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After 33 days of election campaigning from one end of the province to the other, new lows in mudslinging and one surprise after another, Quebecers on Monday go to the polls in a general election.
In all, about six million people in 125 ridings are eligible to cast ballots. Many have already.
Monday, the rest get their chance in what will be Quebec’s 41st general election.
It should be a great day for voting. The weather forecast calls for sunny skies and 12 C in Montreal and sunny and 7 C in Quebec City.
Elections don’t come cheap. By the time all the bills are in, this one it will cost taxpayers about $88 million. That’s up from the $75 million in the 2012 election.
That election produced a minority Parti Québécois government, which has lasted 19 months, about the norm for such administrations. The last minority government in Quebec was in 2007. Prior to that there had not been once since 1878.
The 2012 election was notable for one other reason: it was the first time Quebecers elected a woman premier, Pauline Marois, who fulfilled a lifelong dream of leading the province.
It ended Liberal Leader Jean Charest’s hold on power. Charest would be defeated in his home riding and resign as leader of the Liberal party shortly after.
But voters in 2012 did not give Marois free rein.
With 32 per cent of the vote, compared with 31 per cent for the Liberals and 27 per cent for the CAQ, Marois was far from the numbers she needed to launch the PQ’s plans for a sovereignty referendum.
The day after, she admitted that plan was going nowhere with such a result.
The opposition held back and blocked other PQ dreams, such as beefing up the Charter of the French Language — a bill died on the order papers for lack of consensus — and a charter of secular values, which never got beyond the committee stage.
In both cases, the government dug in its heels faced with opposition calls to compromise. Consensus was elusive; mistrust, acrimony and crass politics ruled.
While MNAs boxed, the economy sagged.
When Marois crossed the street in Quebec City on March 5 to ask Lt.-Gov. Pierre Duchesne to dissolve the 40th legislature and send the people to the polls, frustration was on her lips.
“We have a plan and a team to implement this plan,” Marois told reporters standing in the lobby of her office.
“Unfortunately, the Liberal and caquistes have only one goal: block this plan.”
She held no news conference to further explain the reasons for the election, a move that would later haunt her as voters in many cases failed to grasp her motivation.
At dissolution, the PQ held 54 seats, the Liberals 49, the CAQ 18 and Québec solidaire two.
What ensued was a roller-coaster of a campaign as politicians picked up where they left off in the legislature on the election trail.
By the end, it was described by many as one of the meanest and ugliest campaigns seen in years in Quebec.
Things got personal and there were no bounds with the leaders forced to make public their income tax reports to fend off the integrity monster that raised its head almost every day.
The Charbonneau Commission looking into allegations of corruption and collusion shut down, a move that sparked new conspiracy theories about what other political misdemeanours it will reveal in the future.
Early polling data had the Liberals and PQ neck-and-neck and the CAQ trailing, followed by an increase in CAQ support after the second televised debate in which CAQ Leader François Legault outperformed his opponents.
By this past weekend, polls were describing a three-way race with no way of telling who would win — perhaps even another minority government.
The result depends on the performance of the two smaller parties, the CAQ and Québec solidaire, on Monday.
On the Sunday political panels — on radio and television — pundits held their tongues when asked to predict the outcome, while on the campaign trail the leaders nervously ended their efforts saying they were hoping for the best.
Source National Post