Because of the erosion of the sovereigntist/federalist political axis in Quebec, many non-francophones are abandoning the Liberal Party of Quebec. A few weeks before the election, part of this electorate is turning to the conservatives of Éric Duhaime, note experts.
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The latest Léger survey placed the Conservative Party of Quebec in second place among non-French speakers in Quebec, with 22% of voting intentions. A gigantic leap for this formation which was still marginal in the 2018 elections.
The Liberals are still far ahead, with 49% of intentions among non-Francophones, but this is nevertheless a historic low.
"Currently, the lights are red among the Liberals," says political scientist Philippe Dubois.
For a long time in Quebec, the PLQ garnered nearly 80% of community support.
“Basically, the sovereignism-federalism axis no longer being the main divide that characterizes the political contest in Quebec, this allows others to express themselves [like the axis] left-right,” adds Dubois. “This also partly explains the fall of the Parti Québécois and the Liberal Party in favor of third parties such as the Coalition Avenir Québec, Québec solidaire, and now the Conservative Party.”
The effects of this political realignment first hurt the Parti Québécois, notes researcher Éric Montigny. “Now what we are starting to see are the effects on the Liberal Party, especially among Anglophones,” he said.
The PLQ is looking for itself
Although the referendum question "remains important to a significant number of voters", it is no longer a threat that is on the agenda, say the experts. Thus, those who voted for the Liberal Party of Quebec in order to block the sovereignist option can now turn to other parties.
Philippe Dubois also believes that “the procrastination of the PLQ” on certain issues, such as that of language, has undoubtedly pushed certain allophones and anglophones to look elsewhere. “In short, that can be partly explained, with the pandemic, too, which was the spark plug for the PCQ,” he argues.
The liberal formation notably attempted a turn to the left which made it lose its identity a little, adds Éric Montigny.
With Ms. Anglade, the PLQ “is looking for itself” and it has difficulty “finding its bearings”. "For a long time, the PLQ's way of expressing itself was to say that it was against independence and that it was the party of the economy," he said. “There, there is no longer the issue of independence and he no longer has the label of the economy, which was stolen from him by the CAQ.”
Thus, loyal liberals are even starting to change sides publicly. On July 6, D'Arcy McGee Liberal board member Bonnie Feigenbaum wrote about why she chose to join Éric Duhaime's troupe in Montreal's English-language newspaper The Suburban.
"The Quebec Liberals had a dismal performance on Bill 96," she wrote. “I read with interest the platform and the values of the Conservative Party [...] What I like the most is the free votes for MPs [...] I also looked at their position on the Bill 96, they opposed it.”
The leader of the Conservative Party of Quebec, Éric Duhaime, notes the interest of non-French speakers for his training and he believes that the health “drift” has challenged several immigrants who came to Quebec in search of individual freedoms.
Éric Duhaime believes that there is "indeed an interest among non-francophones", mainly because it is an electorate that is not seduced by the sovereignty of Quebec.
"With the Parti Québécois, Québec solidaire and increasingly the CAQ, with the arrival of Mr. Drainville and Ms. Saint-Hilaire, it is becoming less and less of an option... There remains the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party “says the Conservative leader.
According to him, the many changes of course of the PLQ in the Bill 96 file have left many English speakers "perplexed".
His training also attracts allophones, he says, first and second generation immigrants.
He talks about some of his candidates in Montreal whose parents left everything behind, leaving Cuba or Algeria in search of a better life and more freedom.
“It is certain that when there is a drift [pandemic] like the one we have experienced for two and a half years, these people are more challenged than us. They cherish more their individual freedoms and democracy,” said Mr. Duhaime. “They came here to provide freedom for themselves and their children.”
Then, he thinks he can take advantage of Ms. Anglade's left turn.
“Dominique Anglade who wants to create a kind of federalist Quebec in solidarity with the Liberal Party. I see them liberals crossing. These are people who are more centre-right,” he said.