(Longueuil) On March 8, François Legault affirmed, in the presence of his candidate Shirley Dorismond, that Marie-Victorin’s by-election would be “a test first for the Parti Québécois”. Ten days later, PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon affirmed that, on the contrary, this election “is first and foremost a test for the government”.
According to three experts in Quebec politics interviewed by The Canadian Press, both are right and their respective parties will not be the only ones whose performance will be scrutinized after Monday’s vote. Analysts are likely to spend a lot of time also discussing the results of Éric Duhaime’s Conservative Party and Martine Ouellet’s new party, Climat Québec.
PQ: everything to lose
Let’s start with the Parti Québécois, since Marie-Victorin has been a PQ stronghold since its creation in 1980 and the party has a star candidate there, Pierre Nantel. The Liberals only managed to win it once, in 1984, in a by-election, and that for only one year. Except that, for the first time in the 2018 general election, the PQ candidate Catherine Fournier – now mayoress of Longueuil – was not re-elected with the comfortable majority to which the PQ has become accustomed in this bastion: Mme Fournier had obtained only 705 votes more than his rival CAQ, Martyne Prévost.
“It’s a castle whose foundations are crumbling a bit,” said Thierry Giasson, professor of political science at Laval University. “Yes, there is a test for the Parti Québécois, because if it does not pass Marie-Victorin, they will have to justify themselves. It will be very worrying for them if they are not able to win in Marie-Victorin. »
“It’s certain that, for the Parti Québécois, the stakes are even more important than for the government party, that’s clear,” adds Alain Gagnon, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Quebec and Canadian Studies at the ‘UQAM.
“When we follow the current polls, we don’t have the feeling that the Parti Québécois is really on the rise and if there were to be any good news on that side, at least that would perhaps allow it to recruit interesting candidates in other counties for the fall elections and that would also motivate the troops, ”he adds.
“The Parti Québécois is betting big and that’s why we feel that it is putting all its energy into it”, notes for his part the political scientist Éric Montigny, of Laval University. “Besides, its candidate, Pierre Nantel, enjoys a certain notoriety. »
CAQ: everything to gain
But since it is a by-election, the first that can truly gauge the satisfaction of the electorate since the only two others occurred at the start of the mandate, the vote also represents a form of plebiscite for the Legault government: “It is not a view of the mind to say that this is a test for the party in power, even if it is not a constituency that they won in 2018”, estimates Thierry Giasson. But with the result obtained in 2018 and the fall of many other PQ ridings to the CAQ in Montérégie, he adds, “they know that the ground is potentially fertile. They chose M.me Dorismond on purpose. She is a candidate from diversity who allows them to perhaps reframe certain a priori that voters who are critical of the government may have. »
Alain Gagnon agrees. The victory is important for the caquistes: “The by-election is super important to give dynamism to the ministerial party. If the Coalition avenir Québec is able to win this riding from the Parti Québécois, it will still be an important vote of confidence. »
And yet, takes care to specify Éric Montigny, win or lose, the Coalition avenir Québec still finds itself in a win-win scenario. “The CAQ has less to lose in the sense that it is a historic stronghold of the Parti Québécois. Therefore, any good performance can be interpreted as positive even in the event of defeat. But we feel a desire from the CAQ, all the same, to make efforts with a candidate who surprised, moreover, a former vice-president of the FIQ. So it is clear that the CAQ is trying to delight the riding. »
Fight for third place
All three agree that we will see a fight between these two teams for victory. The stakes are much lower for Quebec solidaire and the Liberal Party of Quebec (PLQ), which will likely fight for third place.
Fourth in 2012 and 2014, Québec solidaire managed to overtake the Liberals in third place, during the partial of 2016, but by only four votes. Then, in 2018, the left-wing party consolidated this third place with a lead of nearly 1,900 votes over the PLQ.
Québec solidaire has not yet succeeded in threatening the PQ or the CAQ. It will be necessary to see if his new role of second opposition will have allowed him to take the lead with the electorate, or not. Two women, Shophika Vaithyanathasarma and Emilie Nollet will wear the colors of Québec solidaire and the Liberals respectively.
Éric Duhaime: from zero to how many?
The Conservative Party had no candidate in 2018. Éric Duhaime’s party, which will be represented by actress Anne Casabonne, will therefore certainly find cause for celebration, whatever the result, according to Thierry Giasson: “It’s certain that Mr. Duhaime will say: “look, we weren’t even here and we are presenting a first candidate in the history of the party and we are coming to get 15% or 8% or 9%”. »
Should the result of the PCQ be seen as a barometer of what is to come? “That’s a good question,” replies Mr. Giasson. I am very curious to see what will happen with the Conservative Party in Marie-Victorin. This will perhaps be indicative of progress and the capacity of this organization – we talk a lot about the 57,000 new members of the Conservative Party – is this transposed into a strike force on the ground? Does this translate into support at the ballot box on voting day? Does it translate into a team that can get the vote out? »
His colleague Éric Montigny asks himself the same questions: “This is the first test for the Conservative Party of Quebec and I would say – I quickly passed through the riding and saw the poster – that it is conducting a real campaign. . There is display, they presented a candidate who also enjoys a certain notoriety, for better and for worse. But the challenge for parties like the Conservative Party, an anti-system party, is to get the vote out, and that will be interesting to compare with the polls. »
In the rear view mirror of the CAQ
On this subject, eight polls carried out since the beginning of 2022 give Éric Duhaime’s party between 9% and 19% of the voting intentions, with the exception of a Mainstreet survey which gave him 24%. In other words, any result below 9% could be seen as a difficulty in conveying voting intentions to the ballot box.
But it is above all the CAQ that will closely monitor the Conservative result, believes Alain Gagnon: “If the Conservative Party were to do well, it would be quite worrying for the Coalition avenir Québec. It would also mean that the CAQ has strayed too far from its political program, which was rather center-right and therefore that the Conservative Party is able to occupy land that was formerly occupied by the Coalition avenir Québec. »
“It’s a bit of the space that has already been occupied by the ADQ [Action démocratique du Québec] and by the Coalition avenir Québec, which was liberated and the right would be more easily mobilized by Éric Duhaime’s conservatives. A strong result would be an indication that there are regions, for example Beauce or the region of Quebec, which could be interested or think of voting for the Conservatives. »
Martine Ouellet hunting greens
Finally, the presence for the first time of Martine Ouellet, leader of the new formation she created, Climat Québec, is intriguing: “She’s a girl from the South Shore and she has roots in the riding, recalls Éric Montigny. What will be interesting to see in her case is whether she manages to recover some of the power of the Green Party, which is in disarray in Quebec. There is an opening for her. Will it be able to mobilize, to capture the green current that exists in the population with a more credible option than the Green Party? It will be interesting to follow. »
“I don’t think M.me Ouellet has the organization, the structure to be able to win a by-election and perhaps even make a difference in this election, says Thierry Giasson. But it has a fairly significant local presence. She is known, she has feats of arms. She was a minister in a government. Therefore, it enjoys professional recognition or credibility. »
At the same time, he says, “she had a rocky career and there, we try to understand, among some voters, where is she going, what is she wants to do and, once again: does she have a place in this campaign? »
Alain Gagnon, for his part, does not give him much of a chance: “Mme Ouellet, I don’t think she’s going to get much. Moreover, it allows an additional point of view to be expressed and afterwards, she will have to draw her own conclusions from the little popular support she is likely to receive. »
Draw conclusions as in bowing out? Éric Montigny does not believe it: “Her career has not accustomed us to seeing her throw in the towel. What I assume is that she expects to have an honorable performance. But at the same time, regardless of the outcome, if she is determined to build this greener political path, I don’t think she will demobilize. »
In the end, however, he issued this warning about the possible conclusions that could be drawn from this election: “In this case, the by-election is very close to the general election and it is interesting to see what will come out of it, but it remains a by-election and that does not mean that the result will have a major influence on the general election. »
Hear you, hello: it would indeed be extremely audacious, even imprudent, to make predictions for the general election of October 3 on the basis of the result in Marie-Victorin, Monday.