Bill 62 looms large over the result, and the Conservatives missed an opportunity to stand with the vast majority of Quebeckers on the issue of face-veiling.
With the Liberals taking a seat from the Conservatives in the Quebec byelection in Lac-Saint-Jean, (the Conservatives won big in Alberta) the Trudeau government has demonstrated that they still retain a strong base in Canada’s second largest province. Yet, it didn’t have to be that way.
Bill 62, the face-veiling ban loomed large over the race, and the way it was handled by the Conservatives represents a huge missed opportunity for them. As we know, the vast majority of Canadians support legislation like Bill 62, and it has massive support in Quebec (87%). Trudeau was weakly evasive on it, while Andrew Scheer didn’t seem to want to talk about it. Meanwhile, Jagmeet Singh said it was against human rights.
Had the Conservatives issued expressions of support for Bill 62, they would have done much better in the Quebec byelection and they could have used it as the launching point to weaken the Liberals in a provincial stronghold Trudeau can’t afford to lose. After all, Quebec is acting in support of the basic ideas behind the culture of the Western world, and the Conservatives should be willing to stand 100% behind those principles.
But for now, the Liberal strategy of running a strong local candidate, and using evasive messaging on Bill 62 seemed to work.
The NDP will also be asking itself some very tough questions. Jagmeet Singh seems willing to abandon many of his Quebec MPs by embracing an agenda in line with far left social justice warriors. However, while Quebec often embraces social democratic economic policies, they are far more willing to defend western cultural norms than the out-of-touch elites in the rest of Canada. By ignoring that fact, Singh is leaving his Quebec MPs with no political cover, and many of them will be questioning whether to even run again in 2019.
While it’s important not to read too much into the two byelections, there are a few key takeaways:
- 2015 looks like the high-water mark for the Liberals in the West. After they made gains in 2015, some thought they would soon challenge the Conservatives, even in Alberta. But two years of high-taxes, big government, and policies that have killed billions of dollars in energy industry investment make it clear that the Liberals are on a downward trend in the West.
- Jagmeet Singh is willing to sacrifice Quebec to gain seats in Ontario and Alberta. There were already questions about Jagmeet Singh’s appeal in Quebec, and his position on Bill 62 combined with the terrible byelection result (NDP vote down almost 17% points) will only deepened those questions. It seems Singh is willing to lose votes in Quebec in order to try and take votes from the Liberals in Ontario and BC.
- The Conservative base is rock-solid, but they still face big challenges. The huge win in Alberta, and their ability to maintain a decent amount of their vote in Quebec shows that their base remains solid. Yet, the huge shift from the NDP to the Liberals in Quebec is exactly what the Trudeau government is counting on to win a second majority. To stop that from happening on a larger scale in 2019, the Conservatives will need to get tough – embracing policies like Bill 62 in Quebec, and deepening their support with working class Canadians. Otherwise, the Conservatives could win 35% of the vote in the 2019 and still lose to Trudeau if the NDP remains weak and the Liberals hold much of their base.
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