Quebec Elections 2012: Are There Winning Conditions?

Analysis by Jack Jedwab
Executive Director
Association for Canadian Studies
August 1, 2012

As expected, today Premier Jean Charest called a provincial election with over one year left in his government’s mandate. The Premier is betting that a late summer election campaign will pay dividends for an administration that has suffered from a high rate of dissatisfaction amongst the population. At this juncture, if Quebec had some equivalent of Las Vegas bookmakers they would probably receive more bets on a Parti Quebecois victory and many would likely wager on a minority government were that option made available. But too many observers have made the mistake of betting against Jean Charest as the Premier has shown an uncanny ability to beat the odds and leave many a pundit scratching their heads.

As a rule of thumb in Quebec politics it is generally held that the electorate favours a change of government following two consecutive mandates. A fourth electoral victory for Jean Charest would be quite the accomplishment as no Quebec Premier has enjoyed such success since Maurice Duplessis’ Union Nationale won four consecutive majorities in the 1940’s and the 1950’s (though one of Premier Charest’s victories was a minority government). .
Despite certain observers forecasting a Parti Quebecois victory, at this stage the results of the 2012 election are extremely difficult to predict. There are several imponderables in a late summer election. To begin with, the campaign is unlikely to generate a lot of excitement. Over the first two to three weeks more Quebecers will probably be tuning in to Olympics and not concentrating on the electoral campaign. Perhaps, the Liberals are counting on a relatively disengaged population to quell the hostility directed at the government this past spring by sometimes unruly protesters. On the other hand a campaign that only captures the public’s attention in the final ten days may not allow the Premier to showcase his fierce campaign style. Electoral participation will be extremely important and the respective party’s ability to bring out their voters will undoubtedly play a role in the outcome. How the Coalition pour l’Avenir du Quebec splits the votes in various ridings will make a big difference in the electoral fortunes for the Liberals and the Parti Quebecois. Quebec Solidaire and the fledging Option Nationale are likely to have only a minor impact on the prospects of the Parti Quebecois.

In 2008 the Liberals won the majority of Quebec’s 125 seats (66) with 42% of the popular vote compared with 35% for the Parti Quebecois (51 seats) and 16% for the now defunct Action Democratique du Quebec (7 seats). Quebec commentators are generally quick to point out that francophone voters ultimately determine provincial election results. In 2008, the Liberals had an estimated 32-34% of Quebec’s francophone vote, the Parti Quebecois with 36-38% and the ADQ had approximately 20% of the majority language group.

Conventional wisdom suggests that a six point lead in overall public opinion is needed by the Liberals to secure a majority of seats in the Assembly. Polling conducted in June and July does not give the Liberals that margin and seems to put the PQ closer to minority territory despite being near even with the Liberals in total support. The last July CROP poll suggested that 36% of the francophone vote was with the PQ, 28% with the CAQ and 22% for the Liberals. A previous CROP poll suggested that the PQ’s francophone base was disproportionately larger in greater Montreal and in the South Shore, smaller in the Quebec City region and a number of other parts of the province. All that makes for a high degree of unpredictability.

On August 4th we will likely see the election of either a minority Liberal or Parti Quebecois government. In part, that forecast is based on the average support as reflected in the last three public opinion polls and the results of the 2008 provincial election notably with a focus on the margin of victory in the ridings. Where that margin of victory is large for any of the parties it is safe to assume that the incumbent will hold the seat. I think it is also safe to assume that the overwhelming majority of non-francophones will vote for the Liberals guaranteeing them a certain number of sears. The Parti Quebecois also has a certain number of guaranteed seats in those parts of the province with large numbers of voters that are committed to sovereignty. I assume that the there will be no NDP like wave in public support for either the Parti Quebecois or the CAQ. Neither Pauline Marois nor Francois Legault possesses the charisma of the late Jack Layton that contributed to the stunning sweep of the Federal New Democrats in Quebec. While both leaders will insist they represent change, a highly cynical electorate is not likely to be persuaded by such claims. Failing any major gaffes on the part of the party leaders, the two major parties should be entering the campaign confident that they each can hold 45 seats, the CAQ about eight seats and Quebec Solidaire with one seat. That leaves about 25 seats that for the time being might be described as too close to call. It is those seats that will be determine which of the two major parties will be in a position to form the next government and the role played by the CAQ in a balance of power situation.

My projections riding-by-riding:
PLQ – Parti Libéral du Québec / Quebec Liberal Party

Bonaventure, Gaspe, Kamouraska-Témiscouata, Charlesbourg, Chauveau, Jean-Lesage, Jean-Talon
Louis-Hébert, Vanier, Laviolette, Trois-Rivieres, Chutes de la Chaudiere, Montmagny-L’Islet, Orford, Richmond, Sherbrooke, Brome-Missisquoi, La Pinière, Laporte, Vaudreuil, D’Arcy-McGee, Marguerite-Bourgeoys, Mont-Royal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Outremont, Saint-Henri–Sainte-Anne, Verdun, Westmount–Saint-Louis, Acadie, Bourassa-Sauvé, Jeanne-Mance–Viger, Laurier-Dorion, Viau, Anjou, Lafontaine, Jacques-Cartier, Marquette, Nelligan, Robert-Baldwin, Saint-Laurent, Chomedey, Chapleau, Gatineau, Hull, Papineau, Pontiac, Frontenac

PQ – Parti Québecois

Iles de Madelaine, Matane, Matapedia, Rimouski, Chicoutimi, Dubuc, Duplessis, Jonquiere, Lac St. Jean, Rene Levesque, Roberval, Charlevoix, Taschereau, Champlain, Maskinonge, Saint-Maurice, Johnson, Borduas, Chambly, Iberville, Richelieu, Saint-Hyacinthe, Saint-Jean, Verchères, Beauharnois, Chateauguay, Marguerite-D’Youville, Marie-Victorin, Taillon, Vachon, Gouin, Sainte-Marie–Saint-Jacques, Bourget, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Pointe-aux-Trembles, Rosemont, Laval Des Rapides, Berthier, Joliette, L’Assomption, Masson, Bertrand, Blainville, Labelle, Mirabel, Prévost, Abitibi-Ouest

CAQ – Coalition Avenir Québec

Riviere de Loup, La Peltrie, Montmorency, Levis, Lotbiniere, Shefford, Rousseau, Deux-Montagnes, Drummond

ON/QS – Option National & Québec Solidaire have a non-aggression pact in place, and so won’t run candidates against one another where there’s a clear favourite.


Too close to call:

Arthabaska, Beauce-Nord, Beauce-Sud, Nicolet Yamaska, Megantic Compton, Saint-Francois, Huntingdon, Soulanges, La Prairie, Cremazie, Fabre, Portneuf, Mille-Îles, Vimont, Argenteuil, Abitibi-Est, Rouyn-Noranda–Témiscamingue, Ungava, Groulx, Terrebonne, Bellechase

Posted in Canadian Democracy & Politics, Canadian Society, Canadian Studies, Quebec | Tagged , , , , , |

Call for Papers – the Geographies of Alice Munro

Alice Munro – not the work of the author.

Not an ACS/AEC call for submissions, but hey, we’re glad to keep the conversation going.


Call for Papers
The Geographies of Alice Munro

44th Annual Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
March 21-24, 2013
Boston, Massachusetts
Host Institution: Tufts University

This session will explore the geographies of the fiction of Alice Munro, winner of the 2009 International Man Booker Prize. While literally her fiction has explored the Canadian landscape, Munro’s fiction has likewise explored the lives of women and girls, as well as the possibilities of the short story. Please send brief abstracts in the body of an email to
Elizabeth Abele

NeMLA 2013 also includes the following Canadian sessions:

Adapting Classical Myths and Themes in Canadian Literature
Canadian Urban Identities

Transnational Canadian Writing


Deadline: September 30, 2012
Please include with your abstract:
Name and Affiliation
Email address
Postal address
Telephone number
A/V requirements (if any; $10 handling fee with registration)

Interested participants may submit abstracts to more than one NeMLA session; however, panelists can only present one paper (panel or seminar). Convention participants may present a paper at a panel and also present at a creative session or participate in a roundtable.

Posted in Canada, Canadian History, Canadian Society, Canadian Studies, English | Tagged , , , , |

Knowing Canada’s Origins: Assessing our Knowledge of Confederation and Why We Believe Canada Came into Being

Confederation is widely viewed by Canadians as the pivotal event in the country’s history. In five years (1825 days) Canadians will mark the 150th anniversary of their country. While the Government of Canada is presently immersed in marking the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, on the calendar of forthcoming anniversaries of the Department of Canadian Heritage, the 150th figures prominently and some preliminary thinking is already underway. What do Canadians know about the history of Confederation? How important do they regard such knowledge. What factors do they think contributed most to the formation of their country? These are a few of the questions raised in a survey conducted amongst 1708 Canadians by the firm Leger Marketing for the Association for Canadian Studies. The questions were fielded between June 23 and June 27, 2012. Some 1708 people were surveyed via web panel with a margin of error for an equivalent telephone survey of 2.9 points 19 times out of 20.

When asked, some 48% of Canadians agree that they have a good knowledge of the history of Confederation-just over one in ten strongly agree and thus believe they have a strong knowledge. As to their assessment of the population’s overall knowledge, the country gets a relatively low rating with only one in five agreeing that the population has a good knowledge. Canadians feel it is important to possess a good knowledge of the Confederation agreements with nearly two-thirds in agreement with the statement “it is vital to know the 1867 Confederation Agreements to understand issues around Canada’s Identity.”

I have a good knowledge of the history of Confederation Canadians have a good knowledge of Confederation It is vital to know the 1867 Confederation Agreements to understand issues around Canada’s Identity
Total Agree 48%  22% 63%
Strongly agree  10% 3%  23%
Somewhat agree  38%  19% 40%
Total Disagree  43% 66% 23%
Somewhat disagree  30%  41% 17%
Strongly disagree 13% 25% 6%
I don’t know  7%  10% 12%
I prefer not to answer 2% 2% 2%

Canadian historians have debated whether the Confederation was a pact between four equal provinces or a deal to achieve equality between British and French peoples. To some extent both interpretations of the Confederation agreements are interwoven as the French population constituted a much larger share of the populatio at time of Confederation and was one of four provinces that formed the country. When asked, Canadians were more likely to see it as a pact between provinces with some 42% agreeing with proposition compared with 37% agreeing that it was a pact between the new country’s British and French peoples. Nearly one in three survey respondents either said they didn’t know.

 The 1867 Confederation Agreements were primarily a pact between four equal provinces more so than about equality between the British and French peoples of Canada. The 1867 Confederation Agreements were primarily a pact between British and French peoples more than about the equality of the provinces.
 Total Agree 42% 37%
Strongly agree 11% 9%
Somewhat agree  31% 28%
Total Disagree 25% 29%
Somewhat disagree 17% 21%
Strongly disagree  7% 9%
I don’t know 31% 30%
I prefer not to answer  3% 3%

The ACS-Leger Marketing survey invited the population to rank six possible considerations that led to the establishment of the Confederation. Amongst the choices, (1) the threat of takeover of Canada by the United States, (2) the reluctance of Britain to continue paying for the colonies’ military and government, (3) the desire to secure cooperation to construct a railroad that would connect the provinces, (4) the persistence of conflicts within the United Provinces of Canada promoting the idea that it made sense to split them into “Ontario” and “Quebec”, (5) the end of the 1865 Reciprocity Treaty and free trade with the United States meant that Canadians needed to trade more freely with each other and (6) the idea of joining together would make it easier to expand westward into the present day Prairie Provinces and the Northwest Territories.

When asked to rank which of these considerations Canadians believe to be the foremost factor leading to Confederation, their first choice is the threat of takeover by the United States. Although none of the six considerations elicited the support of an overwhelming majority, the takeover thesis was more clearly more popular than others amongst those who offered an opinion. It is worth noting that when presented with the six choices, 46% of those surveyed chose not to respond (indeed not even to hazard a guess). This suggests that the population’s relatively low assessment of Canadians knowledge of their founding event may indeed be quite accurate. That the most popular choice of the six was the takeover thesis may prove heartening to those observers who believe that the War of 1812 was an important step in the establishment of Canada. That consideration ranked well above the five other choices which Canadians believe contributed most to the creation of Canada.

Rank in Order the six main reasons for the creation of the Canadian Confederation The threat of takeover by the United States Britain didn’t want to continue paying for the colonies’ military and government To secure cooperation to construct a railroad that would connect the provinces Conflicts within the United Provinces of Canada promoting the idea that it made sense to split them into “Ontario” and “Quebec” End of the 1865 Reciprocity Treaty and free trade with the United States meant that Canadians needed to trade more freely with each other Joining together would make it easier to expand westward into the present day Prairie Provinces and the Northwest Territories
1 18% 7% 8% 7% 6% 8%
2 8% 7% 10% 8% 8% 13%
3 7% 7% 10% 9% 9% 11%
4 7% 9% 9% 10% 11% 8%
5 6% 12% 9% 10% 10% 7%
6 8% 12% 8% 10% 10% 7%
Average 3.0 3.9 3.5 3.7 3.7 3.2
Don’t Know 46% Total
Posted in Canada, Canadian Democracy & Politics, Canadian History, Canadian Society, Canadian Studies, English, Quebec | Tagged , , , |

King of the Rodents

I recently read a fascinating article in The Atlantic discussing the significant impact my favourite rodent may have on climate change. Beaver’s build dams, as we all know, which create wetlands – swamps, marshes, drowned forests etc – which in turn means that a large quantity of water is retained in a given area. Wetlands help prevent forest fires inasmuch as they help control flooding. They can prevent droughts, are vitally complex ecosystems with incredible biodiversity, and conserve freshwater. Canada has the world’s largest quantity of freshwater, but the incidence of forest fires and flooding seems to be on the rise as more and more land is developed for various purposes, whether it’s residential real estate, agriculture, mining etc. Conserving large quantities of groundwater is crucial for agriculture, and situating wetlands close to the fields certainly makes irrigation a lot easier. It just so happens that there’s a lot of farmland concentrated in the vast spaces between the cities, which require massive quantities of water for every use you might imagine. The list goes on and on, wetlands are a vital necessity to help keep Canada the verdant oasis and overflowing cornucopia it truly is, not to mention prevent natural disasters (not acts of god, as it were) and generally improve the health of our environment in general. And the beaver, our strange national animal, happens to be a capital wetlands architect and engineer.

The beaver is a versatile creature which thrives across the continent, from the Mexican border to North of 60. It’s an aquatic mammal well suited to living on land, industrious to say the very least; beaver’s aren’t just hard-working, their innovative, adaptable. It’s everything you could want in a national symbol and more. And best of all, much like Canada, the beaver is complex and represents our societies common endeavour – to build a better country for a better world.

But the beaver is not just an emblem of Canada, not merely symbolic – it is potentially, by virtue of its very nature, a natural solution to a complex man-made problem. I firmly believe the dualist Canadian identity, a blend of multiculturalism and interculturalism to one degree or another, may in fact be a solution to another complex man-made problem. Few nations have embraced humanism over nationalism or racialism as well as Canada has. It’s in our nature by virtue of the conditions our founders found themselves. They acknowledged that the best solution to the conflicting interests of imported cultures and religions was to integrate, and build something new, from scratch. We should be proud to have such an apropos and avant garde national animal.

It might be an idea for us to take this diminutive animal a little more seriously. I seem to recall a while back there was talk that Canada needed a new (read better) national animal, and that the wolverine had been proposed. That was until it was revealed that wolverines were once known as ‘skunk bears’ for their pungent odor emitted from glands in their rear-end. Besides, wolverines are part of the weasel family. Hardly inspiring.

I like the idea proposed in the article, that so-called Beaver Believers (no, not Beiber Believers) are working to re-introduce the beaver to various areas with the hopes that they will quickly begin construction of new dams and wetlands, whose value is already well documented amongst environmental scientists. Consider this, back in the 1600s when the Voyageurs were charting the Canadian interior to supply European hat demand, there may have ben as many as 400 million beavers in North America, and today there are but 6-12 million. I’m not arguing we should try to get back to 400 million, but would it hurt to try re-introducing beavers to suburban nature parks or semi-rural areas, in the hopes that they could help with the development of greenbelts around urban areas? Something tells me the long term environmental benefits of using beavers to help construct new, albeit constrained, wetlands around dense urban areas, would far outweigh the initial costs of collecting a couple hundred beavers from which new colonies would be created.

New wetlands may be able to reverse a lot of the inclement weather we’ve seen develop in North America over the past two decades, and in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan, where oil companies are already developing ‘green zones’ as a means of environmental rehabilitation, the beaver may be able to help speed up the process. As long as there’s waterways and wood, beavers will flourish, and by extension, so will the immediate local ecosystem.

Hard to imagine a major solution to a potentially dangerous environmental shift in North America could be no more complex than making sure our country had plenty living examples of one of our most emblematic natural wonders, doing exactly what it is they do best.

Something to think about.

Posted in Canada, Canadian History, Canadian Society, Canadian Studies, English, Multiculturalism | Tagged , |