Inside a Conservative Party of Quebec rally where pandemic anger and frustration reign

Upset about vaccine mandates and pandemic restrictions, many are turning to Quebec's Conservative Party for an answer.

Leader Éric Duhaime held court in front of party faithful in Lévis Monday

Éric Duhaime alongside three generations of the Marleau family — Conservative Party of Quebec supporters. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

For more than 30 minutes, the leader of the Conservative Party of Quebec shook hands and posed for photos, as supporter after supporter lined up to tell him they're voting Conservative on Oct. 3.

On Monday, the second day of the campaign, Éric Duhaime held court in a Lévis restaurant, after spending the day in the riding.

"Three generations in a photo with Éric Duhaime," Christophe Marleau said, beaming. He was with his son Samuel and his father, Yvon, and lives in Saint-Hélène-de-Breakeyville, within the Lévis riding.

"He represents my values the most. I think he is likely the least of the liars with what we experienced during the pandemic. Yes, we had a real pandemic but I felt there were lies in order to put in place restrictions that denied us the right to live our lives."

His father Yvon agreed.

"We were caquistes the last time and now we've decided we need a real opposition in the National Assembly, because the last four years, there's been no opposition," he said.

Duhaime spent almost the entirety of his speech to the crowd roasting Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) leader François Legault.

"I've been seeing the events held by François Legault the past two days," he said, holding a beat. 

"I noticed there are more security guards than people. Us? We don't need security guards because the people are with us!"

Tapping into pandemic outrage

The party, under Duhaime, has seen a surge in support, specifically financially.

From 2020 to 2021, its revenue tripled. Almost a third of that was donations. It's also seen its party membership rise.

A critic of how the Quebec government handled the pandemic, Duhaime has tapped into people's outrage about vaccine mandates and restrictions. 

Speaking to reporters from the Beauce region Tuesday for the second day in a row, Legault took aim at Duhaime's tactic — without mentioning his name. 

He called out the Conservative party for exploiting COVID anger to make political gains.

"We know in Quebec that some people were furious about some measures," he said. "I understand that. But ... we cannot try and profit from a crisis like this to try and score votes."

When asked why he repeatedly refuses to name Duhaime during his public appearances, Legault said he doesn't want to make things personal. 

"I don't want to start a fight with some individuals. I'm here to presents ideas that [we're proposing] at the CAQ for [the next] four years."

A truck belonging to a supporter of Éric Duhaime. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

Still, Duhaime's strategy has had an effect on people like Alain.

"I'll give [the election] one last chance, and after that, it's the revolution," he said, refusing to give his last name. 

What revolution?

"Taking up arms, armed revolution," he replied.

"I have no faith in Legault and that gang. I've been waiting for a revolution for 40 years."

Tapping into outrage into the pandemic is one thing, condoning violence is another, the party said.

"We condemn this type of talk," party spokesperson Cédric Lapointe said. "It is obvious to us that an election campaign is won at the ballot box."

Earlier in the evening, Duhaime had made an appeal for calm, after he said two of his party's volunteers were threatened while putting up signs.

Waving goodbye to his supporters, Duhaime left the restaurant and boarded his campaign bus, passing along the way a truck plastered with the party's official logo.

Just below it? Another decal: "Free Tamara Lich," one of the organizers of the so-called Freedom Convoy in Ottawa this winter who was initially denied bail.


Sarah Leavitt


Sarah Leavitt is a multimedia journalist with CBC who loves hearing people's stories. Tell her yours: or on Twitter @SarahLeavittCBC.


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