- David Boudeweel-Lefebvre
Week 2 recap: Missteps, mistakes and mind-boggling announcements
After a rather monotonous first week, the second week of the Québec election campaign was marked by missteps on all sides, so much so that it is difficult to identify a winner and, above all, a single loser. Here’s a quick look back at the controversies of the past week.
Legault gets into hot water over immigration
At a press conference declaring that the Coalition avenir Québec will seek to expand the province’s hydroelectric capacity if re-elected — an announcement which was received with a mixed response — outgoing premier François Legault was asked to provide more details on his party’s position on immigration.
The night before, during a special Radio-Canada broadcast, Legault had brushed aside questions about Québec’s shrinking share of the population of Canada, and reinforced the CAQ’s commitment to keep the province’s immigration threshold capped at 50,000 newcomers per year. When asked again the next day to explain the rationale behind this position, he said increasing immigration levels "is really going to the extreme" and invites "integration challenges". Eventually, Legault ended up apologizing for his remarks.
After running on an election promise to reduce immigration levels back in 2018, and implementing a messy reform of the Quebec Experience Program shortly after coming to power, this episode has added to Legault’s repertoire of blunders on the immigration file.
Will this significant mistake be enough to move voting intentions, which have been frozen for several months? That remains to be seen. In any case, it gives oxygen to the other parties, which have hardly enjoyed a smoother week on the campaign trail.
Québec solidaire backtracks on new tax proposal
Québec solidaire (QS) received ridicule from all sides for proposing a new tax on assets over $1 million, especially due to enormous confusion surrounding its potential application. For example, the Solidaire tax was to be imposed on farmers, most of whom have many expensive assets (machinery, farmland) but are not wealthy. The party eventually had to back down on this point, which ended up hurting their credibility as a serious option for running Québec. This episode reinforced the perception that QS is a militant party of the Montréal left that is out of touch with rural realities, which is a perception the party is desperate to escape.
Parti Québécois shows few signs of life
The PQ completed a rather low-key tour of eastern Québec last week. Its leader did not take part in meet and greet events, and the party’s rallies each attracted less than 100 militants. This past week, PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon was also distracted from key issues when forced to defend a candidate who once appeared in an X-rated movie.
Québec’s Conservatives might be losing their momentum
Cracks seem to be emerging in the armour that Éric Duhaime’s Conservatives started out with this election campaign. Reports of controversial comments by Conservative candidates are multiplying. We also recently learned that at least five of them donated to the "freedom convoy", which is held in very low regard in Québec. Duhaime’s less than nuanced attempt to court the English-speaking community could also affect his chances for gaining support from the French-speaking electorate. Finally, negative reporting on his failure to pay his own taxes brought an already difficult week to an even worse end.
Liberals resting on stable ground
The Liberals probably had the least difficult week, without any particularly impressive moments either. After a disastrous start, Dominique Anglade and her team moved to more welcoming Montréal, where they were able to stabilize their campaign. However, unlike the CAQ, the Liberal troops simply cannot afford to tread water with their current polling levels.