Bloc Québécois hopes to make its mark in eastern Outaouais

·3 min read
Bloc Québécois candidate for Gatineau Geneviève Nadeau, right, speaks with her father Richard, the former Bloc representative for the riding. (Francis Ferland/CBC - image credit)
Bloc Québécois candidate for Gatineau Geneviève Nadeau, right, speaks with her father Richard, the former Bloc representative for the riding. (Francis Ferland/CBC - image credit)

The Bloc Québécois candidate for Gatineau knows the sovereigntist party can win in the Outaouais because she still remembers her father representing the area a decade ago as she volunteered on his campaign.

Environmentalist Geneviève Nadeau is running for the second time in the riding that Liberal Steve MacKinnon won with more than 50 per cent of the vote in 2019.

Nadeau, who finished second, said people in the riding are open to change.

"They are tired of being taken for granted. People are looking for other options," Nadeau said during a morning handing out pamphlets at the Labrosse Rapibus Station in Gatineau.

The Bloc Québécois regained official party status after the 2019 election, and she says the party's record is putting wind in her sails during her second campaign.

Francis Ferland/CBC
Francis Ferland/CBC

MacKinnon, who is running for a third term, rejects the notion the Liberals have taken the riding for granted, and said he works to keep his connection with the riding strong.

"I've always been a Member of Parliament who's gone out to meet people, is present and is listening," MacKinnon said in a French-language interview with Radio-Canada.

Nadeau said the Bloc has values that appeal to federal public servants who value the French language, even if they don't share the party's support for Quebec independence.

"They're really tired of going to work not being able to speak French when they're supposed to work in a bilingual country," she said.

"They are federal workers but they are also parents that are concerned about environmental issues and they're very disappointed in the Liberal party.

WATCH | Why some voters in the Outaouais associate the Bloc Québécois with uncertainty:

Politics of language

Thomas Collombat, a political science professor at the Université du Québec en l'Outaouais, said the politics of language aren't new for the region — given its proximity and interconnection with Ottawa — but he's not sure it's a way to attract new votes.

Collombat said the Bloc often struggles in the Outaouais because they're associated with uncertainty.

"There is an anxiety among part of the electorate here as to what would happen to what is now the National Capital Region of Canada should Quebec become independent," he said.

Collombat said generally the Bloc has less traction in the western parts of the region where there are more anglophones.

The eastern part of the Outaouais, where Premier Francois Legault's Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) gained seats in the last provincial election, is seen as more likely to consider the Bloc.

The federal party has made efforts to align itself with the popular premier.

Francis Ferland/CBC
Francis Ferland/CBC

Volatile electorate

Collombat cautions CAQ votes may not filter in a straightforward way to one party given the differences between the provincial and federal electoral districts.

The NDP orange wave, which swept the region in 2015, almost wiped out the Bloc permanently, and that isn't far in the past. Collombat said seats may change hands again.

"Quebec is known for having a fairly volatile electorate," he added.

"Even in a region that was considered very stably red both provincially and federally, the last elections have shown that the Outaouais could go another direction."

If the 2019 election suggests a race will tighten, it's in Argenteuil-La Petite-Nation where Bloc candidate Yves Destroismaisons came within 800 votes of the winner, Liberal Stéphane Lauzon.

Destroismaison said he has effectively campaigned since that close loss and hopes this year will see the Bloc regain territory in the Outaouais in recognition of their advocacy for rural issues.

Lauzon points to his record on federal spending to improve local water filtration, support the Fromagerie Montebello and renovate La Maison Papineau, while promising to continue to fight to improve Internet access in the area.

Rémi Authier/Radio-Canada
Rémi Authier/Radio-Canada
Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting