With one exception, the final results of the federal elections in Quebec are ready and what they add up to is an unchanged post-election map. With a last count still in progress, not a single seat has changed hands.
In this case, the absence of change is not synonymous with a non-event.
The results of the 2021 federal elections come on the heels of one of Quebec’s most volatile electoral decades. During that period, the province has been governed by four prime ministers from three different parties.
At the federal level, Quebec voters pledged to the NDP and Jack Layton in 2011.
Four years later, a plurality turned to Justin Trudeau’s liberals, returning the party to the top spot in the province for the first time in more than three decades.
The 2019 federal elections saw the return of the Bloc Québécois to a position of strength in the House of Commons.
It is not for lack of attempts by the province’s top politician that last month’s elections did not again lead to a significant reorganization of the federal platform in Quebec.
On the way to replicating the 2019 results, voters gave little thought to Prime Minister François Legault’s federal preferences.
Despite his dire warnings of a Liberal / NDP threat to the province’s autonomy, Justin Trudeau, with 35 seats, returns to command the largest federal group in Quebec.
Not only did the Conservatives fail to add a single seat to their 10-member turnout, the Bloc Québécois also failed to expand its reach.
With less than a year to go to his own reelection campaign, what should Legault think of his constituents’ contempt for the unsolicited federal council he so enthusiastically offered? Here are some of the first thoughts.
There is no question that the prime minister went overboard. His enthusiasm for a minority conservative government was not even universally shared within his own group. Some members of his cabinet approached their federal liberal counterparts privately to assure them of his willingness to continue working together.
It is one thing to ask voters to support a particular federal party and another to follow up with the organizational muscle necessary to support one’s prescriptions. In this case, all the prime minister could offer was verbal support.
Legault is not the first provincial leader whose influence has failed to alter the course of a federal election.
Former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, who enjoyed the support of several Conservative prime ministers in 2019, can testify to the limits of such endorsements. They are generally more likely to backfire on your beneficiary than to translate into more support. Like his provincial counterparts, the Quebec prime minister does not walk on water.
But that’s not to say the federal result bodes ill for Legault’s reelection prospects. Otherwise. If last month’s results are a harbinger of a provincial trend, it’s that Quebec is in a frame of mind to stay the course.
The last two decades have seen a departure from the sovereignty / federalism axis that for so long defined the province’s politics.
The decision of many Quebecers to review their electoral options explains much of the recent electoral volatility in the province.
The federal result, along with the prohibitive leadership of the Avenir Quebec Coalition in polls on provincial voting intentions, suggests that Quebecers have found a federal-provincial comfort zone that they are content to stay with for more than one electoral cycle. .
In a provincial election held this fall, Legault reportedly swept the province. Meanwhile, the parties that defended federalism and sovereignty in the last two wars of the referendum are alive.
One year after the Quebec elections, the Parti Québécois is on the brink of disappearance.
Historically strong backing from provincial liberals in the province’s non-Francophone areas is almost everything that keeps the party afloat.
It is not uncommon these days to hear speculation that the only person who could bring Quebec back to the battlefield of independence would be Legault himself.
There are those who fear or hope that the engineering of such a return is the grand plan behind his words of struggle directed at Trudeau and his ruling federal party.
No one can claim to read the prime minister’s mind.
Since the end of the summer, Legault has begun to present himself as the self-proclaimed father of the Quebec nation.
On Tuesday, he went far ahead and told reporters that he is already contemplating staying for a third term.
But if you have the messianic tendencies that some of your critics and fans believe, the September 20 results should give you pause.
If there’s a message for Legault in the guts of last month’s vote, it’s that when it comes to their political choices, Quebecers stick to their own council.
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