Canada Battleground Quebec: Parties clash over province’s dozens of key ridings
Battle for Quebec ends with Legault front and centre
QUEBEC – It started as the election about nothing until the premier of Quebec waded in hip deep. If in the 2019 federal election François Legault took a few well-placed jabs at Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau over Quebec’s secularism law, Bill 21, in this campaign a Scud missile was his weapon of choice for the attack. As a result, the uneasy truce between Legault and Trudeau on display in the early part of the federal election campaign went down in flames as Legault, donning his father-to-the-nation cap, offered free advice to Quebecers on how they might want to vote Monday. His suggestion was that the vote not be Liberal, New Democratic Party or Green.
Tucked away on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, across from the island of Montreal, the suburban riding of La Prairie may be Quebec’s best election bellwether.
Over the last three elections, the towns that make up the riding have elected MPs from three different parties: the NDP in 2011, the Liberals in 2015, and the Bloc Québécois in 2019.
It is a bit of a microcosm of Quebec as a whole — arguably the most volatile electorate of any province.
NDP's Brosseau poised to win amid few changes to Quebec electoral map
MONTREAL – Just as the election produced a national result that changed little, only a meagre handful of Quebec seats appeared at risk of flipping late Monday in what is usually a battleground province. With most of the province’s 78 seats called around 11:30 p.m. Eastern, the Liberals seem poised to maintain a slim lead in seats over the Bloc Québécois , exactly like in 2019. That means that none of the major federal leaders successfully turned a significant number of voters away from Yves-François Blanchet ’s party. As of 11:50 p.m. Eastern, the Liberals were leading in or had won 35 ridings, the Bloc Québécois was at 29, the Conservatives at 12 and the NDP at two.
“When it comes to federal elections, Quebecers are very much the kings and queens of strategic voting,” says Christian Bourque from the polling company Léger.
According to a Léger poll of Quebec voters released Tuesday, the Liberals hold onto about 34 per cent of the vote, while the Bloc Québécois trails at 30, the Conservatives at 19 and the NDP at 10.
While there has been a Conservative revival in the polls nationally, that hasn’t happened in Quebec, where the polls have stayed relatively flat — but that might be changing.
After spending the first couple of weeks of the federal election campaign as a spectator, Quebec Premier François Legault jumped in last week and is hoping to make a splash.
In Quebec City's fickle Beauport-Limoilou riding, three-way race is too close to call
OTTAWA – Door knocking in her central Quebec City riding of Beauport-Limoilou, Bloc Québécois MP Julie Vignola is disarmingly honest: she was surprised when she won her seat in 2019 and it would be a surprise if she won it again on Monday. “Seriously, I think it’ll be another surprise, specifically because of the historic dynamic of this riding,” she said as she walked from door to door of a low-income housing complex in Maizerets, a working-class sector at the northern tip of La Cité-Limoilou neighbourhood and just a few kilometres north of the provincial capital’s emblematic old city. Beauport-Limoilou has been fickle and can be a cruel mistress to incumbent MPs.
Legault is telling supporters to avoid the NDP, the Green Party and the Liberals, saying their talk of treading on provincial jurisdictions is dangerous.
"We have three leaders now that are proposing to get into Quebec's jurisdiction. We have three leaders saying that they may oppose, in court, Bill 21, three leaders that are not ready to give us more responsibility to choose new immigrants," Legault said last week.
Legault is pushing Quebec nationalists to vote for the Conservative Party. The Bloc Québécois, he says, can’t form a government.
Political scientist Daniel Béland says the support from the premier may be a morale boost for Erin O’Toole’s troops, but says it may not translate into seats. They may have started the campaign too far back.
“The question now is whether CAQ (Coalition Avenir Quebec) voters will actually align themselves with what the premier said, or will follow their own minds,” Béland says.
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“I think we will have to watch the polls very closely in the last days before the vote to see whether this is having an effect.”
Even after criticism from Legault, the party leaders he went after have avoiding responding in kind, not for fear of angering the premier, but in case it turns off his supporters. Legault isn’t just one of the most popular premiers in the country. He’s one of the most popular ever.
“For the last 15 months, he’s had an approval rating close to 80 per cent, which we’ve never seen,” Bourque says.
The other wild card over the last week was the English language leaders’ debate and a controversial question from moderator Shachi Kurl, president of Angus Reid.
“You denied that Quebec has problems with racism, yet you defend legislation such as Bills 96 and 21 which marginalize religious minorities, Anglophones and Allophones. Quebec is recognized as a distinct society but for those outside the province, please help them understand why your party also supports these discriminatory laws," Kurl asked Bloc leader Yves-François Blanchet.
Canadian Press NewsAlert: PPC Leader Maxime Bernier loses in Beauce
OTTAWA — The latest on developments and results in the federal election. All times are eastern. 10:45 p.m. The Canadian Press is projecting that People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has lost his bid to get elected in the Quebec riding of Beauce. Bernier previously represented the riding south of Quebec City from 2006 to 2019. He was a cabinet minister in the Conservative government of former prime minister Stephen Harper, where his portfolios included industry and foreign affairs. He ran for the Conservative leadership in 2017, placing second to former leader Andrew Scheer.
Legault called the question an attack on the Quebec nation, while Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said it wasn’t acceptable or appropriate for a debate.
"As a Quebecer, I found that question really offensive,” Trudeau said Friday while campaigning in Hamilton.
The emotional backlash appears to have given the Bloc Québécois a bump in the polls. It’s up just over three per cent since the debate.
The issue may not be going away either. On Tuesday, Quebec’s National Assembly adopted a unanimous motion asking for a formal apology from the Debate Broadcast Group that organized the debate.
“We call for an end to the Quebec bashing, a phenomena which hinders the good functioning of the Canadian federation and which seeks to negatively generalize sensitive issues,” the motion reads.
A copy of the motion is to be sent to the members of the broadcasters' consortium, including Global News.
Too close to call: Quebec ridings to watch on election night .
Until late last week, polls were indicating the federal election results in this campaign in Quebec would look very similar to the last, in which the Liberals won 35 seats, the Bloc Québécois 32, the Conservatives 10 and the NDP just one. But then Premier François Legault suggested a Conservative minority led by Erin O’Toole would be the best outcome for Quebec . And then the English leaders’ debate stirred controversy, with questions directed at Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet asking why he supports “discriminatory” Quebec laws like Bills 21 and 96, fanning the flames of outrage among many . Suddenly, the outlook for Quebec became much less clear.