Quebec election campaign officially underway, voting day set for Oct. 3

Click to play video: 'The writ has dropped, and with it, Quebec’s election campaign is officially underway'
The writ has dropped, and with it, Quebec’s election campaign is officially underway
WATCH: The writ has dropped, and with it, Quebec’s election campaign is officially underway – Aug 28, 2022

The writ has dropped, and with it, Quebec’s election campaign is officially underway.

On Sunday morning, outgoing Premier François Legault left a meeting with Lt.-Gov. J. Michel Doyon, during which the representative of the Crown dissolved the legislature and declared the general election.

With election day set for Oct. 3, voters in Quebec will have to decide over the next five weeks whether they renew Legault’s mandate or send his party, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), to the opposition.

So far, the latter is an unlikely scenario. Latest polls have the CAQ at the top of voters intention, and with a comfortable lead.

A Leger poll published earlier this month found support for Legault’s party at 44 per cent, compared to 18 per cent for the second-place Quebec Liberals.

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Quebec Solidaire and the Conservative Party of Quebec polled at 15 per cent and 13 per cent, respectively.

Coalition Avenir Quebec leader Francois Legault speaks in Levis, Que., Wednesday, August 10, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot. jqb

As he left the Lieutenant-Governor’s office on Sunday, Legault said his party’s five priorities are the environment, health, education, the economy and defending Quebec identity.

“I’m not taking anything for granted,” he said, speaking of his healthy lead in the polls.

Later on, Legault spoke in the Montmorency riding flanked by some of the candidates running under his party’s banner.

With the Montmorency falls as a background, Legault appealed to voters by touting some of his government’s accomplishments.

Click to play video: 'Politicians make gun violence prevention a priority ahead of Quebec election campaign'
Politicians make gun violence prevention a priority ahead of Quebec election campaign

Even in the midst of an unforeseen pandemic, Legault says, Quebec’s economy grew.

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“I’m proud of Quebec’s economic situation,” said Legault. “We managed to reduce the gap between Ontario… our economic growth is better than our neighbours’.”

Legault enters the campaign as labour shortages plague the province, inflation is high and the pandemic lingers.

But he says his party has “concrete plans” to tackle those issues.

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READ MORE: Far more women than men not running again in Quebec’s fall election

He also accused opposition parties of wanting to “butcher” law 96, the province’s reform of the French Language Charter and the province’s secularism law.

“Quebecers won’t let that happen,” Legault said. “We shouldn’t break this momentum, I need you. That’s why I ask you for a mandate to continue. Let’s keep going.”

“Let’s continue,” is the CAQ’s campaign slogan.

Meanwhile, Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade said after the writ drop that the economy and cost of living will be her campaign’s main focus.

“I’m going to put Francois Legault to the challenge,” said Anglade. “People shouldn’t have to choose between paying their rent or buying food.”

Speaking from the Lafontaine riding in Montreal later in the day, Anglade reinforced that her ballot box question is the economy. She pointed to high inflation, high housing prices, and the ongoing labour shortage.

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“The government’s coffers are filling up while Quebecers pockets are emptying,” Anglade said.

Anglade thanked Carlos Leitao, the outgoing MNA for Robert-Baldwin who served as economy minister during the previous Liberal government, for serving as the party’s campaign chair; perhaps a reinforcing sign of how important the topic of the economy will be for the party.

“‘La madame’ has a plan,” said Anglade, referring to Legault calling her “la madame” and not by her name earlier during a press conference.

Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, leader of the Parti Québécois (PQ), spoke in the Montreal riding of Camille-Laurin and presented his team as “the Cinderella” of the elections, referring to his party trailing in the polls.

St-Pierre Plamondon chose Montreal to kick off his campaign because he says the metropolis has long been neglected and ignored by the CAQ.

“Montreal is part of Quebec, a Francophone city that has always distinguished itself for its peaceful and safe character,” St-Pierre Plamondon said, speaking of a recent spike in gun violence in the city.

The PQ leader did not mince words for the outgoing government, accusing the CAQ of being a “federalist” party.

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“The CAQ is an arrogant party that self promotes constantly,” St-Pierre Plamondon said. “We present out team without arrogance and with modesty… we are here by conviction.”

Two of those convictions — Quebec independence and the defense of the French language- were at the forefront of his plea for votes.

“Quebecers have the right to believe in the sustainability of their language,” he said. “We are many in Quebec to think that independence is not only necessary but urgent.”

Clearly going after Quebec city area votes, Éric Duhaime, leader of the Conservative Party of Quebec, chose to speak from the riding of Chauveau, in the Capitale-Nationale region.

“It’s my first electoral campaign as a party leader, there’s a certain febrility, enthusiasm, nervousness,” Duhaime confessed. “It’s evident that the region of Capitale-Nationale and Chaudière-Apalaches have always been a conservative stronghold. It’s here that Stephen Harper made his first breakthroughs.”

Duhaime wasn’t shy to attack Legault’s record over the past four years.

In health, Duhaime criticized the province’s long waiting list for a family doctor and the surgery backlog, which in June amounted to about 145,000 people on the waiting list for a procedure.

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Duhaime proposes a health care reform in which the private sector would play a greater role. “Our public insurance would pay,” Duhaime explained.

“In economy, the government has stacked up the worst deficits,” Duhaime said. “The next generations are inheriting a pile of debt.”

Duhaime said that under his government, the province would exploit its hydrocarbon resources and promised to lower taxes on gas.

“The government preferred to pile up record amounts of money in tax revenues from gas instead of giving a break to Quebecers,” Duhaime said of Legault’s government.

“We have one first and foremost priority: to improve Quebecers’ quality of life,” Duhaime explained. “This will be at the heart of our electoral campaign.”

Duhaime said he was proud of his party’s advancements in terms of voters’ intentions. The party held one seat but he says he sees that his party has potential for growth.

“If what we are feeling on the ground manifests in the polls… there will be a before and an after for Quebec,” Duhaime said.

In the Saint-Francois riding in Sherbrooke, Quebec Solidaire profiled itself as the alternative to Legault’s CAQ.

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“The choice of this election is clearer than ever: to continue or to change the era,” Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said. “It’s been too long we’re patching holes in Québec, we can’t continue like this.”

Nadeau-Dubois said Quebecers could simply no longer afford to continue on the same path offered by Legault and his team while he says the healthcare system, the environment and the middle class crumble.

“We have the responsibility to act now. The number one priority should be people’s health and the environment’s health,” Nadeau-Dubois said. “Francois Legault denied the housing crisis, we will fix it,” he said.

Nadeau-Dubois said that they’ve proven to be an effective second opposition but now they are ready to form a government.

“If there is one person in Quebec who is capable of beating François Legault it’s Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois,” said Manon Massé, the party’s former parliamentary leader.

Massé appealed to voters 44 years and younger to vote.

“Don’t let François Legault dictate your future. Go vote,” Massé said.

Quebec’s political parties have already been on election mode for a few weeks now.

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Campaign posters were up Saturday afternoon in many Montreal boroughs.

As the legislature broke for the summer, Legault’s party had 76 seats, while the Quebec Liberals had 27, Quebec Solidaire had 10 and the Parti Quebecois had seven.

–With files from The Canadian Press

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