Montreal

Trump's win highlights gap between people and policy, Quebec politicians say

At a weekend meeting of Quebec Liberals, Premier Philippe Couillard told his party that Trump's victory could be attributed to the growing distance between average citizens and politicians.

Couillard and Legault looking for lessons in Trump's electoral upset

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said he's concerned about the growing distance between voters and politicians. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

The election of Donald Trump as the next American president is casting a long shadow over Quebec politics. 

At a meeting of Quebec Liberals this weekend, Premier Philippe Couillard told his party that Trump's victory could be attributed to the growing distance between average citizens and politicians.

"On the one hand, there are policies and programs. And on the other, people ask 'what will that change for me, my family, my village'," Couillard said during a speech Saturday in Laval.  

"For me, there is a lot of this distance between the policies of a government and citizens with their real problems."

Couillard referred to the American election as part of a broader call for a renewed relationship between his party and its members.

But this was no idle speculation on the relevance of American politics. An internal party memo, leaked to the media earlier this week, described Liberal members as disaffected and indifferent to the politicians who represent them in the National Assembly.

"Our membership base is in significant decline and it is important to get out of our torpor to reverse this trend," reads the report, which was penned by Jérôme Turcotte before he stepped down from the party's executive committee. 

The report notes that the party's membership dropped from 52,401 in June 2014 to 37, 020 in December 2015. At that rate, according to the report, the party "will find itself without any members left in just over three and a half years." 

Turcotte also suggested the premier's office is unresponsive to policy proposals from party members. 

In his speech on Saturday, Couillard said he welcomed Turcotte's observations, adding the party needs to modernize itself. 

He promised party members would have the chance to be more involved in policy development in the run-up to the 2018 provincial election.

"We need a membership for our century, not the last century," Couillard said. 

Since winning Tuesday's presidential election, Trump's politics have been much discussed in Quebec's political circles. (John Gurzinski/AFP/Getty Images)

Legault 'close to the people'

Trump's election also coloured a meeting Saturday of the Coalition Avenir Québec, considered the most right-wing of the province's three major parties. 

Both the Liberals and the Opposition Parti Québécois have compared CAQ Leader François Legault to Trump in recent days, in an effort to criticize his policies. 

Legault responded on Saturday, saying that while he rejects Trump's style of politics, he doesn't consider the comparison entirely negative.

"I'm at ease with [the comparison] given the fact that Mr. Trump is concerned with the desires of citizens," Legault told reporters at a party meeting in Drummondville.

The CAQ's François Legault said he's comfortable with being compared to Trump, even though he disagrees with some of his policies. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

"Currently, people are not satisfied with the government, they find their government to be far from the people. I consider myself to be someone who is close to the people."

Before entering provincial politics, Legault was the president and co-founder of Air Transat. Along with his wife, Legault has around $10 million in assets, according to figures released in 2014.

Quebec's political parties will have the opportunity to test how close they are to Quebec voters on Dec. 5, when the province will hold four byelections.

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