Leaders urge Quebecers to vote as advance polls open ahead of provincial election

MONTREAL — Quebec's main political party leaders spent Sunday rallying their supporters to head to the polling stations, as Quebecers got a first chance to vote for who will lead them after the Oct. 3 election.

The leaders of the Coalition Avenir Québec, the Liberals, Québec solidaire and the Parti Québécois all visited polling stations on the first day of advance voting amid concerns over possible low voter turnout.

The Coalition Avenir Québec's seemingly unshakable lead in the polls has led to worries that fewer voters will feel motivated to mark their ballots next Monday.

Those worries have been amplified following the situation in Ontario, where voter turnout reached an all-time low of about 43 per cent earlier this year as Premier Doug Ford was elected to a second term.

CAQ Leader François Legault, who voted Sunday in his riding of L'Assomption, northeast of Montreal, sought to dispel the idea that the outcome of the election is a foregone conclusion.

He urged volunteers Sunday morning to motivate others to cast their ballots, saying voting is a "duty."

Quebec solidaire co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, meanwhile, made an appeal to the young voters who make up much of his party's base.

"You make up a third of the electorate, you have the power to change things," he said, adding "Don't let this little bit of power slip between your fingers."

Nadeau-Dubois accused Legault of being "paternalist" toward youth in a Journal de Montréal interview in which the incumbent premier suggested young people should be concerned with education and "not just the environment."

"Young people don't need to be told what to do by François Legault," Nadeau-Dubois told a news conference in Rimouski, in the Bas-St-Laurent region.

While the CAQ leads the polls overall, left-wing Québec solidaire is the top pick for voters between the age of 18 and 34. Nadeau-Dubois is counting on continued support from young, educated Quebecers who identify with the party's focus on climate change, wealth inequality and the housing crisis — and who are also the demographic least likely to show up at the ballot box.

After messages like Legault's, "We ask ourselves why young people vote less," he said.

Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade, who is struggling in the polls, spent her morning playing defence in the Montreal riding of Marguerite-Bourgeoys, which was once considered a safe seat for her party.

Anglade sat down with volunteers and even made a few phone calls to voters in order to convince them to vote Liberal.

"I'm sending a message for the advance vote everywhere," she said. "We need to get out the vote, wherever we are in Quebec."

Liberal candidate Fred Beauchemin, for his part, said the party had adjusted its strategy in the one-time stronghold in recent days to include more door knocking.

Advance voting was cancelled in Îles-de-la-Madeleine as the remote eastern island chain deals with the effects of post-tropical storm Fiona.

Élections Quebec said late Saturday that voters in the islands can vote on the second advance polling day on Monday if weather permits.

Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon and Legault have both said they intend to visit Îles-de-la-Madeleine on Monday if conditions allow.

Plamondon said his visit was to show support for the people affected, and to ensure they're getting all the help they need to recover from the wind and water damage that impacted their properties.

The Parti Québécois leader suspended his campaign Friday due to flu-like symptoms, but resumed full campaigning Sunday after taking a PCR test to confirm he didn't have COVID-19.

The leaders were all expected to appear Sunday night on the Radio-Canada talk show Tout le Monde en Parle before the final week of campaigning begins Monday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2022.

— With files from Stéphane Rolland, Caroline Plante, Patrice Bergeron and Frédéric Lacroix-Couture

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press