Canada Votes: Preview – Quebec

by on 1 October, 2015


With just over two weeks to go until Canadians cast their ballots, we enter the second largest province in the nation by population, and perhaps the most famous.

Quebec (78 seats) QC_Wiki QCdet

La Belle Province is perhaps the most famous and most storied province in Canada, unless you classify it as a nation within a nation, like Stephen Harper did in 2006. Quebec has historically had a love hate relationship with the rest of Canada, dating back to when the French were marched out by the English in war, through Confederation when Quebec formed an alliance with Ontario to try and gang up on New Brunswick and Nova Scotia after PEI pulled the plug, through to defending its French heritage today. Quebec is home to Montreal, Canada’s second largest city, is the largest province by area, and is the province which produced Pierre Trudeau, which can incite irrational hero worship or hatred depending on who you ask in the province.

Most inhabitants live in urban areas near the Saint Lawrence River between Montreal and Quebec City, the capital. Approximately half of Quebec residents live in the Greater Montreal Area, including the Island of Montreal. English-speaking communities and English-language institutions are concentrated in the west of the island of Montreal but are also significantly present in the Outaouais, Eastern Townships, and Gaspé regions. The Nord-du-Québec region, occupying the northern half of the province, is sparsely populated and inhabited primarily by Aboriginal peoples. Quebec has also gone to the polls twice to decide whether to secede from Canada or remain within, the 1980 referendum comfortably defeated, while the 1995 result came down to a few thousand votes. In each referendum, non-Francophone voters were responsible for the no result.

Quebec’s independent streak has always been a thorn in the side of the establishment, going back to 1774 when the Quebec Act was needed to prevent Quebec joining with the 13 colonies in the American Revolution. The Quebec Act protected French status in the colony, including French Civil Law, and reinforced freedom of religion, much to the relief and gratitude of the Catholic population. Ongoing conflict between Quebec and Ontario saw several governments in the province of Canada formed by the west’s John MacDonald and the east’s George Cartier in coalition, before Confederation arrived in 1867, Quebec joining with Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Ontario in forming the new nation.

Quebec is extremely protective of its French culture and heritage, in the face of what many see as growing anglo influence from the rest of Canada. Sadly for civilised people, the Parti Quebecois, originally formed as a sovereigntist party, has since morphed into a bad parody of socialism and racism, of which I have written previously. While soft Liberal governments have pandered to PQ xenophobia, both parties have presided over economic policies which have consisted mainly of jumping up and down throwing a tantrum about how little money Ottawa sends them. Consequently, Quebec’s economy has been one of the most depressed, not just in Canada, but in the western world. New Liberal Premier Philippe Couillard has made a promising start in cleaning up both the racism and economic illiteracy of the PQ, although he has much more to do.

Quebec’s economy is a study in contradictions. Quebec is ranked the 37th largest economy in the world, but its per capita GDP sits at just under $38,000, which is quite scary when you consider Alberta sits on $84,000 plus. Quebec has embraced the new economy, with science, technology and the ‘knowledge’ industries surging to the front of the line as Quebec’s big sectors. In Canada’s largest province by area, its resource sector is disappointingly small with resources accounting for less than $4 billion of Quebec’s economy. Massive opportunities lie in exploiting the large forests which lie in the province’s north, although ongoing conflicts between federal, provincial and first nations organisations continue to dog full development of the region, with over 90% of Quebec forests resting in public hands.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in polling is the surge experienced by the Conservatives to a possible 11 seats. Yes, you read that right, and no, it wasn’t a typo. Quebec has been anything but kind to Stephen Harper in his time in 24 Sussex Drive, and current polling suggests the tories will more than double their representation, from five to 11, with four more seats possibilities. Now, 11 may not seem like a lot, but for Conservatives in Quebec, it is an explosion. Recent mutterings even suggested the Conservatives had their eyes on Mont Royal, which would be the equivalent of ripping the Liberal heart out and showing it to them before they died, given that is the former riding of Pierre Trudeau.

The Bloc Quebecois, which actually formed the official opposition after the 1993 PC debacle, now exists in all but name only. They lead in one riding only, and that’s a thin 2.5% buffer over the NDP (For the first time in three weeks, the NDP trails in Becancour), while they remain in contention for another one, if you’re feeling generous maybe two, seats after that. The BQ are polling reasonably in the 20s across many ridings, but those ridings are also locked up with 40s and 50s for the Liberals and NDP, signifying that while some Quebeckers may be on the correct side in terms of raw politics, the separatist inclination of the Bloc are turning voters away in droves.

Early polls indicate the NDP will again win the majority of Quebec ridings, although the orange wave which crushed the BQ in 2011 be more of an orange lapping this time around, with the Conservatives and Liberals both recovering ground. The Liberal resurgence can be attributed to the presence of a Trudeau in the Liberal leadership position, which is important to note as for the first time in…. err, let me check… right, 45 years, none of the big three political parties had a leader from Quebec (The 2011 NDP leader, the late Jack Layton, was from Ontario, as was Liberal Michael Ignatieff). This time round, both the Liberals and NDP are fielding Quebecker leaders, making the contest a curious one. For the record, Ignatieff made a career in American academia, meaning the Conservative attacks on him as ‘just visiting’ hurt most in Quebec.

If the Liberals are to form their own government, they need to wipe the NDP out. If the NDP want to form THEIR own government, they need to keep the Liberals and Conservatives at bay. For the tories to return to government, they need the NDP and Liberals to neutralise each other and pick up a few ridings along the way. For the BQ to…. Well, forget the BQ, they’re done. Right now, the Conservatives are performing best in Quebec in terms of an overall result and, although they may take only 10 or so ridings, those ridings will come on the back of a Liberal-NDP death match.


Lib: 52 (+17)     Con: 80 (+11)     NDP: 84 (+50)     BQ: 0     Grn: 1     Oth: 0

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