During the last provincial elections, many Anglophones in Quebec have felt disenfranchised, like political orphans. The campaigns and votes inspired little enthusiasm. Feeling that the Liberal Party took their vote for granted, they either stayed home or held their noses to vote Liberal as the lesser evil.
With another election coming up, I’ve been hearing a familiar refrain: “Who should I vote for?”
This time, it is not for lack of choice, but the other way around. In districts with significant Anglophone populations, notably on the island of Montreal, several new parties will court voters. The Conservative Party of Quebec, the Canadian Party of Quebec, and the Montreal Bloc are all potential suitors, and this puts pressure on the Liberals. It’s nice to feel wanted, for a change.
The tumultuous last four years of government identity politics, including the passage of a stricter language law, Bill 96, have left Anglophone voters politically energized and eager to wield influence at the polls. Many have vowed not to support the Liberals after their bungling of the Bill 96 amendments, even though the party voted against the bill. They feel it’s time to shake things up and want stronger voices to speak on their behalf. However, it gets complicated if the field fills up. The so-called split vote can be a concern.
In this election, the division of votes could play out in different ways.
One scenario involves majority Francophone cavalcades by Liberals whose fairly significant Anglophone populations have helped propel the party to victory. Promenades such as Marguerite-Bourgeoys (LaSalle), Marquette (Lachine and Dorval), Verdun, Vaudreuil, and Saint-Henri-Sainte-Anne, which is the promenade of Liberal leader Dominique Anglade, have Anglophone populations of more than 20 percent. If the Anglo-Saxons on these rides ditch the Liberals for the newer parties, François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec, authors of Bill 96, could score a victory in many of them.
A second vote-splitting scenario involves West End and West Island rides like Jacques-Cartier, D’Arcy-McGee, Westmount-St-Louis, Robert Baldwin, and Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, where non-Francophones are a solid most. , and the Liberals win by wide margins. Here, the CAQ seems to have no chance. In 1989, the Equality Party won four of those seats and almost the fifth. But this time, three parties could be splitting the votes of the disillusioned with the Liberals, making it easier for the Liberals to win. The new parties have not yet been able to forge an agreement not to compete with each other on these rides.
Many Anglophones feel they have little to lose, given that the CWC is likely to form a majority anyway. Why not vote this time out of conviction, rather than fear? Real. But in the first scenario, some voters who oppose House Bill 96 may cringe at the prospect of inadvertently helping to reward the CAQ with additional seats. On routes where the CAQ is not a threat, the newer parts deserve serious consideration.
The language problem is not going to go away, as we have been reminded this week with the census debate and the fallout from the legal challenges to Bill 96. Whom Anglo voters help send to the National Assembly over the next four years is essential.
During the campaign it will be essential that the Anglo-Saxons do their homework and evaluate all options and scenarios. Which of the newer parties will emerge as the most viable? How capable are the candidates? Will Eric Duhaime’s conservatives remain true to their anti-Bill 96 convictions? Will the Liberals be able to mend relations with the community or will they remain bland on language to court the soft nationalist vote?
This is shaping up to be a much more interesting choice for Anglophones than we have seen in a long time. Stay tuned.
Robert Libman is an architect and building planning consultant who has served as leader of the Equality Party and MNA, What metermayor of Côte-St-Luc and as a member of the Montreal executive committee. He was a conservative candidate in the 2015 federal elections. twitter.com/robertlibman
Tom Mulcair: There is not much in the platform of the Quebec Conservative Party
Hanes: The next elections are more important than ever for the Anglo-Saxons: QCGN