François Legault re-elected premier of Québec, leads CAQ to second majority

By CityNews Staff

Confirming what polls have suggested since the beginning of the campaign, François Legault was re-elected premier of the province on Monday, Oct. 3 leading Coalition Avenir Québec to a second consecutive majority government.

His overwhelming victory was confirmed within minutes of polls closing at 8 p.m.

The CAQ was widely expected to cruise to a second majority. Legault and his party started the election campaign strong but lost some popularity along the way, sitting at 37 per cent in the latest polls before Election Day.

Some critics argued Legault did not perform well in the two French-language debates. But that did not translate to a drop in support.

Legault largely campaigned on protecting the French language, capping immigration at 50,000 people per year, tax cuts, and promoting a strong economy.

CAQ’s first mandate

During its first mandate, the Legault government passed two controversial laws: strengthening the province’s French-language law (Bill 96) and banning certain public servants, including teachers, from wearing religious symbols on the job (Bill 21). The CAQ also proactively invoked the notwithstanding clause to protect both from Charter challenges.

The CAQ government has been criticized, by all four other main parties in Quebec, for its climate track record. During its last mandate it aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 37.5 per cent by 2030, but the province missed its 20 per cent reduction target set for 2020 and instead reached just six per cent. Legault has said reaching the 2030 targets isn’t possible without a new hydroelectric dam.

His government has also pushed for more autonomy from Ottawa, including more power over immigration.

Apologies, controversial comments

During the campaign trail, Legault apologized twice for comments made in regards to immigrants, citing “violence and extremism” as reasons to limit immigration. On another occasion he said non-Francophone immigrants were “a threat to national cohesion”.

He also apologized to the family of Joyce Echaquan, an Indigenous mother who filmed staff making disparaging comments about her on her death bed in a Joliette hospital. Legault said last month that the racism problem in that hospital had been “solved.”

There was more controversy for the CAQ in the final days of the campaign. Quebec Immigration Minister Jean Boulet said last week at a candidates debate that most immigrants to Québec “don’t work, don’t speak French or don’t adhere to the values of Québec society.”

While Legault described Boulet’s comments as unacceptable, he said Boulet knows what he said isn’t true.

The reaction from other party leaders was strong.

Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade said Boulet should be immediately removed as a cabinet minister, but she didn’t go as far as Conservative Leader Eric Duhaime, who called for Boulet to withdraw his candidacy altogether.

CAQ popularity remained strong, despite stumbles

But the CAQ remains widely popular in the regions outside Montreal – where several ridings are long-time Liberal strongholds. Legault was also widely praised by his supporters for his response during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health care was again top of mind this election campaign, as it was four years ago. In 2018, Legault promised a family doctor for all Québecers. This time, the CAQ dropped the promise, saying it wasn’t realistic. Instead, they plan to create two private mini-hospitals – one in Montreal and one in Québec City – to help with the strain on the public system. Care at those private hospitals would be refunded by the province.

This campaign, the CAQ also promised to create a digital platform to allow citizens to get a non-urgent appointment with a health-care professional within 36 hours.

In 2018, the CAQ took power for the first time, becoming the first party other than the Parti Quebecois and the Liberals to win a Québec election in more than 50 years.

Before the dissolution of the legislature, the CAQ had 76 seats, while the Quebec Liberals had 27, Québec solidaire had 10 and the Parti Québécois had seven. The Conservative Party of Québec held one seat and there were four Independents.

Founded in 2011 by Legault, a former PQ cabinet minister and airline executive, and Charles Sirois, a businessman who had supported the Liberals, the centre-right party sought to move past the debate on independence by instead promoting Québec nationalism rather than separation from Canada.

With files from Tina Tenneriello.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today