Montreal·Analysis

Your handy guide to the PQ leadership race

With the nomination period for the Parti Québécois leadership race now over, here is an overview of the five candidates vying to replace Pierre Karl Péladeau as leader of the sovereigntist party.

An overview of the positions of the five candidates hoping to take over the PQ

Quebec Opposition and Parti Quebecois interim leader Sylvain Gaudreault, centre, poses with Parti Quebecois leadership hopefuls Martine Ouellet, from left, Alexandre Cloutier, Jean-Francois Lisee, and Veronique Hivon at his legislature office. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

With the nomination period for the Parti Québécois leadership race now over, here is an overview of the five candidates vying to replace Pierre Karl Péladeau as leader of the sovereigntist party.

The wunderkind: Alexandre Cloutier  

Some wonder if Parti Quebecois MNA Alexandre Cloutier can build on the 'Trudeau effect.' (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

Alexandre Cloutier, a former cabinet minister, is seen by many as the front-runner in the race. Though he finished a distant second to Péladeau in the 2015 contest, that he managed almost 30 per cent of the vote surprised many. At 38, he is the youngest in an already young field. 

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  • Sovereignty: Cloutier says as PQ leader he would only decide whether to hold a referendum six months before a general election. 
  • Other banner issues: He has spoken about improving relations with Quebec's aboriginal peoples.
  • Support: Former premier Bernard Landry, former Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe and at least 11 members of the current PQ caucus.

​The mandarin: Jean-François Lisée

Jean-François Lisée during his previous run at the PQ leadership, in 2014. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Jean-François Lisée was an influential advisor to both Jacques Parizeau and Lucien Bouchard at the height of the sovereignty movement, circa the 1995 referendum. This gives him a certain amount of street cred within the party. 

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  • Sovereignty: As leader, Lisée promises no referendum in the first mandate of a PQ government. He has also said that public funds shouldn't be used to promote sovereignty. 
  • Other banner issues: Lisée wants to gradually remove the presence of religious symbols in Quebec's civil service. He suggested Quebec should debate banning the burkini. 
  • Support: Lisée picked up the support of four MNAs who had been backing Véronique Hivon's campaign. Recent polls suggest he is running second place to Cloutier. 

The engineer: Martine Ouellet

Martine Ouellet is the lone non-lawyer in the race. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Whereas every other candidate in the race has a background in law, Martine Ouellet is an engineer by training. She served as Pauline Marois's minister of natural resources. But when she ran in the last leadership contest, she managed only 13.3 per cent of the vote.  

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  • Sovereignty: Ouellet is a sovereigntist in a hurry. She promises a referendum in the first mandate of a PQ government, which also distinguishes her from the other candidates.
  • Other banner issues: Ouellet promises to invest $30 billion in the green economy by 2030, which says will create 30,000 jobs. 
  • Support: Former Bloc Québécois leader Mario Beaulieu and René Lévesque​-era cabinet minister Gilbert Paquette. She is thought to have little support within the caucus. 

The dark horse: Paul Saint-Pierre Plamondon 

Paul St-Pierre Plamondon is know for his 2014 book Les orphelins politiques. (Jerome Labbe/Radio-Canada)

Even the most ardent PQ supporters could be forgiven for asking, 'Who's he?' Unlike the other candidates, he is not an MNA. Plamondon, a lawyer, is perhaps best known as author of Les orphelins politiques, which argues a moderate left is the best response to those who feel alienated by Quebec politics.    

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  • Sovereignty: Plamondon has promised not to hold a referendum in the first mandate of a PQ government. He would re-evaluate in 2022.
  • Other banner issues: He wants to push the PQ to the left. He has also spoken about getting more young people involved in the party and in politics more generally.
  • Support: Former Bloc MP Suzanne Tremblay.

The bridge-builder: Véronique Hivon

Véronique Hivon is best known for her work drafting Quebec's right-to-die legislation. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

Véronique Hivon dropped out of the race in late August citing health reasons. The former cabinet minister is dealing with labyrinthitis, an inflammation of the inner ear that can cause vertigo.

Hivon had been considered a front-runner heading into the race, but trailed Cloutier and Lisée in early polls. She initially shot to prominence for her role drafting Quebec's right-to-die legislation. It was a rare bill to pass with bipartisan support.

Véronique Hivon quits Parti Québécois leadership race for health reasons

  • ​Sovereignty: Hivon wants to avoid talking about the timing of a referendum, and speak instead of the merits of sovereignty itself. Like Cloutier, she has not committed to holding a referendum as a PQ premier.
  • Other banner issues: She wants to make Quebec carbon neutral by 2050, and has promised to run a carbon neutral campaign if elected PQ leader. Hivon has also pledged to reform Quebec's voting laws. 
  • Support: She counts the support of at least five members the caucus, but has struggled in recent polls.

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