Analysis of Quebec Election Results

PARTIES:

–          Parti Quebecois (PQ): The PQ scored a victory and suffered defeat.  They expected a majority or at least a strong minority but were only left with 55 seats and only 32% of the popular vote.  However, the PQ has energized its base by having the Premier of Quebec within its ranks.

–          Parti libéral du Québec (PLQ): The PLQ won 50 seats and far surpassed most projections that foresaw a PLQ freefall.  Perhaps more tellingly, they trailed the PQ by only 1% in the popular vote.  Notwithstanding this, Jean Charest has resigned as the leader of the PLQ and the party will be rudderless until they elect a new leader.

–          Coaltion Avenir Quebec (CAQ):The centre-right CAQ won 19 seats and captured 27% of the popular vote.  Though the CAQ is left with a sizeable caucus at the National Assembly, it was likely a disappointing result for CAQ supporters who believed that they would capture a greater portion of the PLQ votes.  The CAQ’s gambit of focusing their campaigning at PLQ supporters was not enough to sway voters to change their choices at polling stations.

–          Quebec Solidaire (QS): The left-wing party that was founded in 2006 was hoping to establish a broader base widen in the National Assembly but they finished with two seats.  However, while the QS has a minuscule caucus, the track records of Amir Khadir and Françoise David suggest that they will make their voices heard.

CAMPAIGN ISSUES:

–          Economy: Quebecers have proven in this election that they are far from accepting the right wing parties’ positions on welfare and economic choices.

–          Social justice: Quebecers have proven again that they are correctly known for their inclination toward social justice and their tendency to support center-left social programs and policies.

–          Union movement: Jean Charest’s stated reason for calling the election was the student movement against increasing tuition.  This reinforces the strength of the student and union movement in Quebec politics.

–          Sovereignty: The majority of Quebecers cast their ballots in favour of pro-sovereignty parties: the PQ, CAQ and QS.  However, this belies the fact that there is significant diversity in the manner in which sovereignist Quebecers see the path to independence.  Some hold an extreme view that envisions immediate separation preceded by a referendum led by the PQ.  Others share the goal of independence but are considered soft sovereignists who do not favour an immediate referendum and who incorporate other considerations in their political preferences.

–          Language: It’s the theatre of war for the PQ.  The PQ has promised that they would toughen language laws and seek to further sideline the English language in the public and private sectors.  For the PQ this issue is both a question of identity and ground zero to the path to Quebec sovereignty.

–          Relations with the Federal government: The PQ believes that the best way to keep the battle of independence front and centre is by maintaining a tense relationship with Ottawa. The PQ will do so by demanding more power.  If they are successful in being granted more power, for example, over employment insurance they will be laying the groundwork to an independent Quebec.  If they are unsuccessful, they build a case that as part of the Canadian federation, Quebec can never live up to its aspirations.  With the Conservative Party of Canada having little support in Quebec but nonetheless holding a majority in Parliament and with the official opposition, the NDP drawing strong support from the province of Quebec, the tension between the PQ and the federal government will have significant ramifications in federal politics as well.

–          Islamophobia: Under the guise of defending Quebec values, the PQ’s stated agenda is to establish a policy of extreme secularism.  The PQ’s notion of secularism will see the exclusion of individuals who wear religious symbols such as hijabs, turbans and kippahs, from working for the provincial government and perhaps even receiving government services.  It may be difficult for the PQ to enact a secularism charter per se due to their minority status but they may propose other ideas along the same vein that seek to marginalize individuals from minority communities.  Moreover, on this point it is important to note that the PQ’s minority status does not guarantee Quebec’s minority communities freedom from discrimination as the National Assembly voted unanimously in 2011 to ban the Sikh kirpan from legislative buildings.

The Quebec election has produced uncertainty in provincial politics and federal politics. The fact that the three main parties are almost equal in the popular vote reflects sharp divisions in Quebec political preferences and suggests that the PQ and the National Assembly may be hard pressed to push through a coherent agenda.  This uncertainty may lead to political turmoil and trigger another general election in the short or medium term.

Samer Majzoub

President, Canadian Muslim Forum

smajzoub@fmc-cmf.com

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