Éric Bélanger, Full Professor in the Department of Political Science at McGill University, presents his analysis of the electoral context underlying the 2022 provincial elections. To do this, he relies on the supported analysis of his latest book co -written with Jean-François Daoust, Valérie-Anne Mahéo and Richard Nadeau, The new Quebec voter (2022), published by the presses of the University of Montreal. The discussion was structured around the determinants of voting, using the causal funnel tool. The latter makes it possible to understand electoral behavior by studying four factors ranging from the furthest to the closest to the exercise of the vote: socio-demographic data, ideological orientations, campaign issues, and the way in which voters are perceived. leaders of political parties. We have focused our discussion primarily on the last three factors.
The offense (LD): Ideological orientations, ie the values and orientations of the electorate, are part of the determinants of the vote that are measured and established over the long term. You note transformations which would have the effect of contributing to, and I quote your book; “redefining partisan space in Quebec”. First, what are these divisions and what changes do you observe?
Eric Belanger (EB): There are three major divisions that are at the center of the Quebec partisan system. The first cleavage is of a constitutional order and follows the axis of yes or no: do we want a project of sovereignty? This divide is no longer salient, in that it no longer determines the electoral dynamic today. Then there is the divide between economic left and right: do we want more or less state intervention? To this end, we see the Conservative Party of Quebec (PCQ) which wants to cut the place of the state in society and in the lives of citizens, while Quebec solidaire (QS) wishes to strengthen this type of interventionist. It is a divide that has often been present in Quebec, particularly since the Quiet Revolution. The third cleavage opposes the cultural left and right, which revolves more around new issues.
LD: This new divide, you call it in your book the liberal/authoritarian divide. What led you to this designation?
EB: In the current literature, there is no consensus on the nomenclature of this new cleavage, even within our team of four authors! However, the book argues that there is a new focus that encompasses issues related to the changes of the early 21e century. This liberal/authoritarian axis oversees questions on immigration and on the environment, because they have the same source, namely the transformations of capitalism. For several decades, immigration has been increasing in Quebec because we need manpower. The main thing, therefore, is to ask ourselves whether we are imposing a certain number of integration rules on newcomers, or are we leaving them entirely free to live with their differences. The more authoritative position of the CAQ is to say: “we are still going to impose a certain number of ways of doing things on this immigrant population because we want them to integrate into the French-speaking majority”. So we are going to impose law 96 and law 21, for example.
LD : Where does climate change fit into this divide?
EB: The glue between the two issues is that climate change is also brought about by transformations of the capitalist model, in particular by an increase in production and consumption, which leads to more pollution and an acceleration of climate change. I see this issue more in terms of concerns, because all the parties will say they are in favor of protecting the environment. In the literature on electoral behaviors, we speak of a valence issue, that is to say that everyone agrees on the objective, but where the parties and the voters will differ, c is by the way of achieving the objective, in terms of means and efforts. For example, QS shows it’s their priority, while CAQ says it’s important, but they have other priorities.
LD : To continue in the analysis of the funnel of causality, campaign issues are other determinants of the vote. What would be the main issues for this campaign?
EB: Again, immigration and climate change are the main campaign issues, along with language. The CAQ adopted Bill 96, but the PCQ has the good luck to say that it does not go far enough. Among the parties currently in place, it is they who propose to go the furthest. So that allows them to rally the nationalists and the separatists. The other reason language is a campaign issue is that just before the campaign begins, new census data have been revealed. It shows that the decline of French continues. It is an erosion which is slow but which does not stop.
“Immigration and climate change are the main campaign issues, and to these is added language”
LD : And then, the last determinant of the vote is that of the influence of the leaders of the main parties. How does this factor seem to influence this campaign?
EB : First, Mr. St-Pierre-Plamondon has made himself well known, which has the potential to help his party. Conversely, Ms. Anglade has difficulty asserting herself. I think she’s a good chef with good ideas, but it doesn’t seem to fit as well as we would have liked. For Mr. Legault, we have seen that he is not really a good ” campaign “. I think it was well-loved in 2018, but it wasn’t the campaign of the century in 2018 either, and it looks even more so this year. We feel that he is not so comfortable in the debates and that his record is difficult to defend. I found Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois to be really good during the campaign. It was a bit of a gamble to put him front and center given he’s young, but it’s a pretty successful gamble.
LD : A new element has been added to the Quebec electoral landscape in the current election, namely the rise of the Conservative Party of Quebec. What would be your analysis of his current presence on the political scene?
EB : The Conservative Party is channeling discontent among the fringe of the population who really did not appreciate the role of the state during the pandemic. We are talking about a libertarian pole that Maxime Bernier tried to channel by presenting himself to the federal government. Maybe the chef will help: Éric Duhaime seems more articulate, better posed, more serious. Most health measures during the pandemic were also adopted by provincial governments. It can be a force of attraction that will lead Mr. Duhaime’s supporters to vote in this provincial election.
LD : To conclude, in your book, you claim that the 2018 election is a realignment election. According to your predictions, how would you categorize the 2022 election?
EB : It has the potential to be a confirmation election that could strengthen this new alignment of partisan forces. I would say that the question of the identity of the real opposition to the CAQ remains. There are elements that point to QS, but at the same time, it doesn’t feel like QS is going to emerge that strongly yet.
The 2022 election would therefore be an election that confirms the trend towards a transformation of electoral behavior around new ideological divisions, abandoning the sovereignty/federalism axis for issues such as immigration and the environment. However, it is not quite yet an election that will crystallize these new partisan forces.
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An election that confirms the realignment of partisan forces? – The offense
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