructure and resource development.
- Polls continue to show that the Liberals remain the top choice in the province, but the Conservatives are following close behind, especially in the capital region of Quebec City.
- For Scheer, it will be important to hold onto his current Quebec seats, which could be difficult as a result of the new People’s Party led by Quebec’s own Maxime Bernier, as well as the Bloc’s recent surge.
About the Greens and the New Democrats
- While the Green Party is gaining ground at a time when climate change and protecting the environment are top of mind, the NDP is struggling to find its new identity in the province under current Leader Jagmeet Singh. With the election now four weeks away, Singh still remains relatively unknown to Quebec voters.
- As of today, the New Democrats are on track to lose most or all of their 15 seats in the province.
The renaissance of the Bloc
- As of September 19, the Bloc Québécois is polling in third place in the province, ahead of the NDP, the Greens and the People’s Party, according to Calculated Politics. Seat projections are indicating the party could win up to 24 seats, more than enough to secure official party status in the House of Commons.
Pipelines, secularism and SNC-Lavalin
While the Liberals are trying to recover from the SNC-Lavalin scandal, other controversial issues such as secularism and immigration are proving to be important focuses for Quebecers during this federal campaign.
Premier Francois Legault’s first months in office were marked by the passage of two controversial bills to rewrite the province’s immigration laws and ban civil servants from wearing religious symbols in the workplace. Two civil liberties groups have since taken the religious symbols law to the Quebec Court of Appeal, and so far, none of the major federal party leaders have said that they would take part in the legal challenge.
Legault has also been extremely firm on defending his province’s stance on resource development in light of increasing pressure from the east and west to revive the Energy East pipeline project. Since his election win, the Premier has stated that there is “no social acceptability” for further pipelines in Quebec, causing a partisan drift between provinces across the country being led by conservative premiers, which could impact the federal Conservatives’ chances in the province on October 21.
Top three ridings to watch
|Beloeil – Chambly
Incumbent: Matthew Dubé (NDP)
|The Bloc Québécois, who has not had a leader present in the House of Commons since 2008, is counting on Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet to win in this riding in order to secure his spot when Parliament resumes in November. The riding is presently occupied by one of the remaining NDP in the province, and past Caucus Chair Matthew Dubé. Dubé, who is seeking a third term, won his seat by less than 2% in 2015.
2019 Candidates: Matthew Dubé (NDP), Yves-François Blanchet (BQ), Marie-Chantal Hamel (LPC), Pierre Carrier (Green), Véronique Laprise (CPC), Chloé Bernard (PPC)
|Laurier – Sainte-Marie
Incumbent: Hélène Laverdière (NDP)
|A riding formerly held by former Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe, it was swamped by the “Orange Wave” in 2011, and remained with the NDP in 2015. With Laverdière not running again, we can expect a battle between the Bloc, who will try to take back the riding, and the Liberals, who are running well-known environmentalist and co-founder of Equiterre Steven Guilbeault as one of their new candidates in this election. In 2015, the Bloc came second, with the Liberals finishing in third place. The Liberals will be leveraging Guilbeault’s high-profile in the province and the fact that climate change is emerging as a top-tier issue for Canadians and Quebecers leading up to the election.
2019 Candidates: Steven Guilbeault (LPC), Nima Machouf (NDP), Lise Des Greniers (CPC), Jamil Azzaoui (Green), Michel Duchesne (BQ), Christine Bui (PPC)
Incumbent: Joël Lightbound (LPC)
|The riding of Louis-Hébert is only one of the two ridings in the capital region won by the Liberals during the 2015 general election, and historically has been proven to be a tough seat to win. Although numbers indicate that incumbent Liberal candidate Joël Lightbound is leading comfortably, he will be facing a new battle and political dynamic in 2019 following the election of a CAQ candidate in last fall’s provincial election – something the Conservatives will try to leverage.
2019 Candidates: Joël Lightbound (LPC), Marie-Josée Guérette (CPC), Jérémie Juneau (NDP), Macarena Diab (Green), Christian Hébert (BQ), Daniel Brisson (PPC)
Polling for Quebec
Courtesy of calculatedpolitics.ca
(September 19, 2019)