Quebec: Who Won and Why

The 42nd General Election in Quebec has ended with a new governing party, a difficult road ahead for the Liberals, and renewed questions about the future of the sovereignty issue.

The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) will form a majority government after capturing 37 per cent of the vote in the province. Francois Legault will take over as premier from Liberal leader Philippe Couillard, whose party saw its share of the vote fall from 42 per cent in 2014 to 25 per cent this year.

The Parti Québécois (PQ) was unable to garner the backing of one-in-five voters (17 per cent) and experienced its worst result in history. Québec solidaire increased its seat count in the National Assembly from three to 10 members.

This election was a contest of generations. In the final Research Co. voting intention survey, the incumbent Liberals were the top choice for voters aged 55 and over (36%). Those aged 35-to-54 were more likely to cast a ballot for the CAQ (also 36%). The youngest voters—aged 18-to-34—were enthralled by Québec solidaire (33%).

In spite of their political and ideological differences, all generations agreed that it was time for something new. The sentiment for change among voters in Quebec was 68 per cent in the final poll and was remarkably similar among age groups (69% for Millennials, 66% for Generation X and 69% for Baby Boomers).

The proportion of Quebecers who were ready to see a new party in power is similar to what was observed on the eve of Manitoba’s 2015 provincial election (69%), but lower than the numbers seen in Ontario 2018 (77%) and Alberta 2015 (82%). Only British Columbia (61% in 2017) had a smaller proportion of voters advocating for a change of government.

In this century, Quebec’s “shakeup” elections featured a winning party with just a third of the vote. In 2007, the tenure of Jean Charest and the Liberals barely survived with 33 per cent of the vote. In 2012, 32 per cent of voters favoured the PQ and allowed Pauline Marois to become the first female premier in the province’s history. The 2018 election was different, as the share of the vote for the CAQ was higher than it was for the winning parties in 2007 and 2012.

The Research Co. “Exit Poll” asked Quebecers who cast a ballot in the provincial contest about their main motivations. As has been customary in previous Canadian elections, most voters across the province are moved by “the party’s ideas and policies” (43%), followed by “the party’s leader” (19%) and a “desire for change” (17%). Analyzing the motivations by party outlines some of the reasons for the success of the soon-to-be-governing party.

Among CAQ voters, 34 per cent say “desire for change” was their main motivation—a significantly higher proportion than what is reported by other opposition supporters. “Ideas and policies” is a close second (33%), followed by “the party’s leader” at 21 per cent. The CAQ was regarded as the vehicle for change, and it was successful in courting voters who previously favoured the Liberals or the PQ.

Liberal voters clearly had a good connection with outgoing premier Couillard (24% say “the party’s leader” was the main motivation for their vote). A larger proportion voted based on “ideas and policies” (39%), and one-in-five (20%) expressed a “desire for stability”.

For PQ supporters, “ideas and policies” was the main motivator (50%), followed by “the party’s leader” (17%) and “desire for change” (16%). On both of the latter indicators, the PQ ranks lower than the CAQ. Sovereignty was not a ballot issue this time around, and the PQ clearly lost votes to other contenders. The party has four years to decide where it goes, with a significantly reduced caucus and in search of a new leader.

Finally, Québec solidaire successfully attracted young voters. A whopping 67 per cent of their supporters say they cast a ballot based on “ideas and policies”, with “desire for change” (12%) and “disgust with other parties” (11%) rounding up the top three reasons. In spite of the victories, there is a dark cloud: only five per cent of Québec solidaire voters say “the party’s leader” was the main motivator for their vote.


Credit: Christophe Pinot