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Quebec’s right-wing incumbent party wins new term

Quebec's right-wing incumbent party wins new term
Source: Video Screenshot

Quebec re-elected its right-wing governing party Monday, after a heated campaign in which the party leadership pushed claims that immigration threatened the French-speaking Canadian province’s culture.

With 41 percent of the vote and 89 seats in the 125-seat Quebec National Assembly, the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ), a right-wing nationalist party led by current Premier Francois Legault, won by a landslide.

The party, in office for the past four years, had made declarations blaming immigrants in part for the decline of the French language in the province.

Final results showed the CAQ, founded in 2011, beat its 2018 results when it won 74 out of 125 seats with just over 37 percent of the vote.

Trailing a distant second was the center-left Liberal Party of Quebec (PLQ), with 22 seats, the worst results for the party that ruled Quebec for nearly 15 years before 2018.

“Quebecers have sent a strong message,” said Legault after the results came in, promising “to be the premier of all Quebecers” after the divisive campaign.

A multimillionaire ex-businessman, Legault came to power in 2018 promising a “third way.”

Neither separatist nor federalist, the founder of the country’s third-largest airline, Air Transat, pitched to Quebecers a “business” approach to politics that would be coupled with nationalist values.

On Monday night, Legault said education and the economy would be his government’s top priorities.

“We must continue to create wealth in Quebec because it gives us the means. We have an exceptional opportunity to make Quebec a leader in green economy.”

Hundreds of Legault’s supporters cheered on at the victory event, holding up blue placards with the party’s slogan “Let’s continue.”

– Sharpy divided province –

The map of results showed a province sharply divided between Montreal, a large multicultural city, and the rest of the region.

The governing party has only one MP in the territory of the metropolis, a stronghold of the Liberal party and Quebec Solidaire.

In another notable development, Kateri Champagne Jourdain will be the first Indigenous woman to sit in the Quebec National Assembly.

Jourdain, a member of the governing party, told reporters that she was pleased to be “making history” in Quebec.

Even before the announcement of the final results, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “eager to continue working” with Legault, mentioning the “green economy”, “the fight against climate change”, and the question of “the labour shortage.”

Doug Ford, premier of neighboring Ontario, said he was “thrilled” with the result.

“Let’s keep building deeper ties between our two provinces and strengthen the economic bonds between us that create good-paying jobs,” he tweeted.

Quebec’s Deputy Premier Genevieve Guilbault celebrated the initial results. “People thought we managed the pandemic well,” she said, noting that Covid had overshadowed the party’s first term.

“They want to give us a chance, a full four-year term to continue,” she said.

– Immigration debate –

Earlier in the day, voter Alain Gravel, 55, told AFP his ballot choice was swayed mostly by concerns about the economy and asylum seekers slipping into Canada from the United States — a trend that surged in 2017 during Donald Trump’s presidency, sparking an outcry, and peaked this year at more than 23,000 to date.

Nearly all of those migrants were intercepted by police in Quebec.

“We need to clean up public spending,” Gravel said. “Also we absolutely have to find a way to plug breaches in the border as we know that many migrants are exploiting those.”

The political discourse in Quebec has shifted in recent years away from the once-dominant debate on splitting the province from the rest of Canada — which was twice rejected in referendums in 1980 and 1995 — making way for fresh ideas.

Legault, who had previously linked violence and immigration, said before the election that it would be “a bit suicidal” to take in more newcomers.

That position, however, is at odds with the economic reality in the province of nearly 8.5 million inhabitants that is facing a severe labor shortage — one that could be remedied through increased immigration.

With an aging population retiring en masse and an unemployment rate at a historic low, Quebec is looking to fill more than 250,000 jobs. And the government anticipates that number will keep rising — reaching about 1.4 million by 2030.

Fears around the claimed decline in French speakers are based on the latest census data, which found that the proportion of Quebec’s population that speaks French most often at home has been declining since 2001, falling from 81.1 percent to 77.5 percent last year.

But experts argue that the data does not take into account people who are fluent in French but not native speakers of the language.

“When we speak about indicators based on the mother tongue, for me, that does not take into account the vitality and use of French by the population,” said Richard Marcoux, who heads the Francophone Demographic and Statistical Observatory (ODSEF).


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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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