Quebec election campaign François Legault

Quebec Election Guide: Bienvenue à la Grande Noirceur 2.0!

A party by party look at a pretty (objectively) discouraging spread of contenders you can vote for on Monday, Oct. 3.

I was asked to write an election guide and, in my capacity as an impartial journalist and objective historian, I can say without hyperbole that this election sucks. Put another way, I was once a contestant on something called Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister and I find myself yearning for the good old days of René Lévesque.

Once again, Quebec — like most other Canadian provinces and like just about every federal election — is having a Seinfeld election; that is, one about nothing. (I should specify that Quebec has a lot of minor parties that do have very specific ideas and plans but I digress.)

I don’t think the solution to our widespread socio-political malaise is for a bunch of political parties to not come up with bold visions for the future, but then again I recognize that a lot of the people who do come up with ‘bold visions for the future’ tend to want everyone to dress up in uniforms and march around in big elaborate ceremonies that more often than not involve setting something alight (just like the Olympics), so maybe we’re fucked either way.

My takeaway, disgruntled and cynical as it is, is that there’s good reason to be disappointed in just about every party this year. The leadership contenders are generally uninspiring (and are running uninspired campaigns), and far too many parties have fallen into the trap of appealing to Quebecers’ less admirable qualities. At the first televised leaders debate, no less than two candidates said the N-word, which was then repeated by the host, and all of this happened in front of the Black woman who runs the Quebec Liberal Party. Pas fort. This is aside from the fact that the premier has stated that immigrants bring violence and extremism, while other party leaders have claimed Muslim hordes at our southern border, or run advertisements showing the English language spreading like a virus, or compared Montreal to Baltimore.

So yeah… it’s pretty fucking discouraging. Objectively so!

Right now I’m anticipating this election will be distinguished by, among other things, a particularly low voter turnout. Whether the parties that lose blame you or blame themselves will give you a good idea of how truly healthy our democracy really is.

Coalition Avenir Québec

François Legault Quebec election guide CAQ Coalition Avenir Québec
Quebec Election Guide: The CAQ will win, but need strong opposition

Leader: François Legault aka Frank Lego aka Papa François

Political orientation: Right-wing old-school Québécois populist; paternalist “premier knows best and don’t ask any questions” style of governing; in power since 2018; nominally federalist though Legault was formerly a member of the Parti Québécois and a cabinet minister in the governments of Bernard Landry and Lucien Bouchard in the late-1990s and early-2000s.

Slogan: Continuons (Continue)

Pros: Legault is claiming that his government managed to keep 100 promises, but a lot of that involved things like lowering the cost of parking in hospitals, and lowering the cost of a driver’s or fishing & hunting licence (it’s a puffed up list too: his 100 promises includes item no. 56 which literally says ‘we kept our promises’). He’s also claiming he’s either cut taxes or prevented tax increases, which is appealing until you start to realize it’s having a negative impact on shared social services. Evidently, this negatively impacts large, densely populated cities far more than outlying regions. So if you’re a fan of restrictive language laws, preventing first generation Québécois from getting an education at an English CEGEP, barring religious minorities from the civil service and encouraging the development of super intelligent robots rather than increasing immigration quotas, the CAQ is for you.

Cons: Even though Quebec had some of the strictest pandemic containment measures and aggressive vaccination campaigns (both of which were necessary), Legault’s management of the pandemic still leaves a lot to be desired, including re-opening too early and an arbitrary application of strict rules. What’s most problematic is that it is unlikely there will ever be any kind of assessment of his government’s actions — or inactions. The complete and total lack of accountability and critical self-examination is a cancer on all politicians, but given Quebec’s unfortunate tradition of corruption and collusion amongst the provincial elite, to say nothing of the pervasive ‘don’t question authority’ mentality of an unfortunate bulk of the population, Quebec needs xenophobic, retrograde, patrician, populist politicians like a gigantic gaping hole in its forehead.

Quebec Liberal Party

Dominique Anglade Parti libéral du Québec Quebec Liberal Party election guide
Quebec Election Guide: What’s up with the Liberals?

Leader: Dominique Anglade

Political orientation: Historically a little all over the map in terms of social policy, government spending and its commitment to federalism. The current version (variant?) of the party is marginally centre-left and perhaps a bit more committed to federalism than the other parties. The left lean has historically disappeared once in power, however.

Slogan: Vote for Real: Real issues. Real solutions.

Pros: Anglade has foregrounded the party’s history of undertaking big social and economic projects, like the Quiet Revolution and the James Bay hydro projects, in their current platform, and they’re pushing for the creation of a new public corporation that would do for ‘green hydrogen’ (i.e. hydrogen created by electricity from sustainable sources) what Hydro-Québec did for hydroelectricity. Anglade and the PLQ also put other key environmental issues first and foremost in their 2022 platform. On the healthcare side of things, they’re also committed to major improvements that don’t lead to increased privatization of healthcare, such as recognizing foreign credentials to increase the number of available healthcare professionals. The PLQ also opposes both bills 21 and 96.

Cons: Though it is still possible that Anglade will give Legault a run for his money, and she did perform better in the debates than some had anticipated, I still felt something was lacking from this campaign. Anglade tells people she’s confident, which is usually a sign confidence is lacking. According to a recent La Presse report, Anglade has spent much of this month working the ground in areas that are traditional Liberal Party strongholds, indicating that perhaps these ridings were taken for granted for too long and now she’s playing catch-up. A lack of strong local lieutenants to keep up enthusiasm while the leader is out trying to win over other ridings is also discouraging. The creation of a defiantly pro-Montreal party and an Angryphone party suggests Anglade and the PLQ haven’t been paying enough attention to their base. That they’re potentially losing seats to parties on both the left and right suggests both that the big tent approach didn’t work and that there may be some internal dysfunctions as well.

Québec Solidaire

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois  Québec solidaire Quebec election guide
Quebec Election Guide: The devil’s in the details with QS

Leader: Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois (GND)

Political Orientation: Left-wing, social democracy, though also in favour of Quebec independence. QS has a strong support base in Montreal, and there’s some definite overlap with the supporters of Projet Montréal. 

Slogan: Changer d’ère (change the era, though the slogan has been translated on the English version of the platform as “Let’s clear the air,” a nice pun)

Pros: Strongly opposed to fossil fuel and non-renewable energy development in Quebec. GND was also spokesperson for the nearly mythic Printemps Érable mass student demos of 2012, which essentially brought down the Liberal government of Jean Charest. QS has also put the environment front and centre, with an ambitious and apparent peer-reviewed environment plan that aims to increase and improve public transit while making it cheaper, while further banning any new gas or oil pipelines and halting any expansion of the provincial highway network’s capacity. They also propose CLSCs open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to help ease the strain put on our healthcare system by the CAQ.

Cons: GND was goaded into using the N-word on a televised debate by the jerk who’s leading the PQ, which in my books also makes him a jerk. He could have taken the high road but instead chose to get down in the gutter to make some point (I guess) about not bowing down to ‘political correctness run amok,’ rather than take a more principled stand against racism, and in favour of reconciliation (bear in mind that Quebec, like Canada, has a colonial-era history of participation in the slave trade). While there are a lot of anglophones and allophones who support QS as a legitimate progressive option, the party’s steadfast support of Quebec independence is always a little suspect, given how much of the independence mentality is wrapped up in retrograde concepts of ethno-nationalism. While I want to believe (and to a point do agree) that radical transformation is needed to build a new society, QS keeps tripping itself up by supporting *exactly* the things that will prevent it from securing disenchanted Liberal voters, like the party’s continued support of Bill 96.

Parti Québécois

Paul St-Pierre Plamondon Parti Québécois Quebec election
Quebec Election Guide: The PQ death watch

Leader: Paul St-Pierre Plamondon (PSPP)

Slogan: Le Québec qui s’assume. Pour vrai. (it’s a clunky slogan in either language, but basically translates to “Quebec’s taking responsibility for itself, for real”)

Political Orientation: Nominally centre-left, historically left-wing, staunchly in favour of separation though the party has claimed ‘now is not the time’ a hell of a lot since the 1995 referendum, though currently insists on moving forward. (Le Devoir recently revealed that the PQ has no budget prepared for the first year of independence, and hasn’t come to any conclusion on whether to remain in any kind of union with Canada on matters of currency, defence or open borders). On too many issues, the PQ now seems to the right of the CAQ. Under PSPP, the PQ seems to have moved hard right in pursuit of the CAQ, arguing for stricter controls on immigration, and that ills 21 and 96 don’t go far enough. Also, PSPP was the jerk who first used the N-word in a debate.

Pros: This may very well be the last Quebec election in which the PQ is a viable party, and some analysts have suggested the party may be reduced to a single seat. 

Cons: See above. The PQ used to make a little more of an effort to at least try to convince everyone who isn’t a French-speaking white person that they would also have a home in an independent Quebec, but PSPP has made no such effort, implying that immigrants are spreading the English language like a virus and that we need armed guards at the border. The possible death of the PQ is truly unfortunate, as when the party was more clearly on the progressive side of the political dial, it acted as a positive force on Quebec society, pulling the province towards social democracy. A Quebec without a progressive PQ kinda sucks, as we’re seeing.

Quebec Conservative Party

Éric Duhaime Parti conservateur du Québec Conservative Party
Quebec Election Guide: Les Cons

Leader: Éric Duhaime

Slogan: Libres chez nous! (meaning ‘Free here at home.’ It’s a callback to the slogan “Maitres chez nous” which means “Masters in our own home” and was the slogan of Jean Lesage’s Liberals when they won the 1960 Quebec election, ushering in the Quiet Revolution)

Political Orientation: Right-wing, libertarian right with a not-insignificant support base from Quebec’s growing alt-right. Nominally federalist but preferring a loose federation where Quebec is granted considerable autonomy in its affairs.

Pros: The party and its leader oppose Bill 96, and they’re also proposing free buses, though that may only be a promise made in the context of Quebec City’s tramway debate. If you’re in favour of major tax cuts, privatization of healthcare, and a ‘drill baby drill’ approach to the climate emergency, these rightwing nutbars are probably your jam.

Cons: Duhaime is another product of the Montreal Economic Institute (MEI), just like Maxime Bernier. The MEI is, along with the Fraser Institute, the Canada Strong & Free Network, the Macdonald Laurier Institute, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (and a bunch of other so-called think tanks) affiliated with the Atlas Network, which is a global network of libertarian lobby groups with strong support from the fossil fuel sector, Big Tobacco, firearms manufacturers and defence contractors, all of whom are devotees of Ayn Rand and who have waged jihad against the social safety net and social democracy for decades. So there’s that. Also, as previously mentioned, they’re advocating for tax cuts that will impoverish our already weakened social services, gradual privatization of healthcare and an expansion of gas exploration. 

The smaller parties

If all of that sounds about as appealing as a root canal, I invite you to consider the smaller parties:

Bloc Montréal: There is perhaps no election in Quebec history in which Montrealers have mattered less, and quite frankly it shows. Want to officially register your displeasure? Balarama Holness may be the candidate for you. His party wants to secure 20% of the QST for the municipal budget (which would increase it by $2-billion) and repeal bills 21 and 96.

To read the Bloc Montréal platform, please click here.

Climat Québec: Want to save the planet, support social-democratic values, destroy the Canadian petrostate and build a green Quebec republic? Climat Québec may be the option for you.

To read the Climat Québec platform, please click here.

The Green Party of Quebec: Want to save the planet, support social-democratic values and remain federalist? Quebec’s Greens may be the option for you.

To read the Parti vert du Québec platform, please click here. 

The Quebec Marxist-Leninist Party: When Quebec independence isn’t enough, and achieving the undeniable sovereignty of the proletariat is of paramount concern, look no further than those stalwarts over at the Marxist-Leninist Party of Quebec.

To read the Parti marxiste-léniniste du Québec platform, please click here.

The Canadian Party of Quebec: Huge missed opportunity: they could have called themselves the Bloc Canadien, but I digress. Though created as a protest party to oppose bills 21 and 96, they did develop a platform that’s a little more left-leaning than what you might expect from so-called angryphones. Of note: they’re against further privatization of healthcare as this would undeniably have a detrimental effect on the province’s anglo community. Also pretty progressive on environmental issues. 

To read the Parti canadien du Québec platform, please click here.

For more on the provincial election, please visit Élections Québec.

For the latest in news, please visit the News section.