Justin Ling: Quebec voters did not listen to their very popular Prime Minister, who was vaguely supportive of Erin O’Toole. In the end, neither party got the breakthrough it wanted.
The electoral map of Quebec looks like a rorschach blotch. Look at it one way, Prime Minister Francois Legault’s impressive popularity has influenced the results and cemented his role as the voice of Quebec.
Look at it another way, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is still Quebec’s favorite son, and the province remains committed to sticking with its progressive project, even if it has lost some of the luster.
But bow your head a little more and perhaps Quebec is increasingly divided within itself, polarized in the increasingly nationalistic tone coming from Quebec City.
Squint and you might even see the outbreaks of an NDP revival in the province.
Where exactly Quebecers would go on Election Day has been a matter of tea leaf reading in recent weeks, especially after Legault’s rather bombastic entry into the federal race, generally a rarity in Quebec politics.
“It will be easier for Quebec to negotiate new powers with O’Toole than with Trudeau,” Legault told a news conference in September. “The nation of Quebec wants more autonomy, not less,” he said. followed.
But if O’Toole was supposed to be relying on Quebec to help achieve that victory for the Conservative leader, he was left wanting Monday night when the results came in. While his share of the vote has improved, it is likely that he will add only two Quebecers to his clique.
Legault’s push to O’Toole may simply not have been enough to overcome other serious shortcomings of the Conservatives in Quebec.
Part of Legault’s flirtation with O’Toole may stem from the fact that the Conservative Party of Quebec, which had previously been a fringe party, is now being brought to life thanks to controversial radio host and current leader Éric Duhaime. While the CAQ may be just shy of 50 percent in opinion polls, Conservatives are slowly moving toward 10 percent, which could start to eat away at Legault’s base in and around Quebec City.
Legault may have smiled at Cheshire when asked who he would support, but he was pretty clear about who Quebecers shouldn’t vote for.
“There are three parties, the Liberal Party, the NDP, the Green Party, that want to give us less autonomy. That seems dangerous to me. “
Legault’s emphatic view of the state of affairs was not very difficult to analyze: autonomy is good. Trudeau wrong.
Marc Miller, a close Trudeau ally representing downtown Montreal, said Maclean’s that it was “surprising for many of us to hear that kind of statement from the prime minister.”
Where things are tonight, Quebecers didn’t exactly listen. It appears that the Liberals will elect around 35 deputies from Quebec, the exact same number the province returned to Ottawa in 2019. The NDP, meanwhile, has re-elected Alexandre Boulerice on the island of Montreal and given him some company on the popular former deputy. Ruth Ellen Brosseau.
Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, responsible for Trudeau’s plan to regulate Canadian content on the Internet, controversial in the rest of Canada, popular in Quebec, is narrowly staying in Laurier-Sainte-Marie. The NDP is only a few steps behind him, perhaps representing a constant frustration that the former environmental activist is now part of a government responsible for buying a gas pipeline in western Canada. Or, at least, that’s what an organized campaign to deface Guilbeault’s election posters would suggest.
Miller’s reflection on the results? “It will be OK, ”Quoting a phrase that has become a catchphrase on how to overcome the pandemic.
Legault’s vague endorsement of O’Toole probably came down to clever chess.
When Legault was asked if he preferred a minority government, he took the opportunity to dance a bit with O’Toole. “In the current context, since none of the parties meets all of our needs, I think I am obliged to say that, for the nation of Quebec, that would be better.”
Nowhere on his lips was the Bloc Quebecois, although Yves-François Blanchet certainly took it as a side endorsement of his party. “It is at least an invitation to consider both the Quebecois Bloc and the Conservatives,” he said after the debate by English-speaking leaders.
But if that’s true, both Blanchet and Legault must be disappointed, as the Bloc is likely to lose a seat or two across the province. Indeed, Blanchet appeared deflated, speaking to his fans after midnight and confessing that the results “were not what we wanted.”
The results are a clear sign that there are limits to Legault’s popularity. While Quebecers can broadly support his approach to the pandemic, that is no guarantee that their towering support will remain there.
More generally, the results may suggest that Quebecers are not impressed with the mating ritual displayed by party leaders. It’s no secret that Quebecers are, probably more than anyone else in the country, concerned about the environment. However, climate change was pushed aside in the campaign trail, often without exceeding the platitudes and talking points.
Bill 21 once again played a central role in the debates in the French media, yet the parties’ positions were almost indistinguishable: Liberals generally oppose the bill, but refuse to fight it from in a meaningful way; while the Bloc wants Ottawa to expressly renounce its plans to fight the legislation. The other parts are intermediate shadows. The last time a leader came out to expressly and emphatically oppose an attempt to ban religious symbols in Quebec public service was Justin Trudeau, who was seeking his first term in 2015.
Legault pushed for meaningful new health transfers for Quebec, and O’Toole’s promise to push the transfers is part of what the prime minister’s kind words earned him, but no candidate went as far as the prime minister demanded.
Altogether, Quebecers seem not to be influenced by all their political leaders. Maybe it’s just a question of whether someone can break that status quo next time.