On October 3, nearly 6.5 million Quebecers will be called upon to choose the person best suited to lead Quebec for the next four years. A gesture that is, after all, banal for most of us, but envied by more than half the world's population for whom democracy remains an inaccessible concept. For if our elders spoke of the duty of citizenship, we should speak today of our privilege as citizens.
In fact, each year, The Economist magazine publishes its Democracy Index, which ranks countries according to their democracy index (corresponding to the overall state of democracy in the world, by country). The 2021 edition of the index had an alarmist tone with the title: "A new low for global democracy". Sadly, democracy is declining on every continent, while more than 54% of the world's population lives under authoritarian regimes or on the verge of it. Fortunately for us, Canada ranked fairly high on the list, 12th out of a total of 167 countries, outranked by the Scandinavian countries, New Zealand, Ireland, Taiwan, Australia, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
Despite the apparent cynicism about politics and the perceptible erosion of citizens' trust in their governments and institutions in general, an election campaign remains a precious moment in a democracy like ours.
On Sunday, Quebec Premier François Legault will visit the Lieutenant Governor, J. Michel Doyon, to ask him to dissolve the current parliament, thus officially launching a 36-day election campaign. This is a symbolic move since the Quebec general elections are now held on a fixed date, which means that the various parties have already been in pre-campaign mode for several weeks.
Quebec will wake up on Monday morning to see the posters of the various candidates in their streets, with the parties competing to determine who has found the best places to hang them. The leaders' five campaign buses will already be criss-crossing the roads of Quebec to meet the population. Despite the fact that the tools available to the parties (voting management software, hyper-targeted polls, social media, etc.) have transformed the way an election is conducted, the fact remains that human contact, including the presence of the leaders in certain ridings deemed to be winnable, as well as good old-fashioned door-to-door canvassing by the candidates, is still a determining factor in the success of a campaign.
There will be many highlights during this campaign. The first week will set the stage for the rest of the election season. A gaffe or misstep in the early stages of the campaign can seriously damage a party's chances for the rest of the campaign. Many will remember Pauline Marois' controversial decision not to meet with the media on the first day of the 2014 campaign or Pierre-Karl Péladeau's famous raised fist during the same election. These two events had a negative effect on the Parti Québécois campaign, which was predicted to win at the time of its launch.
The televised debates, as well as the presence of leaders on various platforms or editorial tables, will also be monitored. Often seen as the pivotal moments of a campaign, good or bad performances in the debates can make a huge difference to the leaders. Older voters will remember Brian Mulroney's devastating knockout of John Turner in the English-language debate of the 1984 federal election. The Liberal Prime Minister's campaign never recovered and Mulroney was elected a few days later with a large majority. Other times, other customs, some would say. But the debates are still a game-changing event today.
With the official launch of the campaign only a few hours away, however, one question needs to be raised. Will the different parties succeed in maintaining the interest of voters throughout the campaign? The many polls and analyses in recent weeks all point to a strong majority for François Legault's Coalition Avenir Québec the day after the election, which many believe will quickly diminish the interest of people for whom the dice are already cast. But a campaign can hold surprises and citizens would be wrong to switch to another station when many things can happen in 33 days.
That's why NATIONAL's teams of government relations experts in the Montreal and Quebec City offices will be following every move the various parties make during this campaign. They will analyze the campaign objectively, either through blog posts or, for the first time this year, through a series of podcasts. We invite you to come back regularly to consult our various platforms or to contact your NATIONAL advisor so that you don't miss anything.