Saint-Laurent (Quebec) by-election 2010
A provincial by-election in the Quebec provincial constituency of Saint-Laurent was held on September 13, 2010 following the resignation of Liberal MNA and former Public Security Minister Jacques Dupuis. Premier Jean Charest was very quick in scheduling this election, most likely because it is a safe seat for the Liberal Party where he didn’t risk anything calling it quickly.
Covering Ville Saint-Laurent, a lower middle-class heavily immigrant neighborhood of central northwestern Montreal. Though it was historically far more Francophone, immigration in recent years has made this seat one of Quebec’s most multicultural ridings, with 41.5% of visible minorities, 48.4% immigrants and 51.4% of the voters having a mother tongue other than French or English. Arabs, especially Lebanese, are the most important minority in Saint-Laurent. Predictably, Saint-Laurent is one of the Liberal Party’s safest seats in the province (though obviously not the safest, if you know the other seats in the West Island), and has been held by the Liberals its 1966 creation, and always by rather crushing margins. Indeed, the party’s vote fell under 70% only in 2007, 1989 (when the Equality Party pulled 24%), 1976 (when the UN polled 23.1%, in the UN’s year of appeal to Anglophones) and 1966. It is quite telling that Saint-Laurent is where Premier Robert Bourassa ran in 1986 after losing his seat in the 1985 election. Recent immigration has only tightened the Liberal grip on this seat, and also led to a constant decline of the PQ’s vote since the 1980s. In 2008, Dupuis polled 74.39% to the PQ’s 16.65% and the ADQ’s 4.79%.
An immigrant-heavy area is a perfect recipe for low turnout, and in fact turnout in 2008 was a paltry 40.89%, though turnout was well above 50% in 2007 and above 60% in 2003 and before then. If there was one reason to care about this by-election, it was to see how pathetically low turnout would be.
The Liberal candidate was former provincial cabinet minister and Châteauguay MNA (between 1994 and 2007) Jean-Marc Fournier, the PQ candidate was Philippe Leclerc, the ADQ’s candidate was Jose Fiorilo (his third run), the QS candidate was Marie Josèphe Pigeon while the Green candidate was Tim Landry. Jose Fiorilo, the ADQ’s paper candidate, got some press after he managed to get the endorsement of the Montreal Gazette, which was counted as a major blow to the Liberals. That being said, a Liberal win here was never much in doubt, and the only real question was whether the Liberals would get over 65% or 70% of the vote.
Jean-Marc Fournier (Liberal) 64.01% (-10.38%)
Philippe Leclerc (PQ) 17.93% (+1.28%)
Jose Fiorilo (ADQ) 8.36% (+3.57%)
Marie Josèphe Pigeon (QS) 5.08% (+1.61%)
Tim Landry (Green) 4.61%
The Liberals did extremely poorly (in the context of the constituency), winning their lowest share of the vote since the riding’s 1966 creation (excluding the ‘unusual’ elections of 1989 and 1976). Such a swing repeated in the context of a general election would endanger a fair number of Liberal seats and the party could even risk being reduced to its safest seats only. That being said, this riding itself is one of the worst barometers for predicting a province-wide election. Turnout is significantly below provincial average, the party’s strength is significantly different and the demographics are quite at odds with the provincial demographics. A by-election in a safe seat can breed a more significant bleeding of votes away from the governing party to smaller parties, something which is not repeated in an election.
Yet, this riding could be a fair barometer for Quebec’s Anglophone and Allophone seats. The results show that while the anti-Liberal mood is as pronounced in Anglophone and Allophone areas, the Liberal Party’s strongest demographic, though not to the point of indicating a drastic change in these voters’ allegiance. That being said, while the Liberals suffer a massive swing against them, it does not benefit the PQ, which is unsurprising, but rather benefits the ADQ, Greens and to a much smaller extent QS. Obviously, the ADQ’s strong showing, comparatively, could be explained partly by the rather high-profile endorsement it got from the Gazette and it would probably be a bad idea to interpret this as a direct PLQ-ADQ swing in the West Island (though one is possible, given how Anglos and Allophones won’t vote PQ). If anything, it’s the Greenies who stand to benefit the most from a major swing away from the Liberals in these type of seats given that they already have a strong base with wealthier Anglophone voters and could get a fair number of votes from dissatisfied Liberals who still won’t vote PQ.