Why the Jean-Talon by-election in Quebec City is one to watch
A woman votes at a polling station in Quebec City, Monday, October 3, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
With the sudden departure of Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) MNA Joelle Boutin, voters in Quebec City's Jean-Talon riding will return to the polls to choose a representative.
But the outcome of this by-election is difficult to predict.
Voting intentions in the Quebec City region have shifted considerably in recent months. With the CAQ's decision to bail on the third-link project, François Legault has lost some supporters.
The last two Léger polls, published in May and June, place the PQ at the top of voting intentions in Quebec City.
For pollster Philippe J. Fournier, there's a risk of seeing votes transfer from the CAQ to the Parti Québecois (PQ).
"Disappointed CAQ voters won't flock to Québec solidaire (QS). They'll either stay home or go back to the PQ," Fournier told The Canadian Press.
Current Qc125 poll projections place the PQ, QS and CAQ in a statistical tie in Jean-Talon.
Therefore, the division of the vote is likely to be significant and could create some surprises.
"Maybe 32 to 33 per cent of the vote will be enough to win in Jean-Talon because of the vote split," said Fournier.
VOTERS FOR ALL PARTIES
Citizens generally vote less in by-elections than in general elections; the overall average turnout in the last 10 by-elections was 37 per cent.
However, Jean-Talon voters seem more motivated; the average turnout for the last three by-elections in this riding was 48 per cent.
A higher turnout could change the strategies of political parties, which
must try hard to draw the vote of their respective electorates to win by-elections.
Another factor to consider is Jean-Talon's demographics.
"We have a riding with people who have a fairly high level of education and therefore potentially have more progressive concerns," said political strategy professor Emmanuel Choquette from the Université de Sherbrooke.
Forty-eight per cent of Jean-Talon's population holds a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to 24 per cent for Quebec as a whole.
"Jean-Talon's demographics are a mix of fairly well-off people who live in the Sillery district. There are students around Laval University. Part of Sainte-Foy is also a good demographic mix," said Philippe J. Fournier.
"I think each of the main parties can find an electoral base."
The average income of Jean-Talon households with two people or more is $133,000, while the average in Quebec at large is $116,000.
CAN THE PQ WIN?
"When we look at the polls, the PQ could, at this time, be in a position to take the riding," said Emmanuel Coquette.
This may seem surprising, given that Jean-Talon was a Quebec Liberal Party (QLP) stronghold until the CAQ's Joëlle Boutin in 2019.
But the riding has almost fallen to the PQ before.
In 1994, Liberal candidate Margaret F. Delisle narrowly won by just over 25 votes over the PQ's Diane Lavallée. A similar scenario played out in 1998, when the QLP retained the riding by just over 156 votes over the PQ.
The possibility of the PQ taking the riding from the CAQ is therefore not completely out of the question, and PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon knows it.
The PQ opened fire on social media Thursday, less than 24 hours after Boutin's resignation, stating they wanted to "beat the CAQ in Quebec City."
As for Québec solidaire, candidate Olivier Boldum came second for Jean-Talon in the last election with 24 per cent of the votes.
While this is a good score, Philippe J. Fournier doubts the party's chances in the by-election.
"I don't think they have what it takes to win this riding, but they have what it takes to have a good piece of it," he said.
Olivier Bolduc said he's considering running again in Jean-Talon.
Meanwhile, although Éric Duhaime's Conservative Party (CPQ) achieved its best results in Quebec City on Oct. 3, his chances of winning in Jean-Talon are slim.
In the previous election, CPQ candidate Sébastien Clavet obtained just 10 per cent of the vote.
By comparison, the CPQ scored 30 per cent or more of votes in other Quebec ridings like Chaveau, Bellechasse, Portneuf and La Peltrie.
"The PCQ has lost some feathers since the election. It has lost some in Quebec City. I don't see it as a big player," said Fournier.
But Duhaime is not closing the door on running in Jean-Talon.
The QLP is also facing a difficult task, even though the riding is historically red. Two Léger polls give the party 6 and 7 per cent in the Quebec City region, and its support among Francophones is anemic.
The provincial government has six months to call a by-election following the departure of a MNA. The estimated cost of such an election is $585,000. This will be the fourth by-election in Jean-Talon since 2008.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on July 22, 2023.