Canada Federal riding profile: Chicoutimi-Le Fjord in Quebec's Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region
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.
The Chicoutimi-Le Fjord riding in Quebec's Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region may be the ultimate swing riding.
In the last four federal elections, electors have voted in candidates from four different parties: the Bloc Québécois in 2008, NDP in 2011, Liberals in 2015 and Conservative MP Richard Martel in a 2018 byelection and again in 2019.
The riding has also been a bellwether of sorts for Quebec.
If the past is anything to go by, Martel, a former hockey coach and Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole's Quebec lieutenant, could be in a tight battle for re-election.
In 2019, Martel beat Bloc Québécois candidate Valérie Tremblay by just 834 votes as the surging sovereigntist party roared to its best showing in years.
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.
This time, Martel will be challenged in the race by Bloc Québécois candidate Julie Bouchard, who served most recently as the president of a health-care workers union. Bouchard has said health care transfers, seniors benefits and economic development are among her priorities.
The region, located some 200 kilometres north of Quebec City, is known for stunning natural landscapes including the Saguenay Fjord. Its main industries include tourism, agriculture, and forestry.
During the first week of the campaign, Martel spent most of the early days outside his riding, attending nominations of other candidates in the region and travelling to Quebec City to introduce O'Toole.
The Conservatives held 10 seats in Quebec at dissolution. O'Toole has made a bid to increase that number by pledging a new "contract" with the province and rolling out a set of promises he would fulfil in his first 100 days in office, if elected.
COVID-19 live updates: Quebec reports 515 cases as hospitalizations mount
Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole speaks out against protesters throwing gravel at Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
Those include working with the province to apply a local French-language bill to federally regulated businesses, giving it more power over immigration and "respecting the right of Quebec to pass its own laws to protect its language and culture.”
Before the election was called, the Tories held 10 of the 78 seats in Quebec, two fewer than before the last federal election was called in 2019. Conservatives haven't managed to secure more than 12 seats in the province in years.
O'Toole is hoping to change that, by also promising funding for a tunnel under the St. Lawrence River that would connect Quebec City and Levis, Que., and benefit commuters.
The Liberals confirmed their candidate is Jean Duplain, while the New Democrats are running Ismaël Raymond, the Greens have selected Yves Laporte and the People's Party of Canada have put forward Jimmy Voyer.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 15, 2021.
Laura Dhillon Kane, The Canadian Press
Anglophone anger could cost Liberals in Quebec this election: 'They're going to start losing seats' .
OTTAWA – Colin Standish, a Liberal supporter and anglophone in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, is angry at his party. “I find they have been a bit arrogant with taking the anglophone and non-Francophone vote for granted,” Standish said in an interview from his home. “I think that their base is really mad at them … They’re going to start losing seats, and I hope they do honestly.” Standish — a Liberal party member who ran to be a candidate in the 2015 federal election — is a founding member of the new language rights task force born recently in Quebec to fight both recent provincial and federal legislation that aims to protect French but at anglophones’ expense, he says.