The Quebec Liberals have been in power for most of the last 15 years and are closing out their first term under the leadership of Phillipe Couillard.
Aware of the public-opinion perils from being in power for too long, the Liberals have been trying to straddle the line between promoting their leadership record and offering something new. Part of this plan has been to refresh their line-up of candidates, with many long-serving MNAs being replaced by a younger, more diverse group of politicians.
With Francois Legault’s CAQ leading most polls, there’s still work to be done in convincing Quebecers to give Couillard a second term.
The last five years
The story of the last years started with a sweeping majority election win by the Liberals. After a brief stint in power, the Parti Québécois were ousted in a 2014 landslide, bringing Couillard and the Liberals back into power.
The subsequent chapters were mainly focused on the budget and budget cuts. By the time the new Liberal government took power in 2014, the provincial budget deficit was building towards $6 billion in debt and there were talks of credit-rating problems.
So the Liberals made a choice to put their eggs in one election-promise shaped basket: balancing the budget.
It was risky but it paid off. Thanks to increased taxes and difficult budget cuts to important programs, the budget was balanced and Quebec now enjoys a rare surplus to play with. But this came at a cost. Decreased funding to big programs like health care and education have left the Liberals vulnerable to attacks in this election cycle.
“Pour faciliter la vie des Québécois” or “to facilitate the lives of Quebecers.” Not exactly the most exciting of election platforms. But the devil is in the details, and here are some of them:
After four balanced budgets in five years, the Liberals are promising four more years of positive cash flow.
The current budget surplus allows them to pledge $440 million on entrepreneurial investment, $25 million to provide more French lessons and integration for immigrants, and increase health care spending by 4.2%.
Other highlights include an increase in education spending, a plan to elevate high school graduation rates by 20% and hire 1,500 education professionals. There are also plans for increased school services for students with special needs, increased access to family doctors, and a pledge to accept between 49,000 and 53,000 new immigrants in 2018.
On the environment, the Liberal party has plans to spend an additional $2.9 billion on sustainable mobility, support cap-and-trade, enforce environmental regulations and impose fines, and increase industrial royalties for water use. Couillard’s platform also promises to allocate 1% of Quebec’s infrastructure budget (equivalent to $100 million) on green projects.
Most of this campaign saw the CAQ in the lead, but recent polls show the Liberals gaining ground. With over 50% of voters still undecided, things are still very much up for grabs.