A three-person race in the heart of Quebec City

Things change fast in Quebec politics. The upcoming by-election in the Jean-Talon district is a perfect illustration of this, and its outcome will speak volumes about the state of each party represented in the National Assembly.

In the last general election in October 2022, Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) candidate Joëlle Boutin won by nearly 3,000 votes. In doing so, Premier François Legault’s party ended the Liberals’ uninterrupted reign since the riding’s creation over 50 years ago.

Less than a year later, Mr. Legault is back in the running after Ms. Boutin’s surprise resignation over the summer.

If national polls were anything to go by, the CAQ could be expected to win easily. However, the most recent analyses indicate that the outcome of the election is uncertain. What’s even more surprising is that neither the CAQ nor the Liberal Party (PLQ) are leading in terms of voting intentions. Instead, the Parti Québécois (PQ) is leading the race, closely followed by Québec solidaire (QS).

How did we get here? Here’s a look at the political forces at work in the riding of Jean-Talon, which will go to the polls by the end of January 2024.

The CAQ owes much of its success to the Quebec City region, but the party lost several points in the area after abandoning a major road project, the ”third link” between Quebec City and its South Shore. The latest polls show that the CAQ has lost 7 points in the region compared to its score in the 2022 general election. A lot of work lies ahead for whoever runs under the CAQ banner, though he or she is sure to receive the support of the party machine in the region.

To date, Québec solidaire is the only party to have designated its candidate for the Jean-Talon by-election. At a nomination meeting held in early August, its members chose Olivier Bolduc, even though the party’s highest authorities had endorsed his rival, accountant and university professor Christine Gilbert. The party, which has four women and eight men in its caucus, had been mandated by its members to take steps to achieve gender parity. However, members of the leftist, pro-independence group were not convinced to support a candidate who would have showcased her economic expertise. Despite this dissonant early note, QS is doing well in the polls, whereas just a few years ago, the left-wing party was garnering between 5 and 10% of the vote election after election. 

Thanks to strong support for its leader Paul St-Pierre-Plamondon, the Parti Québécois is enjoying a veritable resurrection in the Quebec City region after a number of difficult years. The most recent polls put the Parti Québécois in the lead of voting intentions in the Quebec capital after the abandonment of the third link. Its challenge will be to achieve good results, short of victory, to position itself favorably for the 2026 general election. Following the announcement of Ms. Boutin’s resignation, the sovereigntist party quickly mobilized on social networks under the slogan “Beat the CAQ in Quebec City”. As if to confirm its electoral ambitions, it will hold its pre-sessional caucus in the Jean-Talon riding at the end of August. A candidate announcement could take place at that time, and least two candidates have expressed interest. 

After reigning unchallenged in Jean-Talon since 1966, the Liberal Party is now in fourth place in terms of voting intentions. Its support among French-speaking voters has dropped to 4% across Quebec. The party has been without a permanent leader since Dominique Anglade resigned earlier this year. No contender has expressed interest in succeeding her, and the party has yet to announce the date and rules of the leadership race. Against this backdrop, and despite the best efforts of interim leader Marc Tanguay, it seems difficult for the PLQ to recruit a major candidate in Jean-Talon, let alone win the by-election.

Will the CAQ succeed in retaining its seat? Can the PQ confirm its rise in the polls? Can QS overcome its internal disagreements? Can the PLQ overcome its misfortune on favorable ground? Our clients can count on PAA Advisory | Conseils to keep them abreast of all developments in Quebec politics this autumn. After all, things change fast.