Quebec will vote on its 42nd National Assembly (provincial government) on Monday October 1. The election, which has been underway since August 23, is being fought between four major parties: the Liberal Party of Québec (PLQ), the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), the Parti Québécois (PQ), and Québec Solidaire (QS). The election comes at a polarizing time for Quebec; many of the 22 parties vying for seats have drastically different views on issues all identified as “the most important” for Quebec citizens. One of the 22 parties, Parti 51 even proposes separating from Canada with the intent of joining the United States.
With the exception of a brief PQ government from 2012-2014, the PLQ has governed the province since 2003. As a result, the guiding principle in this election seems to be a desire for change. The CAQ, whose policies consist of lowering taxes and creating more room for “innovation” by creating tax breaks for businesses, while hoping to improve Quebec’s public education and health services, is leading in the polls: the CAQ is polling at 36.6%, the PLQ at 28.7%, the PQ at 18.4%, QS at 10.9%, and all smaller parties comprise 5.4% altogether. The PLQ’s position in the polls, and general public opinion of them, makes it seem increasingly unlikely that they will win in October. The PQ is trailing behind, and QS, the only remaining economically-left party, has yet to make substantial headway beyond Montreal.
A few students who spoke to the Daily about the upcoming election expressed support or appreciation for Québec Solidaire. U1 Arts Student, Rachel Schleifer, told the Daily in an interview: “I really admire the values of QS. Their platform is focused on issues such as environmentalism, social justice, and access to education. I also like that the party does not have a sole leader in the traditional sense and instead has two spokespeople, one female and one male […] I value their inclusion of candidates and willingness to work with various community activists in the province.” Another student, Mayaluna Zama Bierlich, U2 Arts, echoed these sentiments in a separate interview, saying, “I’m voting for Québec Solidaire because I believe that their policies most closely reflect my own political beliefs, and that they’re genuinely committed to adopting those policies.”
Schleifer also touched on a particularly prevalent issue in this election: separatism and independence. “Québec Solidaire shares this goal of separating Quebec from Canada, but I do think that separation is not as prevalent in these elections as it has in past years. And unlike many other Quebecois parties, QS does not use themes of racism or cultural prejudice to further their goals of provincial sovereignty”. Only one of the four parties evaluated here, the PLQ, is a federalist party, meaning that they support Canadian confederacy and Quebec’s role within it.
Chloe Wong-Mersereau, an U2 Arts student, has committed to voting, although she has yet to decide who she will vote for. “I will be voting on October 1st and it will be my first time voting in a provincial election,” she said, “I’m still doing my research on the different parties, their platforms, and the party members to make my decision.” Wong-Mersereau also spoke to the importance of youth voting: “I think it is very important for young people to take that initiative and properly compare the parties before making any major decisions. There are a lot of important questions on the table and it is best to have a holistic view of the situation.”
Below is a breakdown of the four prominent parties competing in this election with highlights from each of their platforms.
Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ)
Incumbent (first elected in 2014)
Leader: Philippe Couillard
Slogan: To make life easier for Quebecers
Pledged a total of 2.8 billion in education spending over 5 years
Promised to increase the high school graduation rate from 68 per cent to 85 per cent by 2030.
Hired 1,500 new educational professionals, 600 of which were teachers.
Wants to add educational assistants to kindergarten and first grade to help with teaching, technical assistance, and the care of special needs students.
Supported a plan that would have Quebec take in 49,000 to 53,00 immigrants this year.
Pledged $25 million over the next four years to programs which would provide French lessons and rural community integration to immigrants.
Secularism and Identity
Purporters of 2017’s Bill 62, a bill which forbid the wearing of religious symbols, including the hijab, while giving or receiving public services. The original bill was suspended by the Quebec superior court on grounds of discrimination. Couillard is now stating that local police forces should decide whether women on their force can wear garments such as the hijab.
Plans to spend $2.9 billion on sustainable transport initiatives by 2023, also in favour of the federal cap-and-trade program to reduce emissions nationally.
The Liberals, and Couilliard, are federalist, and in favour of Quebec signing the constitution. Couillard has pushed for greater legislative power for Quebec within the confederation.
Coalition Avenir Québec
Leader: Francois Legault
The party hopes to cut education costs by eliminating school boards, and transferring their authority by and large to the schools themselves.
Would replace school boards with local service centres to provide the necessary administrative supports to schools.
Wishes to reduce, at least temporarily, the number of immigrants Quebec intakes from 50,000 to 40,000.
Supports the implication of a “values test,” a test to make sure that all incoming immigrants hold “Quebecois” values before receiving a Quebec selection certificate.
Immigrants would have to prove that they are actively looking for employment, although critics have questioned the legality of this policy.
Secularism and Identity
Believes in creating a “Secularism Charter” which would regulate the religious accommodations provided to civil servants.
Opposes wearing religious symbols, especially by those who possess civil power, like police officers and school teachers.
Supports reducing greenhouse gasses through technological innovation.
The CAQ is a “nationalist” party; they advocate for more power for Quebec within Canada. The CAQ would like to see Quebec have more sway in immigration and fiscal matters as well as a say in Supreme Court nominees. The CAQ has pledged to never hold a referendum while in power.
Leader: Jean-Francois Lisee
Pledged to slowly move towards both free CEGEP and free University education in the province, starting with low income students. This plan is estimated to cost $400 million.
Would also reduce funding for English language CEGEPS in an attempt to offer better English language instruction at French CEGEPS.
Opposes the influx of 50,000 immigrants a year, and would like to receive a “more reasonable number” from the auditor general.
Immigrants Quebec does admit will need to have skills in French as well as an existing knowledge of “Quebec values” before arriving in the province. 25 per cent of those selected would also be made to settle in rural communities.
Secularism and Identity
Believes that anyone in public service, such as prison guards, judges, prosecutors, police officers, and school children, should not be allowed to wear religious symbols, including the hijab.
Would encourage Quebec’s pension fund, the Caisse de Dépôt, to divest from fossil fuel related companies and the province to ban all new fossil fuel projects.
Would explore incentives to carpool through creating an app. Passengers and drivers would be awarded $4 for their first year using the app, and $3 for any subsequent trip taken after that using the app.
The PQ are a separatist party, and will continue to advocate for an independent Quebec, yet they will not hold a referendum in their first term in power. Under the PQ, the earliest referendum would be held in 2022.
Leader: QS has a non-hierarchical structure. Instead of a party leader, the party has two spokespeople: Manon Masse and Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.
Would supply free education to everyone in the province, from pre-school to university.
Wants to create resource centres for immigrants which would provide French lessons, and access to employment information.
Secularism and Identity
Opposes those wielding state power, like police officers, wearing religious symbols like the hijab. However, QS does not oppose the wearing of religious symbols by those receiving public services.
Would ban all gasoline-powered cars from the province by 2050.
Promised that all cars sold in the province will be electric or hybrid by 2030.
Pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 95 per cent in the next 30 years.
Would ensure more sustainable waste management by introducing policies where the polluter pays.
Advocates for a sovereign Quebec, and would like to hold a referendum, after a committee to outline the terms of an independent Quebec is formed and has run its course.