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What remains of the liberal castles of Quebec?

Photo: Graham Hughes The Canadian Press Justin Trudeau in Montreal during a Saint-Jean event, June 13, 2024. About half of the ridings that are completely safe for the Liberals in the upcoming election are in Quebec.

The number of ridings deemed “safe” for the Liberals has shrunk across the country, even in Quebec, where half the caucus was elected by a smaller margin than in Toronto–St. Paul’s, which the Conservatives lost to the Conservatives last Monday.

“Safe seats in Quebec for the Liberals, I think you can count on the fingers of two hands,” says polling blogger Philippe J. Fournier.

The state of mind of respondents to the latest national polls leads him to say that barely twenty ridings in the country are completely out of danger for the Liberals in view of the next election. About half are in Quebec.

Of the 35 Liberal candidates elected in Quebec after the last federal election, 17 won a closer race than in Toronto– St. Paul’s, where Minister Carolyn Bennett received more than 12,000 votes more than her closest rival (49.2% of the vote). This advance did not prevent the former liberal bastion from turning dark blue during a by-election on June 24.

This list includes the only two Quebec MPs who are keeping quiet about their political future, but also up to seven Quebec ministers in government. Canadian Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge, for example, was elected with a lead of 197 votes in 2021. The lead was 2,281 votes for Montreal minister Steven Guilbeault and 2,618 votes for her colleague from Gaspésie, Diane Lebouthillier.

Ministers Soraya Martinez Ferrada (Tourism), Marie-Claude Bibeau (Revenue), François-Philippe Champagne (Industry) and Jean-Yves Duclos (Procurement) all obtained a less resounding victory than the incumbent MP for Toronto–St. Paul’s three years ago. They will have to face the electorate again no later than the fall of 2025, in a context of a general decline of the Liberals in the polls.

Uncertain parallels

“When I saw the election in [Toronto–]St. Paul's, my first reaction was to say to myself: What does that mean for the west of Montreal?” says Geneviève Tellier, full professor of political science at the University of Ottawa.

She is referring to the other half of Quebec's Liberal seats, the 18 whose victory was even more marked than Justin Trudeau's 12,545 vote lead in Papineau in 2021. “There are perhaps more castles “strong liberals in the Montreal region than in the Toronto region,” notes Ms. Tellier, who defines them as ridings that keep the same allegiance throughout the elections. The Liberals also have them in Outaouais and Laval.

On a map of Montreal, everything west of De Bleury Street has been essentially carpeted in red for over 30 years, with the exception of the 2011 election, when an “orange wave” sent Ottawa 59 Quebec deputies from the New Democratic Party (NDP). The seven ridings that remained liberal were all on the island of Montreal.

Unlike at that time, the current vigor of the Bloc Québécois is changing the situation. The same drop in the Liberal vote would not have the same effect in Quebec as in the other provinces, estimate the experts interviewed.

The dynamic of dividing the vote means that it is possible to win an electoral race with a smaller lead than elsewhere, which can advantage the Liberals. Then, contrary to what is happening with the Liberals in Toronto, it is not the Conservative Party of Canada which heats up most of the outgoing elected representatives of Quebec, but rather their opponents from the Bloc Québécois. According to the calculations of Philippe J. Fournier, this party would also have more secure seats in Quebec (27) than the Liberal Party in the entire country (20).

Her model puts Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives out of danger in 144 Canadian ridings, according to current polls. A group of nine Liberal MPs have reportedly requested an urgent caucus meeting, according to several media outlets. Justin Trudeau refused to promise her this meeting on Wednesday.

Race to run

“What I’m waiting for is the race in LaSalle–Émard–Verdun. That’s a Liberal stronghold in the Montreal area,” concludes Geneviève Tellier. She doubts the Conservatives have a chance there, but the Bloc Québécois and the NDP could play spoilsport.

In short, if Toronto–St. Paul’s was a barometer for Toronto’s Liberal strongholds, the riding that has been unoccupied since the departure of former Justice Minister David Lametti will measure the resilience of those in Montreal. The Prime Minister has until July 30 to call a by-election.

In the last general election, Justin Trudeau’s troops won 20 of the 22 ridings in Montreal and Laval, including LaSalle–Émard–Verdun by 9,869 votes. The Conservatives have not elected a candidate in Montreal or Laval since 1988, before the Bloc Québécois was founded.

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