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Quebec expected to be two-way race in 2019, all eyes on Québec City region, say strategists

By Laura Ryckewaert      

Léger’s Christian Bourque says with the Conservative Party’s recent growth in Quebec, the ‘race is on’ between it and the Liberals for seats in the province in 2019.

Quebec is on course to become a two-way race between Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party and Andrew Scheer's Conservatives, with the Liberals likely eyeing NDP seats while the Conservatives eye current Bloc Québécois ridings. All four parties, along with Maxime Bernier's new venture, could be looking to Québec City and its surrounding region next election. The Hill Times photographs by Andrew Meade
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Quebec is on course to be a two-way race between the Liberals and Conservatives in the 2019 federal election, say strategists, and the Québec City region is likely to be a hotly contested battleground amongst the federal parties.

Despite the reunion of the Bloc Québécois on Sept. 17—with five MPs who had split from the party in February to launch their own venture, Québec Debout, and returned to the once-again 10-member fold last week—Carl Vallée, a partner with Hatley Strategy Advisers and a former Conservative staffer, said he thinks the party remains a “spent force in Quebec.”

“The debate has really moved on from the old constitutional issue, and I really foresee that in 2019 it will be a two-way race in Quebec,” between the Liberal and Conservative parties for Quebec’s 78 federal seats, he said.

“The Conservative Party of Canada has really made a conscious effort to show openness towards Quebecers and it seems to be paying off right now in the polls for them.”

TACT Intelligence-conseil’s Mylène Dupéré, a former Liberal staffer, also said she expects a “two-way race” in Quebec in 2019, and noted that provincially the Parti Québécois, which is closely tied to the federal Bloc, has “put aside” the issue of Quebec’s independence in the ongoing provincial election, set to take place Oct. 1.

It remains to be seen how the Bloc Québécois’ 2019 campaign will shape up—the party will elect a new leader in early March—but last June, party members voted 65 per cent in favour of the idea that the Bloc should support Quebec independence in its daily actions.

Asked about the Bloc’s hopes in the next federal election last week, interim leader Mario Beaulieu (La Pointe-de-l’Île, Que.) was optimistic, saying his thinks it could win 20 or 30 seats in 2019, pointing to the Montreal region, Manicouagan, Gaspésie, Abitibi, and central Quebec as areas where the party enjoys stronger support.

Mr. Beaulieu said he thinks former Conservative MP Maxime Bernier (Beauce, Que.), who has vowed to run candidates across Canada under the banner of his new People’s Party of Canada in 2019, will help the Bloc “by dividing Conservative votes.”

While Mr. Vallée said he thinks Mr. Bernier is unlikely to pick up any seats in La Belle Province, he conceded the former Conservative leadership candidate could help split the right vote across the country in 2019, including, to some degree, in Quebec, to the advantage of the Liberals.

“There’s this conception that because his name is Maxime Bernier that he’s going to do well within Quebec because he’s obviously a francophone Quebecer, but people have to understand that his very marginal support comes mainly from the libertarians out in Alberta,” said Mr. Vallée.

He noted that during the Conservative leadership race, now-Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer (Regina-Qu’Appelle, Sask.) had a better showing than Mr. Bernier in Quebec, including in Mr. Bernier’s own riding of Beauce, largely attributed to the latter’s staunchly anti-supply management position.

As for the NDP—which in 2011 saw historic wins in Quebec as part of the ‘Orange Crush’ that saw 53 MPs elected in the province, since reduced to 15 in the last federal election—Karl Bélanger, a former NDP national director, said he thinks “there are no safe NDP seats in Quebec” in 2019.

“It will be very difficult for the NDP to keep all its current seats, let alone win new ones,” he said. “The current landscape with a reunited Bloc and Maxime Bernier with his new party and a resurging Conservative Party and struggling New Democrats—those are the ingredients for a very successful campaign by the Liberal Party in Quebec, and that’s really the party that’s benefitting from what’s happening on the ground across the province.”

Ms. Dupére noted that last election was the Liberals’ best showing in Quebec since Mr. Trudeau’s father was prime minister. The Liberals won 40 seats in Quebec in 2015, the most since the 1980 federal election when it all but swept the province’s then-75 seats, winning 74 in all. (For what it’s worth, this election was prior to the founding of the Bloc Québécois in 1991.)

“There’s potential for them to do better than that” next election, she said, in particular around Québec City where the party made gains in 2015, “especially if the Conservative vote gets split in that area” thanks to Mr. Bernier, who’s riding sits just across the St. Lawrence.

Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos won the city of Québec itself last election, beating the NDP incumbent by a vote margin of just 1.9 per cent; and nearby Liberal MP Joël Lightbound, parliamentary secretary to the Finance Minister, beat out the Conservative incumbent to claim Louis-Hébert in 2019, by a vote margin of 7.6 per cent. Further north, the riding of Lac-Saint-Jean switched hands, from Conservative to Liberal, in an October 2017 byelection.

“If this Maxime Bernier thing goes well, it could actually split the vote for those Conservatives, because the supply management is not a major issue in that area,” said Ms. Dupére.

Sources speaking with The Hill Times last week variably identified Québec City and its surrounding region as a potential growth area for the Liberals, the Conservatives, the NDP, the Bloc and Mr. Bernier—suggesting it’ll be a busy battleground in 2019.

Mr. Vallée said in central Quebec, between Trois-Rivières and Québec City, there’s “traditionally” a lot of support there for “nationalist parties,” and in particular with the Bloc “no longer really being a factor,” he said it’s an area he expects the Conservatives will be looking to grow in.

Léger’s Christian Bourque, executive vice-president of the firm’s Montreal office, said there are a couple of seats in Québec City, along with Montreal, where the NDP’s “potential is still good” to win seats. As for Mr. Bernier, Mr. Bourque said the three seats in and around Beauce and towards Québec City, including the MP’s own, are the “primary area where Maxime Bernier could do some damage.”

But overall, he said the “race is on” between the Liberals and Conservatives in Quebec.

“Because of the Conservatives doing better in last four to six months of polling in the province [Quebec], before those past six months you would have almost looked at to what extent it would be a Liberal sweep, but now certainly the race is on,” he said.

A May poll by Léger pegged the federal Liberals at 40 per cent support in Quebec, with the Conservatives at 29 per cent (up 12 points since the 2015 election), the NDP at 15 per cent, and the Bloc at 10 per cent. The most recent weekly poll tracking numbers from Nanos Research available by filing deadline, from Sept. 14, have the Liberals at 46.9 per cent, the Conservatives at almost 14 per cent, the NDP close behind at 13.8 per cent, and the Bloc at 10 per cent.

Mr. Bourque said in recent months, the Conservatives have gained traction in regions of the province where the Bloc Québécois traditionally does well, and as a result, the “realistic scenario” for the Bloc is whether it can survive and hold on to “five to 10 seats” in the province.

“If you look at the map of where those [BQ] seats still are, you would find that a majority of them could be ridings where the Conservatives, if they continue to do well, would actually stand a chance,” he said.

While Conservatives are likely eyeing Bloc seats, Mr. Bourque said Liberals are likely looking to NDP seats to make gains in Quebec, in particular in the Gatineau and Montreal regions.

Thirty-five of Quebec’s 78 federal ridings were won by a vote margin of 10 per or less in 2015, including 23 riding won by a vote margin of five per cent or less. Of those 35 ridings, 11 are held by NDP MPs, 11 by Liberals, eight by Bloc Québécois MPs, and five by Conservatives.

For those 11 Quebec NDP ridings, the Liberal candidate came second in all but one—outgoing NDP MP Hélène Laverdière’s riding of Laurier-Sainte-Marie, where former Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe came second—and nine were won by a vote margin of roughly five per cent or less.

Of the 11 Liberal Quebec seats won by a margin of 10 per cent or less, the NDP candidate came second in five, the Bloc in five, and the Conservative candidate came second place in one—Mr. Lightbound’s riding of Louis-Hébert, Que.

Six of these 11 Liberal ridings were won by a vote margin of five per cent or less, and three are currently held by cabinet ministers: National Revenue Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau (Compton-Stanstead, Que.), International Development Minister Diane Lebouthillier (Gaspésie-Les-Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Que.), and Mr. Duclos.

For the Bloc Québécois, the Liberal candidate came second in six of the eight ridings won by a margin of 10 per cent or less, with the NDP candidate second in the other two. As well, six of these eight ridings were won by a vote margin of five per cent or less.

Looking to the Conservatives, four of the five ridings won in 2015 by a margin of 10 per cent or less saw the Liberal candidate come in second, with the NDP candidate coming second in one—CPC MP Alupa Clarke’s riding of Beauport-Limoilou, Que., which he won by vote margin of roughly 5.1 per cent. Two of these five Conservative ridings were won by a vote margin of five per cent or less in 2015, including Mr. Clarke’s. The Conservatives currently hold 11 seats in Quebec.

So far, the Conservatives have nominated 16 candidates for 2019 in Quebec—the most recent being in Pierrefonds-Dollard and LaSalle-Émard-Verdun, with Honoré-Mericer next up—including Mr. Scheer’s Quebec lieutenant, Conservative MP Alain Rayes (Richmond-Arthabaska, Que.), former minister and Conservative MP Steven Blaney (Bellechasse-Les Etchemins-Lévis, Que.), and well-known Quebec MP Gérard Deltell (Louis-Saint-Laurent, Que.).

The Liberal Party has six candidates for 2019 officially nominated so far in Quebec. The party has paused candidate nominations in Quebec until the ongoing provincial election comes to a close, and once it’s over, Liberal Party director of communications Braeden Caley said nominations “will be moving forward very quickly.”

Next up on the docket for Liberal nominations in Quebec are Infrastructure Minister François-Philippe Champagne (Saint-Maurice-Champlain, Que.), Liberal MP Frank Baylis (Pierrefonds-Dollard, Que.), Liberal MP David Graham (Laurentides-Labelle, Que.), Mr. Duclos, Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez (Honoré-Mercier, Que.), and Liberal MP Steven MacKinnon (Gatineau, Que.).

The NDP has yet to nominate any candidates for 2019 in Quebec, or outside it—but two heavyweight Quebec NDP MPs, Ms. Laverdière and Romeo Saganash (Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou, Que.), aren’t running for re-election. As well, former NDP leader Thomas Mulcair resigned his Outremont, Que. seat, previously the NDP’s toehold in the province, this past summer.

The Hill Times

Quebec ridings, 2015 results

Riding MP 2015 Result 2nd Place Vote % Difference
Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou NDP MP Romeo Saganash 37% Liberal Pierre Dufour, 32.1% 4.9%
Abitibi-Témiscamingue NDP MP Christine Moore 41.5% Liberal Claude Thibault, 29.6% 11.9%
Ahuntsic-Cartierville Liberal MP Mélanie Joly 46.8% NDP Maria Mourani, 30% 16.8%
Alfred-Pellan Liberal MP Angelo Iacono 44.5% NDP Rosane Doré Lefebvre, 24% 20.5%
Argentueil-La Petite-Nation Liberal MP Stéphane Lauzon 43.3% NDP Chantal Crête, 24.8% 18.5%
Avignon-La Mitis-Matane-Matapédia Liberal MP Rémi Massé 39.5% BQ Kédina Fleury-Samson, 21% 18.5%
Beauce now-People’s Party MP Maxime Bernier 58.9% Liberal Adam Veilleux, 22.3% 36.6%
Beauport-Côte-de-Beaupré-Île d’Orléans-Charlevoix CPC MP Sylvie Boucher 33.5% Liberal Jean-Roger Vigneau, 26.9% 6.6%
Beauport-Limoilou CPC MP Alupa Clarke 30.6% NDP Raymond Côté, 25.5% 5.1%
Bécancour-Nicolet-Saurel BQ MP Louis Plamondon 40% Liberal Claude Carpentier, 24.3% 15.7%
Bellechasse-Les Etchemins-Lévis CPC MP Steven Blaney 50.9% Liberal Jacques Turgeon, 20.7% 30.2%
Beloeil-Chambly NDP MP Matthew Dubé 31.1% Liberal Karine Desjardins, 29.3% 1.8%
Berthier-Maskinongé NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau 42.2% BQ Yves Perron, 25.8% 16.4%
Bourassa Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg 54.1% BQ Gilles Léveillé, 17.1% 37%
Brome-Missisquoi Liberal MP Denis Paradis 43.9% NDP Catherine Lusson, 24.5% 19.4%
Brossard-Saint-Lambert Liberal Alexandra Mendès 50.3% NDP Hoang Mai, 24.6% 19.3%
Charlesbourg-Haute-Saint-Charles CPC MP Pierre Paul-Hus 42.2% Liberal Jean Côté, 23.2% 19%
Châteauguay-Lacolle Liberal MP Brenda Shanahan 39.1% BQ Sophie Stanké, 24.4% 14.7%
Chicoutimi-Le Fjord* CPC MP Richard Martel 52.8% Liberal Lina Boivin, 29.5% 23.3%
Compton-Stanstead Liberal MP Marie-Claude Bibeau 36.9% NDP Jean Rousseau, 27.4% 9.5%
Dorval-Lachine-LaSalle Liberal MP Anju Dhillon 54.9% NDP Isabelle Morin, 21.6% 33.3%
Drummond NDP François Choquette 30.5% Liberal Pierre Côté, 26.5% 4%
Gaspésie-Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine Liberal MP Diane Lebouthillier 38.7% NDP Philip Toone, 32.5% 6.2%
Gatineau Liberal MP Steven MacKinnon 53.8% NDP Françoise Boivin, 26.6% 27.2%
Hochelaga NDP MP Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet 30.9% Liberal Marwah Rizqy, 29.9% 1%
Honoré-Mercier Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez 56.5% NDP Paulina Ayala, 16.4% 40.1%
Hull-Aylmer Liberal MP Greg Fergus 51.4% NDP Nycole Turmel, 31.5% 19.9%
Joliette BQ Gabriel Ste-Marie 33.3% Liberal Michel Bourgeois, 28.2% 5.1%
Jonquière NDP MP Karine Trudel 29.2% Liberal Marc Pettersen, 28.5% 0.7%
Lac-Saint-Jean** Liberal MP Richard Hébert 38.6% CPC Rémy Leclerc, 25% 13.6%
Lac-Saint-Louis Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia 64.1% CPC Eric Girard, 17.4% 46.7%
La Pointe-de-l’Île BQ MP Mario Beaulieu 33.6% Liberal Marie-Chantale Simard, 28.6% 5%
La Prairie Liberal MP Jean-Claude Poissant 36.5% BQ Christian Picard, 26.2% 10.3%
LaSalle-Émard-Verdun Liberal MP David Lametti 43.9% NDP Hélène LeBlanc, 29% 14.9%
Laurentides-Labelle Liberal MP David Graham 32.1% BQ Johanne Régimbald, 29.7% 2.4%
Laurier-Sainte-Marie NDP MP Hélène Laverdière 38.3% BQ Gilles Duceppe, 28.7% 9.6%
Laval-Les Îles Liberal MP Fayçal El-Khoury 47.7% NDP François Pilon, 19.8% 27.9%
Lévis-Lotbinière CPC MP Jacques Gourde 50.1% Liberal Claude Boucher, 21.7% 28.4%
Longueuil-Charles-LeMoyne Liberal MP Sherry Romanado 35.4% BQ Philippe Cloutier, 27% 8.4%
Longueuil-Saint-Hubert NDP MP Pierre Nantel 31.2% Liberal Michael O’Grady, 30% 1.2%
Louis-Hébert Liberal MP Joël Lightbound 34.8% CPC Jean-Pierre Asselin, 27.2% 7.6%
Louis-Saint-Laurent CPC MP Gérard Deltell 50.5% Liberal Youri Rousseau, 21.4% 29.1%
Manicouagan BQ MP Marilène Gill 41.3% Liberal Mario Tremblay, 29.4% 11.9%
Marc-Aurèle-Fortin Liberal MP Yves Robillard 40.9% NDP Marie-Josée Lemieux, 23.5% 17.4%
Mégantic-L’Érable CPC MP Luc Berthold 35.4% Liberal David Berthiaume, 28.1% 7.3%
Mirabel BQ MP Simon Marcil 31.5% NDP Mylène Freeman, 30.1% 1.4%
Montarville Liberal MP Michel Picard 32.5% BQ Catherine Fournier, 28.4% 4.1%
Montcalm BQ MP Luc Thériault 36.6% Liberal Louis-Charles Thouin, 27.3% 9.3%
Montmagny-L’Islet-Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loop CPC MP Bernard Généreux 29% Liberal Marie-Josée Normand, 28.4% 0.6%
Mount Royal Liberal MP Anthony Housefather 50.3% CPC Robert Libman, 37.9% 12.4%
Notre-Dame-de-Grâce-Westmount Liberal MP Marc Garneau 57.7% NDP James Hughes, 21.8% 35.9%
Outremont former-NDP MP Thomas Mulcair 44.1% Liberal Rachel Bendayan, 33.5% 10.6%
Papineau Liberal MP Justin Trudeau 52% NDP Anne Lagacé Dowson, 25.9% 26.1%
Pierre-Boucher-Les-Patriotes-Verchères BQ Xavier Barsalou-Duval 28.6% Liberal Lucie Gagnon, 28.3% 0.3%
Pierrefonds-Dollard Liberal MP Frank Baylis 58.7% CPC Valérie Assouline, 20% 38.7%
Pontiac Liberal MP Will Amos 54.5% NDP Mathieu Ravignat, 22.5% 32%
Portneuf-Jacques-Cartier CPC MP Joël Godin 44% NDP Élaine Michaud, 22.1% 21.9%
Québec Liberal MP Jean-Yves Duclos 28.9% NDP Annick Papillon, 27% 1.9%
Repentigny BQ Monique Pauzé 34.7% Liberal Adriana Dudas, 27.3% 7.4%
Richmond-Arthabaska CPC MP Alain Rayes 31.6% Liberal Marc Desmarais, 24.7% 6.9%
Rimouski-Neigette-Témiscouata-Les Basques NDP MP Guy Caron 43.1% Liberal Pierre Cadieux, 28% 15.5%
Rivière-Des-Mille-Îles Liberal MP Linda Lapointe 32.4% NDP Laurin Liu, 29.5% 2.9%
Rivière-du-Nord BQ MP Rhéal Fortin 32% NDP Pierre Dionne Labelle, 30.1% 1.9%
Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice 49.2% BQ Claude André, 21.1% 28.1%
Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot NDP MP Brigitte Sansoucy 28.7% Liberal René Vincelette, 27.6% 1.1%
Saint-Jean Liberal MP Jean Rioux 33.2% NDP Hans Marotte, 29.1% 4.1%
Saint-Laurent*** Liberal MP Emmanuella Lambropoulos 59.1% CPC Jimmy Yu, 19.5% 39.6%
Saint-Léonard-Saint-Michel Liberal MP Nicola Di Iorio 64.7% NDP Rosannie Filato, 14.8% 49.9%
Saint-Maurice-Champlain Liberal MP François-Philippe Champagne 41.5% NDP Jean-Yves Tremblay, 20.8% 20.7%
Salaberry-Suroît NDP MP Anne Minh-Thu Quach 30.4% Liberal Robert Sauvé, 29.2% 1.2%
Shefford Liberal MP Pierre Breton 39% NDP Claire Mailhot, 23.7% 15.3%
Sherbrooke NDP MP Pierre-Luc Dusseault 37.4% Liberal Tom Allen, 29.8% 7.6%
Terrebonne BQ Michel Boudrias 33% Liberal Michèle Audette, 28% 5%
Thérèse-De Blainville Liberal MP Ramez Ayoub 32.5% BQ Alain Marginean, 27.1% 5.4%
Trois-Rivières NDP MP Robert Aubin 31.8% Liberal Yves Boivin, 30.2% 1.6%
Vaudreuil-Soulanges Liberal MP Peter Schiefke 46.6% NDP Jamie Nicholls, 22.3% 24.3%
Ville-Marie-Le-Sud-Ouest-Île-des-Soeurs Liberal MP Marc Miller 50.8% NDP Allison Turner, 23.4% 27.4%
Vimy Liberal MP Eva Nassif 46.2% NDP France Duhamel, 21% 25.2%

*These results are from a June 18 byelection; previously, in 2015, the riding was won by former-Liberal MP Denis Lemieux with 31.3% of the vote.

** These results are from an Oct. 23, 2017 byelection; previously, in 2015, the riding was won by former-Conservative MP Denis Lebel with 33.3% of the vote.

*** These are results are from an April 3, 2017 byelection; previously, in 2015, the riding was on by former-Liberal MP Stéphane Dion with 61.6% of the vote.

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