Quebec 2022 Notebook: Xenophobia, Immigration and Self-Sabotage

Quebeckers are heading to the polls on October 3, 2022 and this election is a controversial one. The campaigns have been characterized by a high number of threats of violence against candidates, xenophobic remarks by Quebec’s premier, and missed opportunities.

The incumbent, Premier François Legault of the Coalition Avenir du Québec (CAQ) is facing controversy after controversy as he repeatedly makes xenophobic comments in an attempt to fire up his base, largely consisting of voters outside Montreal. Such remarks include:

  • The accusation on Radio-Canada on September 4th that Montrealers look down on the people of Quebec City and Levis, when people who have lived in both cities can confirm that the animosity is often the other way around due to Legault voters’ fear of Montreal’s ethnic diversity.
  • In the same Radio-Canada interview, Legault complained about Montreal getting so many bridges when the city’s geography as an island requires them.
  • Claims in early September that Quebec needs to curb immigration in order to prevent violent extremism, quickly followed by a half-assed apology on September 7th.
  • On September 11, 2022, the anniversary of 9/11, an event that led to a barrage of Islamophobia, Legault said non-French speaking immigrants are a threat to Quebec cohesion.

In addition to the barrage of xenophobia, the Coalition Avenir du Quebec seems determined to undermine the rights of Canada’s First Nations. Their election platform on climate change presents a plan to add new mega-dams for producing clean hydro-electric power, a plan presented without consulting Quebec’s Indigenous leaders who are rightfully concerned about the effect the dams will have on their lands.

Gaining ground against the Coalition Avenir du Québec is the Quebec Conservative Party, led by right-wing columnist Eric Duhaime, whose solutions to the province’s ongoing problems include more privatization of Quebec healthcare, and the elimination of vaccine mandates that have thus far kept province from a new pandemic wave.

Since last year, Duhaime’s Conservatives have been gaining ground in typical CAQ strongholds such as Quebec City.

Though both the Conservatives and the CAQ have tried to present themselves as fiscally responsible, the Conservatives have been plagued by their leader’s unpaid tax bills and that both their and the CAQ’s approaches to immigration are to the detriment of Quebec business owners. For years business owners in Quebec City and Montreal have been demanding increases to immigration to fill labor shortages particularly in the manufacturing and export sectors, in spite of this, here are the two parties’ platforms:

  • The Conservatives plan to reduce immigration from the current seventy-thousand a year threshold to thirty-five thousand a year.
  • The CAQ plans to reduce immigration from seventy-thousand to fifty-thousand a year

Meanwhile, Québec solidaire (QS) is the only party seemingly committed to global human rights and a carrot and stick approach to climate change:

  • QS proposes to increase immigration from seventy thousand to eighty thousand a year.
  • On climate change, QS proposes an increase in protected areas, as well as a fifteen percent tax on the purchase of SUVs and other heavily polluting vehicles with exceptions for large families and rural Quebeckers.
  • Québec solidaire’s plan is the only one being praised by climate change experts.

Meanwhile, the Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) is floundering in the polls. Once a political powerhouse that led Quebec on and off for decades, the party under Dominique Anglade is losing ground to other parties.

With sovereignty off the table for the CAQ and Conservatives, the Liberals can no longer present themselves as the federalist party in Quebec, and swearing to protect English speakers is not enough to win an election. This election was a missed opportunity for the Liberals, who could have easily won the votes of the young, ethnic minorities, and the impoverished in Quebec had they shifted their policies further to the left.

Quebec is starved for a non-separatist leftist party and given that the leftist sovereigntist Quebec Solidaire came in second in provincial Liberal strongholds such as NDG and Westmount, this election campaign is a good example of self-sabotage. Here is what we know so far:

  • Anglade’s waffling on French language protections and religious freedom and the controversial Bills 96 and 21 since taking leadership of the PLQ has alienated many of its core voters in Montreal.
  • On September 5, 2022 the PLQ announced a forty-one billion dollar spending plan which includes twelve billion in income tax cuts.
  • The PLQ’s proposal to address the labor shortage includes keeping the current seventy thousand annual immigration quota and encouraging older workers to stay on the job.
  • This year the PLQ’s campaign fundraising is falling far behind that of its rivals.
  • There are rumors that PLQ leader Dominique Anglade is in danger of losing her seat in the National Assembly.

Whether the PLQ can rise from the ashes remains to be seen, but it looks like Quebec Solidaire will be their primary challenger as the representative of class and minority rights in Quebec.

Featured Image: Drawings by Samantha Gold


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