Canada's Quebec Swings Right in Shocking Electoral Upset

Alex Hall | October 2, 2018
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In what many consider to be a stunning turn of events, famously left-leaning Canada has had a major electoral upset with Quebec's Coalition Avenir Quebec, led by businessman Francois Legault, ousting Philippe Couillard's Liberals. 

“It’s a landslide, and a surprise,” said Hugo Cyr, Universite du Quebec a Montreal's dean of the school of political science and law. “In a fight between the CAQ and the Liberals, those who were looking for a change went to the CAQ.”

As MRCTV covered in a previous article, part of what made this election so unique in the region's history is that cultural identity and concerns over immigration seemed to replace civic separatism as the core issue.

"Young Quebecers are less attuned to independence, so the old nationalist discourse on sovereignty is not as strong," said Chedly Belkhodja, a Concordia University's School of Community and Public Affairs professor. "The big questions now are about identity and what Quebec will look like."

Young Quebecers aren't as interested in the independence of Quebec as a state, so much as Quebec's identity as a nation of shared history and values among a people and those most able to integrate with them. The position is contrasted with the modern Scottish or Northern Irish independence movements who want to be entirely independent from the UK as a state, but allow open borders with the EU that would erode their national culture over time. 

The flagship initiative of Francois Legault's rising party was to severely curb immigration levels by 10,000, and then deport any new residents who failed an exam ensuring they were learning French and adapting to Quebec's local culture and values within three years of their entry to the province. 

Vice News was refreshingly blunt about how the ruling Liberal party had been complacent and out-of-touch with what many young Quebecers want from their government, reporting:

"Finally, if this is indeed the end of a long Liberal reign, we should at least acknowledge that in spite of the moral panic around immigration and refugees, Philippe Couillard chose to campaign on increasing the number of immigrants to Quebec. Those people who are paid to advise him no doubt begged Couillard to do otherwise, but the outgoing premier opted defend his vision of an open and welcoming Quebec..."

This, of course reflects a large trend across America and the rest of the the western world, with a rise of populism and national identity concerns in the wake of the "socially-liberal, fiscally conservative" mindset that characterized the Centrism of the Bill Clinton and George Bush eras. Open borders and mass migration policies are being increasingly critiqued as hurting local workers by flooding the market with cheap labor, lowering social-trust/societal cohesion, and causing the loss of a shared cultural identity.

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