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Canada Analysis: Quebec Liberals lunge into leadership race hoping for political redemption

09:50  25 november  2019
09:50  25 november  2019 Source:   montrealgazette.com

Alexandre Cusson is joining the Liberal leadership race; will face Anglade

  Alexandre Cusson is joining the Liberal leadership race; will face Anglade SHERBROOKE — Quebec’s Liberals will be getting the leadership race so many said was necessary to reboot the party. Confirming weeks of rumours, Drummondville Mayor Alexandre Cusson Saturday announced he will be in the campaign and is ready to do battle with the lone other candidate, former cabinet minister Dominique Anglade. “I think I have a surprise for you,” Cusson said with a chuckle, arriving at a Liberal general council meeting surrounded by a swarm of supporters. “I confirm with lots of enthusiasm that I will be candidate in the leadership race starting today.

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a man wearing a blue shirt: Dominique Anglade has had to face some challenging questions, including comments by analysts in some media in the last few days of the existence of an © John Mahoney Dominique Anglade has had to face some challenging questions, including comments by analysts in some media in the last few days of the existence of an

SHERBROOKE — The two could not be more different, yet both believe they have the right stuff to lead the Quebec Liberals out of the political hinterland.

Dominique Anglade is a 45-year-old former economic development minister in the Couillard government; the daughter of Haitian immigrants, born in Montreal, educated in French. Quick-witted and wise in the ways of politics, Anglade enters the party’s leadership race oozing confidence.

Alexandre Cusson is a 51-year-old former teacher and school board administrator with roots in the regions of Quebec thanks to his past role as president of the Union des municipalités. His current job is mayor of Drummondville. Cerebral and known as a workhorse, Cusson believes he can reconnect the party with francophone voters without ignoring the base.

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Analysis : Quebec Liberals lunge into leadership race hoping for political redemption .

Neither Anglade nor Cusson are household names and both have their political liabilities, but the Liberals are banking on one of the two to end the purgatory inflicted on the party in the 2018 general election.

“I expect a mix of new ideas, which will spark debate,” party president Linda Caron told 500 Liberal party members in a speech closing a weekend general council meeting where the leadership race was kicked off with gusto.

“Everyone will emerge a winner because together we will define a vision of the future for Quebec.”

The sigh of relief in the party over the late arrival of Cusson in the race — which up until Saturday was not actually a race because Anglade was the lone candidate — was palpable.

In fact, with morale running low after the body blow of the 2018 election defeat, many Liberals seemed happy to have anyone come forward to create a bit of buzz with voters.

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Analysis : Quebec Liberals lunge into leadership race hoping for political redemption .

Cusson, however, is an unproven political figure on the provincial scene. He starts the race from behind. Anglade has been in the field since June.

And despite several weeks of media hype, his arrival at the council, in the eyes of the media, anyway, fell flat as his answers to questions about his vision were vague at best.

The race “is just starting,” Cusson told reporters Sunday, defending himself. “The objective of the weekend was to meet the members. You are impatient. Did you think I would arrive on the first day and say here is my platform, everything is decided?

“In my life I rallied by listening, not imposing.”

The weakness did not go unnoticed in the Anglade camp.

“I am waiting for his ideas,” Anglade said Sunday when she met reporters. “If we want to have a debate on ideas, there have to be ideas to debate. I await them with impatience.”

The first sign of discord prompted unflappable interim Liberal Leader Pierre Arcand, who is officially neutral in the race, to step in.

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Analysis : Quebec Liberals lunge into leadership race hoping for political redemption .

“Give him (Cusson) a chance,” Arcand said. “He just got here.”

But Anglade had to face her own challenging questions, including comments by analysts in some media in the last few days of the existence of an “anybody but Anglade” movement in the party; the argument being that a candidate from a visible minority in Montreal cannot win in the regions.

“It’s a bit the nature of the beast that some people have reticences,” Anglade said, tackling the question head on. “But I think Quebec is beyond that.

“In all the years that I have been going to the regions of Quebec, I’ve seen a level of openness. I think we underestimate Quebecers. Quebecers are absolutely ready for this.”

“That’s not an issue for me,” Cusson said moments later. “This is a debate on ideas, and that’s what we’re going to see.”

But the race is indeed rolling after being set in motion by the party Saturday following a nostalgic evening tribute to the most recent leaders, including Daniel Johnson, Jean Charest and Philippe Couillard.

The winner will become the 15th leader in the party’s 150-year-old history. The election will take place the weekend of May 30-31, 2020, at a convention to be held in Quebec City.

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Sylvain Gaudreault will be the first candidate to throw his hat into the ring for the Parti Québécois leadership . The Jonquière MNA and PQ environment Liberal leadership race kicks off with Cusson squaring off against Anglade. Analysis : Quebec Liberals lunge into leadership race hoping for

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The race could also mark history. If Anglade wins, she will be the first member of a cultural minority ever to win the permanent leadership of a major Quebec political party.

Cusson made his candidacy official Saturday morning.

“I think I have a surprise for you,” Cusson said with a chuckle, arriving surrounded by a surprisingly large gaggle of supporters. “I confirm with lots of enthusiasm that I will be a candidate in the leadership race starting today.”

So how is the race shaping up? Anglade thus far is winning the battle for caucus support. As of Saturday, she had the backing of 11 of the 27 members of the Liberal caucus.

Cusson so far has the support of two MNAs, Marwah Rizqy and Lise Thériault, who were both at his side when he met reporters.

Cusson said he is not concerned about a lack of caucus support because in the final crunch, it will be the entire membership that votes.

Many longtime Liberals are working behind the scenes for Cusson, including former party director-general Sylvain Langis and former cabinet minister Jean-Marc Fournier.

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The Quebec Liberal leadership race is just a day old but that didn’t stop the first two candidates from taking shots at each other on Sunday. Drummondville Mayor Alexandre Cusson accused his opponent for the Quebec Liberal Party leadership Dominique Anglade of not living up to her

Anglade has the backing of Claude Lemieux, former adviser to Robert Bourassa.

While Anglade once held the job of president of the Coalition Avenir Québec party, Cusson was a member of the party’s youth wing in the 1980s. He told reporters he has only ever voted Liberal in his life and voted No in the 1995 sovereignty referendum.

Cusson describes himself as a nationalist, but has as a core value Quebec’s presence in Canada.

Cusson has been mayor of Drummondville since 2013. He holds a masters in education and was formerly the director-general and teacher at Collège Saint-Bernard, a private school in Drummondville.

The party established the rules for the race last May. In order to run, candidates must raise $50,000 by February and sign up 750 individual Liberals in 12 ridings. In theory, other candidates have until March 6 to come forward, but that seems unlikely.

Five leadership debates, including one in English, are in the works.

For the first time in the party’s history, there is no slate system to elect the leader. It will be a general vote of the membership — via phones and the internet — although the party has created a weighted voting system to ensure equal representation from all regions.

But while the Liberals hope to build momentum off the leadership race, its immediate challenge is clinging to the one riding it won east of Montreal in the last election. A by-election in Quebec City’s Jean-Talon riding, called to replace former MNA Sébastien Proulx, is Dec. 2.

Arcand said he is expecting a close race. He and half-a-dozen other MNAs left the council early Sunday to campaign during advance polls.

pauthier@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/philipauthier

Whisper campaign questions black Liberal candidate's appeal outside Montreal .
MONTREAL — Within days of entering the Quebec Liberal leadership race, Dominique Anglade was hit with a whisper campaign suggesting the colour of her skin and her connection to Montreal hurt her chances of becoming premier. The comments didn't come from the dregs of social media but from people in her own party speaking to two of the province's most seasoned political reporters. The message was that party members didn't think Quebecers in regions outside the big cities were ready to vote for a black woman from the province's multi-ethnic metropolis. In a recent interview, Anglade said the anonymous Liberal insiders "underestimate Quebecers.

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