Robert Libman: Subplots Add Drama to Quebec’s October Elections

While many see a CAQ majority as a foregone conclusion, the Duhaime factor and new rights-focused parties make things less predictable.

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“Libres chez nous!” (free in our own home) is the campaign slogan unveiled earlier this week by the leader of the Quebec Conservative Party, Éric Duhaime. It is a play on “Maîtres chez nous” (masters in our own house), the nationalist rallying cry of Jean Lesage’s Quebec Liberals in 1962 that came to exemplify the activism that sparked the Quiet Revolution: the rise of a More modern and autonomous Quebec. society and the “unchaining” of francophones from the dominance of their traditionally English-speaking economic masters.

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As a former political adviser, columnist and radio host, Duhaime knows the political game and is a skilled communicator. His slogan cleverly taps into the nationalist pride that François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec has been tapping into, but also the sense of frustration and fatigue among many Quebecers towards the government’s COVID restrictive measures.

Many believe that it is a foregone conclusion that the provincial vote on October 3 will produce another CAQ majority government, but the Duhaime factor, and the extent to which it can shuffle the cards in the National Assembly or perhaps even form the official opposition, is one of developing subplots that could add some excitement and suspense.

Duhaime’s poll numbers have solidified. This week’s Angus Reid poll has him in second place, with an adjustment to the overall numbers. Legault’s CAQ garnered 35 percent voter support compared to 19 percent for the Conservatives, 18 for the Liberals, 14 for Québec solidaire and 10 for the Parti Québécois. In the Quebec City area, Duhaime’s party trails the CAQ by just two points and is poised to win seats in the region. The opposition fracturing still works largely in Legault’s favor, but nearly three in four Quebecers surveyed said the Legault government has done a poor or very poor job of providing health care, affordable housing, caring for people seniors and cost of living. Duhaime is therefore well armed politically to go after the government, with no baggage of his own to defend on these issues, unlike the Liberals. And if COVID worsens in September, Legault may be caught in a lose-lose scenario between imposing the necessary measures and looking in the rearview mirror at Duhaime.

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Even many Anglophones have taken a look at Duhaime, particularly since the Liberals brutally mishandled the Bill 96 file. Duhaime has been reciprocating, speaking out strongly against the new language law and the widespread use of the government exception. However, if his overall numbers increase, he may begin to back down on this opposition, to shore up soft nationalist support for him.

Minority communities also got a nod this week when Quebec solidaire said it would drastically change Quebec’s religious symbols law to allow teachers, police officers and other officials in positions of authority to wear religious symbols at work. Will this allow them to expand their Montreal base and compete for official Opposition status?

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Another subplot this week: A Mainstreet Research poll asked voters in seven constituencies in far west Montreal whether they would consider voting for a new party dedicated to promoting minority rights and languages ​​instead of one of the existing parties. . If you combine the results of the Quebec Canadian Party with the Bloc Montréal, the numbers outnumber the Liberals in six of the seven rounds.

All of these moving parts make the trip in October that much more interesting. We have seen how provincial and federal election campaigns have become a penny in Quebec in recent years. Is this another example? It’s still early days and Duhaime will have to prove he’s more than just talk. But with all the volatility and discontent right now, there’s a chance that the Duhaime factor and other subplots could become much larger narratives.

Robert Libman is an architect and building planning consultant who has served as leader of the Equality Party and MNA, as mayor of Côte-St-Luc, and as a member of the executive committee of Montreal. He was a conservative candidate in the 2015 federal elections.

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