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A political weekend to survive, keep a low profile or exist

Photo: Jacques Boissinot archives The Canadian Press Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, Marc Tanguay (from behind) and Francois Legault will meet their activists this weekend.

Marie-Michèle Sioui and Francois Carabin in Quebec

Posted at 4:32 p.m. Updated at 5:10 p.m.

  • Quebec

A busy political weekend opens this Saturday, as elected officials from the Coalition Avenir Québec, the Liberal Party of Quebec and Quebec Solidaire meet with their activists in Saint-Hyacinthe, Bromont and Jonquière . The leading figures of each party will have the weekend to lay low, exist… or survive.

“It’s ridiculous that we’re all doing this for the same weekend,” agrees an influential liberal in an exchange with Le Devoir. Already in competition with the sunny days of May, political parties will have to compete for the attention of the public and the media.

François Legault's CAQ, which has chosen since the return of the holidays to limit its presence in front of journalists, is coping well with the situation. “In general, you want there to be no slip-ups,” summarizes Pascal Mailhot, who worked in the Parti Québécois of Lucien Bouchard and Bernard Landry, then at the CAQ until 2022. “The advisors , we see these events with a lot of apprehension, and it is a big challenge to keep control of the message. Many efforts are being made for that,” he relates.

The general director of the CAQ, Brigitte Legault, says she wants to ensure that “the basics are put, that the activists are there, that everything is rolling”. The weekend will also serve to strengthen ties between the 700 activists expected in Saint-Hyacinthe, in a context where support for Chief Legault is fading according to the polls. “Activism is precious and a rare commodity,” underlines Ms. Legault.

The CAQ general council will take place on a single day, that of Saturday – which will be dedicated to questions relating to social media and artificial intelligence – and not two. The reasons are financial. Members live in a difficult economic context, the party officially argues. The CAQ is suffering the repercussions of its decision to deprive itself of a million dollars per year by renouncing popular funding in the wake of controversies over its funding cocktails, we hear unofficially.

The Caquistes would have juggled with the possibility of announcing something “substantial” at the end of the general council on Saturday. They will ultimately be content to make proposals related to the issues on the program, such as that of its succession committee, which wants to prohibit those under 16 from opening an account on a social network. The Prime Minister will nevertheless take the opportunity to reiterate his immigration demands, with a view to a new meeting with his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau, scheduled for the end of June.

It makes or breaks at QS

In any case, many eyes will be turned towards QS, weakened by the heartbreaks which have followed the departure of co-spokesperson Émilise Lessard-Therrien, then invigorated by a rare transpartisan collaboration that led to the tabling on Wednesday of a bill to protect tenants from evictions.

QS members usually meet twice a year. The weekend's national council was therefore nothing extraordinary… until Ms. Lessard-Therrien slammed the door last month. Her departure message, in which she pointed out the difficulties in imposing her mark in the upper echelons of QS, shook the leadership of co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.

With the label of “pragmatic”, “GND” seeks to modernize its party. The final seal of approval will come through the adoption or rejection of the Saguenay Declaration – crossing the theme of ecological transition, with the concern to “change without feeling guilty” – and a proposal to overhaul the program. “It is certain that it will be an important moment of debate, then the tone of the exchanges, the result of the exchanges, all of that will be part of my reflections,” he said this week in the National Assembly.

Even if the moment is “decisive”, the 33-year-old politician's place at the head of the left party would not be in danger, according to the activists interviewed in recent days by Le Devoir .

The return of the exes

At the PLQ, the “exes” will be in the spotlight on Saturday. Ten years after the electoral victory of May 2014, the Liberals will pay tribute to former Prime Minister Philippe Couillard, in a general council which will also bring together former leaders Daniel Johnson, Jean Charest and Dominique Anglade, as well as 450 activists in Bromont. In these pages, liberals Charles Robert and Jean-Marc Fournier praise the Couillard legacy: “a revitalized Quebec, more confident and open to the world.”

The deficit of 11 billion recorded in the last CAQ budget gives a boost to the Liberals, who see it as a way, for the record, of proving them right. “Many people understand that balancing public finances was not a sin, but it was responsible,” underlines party president Rafael P. Ferraro. In general council, activists will debate a resolution to present, from the first year of a possible first mandate, a plan to return to budget balance.

The last general council of the PLQ, in October, ended on discordant notes, due to visions, also divergent, on the best time to launch the leadership race. This weekend, “we want to take the opportunity to send a message of party unity,” says Mr. Ferraro.

Les aspirants absent

He says he wants to “return to the base”, “to the ideology of the PLQ: the portfolio on the center-right, the heart on the center-left”. Especially since the last few years have been confusing, agrees a former minister. “We were greener, more to the left, then we proposed lowering taxes during the election campaign. There was a contradiction,” he laments.

Some rumors (or hopes) predicted a visit by the mayor of Victoriaville, Antoine Tardif, to the activist rally. But he won’t be there, “not to my knowledge,” Mr. Ferraro says. It is too early for presumed candidates, like Charles Milliard, of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce, or Karl Blackburn, of the Employers' Council, to come forward given their current positions. “All the aspirants look at each other. There are several who want, but they do not want to lose,” says the ex-minister, who spoke with Le Devoir.

The former mayor of Montreal Denis Coderre, interested in the position of leader and generator of the media interest granted to the PLQ, intends to ensure that the general council does not go unnoticed. This, although he is currently on his way to Compostela. “Don’t miss [this], I’ll give you a little message, there will be a video for the members,” he promised Friday in a capsule filmed at the 210th kilometer of his journey.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116