Hilal Pilavci doesn’t think he’s a post. As a candidate for Quebec Solidaire (QS) in D’Arcy-McGee, where the Liberal Party of Quebec (PLQ) is consistently elected by overwhelming majorities, she is among those who have no chance of winning but are committed to the cause deploy.
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“If I win, I buy a lottery ticket,” admits the 25-year-old young woman. But it would be unfair to say that I am a candidate.
“I got my signatures, I designed my poster, I make sure there is a local presence, I try to meet elected community representatives, I do interviews on the spot,” she illustrates. She also took part in two debates.
But solidarity is under no illusions: D’Arcy-McGee is THE liberal castle par excellence. There, apart from a brief bracket in 1989, only liberals were elected to the Equality Party, which defended the rights of Anglophones.
Therefore, to better understand what can animate the many candidates presenting themselves in a previously lost county, we followed Ms. Pilavci on September 26th.
Her day begins by playing an additional role at a press conference attended by the chefs in downtown Montreal. Behind Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois and Manon Massé are 17 activists and candidates in a row, including Ms. Pilavci.
The exercise is more challenging than it appears: after forty minutes without flinching, a contestant develops a weakness and faints in front of a stunned crowd.
After the conference and the candidate back on her feet, Ms Pilavci took the metro and then bus to her campaign office in Côte-des-Neiges.
For the last two years, while studying Politics and Economics at the University of Montreal, she worked for QS as a researcher and then as a political attaché at MNA Vincent Marissal.
She is on unpaid leave for the 36 days of the campaign, but will receive a total allowance of $500, which the party is offering to all candidates. She also does hours for the party, which are paid from the political training budget.
“That’s why I decided to run for D’Arcy-McGee [un comté perdu d’avance], She explains. I could afford to make that sacrifice that a working mother couldn’t have made.
Solidarity also made it clear that it was not the party that asked her as a candidate to plug a hole, as is sometimes the case with political party employees.
“I wanted to experience an election campaign […] But I didn’t want to become an MP because I don’t really feel ready, she explains. But I wanted to bridge the gap between QS and my childhood neighborhood.”
She actually grew up within the confines of that constituency, prior to the last electoral map redesign of 2017.
Her parents, who immigrated from Turkey in the 1990s, don’t speak French very well, she explains. The family speaks Turkish at home. “I’m one of those people who is being pointed out, like those responsible for the decline of French,” says the young, trilingual woman with a touch of sarcasm.
His landscape architect father and seamstress mother tightened their belts to enable him to attend high school at the prestigious Collège Notre-Dame. In 2012, if Hilal was too young to fully understand the student crisis, she was still wearing her red square.
In the spring of 2015, as a student at Cégep de Saint-Laurent, this time she took to the streets to demonstrate against Philippe Couillard’s austerity government. One thing led to another, and she became a member of QS during the 2018 election campaign.
His office is in the neighboring Mont-Royal-Outremont riding stables, just a stone’s throw from his former school. Since she has a small campaign budget, she shares the premises with candidate Isabelle Leblanc.
Your team consists of two people, including you. But all in all, about sixty volunteers helped out here and there. “They are friends first of all,” acknowledges the bond.
She achieved most of the goals she set at the start of the campaign: making around 3,000 calls, meeting 300 people door-to-door and recruiting 60 members.
His parents also distributed around 1,500 party flyers in the constituency. “I think they’re very proud that I’m running,” she says.
Even if there shouldn’t be many QS followers, she makes sure the door-to-door train runs smoothly. “I really like it,” she said. I’m verbo motivated. And what do people say about him? “They think I’m brave… and some tell me they’re not Sovereignists.”
In addition, in the 1995 referendum, 96% of voters voted “no”. QS is pro-Quebec independence, and Ms Pilavci says she agrees with the party’s approach. However, she specifies that it was the fight against climate change that brought her into politics and solidarity.
In her campaign office, she is planning a visit to a synagogue in the next few days. His constituency is the one with the largest number of Jewish voters, and historically the MP elected has always been part of that community.
An hour later, while driving a Communauto car to the polling station to do her civic duty, she pointed to one of her placards at a post near Décarie Boulevard.
“My team put up 150 signs,” she says proudly. When his father moves around the county, he replaces those who are crooked. “He thinks I’m going to win,” says Ms. Pilavci with a tender smile.
“Putting your face on a post” in 2022 is not a decision to be taken lightly. As with almost every candidate this year, some of his signs were vandalized. For example, a neo-Nazi swastika was drawn on one of them, she says. On another we could read a “No” written on his forehead and the mention “populist party”.
4e in the polls
One of Ms Pilavci’s goals, she says, will not be achieved: the goal of finishing ahead of the Quebec Conservative Party. Candidate Bonnie Feigenbaum, a former councilwoman, is at 16.2%, according to a recent Main Street poll.
Ms. Pilavci is currently in fourth place with 9.6% of voting intentions. However, she hopes to improve the QS score compared to 2018 when the candidate scored 7.2%.
The liberal Elisabeth Prass, former district office head of incumbent David Birnbaum, leads the race with 42 percent. In 2018 Mr. Birnbaum was elected with 74% of the votes and received 92% of the votes in 2014.
“The surprise this year is the CAQ,” says Ms. Pilavci. In fact, François Legault’s party, which had collected only 6.4% in 2018, gets 21% after the last sounding. The CAQ candidate Junlian Leblanc is also friends with Ms. Pilavci, whom she knew in the student parliament.
During the campaign, Ms. Pilavci worked nearly 80 hours a week, dedicating her evenings and weekends to riding. Otherwise, she scored mainly for the party and other candidates. This practice calls voters to identify supporters and encourage them to vote. This is called “getting the vote out”.
In this last week of racing, she devotes more time to her driving, about 30 hours, in addition to the 10 or 15 hours helping her colleague Guillaume Cliche-Rivard at Saint-Henri-Sainte-Anne, where the three-way battle is close. QS blows on the back of outgoing MP Liberal leader Dominique Anglade.
She wanted to go door-to-door that Monday night, but since it was raining, she called undecided voters instead. As long as you’re fighting with no hope of victory, you might as well stay dry.
“I do it without pressure,” she says.
While Ms. Pilavci is on the phone, we learn that QS candidate in Camille-Laurin, Marie-Ève Rancourt, is withdrawing from the race because she was filmed removing a Parti Québécois (PQ) leaflet from a mailbox steals.
Then two volunteers enter the room: “The candidate in Camille-Laurin … what she did is really not the idea of the century,” one of them sums up.
A discussion begins and everyone condemns the gesture. However, an employee points out that other parties have probably already used this tactic.
In fact, the next day we learned that a PQ volunteer was doing the same thing with Coalition Avenir Québec leaflets in Masson.
“Fear of losing or winning makes things happen… Ms. Pilavci sighs. That’s why I’m happy about a small, stress-free campaign.”
What if she won against all odds?
“I’ll let everything go, become an MP and do my best to represent the people,” she replies bluntly.
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