Voters in Quebec City's Louis-Hébert riding go to polls today after turbulent campaign
Liberals, CAQ had to replace candidates after both were dropped over allegations of poor workplace behaviour
The runup to today's byelection race for former provincial cabinet minister Sam Hamad's old seat in the Quebec City riding of Louis-Hébert has been a rough one.
The candidates for the two main political parties jostling for the riding — the Liberals and Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) — were both ousted mid-campaign.
Their short-order replacements now find themselves in a pool of 10 contenders for the riding.
When the campaign kicked off on a month ago, communications specialist Éric Tétrault represented the Liberals, the party that's held the seat for 14 years.
Banker Normand Sauvageau was carrying the banner for the CAQ, the Liberals' main rival in the contest.
Both were forced to step down within hours of each other, after allegations surfaced over their past workplace behaviour.
"It's certainly not good news for either of them. It does have a 'pox on both their houses' kind of effect," said Éric Grenier, the CBC's polling analyst.
Grenier said the fact that both parties experienced the same problem with the first candidates they picked could even out the damage, although some voters could start looking at other candidates on the ballot.
2 female candidates take the reigns
The early campaign upheaval follows Hamad's resignation from the reigning Liberal government last spring. He had been shut out of cabinet for a year, after his political career was shaken by talk of ethical wrong-doing.
The new Liberal contender, Ihssane El Ghernati, who once worked as his political aide, is hoping to use her history with Hamad to her advantage.
She's said her job gives her a profound knowledge of the riding, where she also lives, and its constituents.
"I will be ready to keep serving them, just like I have been for several years," she said in a debate on Radio-Canada last week.
Nonetheless, her campaign got off to a rocky moment when she promised to negotiate the relocation of the controversial Anacolor paint plant within the next year — a pledge Liberal Environment Minister David Heurtel later distanced himself from, even though they are members of the same party.
CAQ candidate running year earlier than planned
The Quebec coroner's former spokesperson, Geneviève Guilbault, had expected to run for the CAQ in a different Quebec City riding in the 2018 provincial election, but has pushed her plans forward, running while six months pregnant.
She is telling voters that, if elected, she will not take more than four months of maternity leave. However, she is trying to keep the focus of the campaign on politics.
"The Liberals have been in power for too long. Citizens are telling me this a lot. We have to send a strong message to the Liberal government," she said.
Plenty of competition
Other political parties see the political commotion that rocked the byelection campaign as a potential opportunity. Québec Solidaire and the Parti Québécois stepped up their campaigns.
"There's a real chance," said PQ leader Jean-François Lisée, who's been campaigning with his candidate, biologist Normand Beauregard. "I have been in Louis-Hébert six times now."
"I think it's a race between the three: the Liberals, the CAQ, and us. And, I am feeling confident," he said.
Guillaume Boivin is running for Québec Solidaire.
Polls in the riding close at 8 p.m. ET.