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Like everywhere else in the country, the pandemic continues to monopolize political news in Quebec. This will likely explain the lack of interest from Quebecers in the September 20 election, at least until the leaders' debates. In addition to the federal election, there will be municipal elections in November. It will be a busy fall for the province on the political front.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Quebecers have generally welcomed the various financial support programs put in place by the different levels of government to help those who have been most affected. The CERB, although not perfect, has still allowed many citizens to get through the crisis without too much economic damage. But will it be enough to help the Liberals win the ridings they need to get closer to a majority?

We already know that the closest races will be the ones between the PLC and the Bloc Québécois, except in some regions, such as Quebec City, where the CPC will be the LPC's main opponent. Early polls showed that the Liberals were entering this campaign with a slight lead over the Bloc. But they will have to work hard during the campaign to convert poll results into actual votes.

Seat distribution

  • Liberal: 35
  • Bloc Québécois: 32
  • Conservative: 10
  • New Democratic: 1

5 ridings to watch

1. Chicoutimi—Le Fjord

  • Incumbent: Richard Martel (CPC)
  • Primary challenger: Julie Bouchard (BQ), Jean Duplain (LPC)
  • Character: Urban/rural

The race will be close in this riding where former hockey coach Richard Martel won by a narrow margin in 2019. Mr. Martel, the Conservative Party’s Quebec lieutenant, will face unionist Julie Bouchard representing the Bloc Québécois as well as Jean Duplain, former coordinator of Hub Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, who represents the Liberals. It remains to be seen whether the Quebec government's ruling on GNL Québec’s Saguenay LNG project will have an impact on the federal election in this region.

2. Trois-Rivières

  • Incumbent: Louis Charbonneau (BQ) (not running)
  • Primary challengers: Yves Lévesque (CPC), Martin Francoeur (LPC), René Villemure (BQ)
  • Character: Urban

The decision of Bloc Québécois MP Louise Charbonneau not to run for re-election leaves the way open for other candidates. In 2019, the Bloc, the Liberals and the Conservatives fought a very close three-way battle. Former Trois-Rivières mayor Yves Lévesque, who finished third in 2019, will try to win for the CPC. The Liberals will bet on former Le Nouvelliste editorialist Martin Francoeur, while the Bloc nominated René Villemure.

3. Québec

  • Incumbent: Jean-Yves Duclos (PLC)
  • Primary challenger: Louis Sansfaçon (BQ)
  • Character: Urban

It is in the middle of a Conservative blue sea that the President of the Treasury Board, Mr. Jean-Yves Duclos, one of the only two Liberal MPs in the Quebec City region, will try to get re-elected in his riding. MP for the Québec riding since 2015, Mr. Duclos will be facing Bianca Boutin of the Conservative Party and Louis Sansfaçon of the Bloc Québécois. The famous “third link”—a tunnel between Quebec City and Lévis— is already the focus of campaign debates in the greater Quebec City area. No doubt it will remain so until September 20.

4. Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie

  • Incumbent: Alexandre Boulerice (NDP)
  • Primary challenger: Nancy Drolet (LPC)
  • Character: Urban

Although NDP's Alexandre Boulerice, the only survivor of the famous Quebec orange wave of 2011, won in 2019 with over 42% of the total vote, it will be interesting to see if this MP, who is strongly supported in his riding, will be able to keep his seat on September 20. He will face Nancy Drolet, former hockey player and Olympic medallist, who will try her luck for the Liberals.

5. Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis

  • Incumbent: Steven Blaney (CPC) (not running)
  • Primary challenger: Dominique Vien (CPC)
  • Character: Urban/rural

Former Conservative Minister Steven Blaney has decided not to run for re-election in his riding of Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis. Although this riding is not likely to change colour on September 20, it will be interesting to see how Conservative candidate Dominique Vien will perform. A former Liberal provincial cabinet minister under Jean Charest and Philippe Couillard, Ms. Vien is now entering federal politics. Mr. Blaney’s departure still gives the Liberals some hope of making a breakthrough in Chaudière-Appalaches.

Wild card

The fourth wave of the pandemic : At this point, it will be important to monitor the fourth wave of the pandemic, which could significantly impact voters' mood during the campaign.

Consult our 2021 Federal Election section to get the latest perspectives from our experts.

Other regional analyses:

——— Guillaume Fillion is a former Director, Public Affairs at NATIONAL Public Relations