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The Daily’s guide to the provincial election’s main contenders

Coalition Avenir Québec 

The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) is the most conservative political party in the National Assembly. Mainly centered around François Legault, a former member of the Parti Québecois, CAQ was formed in 2011. The party later merged with the Action Democratique du Québec, a slightly older political party that was generally seen as centre-right.

CAQ sees the Quebec government as inefficient, bloated, and highly indebted. Its main campaign promise is to increase efficiency in the public sector by slashing thousands of government jobs, fighting corruption, and cutting wasteful spending. It plans to simultaneously reduce taxes on businesses and most individuals while reducing the debt.

On the student strike, CAQ believes that the Liberal government of Jean Charest has proven to be incapable of solving the crisis. Legault has said that he would implement a hike, albeit a slightly lower one than that proposed by the current government.

The party remains ambivalent to its separatist roots, claiming to be neither for nor against the independence of Quebec, and says that the province should solve its economic problems before considering separatism. However, it still portrays itself as a nationalist party that will continue to defend Quebec’s language bills.

—Laurent Bastien Corbeil

Parti Libéral du Québec

The Quebec Liberal Party’s (PLQ) 2003 defeat of the incumbent Parti Québecois (PQ) signaled a marked change in Quebec policy priority. The PLQ, self-described as “the party of the economy”, has consistently sought to raise revenue in order to address Quebec’s massive debt, which currently stands at $183.8 billion, or 55 per cent of GDP.

While these initiatives have remained the party’s proudest talking points, they have also catalyzed massive social unrest in the province, earning Jean Charest the lowest approval rating of any Canadian premier. The Charest administration’s proposal to raise university tuition by 75 per cent in seven years has sparked some of largest protest marches in North American history.

In an attempt to quell protests, the administration passed emergency legislation. Bill 78 has been publicly denounced by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the head of the Quebec Bar Association, among others.

The administration’s project to develop northern Quebec would, according to the Liberal government’s calculations, eventually bring in $14 billion for the province and create 20,000 new jobs a year. The plan has been heavily criticized on environmental grounds, however, and has been accused of neglecting to properly tax the foreign companies involved in the project.

Charest is one of the longest serving Quebec premiers in recent history.

—Lola Duffort

Parti Québecois

The Parti Québecois (PQ) was born in 1968 with the merger of René Lévesque’s Mouvement souveraineté-association (MSA) and the Ralliement national (RN). The PQ’s primary goal was Quebec sovereignty.

Pauline Marois became leader of the PQ in 2007. While the PQ allegedly remains dedicated to sovereignty, Marois has been unable to provide a precise timetable or course of action regarding a potential referendum, and a recent poll has reported that only one in five Quebecers believe that a PQ government would mean sovereignty.

Regarding the student conflict, the party has promised to restore the tuition freeze until the end of 2012 and hold a summit on the matter. The PQ recruited  former Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec president Léo Bureau-Blouin, and has vowed to repeal the controversial Bill 78.

Economically, the PQ intends to reach a zero deficit by raising taxes on the rich and halving exemptions on capital gains, using the resulting revenue to reduce debt. According to the Montreal Gazette, Marois has claimed that she would continue with the current Liberal government’s Plan Nord project to develop the resources sector in northern Quebec, but would establish a minimum royalty of five per cent, pointing out that minerals are a non-renewable resource.

—Annie Shiel

Québec Solidaire

By far the most progressive political party in the National Assembly, Québec Solidaire (QS) is a separatist party that first came into the media spotlight after Amir Khadir was elected in the Mercier riding during the 2008 elections. Since then, QS has advocated for free education, a reduction in the size of the private sector in healthcare, and stronger social programs. The party is unique in the sense that its leadership is shared by two spokespersons, Amir Khadir and Françoise David.

In the 2012 elections, QS has promised to raise pension benefits for retirees in Quebec, increase taxes on the extraction of mineral resources, and invest significantly in public transport. During the student strike, the party aligned itself strongly with the student movement. QS candidates could often be seen wearing the symbolic red square in opposition to the tuition hikes.

Regarding the environment, QS has promised to launch “Le Plan Vert” – a reference to the Liberal Party’s Plan Nord – to stimulate the economy and reduce Quebec’s carbon footprint. Under the program, more than $400 million would be invested in public transport.

The party is quick to differentiate itself from the Parti Québecois – Quebec’s most popular separatist party – often portraying itself as more friendly toward immigrants and more accommodating of languages other than French.

—Laurent Bastien Corbeil

Fringe parties

The four parties profiled to the left are not the only ones duking it out: here are the other thirteen officially registered provincial parties running candidates in this election.

Parti unité nationale

12 candidates

Formerly the Parti democratie chrétienne du Québec, this party was founded in 2000 by radical social conservative Gilles Noël with fellow Centre d’information nationale Robert Rumilly members. How radically conservative? One of the information centre’s members, Robert Dufour, argued in front of the Quebec National Assembly in 2002 that legalizing homosexual adoption would make adopted children more vulnerable to molestation.

Parti marxiste-léniniste du Québec 

25 candidates

This communist party has run candidates in Quebec sporadically since the 1970s under several names – this particular incarnation was officially registered in 1989.

Parti de la classe moyenne du Québec

7 candidates

Founded in July, this provincial party aims to empower the middle class by – most notably – limiting political donations to $100 per donor (the cap currently stands at $1000), increasing the minimum wage and putting a ten-year moratorium on all public administration bonuses in order to better finance post-secondary education.

Bloc pot

2 candidates

Founded in 1998, the Bloc pot’s political platform is primarily focused on the legalization of marijuana, although their website insists that their promotion of hemp derivatives as an alternative to fossil fuels, as well as their electoral reform advocacy, make them much more than a “single-issue party.”

Équipe autonomiste

17 candidates

This party was formed earlier this year by Action Démocratique Québec (ADQ) former riding association president Éric Barnabé in response to the ADQ’s merger with Francois Legault’s CAQ, which many former ADQ supporters and leaders reportedly found to not be right-wing enough.

Parti nul

10 candidates

Formed in 2009, this party subscribes to no ideology, and their platform consists entirely of giving voters a way to voice their dissatisfaction. Their website states in French that voting for Parti Nul is better than simply not voting or destroying one’s ballot since “no media attention is granted to destroyed votes.”

Québec – Révolution démocratique 

1 candidate

This party has no website, but it does have a Facebook page with 448 friends, and refuses to publish its platform until a sufficient number of militants are recruited. According to Elections Quebec, they were registered in May of 2011, and had $1,192 in net assets in 2011.

Parti conservateur du Québec 

27 candidates

Over 100 years ago, the conservative party commanded nearly fifty per cent of the vote in Quebec. The party hasn’t held a seat in the national assembly since 1935, when it was replaced by the autonomist Union Nationale party, which held power sporadically from the 1930s to the 1960s. Its leader, Luc Harvey, reregistered the party in 2009.

Coalition pour la constituante

29 candidates

Formed in June 2012 on the heels of the student strike and worldwide social justice movements, this party’s name means “coalition for the constituency,” and they seek to give voters an avenue by which to voice their dissatisfaction with the current political establishment. Elected candidates would be mandated to create a constituent assembly charged with writing a new constitution for Quebec with redefined political institutions.

Option nationale

120 candidates

Founded in 2011 by former Parti Quebécois (PQ) MNA Jean-Martin Aussant, the ON’s first mandate would be to declare Quebec independent before a referendum. Although currently polling at about two per cent, the party has recently received former PQ premier Jacques Parizeau’s endorsement, which could split the leftist sovereignty vote currently carried by Pauline Marois’ PQ.

Parti vert du Québec

7 candidates

According to a interview with party leader Claude Sabourin, the Greens’ three main priorities are the environment, education, and health. Despite their anti-tuition-hike stance, they accidentally ran a pro-hike candidate in Outremont; admitting to the gaffe, Sabourin told that “Obviously we should have researched her better, done a Google search on her name, and we didn’t do that.” She was taken off the ballot.

Parti indépendantiste

10 candidates

This party, led by long-time sovereigntist Michel Lepage, promises to separate the province from the rest of Canada as soon as it assumes power. It courted Jean-Martin Aussant in 2011, who instead decided to form his own party. Lepage has said that immigration and multiculturalism threaten Quebec identity. Aussant, on the other hand, is pro-immigration and has explicitly reached out to Anglo voters.

Union citoyenne du Québec

20 candidates

This party has been billed as the provincial version of the NDP – several of its members hail from the ranks of the national NDP, and it shares a platform similarly centered on environmental controls, a reformed health system, pro-immigrant policies, and a diversified economy. It has no official ties to the federal NDP, however, and very few funds, according to their spokesperson Maxine Guérin.

—compiled by Lola Duffort