Quebec election: Liberals fall one candidate short of full slate as deadline passes

·5 min read

MONTREAL — The Quebec Liberal Party will not field a full slate of 125 candidates on Oct. 3 after one of them was refused by Quebec's election officials ahead of a deadline on Saturday.

Liberal Leader Dominque Anglade, who just hours earlier had said she would have 125 candidates and had spent much of the first week of the campaign answering questions about several vacant ridings, suggested the party might contest the decision.

It marks the first time in recent history the party hasn't had a candidate in every riding when it learned the candidate in Matane-Matapédia, Harley Lounsbury, was refused by Elections Quebec. The riding in the Lower St-Lawrence region has long been a Parti Québécois stronghold.

Anglade did not have further details about what happened.

"We put it in the hands of our legal team to look at what happened," a clearly unhappy Anglade said. "This is a situation that is unacceptable. … We are going to have serious conversations internally.”

The province's other four main parties have all confirmed candidates in the province's 125 ridings.

On Saturday, Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault said he has no plans to release results of a study into the potential impact of a "third link" crossing the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City to its south shore, saying it's outdated and doesn't directly involve his party's promised tunnel.

Questions about a third link impact study have dogged Legault on the campaign trail in recent days after he admitted Friday there was no specific study for the project his party is championing, a $6.5-billion tunnel that would connect the downtowns of Quebec City and Lévis.

The study Legault won't release was conducted by the École nationale d'administration publique, which led research in 2019-2020 on the effects of major projects such as the third link on residential, commercial and industrial development, as well as on the protection of agricultural land.

Legault defended keeping that analysis under wraps, noting it doesn't directly address the proposed tunnel project or account for increased telework patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"You would be the first to tell me the study is no good," Legault told reporters after announcing $538 million to create and expand provincial parks in Rimouski, Que.

Legault said he's committed to releasing a study on his party's favoured project when it is ready, sometime in 2023.

Opposition parties have denounced Legault's lack of transparency.

“This is the biggest investment in the greater Quebec City region in our history and Mr. Legault is acting like an amateur at the moment," Conservative Party of Quebec Leader Éric Duhaime said.

Duhaime was speaking in Lévis, one day after holding the largest gathering of supporters of any political party so far as a few thousand supporters filled the entrance hall of the Videotron Center in Quebec City.

On Saturday, Duhaime promised to raise the speed limit on some Quebec's highways to 120 km/h if his party wins on Oct. 3, saying most people exceed the current 100 km/h limit.

Even though driving faster increases a vehicle's gas mileage — and accompanying cost at the pump — the Conservative leader said people should be able to choose.

"Time is money too," Duhaime said. “I think there are people who will appreciate gaining that 5 to 10 minutes, or 20 minutes, to go to Montreal with an extra 10-15 km per hour.”

In Montreal, Anglade said she would hold a "COP Quebec" event similar to the major climate change conference held by the United Nations, with researchers, scientists and governments from all over North America taking part.

Anglade also pledged to put all government decisions under the climate change microscope if elected, adding the premier would be responsible for the environmental file.

Québec solidaire co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois accused Legault of running a negative campaign by distributing flyers about his party that contain what he calls several misrepresentations about their taxation commitments.

“Distributing leaflets to smear Québec solidaire will not convince Quebecers to vote for François Legault," Nadeau-Dubois said in Montreal. "I believe that this way of doing politics does not work in Quebec."

Also in Montreal, Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon said he wants more space for Quebec children's programming and would introduce a series of measures to encourage the consumption of Quebec-produced programs.

The PQ's cultural proposals are likely intended to counter survey results they cite suggesting the majority of Quebecers aged 18 to 34 — 58 per cent — consume very little to no homegrown content on online platforms.

“It seems obvious that there has been a substitution of the Anglo-American cultural and mental universe to the detriment of the Quebec cultural space," St-Pierre Plamondon said. "And that has a lot of impact in the medium and long term on the French language."

St-Pierre Plamondon said he wants to reverse that trend with more Quebec-made, higher quality youth programs that would prioritize education over commercial sales.

But the PQ leader admitted he wouldn't go as far as abolishing "Paw Patrol," something that would cause his two-year-old son to "freak out."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 17, 2022.

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

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press