Quebec election 2014: 5 things to watch
Will Quebecers get yet another minority government? Is a Liberal-CAQ coalition on the table?
The results of the 2014 Quebec election will reveal a lot more than who will form the next provincial government.
As the numbers roll in, here's a list of the top five things that Quebecers will be watching closely:
The strength of the Liberal Party vote
Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard has remained confident that a majority government is in his grasp, but there’s a real possibility that Quebecers could be facing back-to-back minority governments.
Throughout the campaign, Couillard stayed mum on whether or not he would consider a coalition in that scenario.
A Liberal minority could lead to an alliance between Couillard's party and the Coalition Avenir Québec, but the lasting-power of that type of coalition would be uncertain. As the hearings at the Charbonneau commission continue, there is the potential that allegations could emerge and taint the Liberals, scaring off any CAQ support.
On the other hand, a strong majority for the Liberals would free Couillard from compromises, allowing his government to push through its revamped Plan Nord and maritime strategy.
Couillard's success in his own riding of Roberval will also reveal how successful the leader was in winning over voters in Quebec's traditionally sovereigntist regions.
The fate of the PartiQuébécois and Pauline Marois
Pauline Marois gambled big on this election, and, if the Parti Québécois doesn't emerge victorious, there's a big question mark surrounding the future of the party and Marois's position at its helm.
Marois triggered the election with her eyes set on a majority government. If her party obtains a minority, it will be a bitter-sweet victory — the PQ government will be right back where it started.
If the PQ is defeated, it will be a significant blow to the future of the woman once known as Quebec’s “Concrete Lady.”
Many believe the ballot box question this election is whether or not there's support for a referendum. Christian Bourque, the executive vice-president of Léger Marketing, says the PQ’s defeat would send a clear message.
“[It would be] sort of saying 'No' to a referendum for the third time,” Bourque said.
The surge of the Coalition Avenir Québec
Before the legislature was dissolved, the CAQ held 18 seats in the National Assembly.
Expectations for François Legault's party were low going into the election, but if they manage to come out with more seats, it will mean the CAQ is on the path to escaping its "third party" status and Quebecers now consider it a legitimate option.
The CAQ's success could also end up hurting the Liberals by winning over the voters who don't want to support the PQ, but aren't ready to see the Liberals return to power.
Legault has refused to say whether he would consider a coalition with Couillard's Liberals, but it's a real possibility that his party could end up holding the balance of power if the Liberals win a minority government.
Léger Marketing's vice-president says Quebecers could see the creation of “a sort of loose coalition with the Liberals [and the CAQ]."
Whether or not Legault holds onto his seat is a big factor in his party’s status, a coalition of former PQ and Liberal members.
According to Bourque, if Legault loses his own riding of L'Assomption, there could be some floor-crossing.
“Some of the senior CAQ members are sort of closet-Liberals,” Bourque said.
“If they don’t hold many seats, if Legault is beaten, then I would suspect within a couple of months, some people would cross over.”
The left-wing vote
The turning point of the election campaign was arguably when Pauline Marois introduced candidate Pierre Karl Péladeau.
The media mogul was meant to symbolize that the PQ had the business community's backing, but it may have also cost the PQ a significant chunk of its left-wing support.
Many union members have less-than-fond memories of Péladeau, the former president of Québecor Média — which owns several media properties such as the French-language newspaper Journal de Montréal.
Memories of the 2009 lockout at that newspaper — which lasted two years — are still fresh for many of those affected.
Québec Solidaire Leader Françoise David has capitalized on Marois's misstep.
Bourque says there's increasing support for David's sovereigntist party among allophones and anglophones.
“I think that says something about some of the left not recognizing themselves in the PQ,” Bourque said.
Bourque said that for the Quebecers who voted for the NDP in the federal election, QuébecSolidiare is the obvious choice.
“For half of [QS’s supporters] it’s a left of centre party, period.”
Montreal vs. the rest of the Quebec
Montreal, home to a multilingual and diverse population, is known for often being at odds with the rest of Quebec.
Bourque explains the urban centre tends to lean left, and more liberal than the province's regions.
"In Montreal, Parti Québécois support depends on Québec Solidaire's strength," Bourque said.
If the polls show a decline in PQ support in Montreal, it will be a clear sign the party has turned away from its leftist roots, at least in the eyes of the electorate.