Say It Ain’t So, André!
Very surprising news! Acknowledged by many as the front runner in the leadership contest for the vacant job of Leader of the Québec Liberal Party, André Fortin announced that, for family reasons, he was withdrawing from the leadership race. It may very well be the first time in Québec’s political history that the favourite in a leadership contest for a major political party has withdrawn on his own accord.
The 37-year old Quyon-born Fortin was first elected in the general election of April 7th, 2014 as the Member of the National Assembly for Pontiac and re-elected in the general election of October 1st, 2018. His youth has led to comparisons with the late Robert Bourassa, first elected as the MNA for Mercier in the general election of June 5th, 1966 at the tender age of 32 years old, and becoming Premier of Québec leading a majority government at the age of 37. Bourassa served as Premier for fifteen years from 1970 until 1976 and from 1985 until 1994.
The affable and popular André Fortin served as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance from 2016 until 2017, and as Minister of Transport, Sustainable Mobility, and Transport Electrification from 2017 until 2018. He now serves as Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance, and is the Official Opposition Critic for Health, Public Health, and Regional Vitality.
Fortin’s departure from the leadership race seems to leave an open road for the 45-year old Montréal-born mother of three, Dominique Anglade, Member for Saint-Henri Sainte-Anne. She was first elected in a by-election on November 9th, 2015, and re-elected in the 2018 general election. Anglade served as Minister of Economy, Science, and Innovation, and responsible for the Digital Strategy. She was the Deputy Premier of Québec from 2017 until 2018. Dominique now serves as Vice-Chair of the Committee on Institutions, and is a Member of the Committee on Labour and the Economy. She is also the Official Opposition Critic on the Economy and Immigration.
Anglade faces a very daunting challenge if she becomes Liberal leader. Recent opinion polls repeatedly show la Coalition avenir Québec majority government doubling the support of the Official Opposition Liberals. The Second Opposition Group Québec solidaire and the Third Opposition Group Le Parti Québécois continue to divide the sovereignist vote trying to avoid being the cellar-dweller.
Dominique must, if she accepts “le défi”, travel the four corners of the province during the next three years to increase the francophone support from single digits in the regions and major metropolitan areas. Present support for the Québec Liberal Party remains its captive audience – anglophones and allophones. It remains impossible to form a government – majority or minority – without substantial francophone support.
All of the above results in the following “Elephant in the Corner” question: Will the opportunities to become the Liberal Leader and eventually the Premier of Québec present themselves again in four years for the then 41-year old André Fortin, and what would his answer then be?