The next scheduled provincial election is on October 1st, 2018, a little less than a year from now. Before 2013, election dates were not fixed, the Premier of Québec had the power to set the date of an election as long as it came under the 5-year term limit set by the constitution. This process gave an advantage to the party in power, as they would have the upper hand in knowing the date of the election and also have the power to call an election when opinion polls were more favorable to them. However, in 2013, the Marois government passed a fixed election date act with set the election date to the first Monday of October four years after the last general election.
However, the law does not stop the Premier to advise the Lieutenant-Governor from using his constitutional power to call an election earlier, as it was the case in 2014 when Pauline Marois called the elections in April only 18 months into her mandate. This process is actually necessary in the case the government loses a confidence vote in the National Assembly or the government is in a minority situation (which can lead to deadlocks and inability to pass anything) as it was the case in 2014, in which an earlier election is only way solve either situation.
The current government holds a majority in the National Assembly, therefore the probability of an earlier election is off the table, and the election will be on October 1st, 2018. And it seems like knowing the date of the ballot means the election campaign gets off to an early start. This weekend, two of the major parties, the governing Liberal Party of Québec and the 2nd opposition party the Coalition Avenir Québec, held their policy conventions, and it was pretty clear that election date is nearing, as both party leaders spent good portions of their speeches` attacking each other and their party’s policies. And it does not stop there, all major parties are putting themselves in election mode. The political games, the attacks ads and all the shit slinging linked with a normal campaign have begun, and it will just get worse as election day draws closer.
Election day or even the beginning of the official election campaign is still far away, and a lot can be done in the time left. The government still has the last budget to introduce and there is still much important legislation in the works, the most notable example is the cannabis legislation which will regulate cannabis distribution and consumption once it is legalized on July 1st, 2018. Every government decision will now mostly be based on the fact that they want to be re-elected. This can already be seen with an election year tax-cut that the finance minister announced recently. The opposition parties will oppose everything for the sake of opposing it, they will slow down the passage of important legislation like the cannabis act for the sake of gaining political points. The final months of the current parliamentary term will just be a showdown between all political parties leading up to the election.
Finally, election campaigns can get very divisive. The 2014 provincial election campaign is an exceptional example of a very divisive campaign. Issues can be very sensitive, especially in Quebec were debates surrounding identity issues such as independence, language, secularity and religious symbols can take on very emotional aspects and can divide up the entire society, and 2018 will be no different. However, election campaigns last only about a month, and therefore the divisive issues are constrained to that small period and afterward, a sense of peace can reign. However, if we start stretching out the campaign to a year, this can have a negative effect of causing much more division in society. As election days nears closer, the political smears will grow and people will be much more divided and could leave us with unrepairable wounds that could continue once the election is over. This early beginning for the 2018 election could set the stage for a very divided Québec for the year to come and maybe even beyond that.
Written By: Mohammad-Afaaq Mansoor