Analysis | Departure from Anglade: the problems have only just begun for the PLQ | Elections Quebec 2022

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Analysis | Departure from Anglade: the problems have only just begun for the PLQ | Élections Québec 2022

Will there be a scramble to succeed the leader of the Quebec Liberal Party?

The QLP caucus will have to meet to choose a leader to assume the interim.

It was written in the sky that Dominique Anglade would not be at the head of the liberal troops in the next election. Even before the events of the last few days, liberal eminences expressed doubts about his leadership while waiting for the moment to be able to manifest themselves. The Marie-Claude Nichols incident only hastened things.

While there is no doubt that Dominique Anglade made mistakes during his reign as head of the Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ), it would be wrong to be too harsh on him. Even before the election was called last August, regaining power seemed out of reach for the PLQ, regardless of its leader. The question was rather how far the Liberals would go.

The answer came last October 3 and it was brutal. By keeping the official opposition and electing 21 deputies, the PLQ certainly performed better than the darkest forecasts suggested, but we must not be mistaken: this is essentially the result of the concentration of its vote. The percentage of votes cast is a better indicator of the situation. The PLQ won 14% of the vote, less than Québec solidaire and the Parti Québécois taken individually.

Of course, the Coalition avenir Québec had only been in power for four years and had not had time to accomplish everything she had promised, pandemic requires. Voters wanted to give him a second chance.

However, it would be wrong to underestimate the structural factors at work behind this result. Since the Quiet Revolution in the early 1960s, you can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times the QLP has won less than 40% of the vote in general elections.

But four of these five occurrences have occurred in the past 15 years. Quebec's political dynamic is undergoing profound transformations and the changes are probably not over.

Even at the end of two consecutive majority mandates, nothing guarantees the defeat of the CAQ in the next election. There is also no guarantee, if necessary, that the Liberal Party will be best placed to take over.

The last elections have illustrated in a masterful way the division of the electorate, just as they demonstrated the strength of the CAQ to hold its own in such a context. Faced with such uncertain prospects, will we really scramble to become leader of the PLQ?

Dominique Anglade, campaigning.

However, the party needs more than ever a real mixing of ideas. We cannot blame Dominique Anglade for the fact that no one wanted the position she obtained in 2020 (except Alexandre Cusson, who finally withdrew), but we can see that it did not help her.

The PLQ presented itself in the countryside in regions where there were practically no more militants left, whereas a race specifically promotes recruitment. The organization, rusty, has exposed its many shortcomings.

In terms of ideas, the outgoing leader made a pro-environment, pro-green hydrogen shift, which the party had not really had the opportunity to discuss. Same thing for the repositioning to the left. After the years of austerity imposed by Philippe Couillard, many activists were dumbfounded to see their leader trying to compete with Québec solidaire.

Identifying the niche in which the QLP will have the best chance of growing will be a huge headache for the next leader. The time when it was enough to talk about a referendum to call the troops back is over, just like the time when the PLQ could claim the label of the party of the economy on its own.

The thorniest question remains of course that of identity, as illustrated by Dominique Anglade's swaying on the question of language. While some activists are nostalgic for a nationalist federalism à la Robert Bourassa, others believe that we must pursue — and assume — the more unconditionally federalist and multiculturalist shift initiated by Philippe Couillard.

On this question as on others, the PLQ must above all avoid the misadventure of the Parti Québécois, where a succession of leaders, each with their own priorities, has made the message for voters very confusing.

The list of problems to solve is long. Notice to interested parties: nothing will be easy for the person who tomorrow takes the position that Ms. Anglade is now leaving.

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