Liberals bristle at Legault's suggestion he would prefer a Conservative minority government

National Liberal campaign co-chair and candidate Mélanie Joly said Quebecers and women like her do not like to be told what to do and how to vote in response to Premier François Legault suggesting he preferred the Conservatives to win a minority government. 

'People don't like to be told what to think and how to vote,' Mélanie Joly says

Liberals fight back after Legault’s Conservative endorsement

1 year ago
Duration 2:33
The Liberal party is fighting back in Quebec following Premier Francois Legault’s endorsement of a Conservative government, including speaking out against the controversial Bill C21.

National Liberal campaign co-Chair and candidate Mélanie Joly said Quebecers and women like her do not like to be told what to do and how to vote in response to Premier François Legault suggesting he preferred the Conservatives to win a minority government. 

CBC News asked Joly at a whistle stop in St-Bruno-de-Montarville what her reaction is to Legault's comments on Thursday urging Quebecers in the province to be wary of the federal Liberals, NDP and Greens in the upcoming election. 

"People don't like to be told what to think and how to vote," said Joly.

"For my part, I come from generations of women who fought to get the right to vote and during the Quiet Revolution to get the right to think and in that sense we don't like to be told by anybody how to behave in this important election."

Joly's comments go further than what Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said earlier in the day. Trudeau chose his words carefully on the campaign trail in Mississauga, Ont., saying he cannot always be perfectly aligned with Legault, but that they can agree they have to fight every day to deliver for Quebecers.

"Mr. Legault can if he wants share his vision of federalism," Trudeau said in French. "But I think the values of the Liberal party align better with what the Quebecers want."

Legault levied heavy criticism against the federal Liberal Party, the NDP and the Green Party during a news conference on Thursday. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

Joly said her party will continue to work with the Legault government that's in place for at least a year because they need to get out of the pandemic and relaunch the economy. 

"But Quebecers are wise and they know that they can have a strong voice in Ottawa and the best way to have a lot of members in cabinet around the table," said Joly.

Legault had praised Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole on Thursday over his commitment to increase health transfers by $60 billion over the next 10 years with no strings attached, as well as for his refusal to get involved in any constitutional challenge of the province's controversial religious symbols law.

"The Quebec nation wants more autonomy, not less autonomy," said Legault.

Legault also inserted his commentary into the federal election again on Friday by calling one of the questions during the English language debate an attack on Quebec — and he wants an apology.

Debate moderator Shachi Kurl asked Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet: "You denied that Quebec has problems with racism, yet you defend legislation such as Bills 96 and 21, which marginalize religious minorities, anglophones and allophones. Quebec is recognized as a distinct society, but for those outside the province, please help them understand why your party also supports these discriminatory laws."

"To claim that protecting the French language is discriminatory or racist is ridiculous," Legault told reporters.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is joined by Liberal candidates Marie-Eve Pelchat and Mélanie Joly during a campaign stop in St. Bruno-de-Montarville, Que. on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The road to victory passes through Quebec and is once again shaping up to be a key election battleground.

Trudeau is on the offensive in the province, hitting two ridings for whistle stops on Saturday currently held by the Bloc Québécois. The Liberals are targeting a series of ridings they hope to turn red on Sept. 20. 

So far the Liberals have visited about 54 unique ridings this election campaign. Roughly 47 per cent of those campaign stops were in ridings held by other parties including 27 per cent by the Bloc, according to a CBC analysis. 

The Bloc Québécois' resurgence in 2019 played a role in reducing the Liberals to a minority. The battle in the province is shaping up to be between the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois. The Liberals held 35 seats in Quebec at dissolution of Parliament and the Bloc 32.


Ashley Burke

Senior reporter

Ashley Burke is a senior reporter with CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. Have a story idea? Email her at ashley.burke@cbc.ca

With files from Antoni Nerestant & Sabrina Jonas


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