Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday September 17, 2019
‘We like to fall in love’: Which federal party will win over the fickle Quebec voter?
As the federal election campaign began last week, Canada’s main political parties couldn’t escape Quebec’s internal politics and a renewed nationalism championed by the provincial government.
The Coalition Avenir Quebec government continues to enjoy broad support among Quebec’s francophone majority, as do the government’s recent moves to cut immigration and limit the rights of religious minorities in the name of protecting Quebecers’ language, culture and identity.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet are targeting these nationalist voters, and both promise their members would defend the Coalition party’s policies in Ottawa.
And yet it’s the Liberal party, led by the unabashedly pro-immigration, pro-multiculturalism Justin Trudeau, that sits atop the polls in the province — by a large margin. However, analysts say that Liberal support is fragile, because Quebec voters are notoriously fickle when it comes to federal politics.
Trudeau’s been here before.
In the 2015 election, both he and then-NDP leader Tom Mulcair came out against former Conservative leader Stephen Harper’s election promise to ban the face-covering Islamic niqab during citizenship ceremonies. Francophone Quebecers largely supported Harper’s position.
The fight for Quebec’s coveted 78 seats will turn on whether Trudeau’s personal popularity can stop voters from switching to the two parties trying hardest to tap into the nationalist sentiment that propelled the Coalition to power, pollster Jean-Marc Leger said.
The Bloc and the Tories have repeatedly stated over the past week they wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize Quebec’s secularism law, known as Bill 21. The law prohibits some public sector workers, including teachers and police officers, from wearing religious symbols at work.
They took turns hammering Trudeau for not pledging to do the same. The Liberal leader was dogged by questions about whether his party, if re-elected, would participate in a judicial challenge to the law.
Trudeau said his government might intervene, but at the moment such a move would be “counter-productive.” But it was the other part of his answer that reflected his party’s bet that Quebec voters know him, like him and will overlook his stance against the secularism legislation.
On Sunday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was in Sherbrooke, Que., promising new powers and funding for Quebec — and dangling the possibility of constitutional reform — in a bid to revive the so-called orange wave of 2011. But with a Leger poll putting the party at six per cent in Quebec on the eve of the election, he has a steep climb ahead of him. (CP/Yahoo News)