Why Trudeau's Political Survival Depends on Quebec - POLITICO

Why Trudeau's Political Survival Depends on Quebec - POLITICO The province lives up to its reputation for wild, unpredictable competitions.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. | Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Justin Trudeau's dangerous re-election path this fall runs through the Canadian version of steroids: Quebec. And with Canadians heading to the polling station for just two weeks, the province lives up to its reputation for wild, unpredictable competition.

Nearly a quarter of the seats in the Canadian Parliament have an unstable electoral battleground in the French-speaking province, which is inclined to wave elections, which unexpectedly destroy campaign predictions. Quebec voters have now massively voted on three different parties in the last three federal elections. In 2015, Trudeau rose from 40 of the seven Liberals to Quebec - and since the party is expected to lose elsewhere, his survival depends on another strong showing there.

Blasé Québécois' reaction to the Trudeau black scandal, which appeared in mid-September, is one of the reasons why his campaign has not suffered much visible damage due to poll controversy. This question was not raised even last week in Montreal on the French language between Trudeau and three other party leaders. (The importance of Quebec explains why Trudeau agreed early on two discussions in French and only one in English - it will be on Monday night in Ottawa.)

The need for places for milk production in this French-speaking province also explains why Trudeau opposed the liberalization of the dairy industry in North American trade negotiations and why he was afraid to criticize controversial law targeting religious minorities. And while the Trudeau Party retains leadership in the entire province, the size of the case is deceiving. The numbers are changing rapidly, and the Yves-Francois Blanchet-led separatist Bloc Québécois are jumping over the Conservatives after the first French debate. And the total number of Trudeau Province is increased by the city of Montreal, hiding much denser races elsewhere in the province.

INTERACTIVE: See recent election numbers in Canada.

The outcome of these wild four-party battles will determine the majority of Quebec's 78 seats and possibly Canada's election results.

Quebec is the home province of Trudeau and where it is based, although the advantage of the local son is mitigated by the turbulent relationship between his liberal party and his late father's father, which is strained by old battles for the Constitution and Quebec independence.

A longtime Liberal official says the province is offering Trudeau a valuable firewall given the likelihood that the party will lose seats elsewhere. Trudeau can only afford to lose eight seats and retain a parliamentary majority. He is completely beaten if he loses too many others.

Quebec is one of the most populous areas where liberals may not only have huge numbers but may even potentially benefit. Elsewhere, they are expected to lose their seats in Ontario, Alberta and the Atlantic, where they literally 100 percent of the seats four years ago, and where some popular incumbents have retired.

"It comes down to math," the official said of Quebec. "And there the fruits are ripe." He joked about the comparative stability of the American election compared to Quebec: "What we call a 'wave' is what you call a 'tsunami'".

Quebec's uniquely burning campaign stems from old foes of Quebec independence; the rise of new parties; four-way parliamentary competition; and smooth self-determination of the partisans. The Result: The distant rappers have a history of catapulting from second to third place in first place, in the chambers rankings that determine Canada's winners.

For comparison, imagine the scenario that is unfolding in the US: a third party, slightly more visible than the more liberal or green, mutates within days into an electoral bundle that moves three-quarters of US House districts into a 325-seat wave.

Impossible, right? Well, that's about what happened in Quebec in 1984, 1993, 2011 and 2015; four different parties instantly became election chemistry.

Ask Laurin Liu. He has personal experience with two previous waves - one that led him to Parliament, the other out of it.

He is one of four college students who became a member of McGill University's New Democratic Party University Club and received an unexpected 2011 parliamentary term. Liu was 20 years old and accepted his name in the federal vote simply because the left-wing NDP-backed NDP could not find candidates for desperate battles outside Montreal. He agreed because he supported the party and wanted to help it select the candidates in spite of it.

"I wrote my final exams," Liu described, describing his initial plans for spring 2011. "I was not so far away that I believed I would win]."

He had so little hope of winning that he did not even watch the return of the election night and spent the evening counting ballots in another campaign. He learned that he had been selected in a text message from a friend of nearly a dozen NDP members in Queens who raised this party for the first time in its history as the official opposition in Canada.

The best-known story of this wave involved an English-speaking bartender from Ottawa. He was chosen in a remote area of ​​French-speaking Quebec, despite his poor command of the local language and so little hope of winning, and spent part of the campaign on a birthday trip to Las Vegas. But Ruth-Ellen Brosseau stopped her French by improving enough fans in her new hometown to be re-elected in 2015. A new local poll suggests he may be one of the last NDP representatives to be left standing in Quebec after those elections.

Then one of the NDP's top strategists recalled the shock some of the winning candidates felt. "There are many people who never - and I mean never - thought they would be elected to parliament," said Karl Bélanger, who is now a political analyst.

Bélanger attributes the NDP's sudden rise in 2011 to Quebecer's fatigue with former ruling party Bloc Québécois. Competitive in all of today's elections, the bloc is promoting Quebec's secession from Canada; exists mainly for the purpose of the province; and he has no aspiration to actually rule.

Bélanger says one facilitator is Canada's first parliamentary voting system. In a four-regional battle over seats, small support movements can have disproportionate seismic consequences.

Bélanger explains mathematics in this way: 18 percent of provincially elected parties win almost nothing in the four-way competition. At 25 percent he can hope to win many places. Each additional point adds new places and at 40 percent it has won the landslide.

But Quebec has another characteristic: it is the legacy of the battle for independence.

A large proportion of voters in the French-speaking province have always wanted to establish their own country, and this topic monopolized political debate in the 1980s and 1990s. As a result of the domestic existential clash, many voters looked with a glassy eye toward indifferent Ottawa and its relatively daily debates on issues such as marginal tax rates and military spending.

“Quebec's federal policy has become less polarized. People thought it was secondary, ”said Pierre Martin, professor of political science at the University of Montreal.

"Because it was less a priority, their choices seemed to have fewer consequences and they could be more flexible in switching from one lot to another."

Third, there is a slow revision process.

The independence debate has been pushed to the background and Quebecers are trying new parties. In the last three federal elections, they have now massively voted in favor of three different parties and have also raised new parties by province.

Martin, who specializes in American politics, adds a final factor that makes party loyalty in Quebec much weaker than in the US: National and provincial parties are different.

While this applies to several Canadian provinces, it is especially true in Quebec, where a few years ago the Provincial Government Coalition Avenir Québec, which has no federal equivalent, was created. Same with Party # 3, Québec Solidaire; and Party # 2, the Liberals of Quebec, is a separate provincial unit with informal ties to the Trudeau federal party of the same name.

This is a huge difference from a place like the United States, which has a strong partisan identity, where people vote by direct ticket from the White House to the local mayor.

According to Pollster David Coletto, in Quebec, there is no concept of voting direct tickets.

"If you're a federal-level democrat, you're probably a state-level democrat," said Coletto, chief executive of Abacus Data. "These structural factors help explain why Quebec is so ready at any time to vote for a completely different party."

The NDP suffered a tremendous loss in 2015 in Quebec, and it was not just cancer that resulted from the death of popular party leader Jack Layton. The ferocious complexity of the votes triggered a court battle over whether Muslim women could swear Canadian citizenship by wearing a niqab covering their face.

The NDP protected women wearing niqabs; it was not a popular position in Quebec. Seeing the opening, then-Conservative governments and Bloc in Québecco whispered to the NDP. They succeeded - NDP support collapsed in an instant.

By the time the dust was cleared of this bombing, another center-left leader, formerly in third place, had emerged and was ignored in this battle.

A few weeks later, Trudeau was Prime Minister of Canada.

"Trudeau slipped under the radar," Bélanger said. "As the storm passed, the voting question remained: 'Who can defeat [Conservative Prime Minister] Stephen Harper? "The NDP was out of the game and people turned to Justin Trudeau."

The current campaign reflects the echo of 2015. Minority religious rights remain the dominant political issue in the province.

This time, the most discussed topic in Quebec politics is the law, which aims to ban religious minorities, especially Muslim women, from wearing religious headgear in public workplaces.

The block tries to use this number to highlight its old one. He wants Trudeau and others to pledge never to challenge this provincial law in court.

Meanwhile, Trudeau desperately tries to keep the story out of the election headlines. He says he disagrees with the law, is satisfied that it will be challenged in the provincial court and says nothing about what he will do after the election.

Some experts believe that the shamelessly unambiguous stance of the party's leader, the liberals and son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, affirmed Canada's contemporary constitution for minority rights.

But for Martin, throwing this fight at the moment may be politically suicidal for Martin.

“If the subject becomes big for liberals, they will lose. Because most Quebecers like the law, ”Martin said. "But this is unpredictable in a four-way competition."

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