Quebec autonomists achieve historic victory

CAQ wins second absolute majority in a row · Legault’s party’s margin will be largest in Quebec National Assembly since 1994 · Sovereignists lose ground

François Legault, with CAQ's campaign motto: "Let's go on"
François Legault, with CAQ's campaign motto: "Let's go on" Author: CAQ
Quebec Premier François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) won a historic victory in the Quebec National Assembly election on 3 October, taking 90 of the 125 seats. The pro-autonomy party won 69 seats more than second-placed Liberal Party of Quebec (PLQ), which will have 21 MNAs. The result, as predicted by surveys, was disastrous for Quebec pro-independence parties, which obtained their lowest combined number of seats since the 1970s.

The CAQ, which had just won the 2018 election with an absolute majority of 74 seats, has now enlarged it with another 16 seats. Their growth, coupled with the Liberals’ 6-seat decline, gives them the largest majority in the Quebec National Assembly since the 1994 election.

Quebec’s first-past-the-post electoral system has helped the CAQ to achieve such a large margin: 41% of the votes obtained translate into 72% of the seats. Quite the opposite of what has happened to the Parti Québécois (PQ), which has also got a historic result, but on the negative side: with 14.6% of the votes it has only won 3 seats (7 less than in 2018). Anti-capitalist pro-independence Québec Solidaire (QS) added one more seat (11) to those won 4 years ago (10), although their vote share fell back slightly.

The 125 seats in the Assembly will thus be divided between CAQ, PLQ, PQ, and QS, after an election that saw the rise of a fifth party, the Conservative Party of Quebec (PCQ), which netted 12.9% of the votes. However, because of the geographical dispersion of the party’s vote, the PCQ did not win in any constituency. As a result, the right-wing federalist party could not secure its first-ever seat in the Assembly in an election (it had held one since 2021 after MNA Claire Samson, elected as a member of the CAQ, switched to the PCQ).

The 2022 vote also set a record with the election of some 60 female MNAs, the highest number in history. Among them, the first woman belonging to an indigenous people: Kateri Champagne Jourdain, a member of the Innu.

New powers and resources in health and immigration

Legault has announced his intention to maintain a policy of continuity that will include tax cuts and a cheque for low-income Quebecers. The CAQ’s manifesto places the economy, the fight against climate change, the improvement of the health system, and the defence of the French language as priorities for the next mandate. Away from sovereignty demands —there is absolutely no mention of a referendum— the CAQ says that over the next four years it will continue its “quest for recognition and political and economic autonomy for Quebec.” The two main proposals in this regard are an increase in the funding for the provincial health system and the request for the devolution of “full immigration powers.” Legault’s party says it favours the arrival of more immigrants, but argues that it is necessary “that a larger portion of them be French-speaking.”

Indeed, the CAQ’s spectacular growth in recent years is due to its ability to combine the defence of some of the central issues of the sovereignty movement (language and nation, but not independence) with an image of good management, ideologically moderate, effective and reliable, in contrast to the popular perception of recent Liberal Party governments, greatly affected by several corruption scandals.

Meanwhile, the PQ —which only 8 years ago was in government— is failing to convince the electorate that the only effective defence of the French language is through the policies proposed by the sovereigntists. At the same time, the PQ is navigating in the midst of low rates of social support for independence, which has stagnated between 30% and 40% in the last decade.