With an election campaign beginning next Thursday, August 23, incumbent Quebec premier Philippe Couillard aims to conserve his position as head of the provincial government. However, recent polls have demonstrated that the Liberal Party of Québec (PLQ) faces an uphill battle to re-secure a majority government on October 1.
The trailing Parti Québécois and Québec Solidaire hold 18.8% and 9.7% respectively. With these numbers, the CAQ is projected to obtain 68 seats in the National Assembly, exceeding the threshold of 63 seats necessary to form a majority government. The Liberals, who currently hold 68 seats, would obtain 43.
Why is this important?
The Liberal stronghold of support is heavily concentrated in Montréal and its suburbs, where the party is likely to win 30 of its seats. Importantly, the Liberals only hold 16% of support among the francophone population; a remarkable fact considering that nearly 80% of Québec is composed of francophones.
Philippe Couillard, whose riding of Roberval is 98% francophone, is in danger of losing his seat. The election in the riding is currently a two-way toss-up, with the Liberals holding 35.7% and the CAQ at 34.7%.
Couillard would not be the first Québec premier to lose his own riding in an election. Both Liberal premier Jean Charest and Parti Québecois premier Pauline Marois lost their seats during the 2012 and 2014 elections respectively.
A Tense Campaign
Alexandre Taillefer, president of the Liberal campaign, has denounced Legault as a “threat to social peace.” He has also associated the party to libertarianism, which he believes is “a danger.”
Couillard has supported the words of Taillefer and has also attacked the CAQ, albeit in more moderate language. Couillard has been notably critical of Legault’s immigration policy which aims to temporarily bring down Québec’s immigration threshold from 50,000 to 40,000.
A self-described nationalist, Coalition Avenir Québec leader François Legault has promised to put Québec separation off the table. This has taken away an important line of attack for the Liberals, who have often used the prospect of a referendum to motivate federalist voters.
Other than a temporary break from power from 2012-2014, the Liberal party has formed the government since 2003. To a large extent, governmental change has been a primary theme of the election; an aspect which Liberal MNAs such as Couillard have had difficulty grappling with.