(Ottawa) The polls are multiplying. They all point to the same thing. The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) has such a lead in voting intentions that we take François Legault’s re-election in Ottawa for granted. The same logic applies to the capitals of the other provinces.
Posted at 5:00 am
Justin Trudeau’s close advisers therefore do not see a changing of the guard in Quebec on October 3. When asked what role the federal liberals will play in the election campaign, which is due to start in ten days, they are reluctant.
Will they be discreet, even though François Legault campaigned openly against Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party, a dangerously centralizing party he saw as a dangerously centralizing party, in last year’s federal elections? On the contrary, will they do their bidding to correct the claims they believe to be false? There will be a strong temptation for some ministers to interfere in the election campaign. Especially since they expect the federal government to be the target of some shots from François Legault by Election Day.
“François Legault and the CAQ essentially have no opponents in Quebec. You are looking for one. Of course it will be the federal government, their opponent,” predicted a Liberal source in Ottawa, who asked not to be identified.
But ministers and MPs are urged to respect the prime minister’s slogan. Because interference on their part could irritate Quebec voters and pave the way for an even more crushing CAQ victory.
“We’re going to let Quebecers decide,” said a close aide to the prime minister, recalling in passing that the federal Liberals had not interfered in the Ontario election campaign, where Doug Ford easily regained power despite a few faux pas early in his tenure .
Expect some challenges
Some controversial issues are expected in Ottawa, such as the State Secularism Act (“Bill 21”) and the Act Respecting Quebec’s Official and Common Language, French (“Bill 96”), which aim to modernize the French people’s Quebec Charter Language, two laws passed by the Legault government, resurfaced during the election campaign.
And, as a precaution, Attorney General David Lametti, an elected official for the Montreal region, said in May that Ottawa would join the legal challenge to Bill 21 once the case lands in the Supreme Court. The minister confirmed the intentions of the Trudeau government during a press conference in the metropolis, while the Quebec Court of Appeals had not yet heard the case. An approach that angered François Legault, who accused his federal colleague of showing a “blatant lack of respect for Quebecers”.
On the same day, David Lametti raised the possibility that the federal government would also challenge Bill 96 in court to defend the rights of minorities that the Trudeau administration believed the bill violated. However, the release of census data by Statistics Canada this week, which again confirms the decline in French in Quebec and the rest of the country, means the sustainability of the French language will become a key issue of the campaign in Quebec. This will give François Legault’s troops an opportunity to vigorously defend his Bill 101 reform or even propose new measures that could irritate Ottawa.
The strategy was simple: announce federal intentions well in advance to prevent this from becoming a dominant issue in the Quebec campaign.
Other issues, such as immigration or federal healthcare funding, could also provide sparks. In this latest act, the Trudeau government will be the target of all parties in Quebec, he who for two years rejected provincial demands to increase health transfers.
One thing is certain, the Bloc Québécois intends to throw all of its political clout behind its provincial allies, the Parti Québécois, once hostilities break out. The leader of the block, Yves-François Blanchet, has undoubtedly set the stage by conducting his traditional tour of Quebec this summer.
Tensions that will remain
Tensions between Quebec and Ottawa have multiplied since François Legault came to power. There are also ministers in the Trudeau government who would rather walk on a carpet of nails than find themselves in the same room as their Quebec counterparts. This applies in particular to Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault and Justice Minister David Lametti.
On the other hand, there are undeniable links between influential ministers in Ottawa and their counterparts in Quebec. This applies in particular to the Minister for Innovation, Science and Industry, François-Philippe Champagne, who has almost daily exchanges with the Minister for Economy and Innovation of Quebec, Pierre Fitzgibbon. So are the heritage minister and Justin Trudeau’s political deputy in Quebec, Pablo Rodriguez, and Minister Sonia LeBel, who is responsible for Canadian relations in the Legault government. Canada’s Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and her Quebec counterpart Eric Girard have also developed close working ties.
Once the polling dust settles in Quebec, it will likely fall to the same ministers to keep the flow flowing between the two capitals.