Following the Quebec municipal election, Independent MNA Catherine Fournier resigned to become mayor of Longueuil, triggering a by-election in her electoral district of Marie-Victorin. The race to replace Fournier may shape the outcome for the 2022 provincial elections and the political landscape of Quebec for the next decade.
Ever since its creation, the electoral district of Marie-Victorin served as a Parti Québécois stronghold. Since 1985, each MNA from this South Shore riding has been elected under the PQ banner. In 2016, then-24-year-old Catherine Fournier continued the trend when elected to the National Assembly. Two years later, in the 2018 general election, Fournier was narrowly elected with a 705-vote lead over CAQ candidate Martyne Prévost. Fournier later quit the PQ a few months later and sat as an Independent until her resignation.
The eventual Marie-Victorin by-election will challenge all parties at the National Assembly. For the Parti Québécois, it will be their ultimate test ahead of the 2022 elections.
In 2018, the Parti Québécois was reduced from 30 to just ten seats at the National Assembly. Since then, the PQ’s parliamentary caucus shrank to seven, with many members (including Fournier) leaving the party for various reasons.
Under the leadership of Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, the PQ has been distancing themselves from the governing Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) by taking a pur et dur approach to Quebec sovereignty and the protection of the French language, like extending Bill 101 to English cégeps.
Although the PQ’s ideas are gaining media coverage, the sovereigntist party has struggled to get popular support. According to the last Léger Quebec election poll, the PQ has 13% support amongst voters. To add insults to injury, according to the poll aggregate site 338Canada, should the by-election happen today, the PQ would lose Marie-Victorin with just 21% of the votes. However, the PQ is confident they can still take back this downtown Longueuil riding with their star candidate, Pierre Nantel.
Pierre Nantel was the former MP for Longueuil—St-Hubert for more than eight years. Nantel was initially elected in 2011 with the NDP before leaving the party to stand as a Green Party candidate in the 2019 federal election unsuccessfully. Despite being a former member of two federalist parties, Nantel was known for his support for Quebec sovereignty. Asked why Nantel decided to join the PQ, the popular former MP named the decline for the French language around Montreal as his main motive to run for office.
If unelected, Nantel affirmed he would run again in the 2022 general election. However, should the PQ lose Marie-Victorin, it may certify the PQ’s fate ahead of the 2022 general election.
For the CAQ, the Marie-Victorin will be the ultimate test of their popularity. Since forming the government in 2018, the CAQ has enjoyed tremendous electoral support of around 46%. Premier François Legault has been constantly ranked as one of the most popular premiers in Canada. Legault and the CAQ’s popularity across Quebec could make Marie-Victorin an easy victory for them. According to 338Canada, the CAQ, which already holds a 2/3 majority at the Quebec National Assembly, would win Marie-Victorin with 41% of the votes.
Although the CAQ has yet to announce their candidate, the centre-right nationalist party expressed confidence in winning that South Shore riding. However, if the CAQ takes Marie-Victorin for granted and ends up losing the district, this defeat would contradict the CAQ’S popularity in the polls.
For Québec Solidaire, Marie-Victorin will be a riding the left-wing sovereigntist party wants to win. In 2018, Québec Solidaire (QS) won an impressive ten seats and became the third-largest party at the National Assembly. Most of their support comes from young voters and university students. As Marie-Victorin is home to both demographics, it is no wonder why QS would want a victory there. However, QS will come to this race with a disadvantage. Carl Lévesque, who served as the QS candidate since 2012, has been recently elected as a Longueuil city councillor. QS has yet to announce their replacement candidate, but QS co-leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois is determined to win Marie-Victorin.
For the Quebec Liberal Party (QLP), Marie-Victorin will be a tell-tale sign of how the party might fare ahead of 2022. The Liberals initially offered to stand down should the PQ’s extra-parliamentary leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon seek to enter the National Assembly. However, when the latter declined to run, the Liberals placed 35-year-old social researcher Émilie Nolet as their candidate.
In 2018, the Liberals placed fourth in Marie-Victorin. Since the last general election, the Liberals have suffered low popularity in the latest polls. Despite coming in second provincially, the QLP has only 9% support amongst Francophone voters. Concerning Marie-Victorin is mainly a Francophone riding, there is little hope that the Liberals may finish higher than fourth place.
The Marie-Victorin by-election could also prove a breakthrough for two smaller parties: the Conservative Party of Quebec and the newly formed eco-sovereigntist party Climat Québec.
Ever since popular radio talk host Éric Duhaime became the Conservative Party of Quebec (CPQ) leader, the right-wing libertarian party has gained widespread attention for its opposition to the COVID-19 sanitary health measures, like lockdowns, mandatory vaccination, and the vaccine passport. Iberville MNA Claire Samson has even left the CAQ to become the CPQ’s first sitting MNA. According to the latest polls, the CPQ has around 10% of support across the province. Should the CPQ run a candidate in Marie-Victorin, it would determine whether the opposition to sanitary health measures can materialize into votes.
Former Bloc Québécois leader Martine Ouellette has announced she should be running in Marie-Victorin as the leader of Climat Québec. Ouellette founded Climat Québec earlier in the year to tackle climate change by advocating for Quebec’s independence. Concerning that Ouellette was the former MNA for the nearby Longueuil riding of Vachon, Climat Québec can leave an impact on the upcoming by-election.
Premier François Legault has indicated he would call a by-election in Marie-Victorin after the holidays. Once the electoral writs are dropped, all political parties will be focusing on this crucial Longueuil riding.
By Jacques Wang