THE FEDERAL ELECTION IN QUEBEC: A PRIMER
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
  • Liberal and Conservative paths to power go through Quebec

  • Current standings in Quebec: Liberals 40, NDP 14, Conservatives 11, Bloc 10, People’s Party 1

  • Expect many three or even four-way races

  • Greens could steal some of the crumbling NDP’s support

  • Elephant in the room: Will the Bloc Québécois make a comeback? 
ANALYSIS
At 10 am this morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the Governor General and launched the campaign that will culminate in a general election on October 21.

As has been so often the case historically, how Quebec votes will be a decisive factor. Quebec’s 78 seats in the House of Commons represents nearly a quarter of the legislature – an important but volatile voting block -- and all the parties are making them a priority.

Despite being rocked by the SNC-Lavalin scandal and other recent difficulties, the Liberals are looking to pick up new seats to make up for anticipated losses in the West. The Conservatives are counting on more Quebec seats to get back to power. The two major parties are looking to capitalize on what looks like a pending NDP collapse.

But will the Bloc Québécois – whose ship has been steadied under new leader Yves François Blanchet – be rehabilitated to its former glory? Will voters abandoning the NDP be tempted by Elizabeth May's Green Party? As we know from experience, predicting the Quebec electorate’s behaviour is a fool’s game, but we will watch closely as these stories and more play out over the next five weeks. 

Trudeau is likely to cast the campaign as being about big-picture value issues, painting the Liberals as being more in tune with Quebecers’ liberal social values. They will attack the Conservatives and Andrew Scheer as too socially conservative and out of touch with modern Quebec, which will have traction, particularly in the urban Montreal region. You can bet that neither Scheer nor Trudeau will be too eager to stand up against Bill 21, Quebec’s controversial new secularism law, that has strong support in Quebec but is viewed as illiberal in the rest of Canada.

A year ago, Quebecers went to the polls in a provincial general election that saw a nationalist centre-right party, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), soar to an overwhelming majority, ending 15 years of provincial Liberal rule. The Conservatives will focus on the suburban and rural areas that voted for the CAQ provincially, particularly in and around the Quebec City area and in the northeast of the province.

The NDP under Jagmeet Singh will do everything in their power to hold on to whatever they can in the province. Since being elected to replace Thomas Mulcair, Singh, who speaks weak French, has just not caught on in Quebec. Pundits also question the electability of a turban-wearing Sikh in a province that banned the wearing of religious symbols for certain government jobs.

The Bloc has been in serious decline in recent years. Following the 2015 election, the long-time leader of the separatist party, Gilles Duceppe, stepped down and was replaced by Martine Ouellet, who was seen as ushering in much-needed change. Instead, the party suffered internal turmoil and virtually imploded. Ouellet was forced out and Yves-François Blanchet grabbed the reins of the party in January. He has spent the last few months re-establishing the credibility and voice the Bloc used to have. As the ex-CEO of the Quebec music lobby, a former PQ MNA at the provincial level as well as having been a panelist on a popular Quebec political talk show, Blanchet should not be underestimated. He may not be able to return the Bloc to its full former strength, but he could gain seats and play spoiler to the Conservatives in some key ridings.

Along with the Bloc, the Greens under Elizabeth May could make gains and win some seats in the province. They would be following in the footsteps of Québec Solidaire, a hard-left provincial party focused on the environment which went from three to 11 seats following the 2018 provincial election.

Barring an unforeseen or cataclysmic event, the Liberals will pick up new seats in Quebec, but the biggest unknown is where the votes from the expected NDP collapse will go – Liberal, Conservative, or Green. We expect some three or four-way races and this makes Quebec very difficult to predict.
KEY RIDINGS TO WATCH
Berthier-Maskinongé

This riding was held by the Bloc for the better part of a decade until the NDP won in 2011. They were able to secure another victory in 2015 but it isn’t clear if the NDP can hold it for a third straight mandate. The NDP’s poor prospects and the Bloc’s resurgence have shifted Berthier-Maskinongé into a swing riding with the major parties neck-and-neck.

Candidates:

Ruth Ellen Brosseau (NDP) Incumbent
Christine Poirier (LPC)
Josée Bélanger (CPC)
Éric Laferrière (Greens)
Yves Perron (Bloc)
Luc Massé (PPC)


Drummond

Currently held by the NDP, Drummond’s future is anything but clear. With the NDP currently polling at around 12%, the Liberals, Conservatives and the Bloc are in a tight race to pick up this riding located between Montreal and Quebec City. Both the Liberals and Conservatives are polling at 26% while the Bloc’s 24% keeps them in a close third place. Interestingly, the Liberals are polling well despite not having a candidate for the riding yet.

Candidates:

François Choquette (NDP) Incumbent
N/A (LPC)
Jessica Ebacher (CPC)
Frédérik Bernier (Greens)
Martin Champoux (Bloc)
Steeve Paquet (PPC)


Mount Royal

The riding of Mount Royal has been held by Liberals since 1940 and has been targeted by the Conservatives in recent elections. But Anthony Housefather gained close to 10% more support than in 2011 when he took the reins from long-time MP Irwin Cotler in the last election. The Conservatives are again putting a lot of effort into winning this Montreal seat. For this reason, Mount Royal shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Candidates:

Anthony Housefather (LPC) Incumbent
David Tordjman (CPC)
N/A (NDP)
Clement Badra (Greens)
N/A (Bloc)
Zachary Lozoff (PPC)
 

Rivière-du-Nord

Rivière-Du-Nord elected a Bloc MP in the last election, unseating the NDP. The higher support for separatism in this riding is something the competing parties will have to contend with. While only winning 8% of the vote in 2015, the Conservatives are hoping that star candidate Sylvie Fréchette, a two-time Olympic champion, will give them an upset win in this riding in the Laurentians.

Candidates:

Rhéal Fortin (Bloc) Incumbent
Florence Gagnon (LPC)
Sylvie Fréchette (CPC)
N/A (NDP)
Joey Leckman (Greens)
Normand Michaud (PPC)


Beauce

Beauce is the only riding currently held by the People’s Party of Canada, Maxime Bernier’s new populist concoction. Early polling suggests that Bernier’s PPC and the Conservatives are tied and the race is expected to be most interesting. Bernier, a former Conservative cabinet minister and leadership contender, needs to win in order to give his party legitimacy and a voice in Parliament. The Conservatives, whose candidate is a dairy farmer, will do what they can to undermine Bernier, a staunch critic of Canada’s dairy quota system.

Candidates:

Maxime Bernier (PPC) Incumbent
Adam Veilleux (LPC)
Richard Lehoux (CPC)
N/A (NDP)
Josiane Fortin (Greens)
N/A (Bloc)
 

Hochelaga

This Montreal riding is currently held by the NDP, but the incumbent is not seeking re-election, adding a level of interest. Considered a swing riding, early polling already shows that the NDP is in third place with the Bloc slightly surpassing the Liberals. As a historically francophone and low income area of Montreal, the Bloc has a strong base that they hope to build up on during the campaign.

Candidates:

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet (NDP) Incumbent – Not running
Soraya Martinez (LPC)
Christine Marcoux (CPC)
Catheryn Roy-Goyette (NDP)
Robert D. Morais (Greens)
Simon Marchand (Bloc)
Stepan Balatsko (PPC)
As always, HATLEY will keep you posted on the most important developments throughout the entirety of the campaign with the HATLEY Report.

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