Will Québec’s Next Premier Be a Centre-Right Nationalist?

With a seemingly commanding position in the polls, François Legault and his party–the Coalition Avenir Québec–seem to be on their way to take power after the province’s October 1 election.


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With a seemingly commanding position in the polls, François Legault and his party–the Coalition Avenir Québec–seem to be on their way to take power after the province’s October 1 election. The rise of the CAQ, a relative newcomer to the Québec political scene, has left political observers wondering about its place on the ideological spectrum.

At first glance, the CAQ appears to be the ideological successor of the autonomist Action Démocratique du Québec (ADQ), widely recognized during its era as centre-right on economic issues and protective of Québec’s cultural identity.

With the CAQ truly being a coalition–its ranks include former members of the ADQ, the Parti Québecois (PQ), and the Parti Libéral du Québec (PLQ)–can the party truly be considered to be centre-right?

Who is François Legault?

Political rivals of Legault have been fond of reminding voters that the leader of the CAQ is no newcomer to Québec politics.

Before founding the CAQ in 2011, Legault was an MNA for the Parti Québecois and served as both minister of health and education. In an interesting twist of political irony, Legault was recruited to the Parti Québecois in 1998 by current PQ leader Jean-François Lisée. Th is was done order to shore up the PQ’s economic credentials, as Legault was a renowned businessman in the airline industry.

However, Legault became disenchanted with the PQ over time and left the party in 2009. The former PQ minister created the CAQ with the goal of presenting Québec voters with a “new way” of governance, aiming to break the long-standing provincial cleavage of sovereignty versus federalism, embodied by the rivaling Parti Libéral du Québec and the Parti Québécois.

The CAQ’s platform

If elected to power, the party has announced no cuts to government spending, and has in fact proposed more spending in education and health care. It’s platform includes the creation of a free and universal junior-kindergarten service.The CAQ claims it will not raise the cost of government services above the level of inflation. Furthermore, Legault has promised to go after government waste and corruption.

With respect to questions of identity, the party aims to temporarily reduce the province’s immigration threshold by 20%, from 50,000 immigrants to 40,000. It has proposed banning the wearing of all religious signs by state personnel in positions of authority, including teachers. The party is in favour of financially supporting artists, as well as promoting french and Québecois culture.

Additionally, Legault promises to have a gender balanced cabinet, a concept championed by the Trudeau federal Liberals. Also similar to Trudeau is the party’s platform proposal to change Québec’s first-past-the-post electoral system in favor of a mixed-proportional system. The details of such a system have yet to be announced.

On the subject of the environment, the party aims invest in the green economy, and opposes the development of hydraulic fracking in densely populated zones or areas where there is an absence of social acceptability for such a project. It has stated the desire to lower greenhouse gas emissions and follow international agreements and guidelines on the issue.  


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Josh Nahmias

Joshua is a political science student at the University of Toronto. Bilingual in French and English, he is interested in provincial-federal relations as well international politics and policy.

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