TROIS-RIVIÈRES, Que. — The Coalition Avenir Québec aims to put forward a candidate in the riding of Marie-Victorin left vacant by the newly elected mayor of Longueuil, the province's premier said Saturday.
François Legault, who made the announcement upon arrival at his party's general meeting in Trois-Rivières, Que., said he'd given Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon a week to state his intentions but contends his rival is twiddling his thumbs.
Legault said he might have respected the tradition that allows a new party leader to run uncontested in a given riding — if Plamondon had stepped forward.
The PQ leader, who took the helm in October 2020, does not hold a seat in the National Assembly. It currently falls to the party's parliamentary leader, Joël Arseneau, to hold Legault to account during question period.
Legault said the fact that Québec solidaire opted to run a candidate in Marie-Victorin also played into his decision to do the same.
"We have decided that we will present a candidate — probably a candidate — in Marie-Victorin," Legault said Saturday.
The Liberals have said they planned to hold off on presenting a nominee if the other parties agreed to follow suit.
The byelection will be held after Christmas, Legault said, adding that he does not want to "impose on the people of Longueuil a third election in three months" following the federal and municipal campaigns.
The seat in Marie-Victorin became vacant last week after Catherine Fournier was elected mayor of Longueuil.
Legault and three cabinet ministers also responded to outgoing Quebec City mayor Régis Labeaume, who a day earlier beseeched the provincial government to reconsider its plans for a controversial tunnel project connecting the city and the south shore.
Jonatan Julien — Labeaume's former right-hand man at City Hall and the current minister of energy and natural resources — reacted to the entreaty by saying it showed bitterness from the outgoing mayor.
"I understand that Mr. Labeaume is disappointed with the results of the last (municipal) election," he said. Candidate Marie-Josee Savard, who lost narrowly to Bruno Marchand, had been endorsed by Labeaume.
Legault said he was not surprised by the longtime mayor's view on the "third link" project.
"I talked to him about it a lot in private and I always felt he didn't have a lot of support for it," the premier said.
“The majority of the citizens of Chaudière-Appalaches and Quebec City are in favour of the third link," he said. "Me, I work for the citizens; I do not work for Régis Labeaume."
Labeaume posted a letter to the premier via social media Friday where he said considerations for the $10-billion project "should go beyond public opinion and rest on scientific analyses."
There are other ways to relieve road congestion from the south shore, the 14-year mayor said in his “last gesture” in the role, inviting Legault to "change his mind."
Meanwhile, Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault hailed the election of Bruno Marchand and the start of a "new era" at city hall.
But the reasoning behind the third link and questions about the environment caught up with the CAQ in Trois-Rivières.
Sylvain Duval, an activist from Portneuf, Que., came to the microphone to declare: “Our planet is dying ... It looks like you're not listening to us."
In an interview, he criticized the premier for failing to roll out enough green measures.
"I am in the CAQ to rattle the cage. You will probably hear from me a little more in the next few years,” he said.
Legault can "definitely" do more, particularly for protected areas, added Duval, who heads a group of homeowners in the area of the Grondines swamp, which extends seven kilometres along the shoreline of the St. Lawrence River’s freshwater estuary between Trois-Rivières and Quebec City.
The Quebec City-Lévis tunnel project will only "bring more cars to the city centre," he said, offering one of the few dissenting notes at the party meeting.
The weekend's general convention, touting a theme of "Stronger regions," also marked an opportunity for members to celebrate the CAQ's 10th anniversary.
"Together, we have completely changed politics in Quebec," Legault exclaimed to 850 party faithful. "Thank you for believing in it."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 13, 2021.
Caroline Plante, The Canadian Press