The whistle has officially been blown, but the election campaign has already begun with a first round of announcements and promises, stunts, and a start to hostilities.
After a first mandate marked by the management of the pandemic, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) is well ahead in the polls. François Legault will be seeking a second majority mandate as premier. Unlike the other candidates for the position, he is the only party leader who has already led his troops during an election campaign. This difference could work in his favour, but it also offers his rivals an opportunity to stand out as emerging leaders who embody renewal.
The starting line
At the time of the dissolution of the National Assembly of Quebec, the chamber was composed of :
- 76 members of Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ)
- 27 members of the Quebec Liberal Party (QLP)
- 10 members of the Québec solidaire (QS)
- 7 members of the Parti Québécois (PQ)
- 5 independents, including one independent identified with the Conservative Party of Quebec (PCQ)
The forces at work
On the starting line, five political parties aspire to conquer the hearts of Quebecers and their wallets. And, clearly, they are not all starting from the same place. Some are playing for keeps, while others are hoping to make gains and establish themselves as a credible alternative. The forces at work are certainly unequal, with the CAQ holding a large lead. This requires the other parties to quickly generate some momentum to break through the noise. It should be remembered that the pandemic will have indirectly offered exceptional airtime to the CAQ government. The campaign will allow the other parties to attract the spotlight in turn, although this media airtime is now divided into five, which may complicate the exercise for parties seeking visibility.
Strategically, the opposition parties and the government are betting on a diametrically opposed approach: the former must score points while the CAQ must do everything to avoid losing any. This explains the very cautious approach visibly advocated by the CAQ. We can detect a desire to reduce the risk of slippage and to make a lie of the adage "Everything that goes up must come down". The idea is to keep it to a minimum, as shown by the decisions not to participate in certain debates and not to give too many major interviews. However, they are banking on a vast advertising offensive in which they control the message 100% and in which they praise the outgoing Prime Minister.
For the other party leaders, the challenges are clear: to stand out in an increasingly busy arena, to maintain gains or even "salvage what we can", and to present themselves as a credible alternative despite voting intentions of between 10% and 20%, far from the "safe zone" where votes are translated into seats.
On your marks... get set...
The parties did not wait for the starting signal to launch the hostilities and set up the narrative of their campaign.
Vote for real. Real issues. Real solutions. (Quebec Liberal Party); Libres chez nous (Quebec Conservative Party); Changer d'ère (Québec solidaire); Le Québec qui s'assume. Pour vrai (Parti québécois); Continuons (Coalition Avenir Québec): the slogans are already indicative of the major themes that are likely to be at the heart of the election platforms.
Health, inflation and the economy, the environment and the fight against climate change, pandemic management, nationalism, protection and defence of the French language: the waltz of promises has begun. And if there is any suspense, it is essentially about which of the parties in the running will promise the biggest tax cut!
The starting strategy
The CAQ seems to be betting everything on its leader. But after recruiting some big names and assembling an array of strong candidates, it would be in its best interest to play the card of the most competent and experienced team to govern.
As the campaign begins, the focus is on maintaining control. Over the past few days, there has been a visible effort to eliminate distractions. Consider Marie-Ève Proulx, who was the target of harassment allegations and who finally chose to withdraw from the race before the starting signal.
At their lowest point in the polls, the QLP and the PQ are already seemingly trying to limit the damage.
Let's not forget that only Pascal Bérubé (Matane-Matapédia), Joël Arseneau (Îles-de-la-Madeleine) and Méganne Perry Mélançon (Gaspé) will run again to carry the colours of a PQ that is lagging in the polls. It's not surprising that they're already trying to capture the imagination with headline announcements such as the "Climate Pass", i.e. unlimited access to public transport, throughout Quebec, for $1 a day.
On the PLQ side, Dominique Anglade has also made a series of announcements in the last few days, notably in the area of health: a family doctor for every Quebecer, 1,000 more doctors in five years and the promise to triple the number of "super-nurses" by 2030. They have nothing to lose and are already pulling out the big guns. We will have to keep up the pace to maintain the gains made, even in the fortresses of Montreal, Laval and the Outaouais.
While he acted in the shadow of Manon Massé during the last campaign, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois will be leading QS this time around and has taken advantage of the last few days to announce some choice candidates, including a second director of public health. François Legault did not fail to fire his first arrows on the issue of climate change. In Quebec City, QS has lost its star candidate, Catherine Dorion, who was known for taking the field and attracting the spotlight. It will be interesting to see who will play this role as close battles loom.
For his part, the leader of the PCQ, Éric Duhaime, succeeded in mobilizing more than 1,000 people for his campaign launch in Quebec City, and another 1,300 in Beauce last Saturday. He was also the first to complete his team of 125 candidates. An excellent communicator, he will be particularly worth watching during the debates.
A campaign is never over until...
Many political analysts are predicting a strong majority for the CAQ. However, a campaign is not over until the last ballot has been counted, and history has proven this.
In politics, each day is an eternity and anything can happen!
So get the popcorn out and let our analysts guide you through the next five weeks as they dissect the campaign and all its twists and turns. Articles, podcasts, interviews: we'll be there to tell you about the issues, strategies, challenges and, above all, to take you behind the scenes of this fascinating universe.