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What's in a slogan? Quebec's 4 main parties try to entice voters with one word or more

Three of the four parties — Coalition Avenir Québec, Parti Québécois and Québec Solidaire — have gone with one-word appeals to voters, while the Liberals have a wordier slogan.

Three of the four parties have gone with one-word appeals to voters, while the Liberals have a wordier slogan

Quebec's four main political parties have unveiled their slogans ahead of the official launch of the provincial election campaign tomorrow, Aug. 23. (Radio-Canada)

Campaign slogans don't make or break an election — but they can endear, or repel, voters, and they're often the first chance political parties have to officially present their ideas to the public.

"[The slogan] is supposed to be a spark … that lights up an emotion," said Louis Aucoin, a communications strategist at Tesla RP agency in Montreal.

Quebec's four main political parties have unveiled their French-only slogans ahead of the official launch of the provincial election campaign tomorrow, Aug. 23.

Three of the four parties have gone with one-word appeals to voters: the Coalition Avenir Québec is using "Maintenant," ("Now,") the Parti Québécois opted for "Sérieusement," ("Seriously,") and Québec Solidaire has chosen "Populaires," the plural of "Popular."

Only the Liberals chose a wordier slogan: "Pour faciliter la vie des Québécois," or "To facilitate the lives of Quebecers."

​Aucoin said a slogan is meant to synthesize a party's ideas, and tell voters how it intends to respond to their needs and expectations. In that respect, one-word slogans may leave a lot of questions unanswered. 

"The effort of synthesization [has] gone a little bit too far because now we're at one word, and what's next, one letter? One emoji?" he told CBC News.

Louis Aucoin, a communications strategist at Tesla RP agency in Montreal, says campaign slogans are meant to let voters know how each party will respond to their expectations. (Charles Contant/Radio-Canada)

While slogans are important, they're only one part of the parties' wider campaign strategies, said Thierry Giasson, a professor in the political science department at the Université de Laval who is part of a research group on political communication strategies.

"The slogans are one of the first indicators of what the party wants to campaign on," Giasson told CBC's Quebec AM.

"It's telling on the central theme of the campaign, it's telling of sometimes values that the parties really want to put out there, and it's a way to differentiate themselves from the other parties that are also running in the election."

Here's how Giasson and Aucoin broke down the main parties' slogans, what they mean, and whether they'll work, as Quebecers decide who gets their vote on Oct. 1.

Coalition Avenir Québec: Maintenant

Giasson said the slogan this year is trying to tell Quebecers that "right now is the right time to vote for the CAQ."

The CAQ has held the lead in most recent polls, with 34 per cent support on Aug. 22, according to CBC's Quebec Poll Tracker. The Liberals trailed with 28.1 per cent support, compared to 17.7 per cent for the Parti Québécois and 11.8 per cent for Québec Solidaire.

Giasson said the CAQ slogan is particularly strong because it can be used in several different ways.

"Using Maintenant is like gold," Giasson said.

"You can use it [as], "Now the CAQ is here," "Now we have the team," [or] "Now you can vote for us." There's all these different sub-slogans you can create by using this very strong word."

Aucoin said it's a good slogan because it appeals to the party's base, while also attempting to woo voters who may be tired of the current Liberal government.

"It reminds them that it's now — or in four years. So it works, but it's not a promise. It's more like a threat," he told CBC News.

Change is a theme the party has tried to capitalize on in the past.

In 2012, it ran on the slogan, "C'est assez, faut que ça change!", or "That's enough, things have to change!"

Two years later, its slogan made reference to the party's leader: "On se donne Legault," a play on words meant to encourage Quebecers to vote for François Legault.

CAQ leader François Legault, seen with Pontiac candidate Olive Kamanyana, is hoping to capitalize on Quebecers' desire for change. (CBC)

Parti Québécois: Sérieusement

At first glance, the slogan chosen by Jean-François Lisée's party raises more questions than answers, said Aucoin.

"My question is, what was not serious? … We don't understand clearly what it responds to, what it refers to," he said.

Giasson said the slogan is "very risky," since it can be used by the other party leaders to question the seriousness of the PQ itself.

It fits into the PQ's overall campaign strategy though, Giasson explained, as it trails the CAQ and the Liberals and is looking to reassure people that they can — and should — vote for them.

"They're trying to reassure people that voting for the PQ is a good idea, that you can do it by being serious, that it's a legitimate option, it's a legitimate party, and even though the polls are telling you [the level of] support is not that great, you are still right in supporting us," Giasson said.

The PQ unveiled this colourful campaign bus earlier this week. (Camille Simard/Radio-Canada)

The PQ also introduced a colourful campaign bus this week, which Giasson described as "brilliant."

"That bus is everything. It's really, really impressive."

Liberal Party of Quebec: Pour faciliter la vie des Québécois

The Liberal slogan is "more traditional" than the others, said Aucoin, and the party is the only one to explicitly make a promise in its catchphrase. That could pose a challenge, however.

"You've got to demonstrate how you're going to do that, and you've got to defend what you've done in the past, and if it's been done according to the promise you're making right now," he said.

Giasson agreed, describing the slogan as "a double-edged sword."

It will let the Liberals showcase their accomplishments over the years they've been in power, but it also raises a question that the other parties may try to capitalize on.

"That can lead opponents to tell them: 'What have you been doing in the last four years that has not allowed you to facilitate the lives of Quebecers?'" he said.

Philippe Couillard's Liberals have the wordiest campaign slogan, which Thierry Giasson of the Université de Laval described as a 'double-edged sword.' (Cathy Senay/CBC)

Québec Solidaire: Populaires

Here, the word "Populaires" is being used on two levels, Aucoin said.

First, it tells Quebecers that Québec Solidaire is becoming more and more popular in the province, and Quebecers can cast their votes for them. It also appeals to the ethos of the party as being one that represents the grassroots, or popular class, of society.

Giasson agreed. He also said the slogan's versatility will allow the party to use it in different ways throughout the election campaign, similarly to the CAQ.

Québec Solidaire, led by Manon Masse (pictured) and Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, is hoping to use its slogan to let Quebecers know the party is growing in popularity, experts say. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

​With files from CBC's Quebec AM


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