Well, that was…something. The 2022 Quebec Election is over and the results are in, and, for the most part, have been in since early Tuesday. In was ready for some of them…or was I. Let’s break them down:
Sad But Predictable: CAQ Majority
I was prepared for another Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) Government. I fully expected the evening would end with Premier François Legault winning a second Majority Government, possibly even a larger one.
I wasn’t expecting it at the beginning of the evening, though. Seriously, I had just figured out where to stream the results and the first thing I saw, even before I got the volume turned I knew it was that it was a CAQ Majority.
Another four years of Legault, for many, is a horrific prospect. My colleague Samantha Gold will speak about what it means for those most directly affected in a post to be published later. For me, this result is primarily a sad one.
It’s sad that there are enough people spread out across enough ridings who not only tolerate Legault’s xenophobia, pro-privatization stance and general right-wing bs, but actually support at least one, if not all, of the three. It’s also sad that, once again, Montreal voters don’t seem to count in the big picture.
Once again, all but two ridings on the island went for anyone but the CAQ and yet a CAQ Government we have. Legault can keep passing laws targeted at Montreal without having to answer to the people who live here.
The second-largest city in Canada, the largest city in Quebec and a world-class multicultural and largely progressive metropolis doesn’t have a say in some of the laws that affect it. Instead we are at the whim of people who are so antithetical to progress that they actually find a joke like François Legault electable.
But I digress. I was expecting that outcome. Most people who kept an eye on Quebec politics and the polls did.
Glad we got that out of the way right away, now we can look forward to good news from Montreal…or not.
Unexpected and Disappointing: No Great Change in Montreal Status-Quo
It looked, early on in this campaign, like the Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) was in for a bit of a routing. Maybe not a complete one like the Parti Québécois (PQ) suffered last time, but a significant one rooted in Liberal bastions on the Island of Montreal, including Saint-Henri-Saint-Anne, Leader Dominique Anglade’s home riding (and my riding).
It also looked like Québec solidaire (QS) could be positioning itself as a strong primary opposition to the CAQ. This would herald a new dichotomy in Quebec politics with progressive QS policies on one hand and Legault’s right wing (or “centre-right” as he’ claims) on the other.
This would be a welcome change from the old Federalist/Sovereigntist split that had dominated the political scene here for over half a century and really seemed on its way out. Also, if some of the smaller parties like the Green Party of Quebec (PVQ) or even upstart parties like Bloc Montréal made some inroads in PLQ strongholds in Montreal, it would prove that the Libs can’t take our support for granted and not fight for our interests as they try to win votes in CAQ regions.
Unfortunately, while the Liberals lost ten seats since the last election, it was mostly to the CAQ and not in Montreal. They firmly remain the Official Opposition.
QS, meanwhile, did pick up a seat, going from ten to eleven, and it was from the Liberals and on the Island of Montreal, Verdun in particular. This was nice, but it would have been great if the trend continued and especially of QS’s Guillaume Cliche-Rivard had unseated Anglade.
Instead, the Libs hold pretty much the west of the island and QS has, for the most part, the old PQ ridings (from back when the PQ at least pretended to be progressive and not just nationalist). This would be fine if Montreal had the same influence it had when the PQ and PLQ traded victories. Now, though, when you leave the island, you are hit with a sea of CAQ.
Also, the smaller progressive parties barely made a dent. Bloc leader Balarama Holness and Green Leader Alex Tyrrell personally finished fifth and seventh respectively in the same riding (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce).
The best way to beat Legault next time is with a strong, progressive opposition clearly defined this time. And that opposition needs strong roots or at least support in Montreal.
The only way that opposition can be the Liberals is if they actually change their political DNA and stop being the party that sort-of campaigns to the left and then shifts rightward when in power, and that would take a serious loss to progressive ideas, if it’s possible at all. Probably not, to be honest.
For it to be QS, two things would have to happen:
- QS would have to stop trying to appease people in Legault’s base the way co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois did when the PQ leader pressured him during the debate and realize that they won’t vote for them anyways. Instead, they should focus on their own base and growing it and try to appeal more to staunch progressives, Montrealers and Anglos.
- Anglos would have to not be afraid of voting for a party with sovereignty on their platform. It’s not the xenophobic separatism you are used to and it’s not their top priority (plus, remember that at this point, we’re going for a strong opposition)
So there wasn’t a great victory for progressives (and for me) in the race for second. Was there any silver lining in these election results?
Some Good News: Conservatives Don’t Win a Single Seat & PQ Reduced to Three
One thing I was afraid of was that Éric Duhaime’s Conservative Party of Quebec (PCQ) would somehow squeak through a win or two on the West Island, NDG or Westmount due to the party’s opposition to Bill 96. That didn’t happen.
In fact, Duhaime’s late-in-the-game pivot to trying to woo Anglos didn’t work and neither did his earlier attempt to outflank Legault on the right by playing to the trucker convoy/anti-vax crowd. While performing decently in some ridings, the party didn’t win a single seat in the National Assembly and Duhaime even lost his.
It goes to show that trying to out-Legault Legault doesn’t work. Same thing for the PQ, the once-great, frequently in power PQ has now been reduced to just three seats, including one for its leader, Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, who was in a real fight.
While I like the idea of splitting the bigot vote and/or the right-wing vote, as it could damage Legault, the fact that it didn’t work is ultimately a good thing. At least now, the CAQ is isolated, despite being more powerful than ever.
An abundance of parties on the right just moves the progressive ones further from their base. The fewer xenophobic voices in our political sphere the better.
So this was a small victory, but I’ll take it.
About That Electoral System We Have
One thing that could have been said during any broadcast covering this election would have been “These results are brought to you by the First-Past-The-Post-System”, because without it, things could have turned out much differently. Sure, the CAQ still would have won, but not by such a striking majority. Also, Montreal voters like me wouldn’t have felt that we were voting for second place.
Nadeau-Dubois, Duhaime and St-Pierre Plamondon all mentioned our electoral system, how it affected the results and the need for a change in their victory speeches. The latter spent a few minutes on the topic and appealed to Premier Legault to keep his promise of electoral reform from the 2018 campaign.
Now while St-Pierre Plamondon was correct in his assessment of this particular topic, I found it funny and hypocritical that the head of a party that benefited greatly from FPTP pretty much every other election for over 50 years was now railing against the process. The other two leaders, though, were perfectly justified in their opposition.
While it’s, um, unlikely, that Legault will revisit electoral reform this mandate, we really do need change. It seems like the one thing that could give us a result that isn’t as cringe-worthy and disheartening as this one was.