[Chronique de Konrad Yakabuski] The old people’s party

Since the 1970s, age has remained one of the most determining attributes in the vote of Quebecers. In the elections of 1970, 1973 and 1976, the Parti Québécois had its fill of votes among 18-34 year olds, while the Liberal Party of Quebec benefited of the support of those aged 55 and over, a cohort that previously leaned towards the Union Nationale. The PQ then invited young people to dream of independence, while the PLQ advocated stability by warning Quebecers against the risks and perils of the sovereigntist adventure. In other words, it was as if the PLQ were accusing the PQ of playing in wonderland and the PQ was responding by calling on the PLQ to put away their Halloween decorations and stop scaring people.

It was the same throughout the 1980s and 1990s, until the PQ began to show signs of loss of generational momentum, starting in the 2000s. When the dreams of young people began to focus on other issues than sovereignty, the PQ has ceased to be their party. Of course, during the 2012 elections, many young people turned to the PQ to stop the increase in tuition fees proposed by the PLQ. But for several years now, the PQ has not succeeded in mobilizing Quebec youth behind its project, and it is Québec solidaire that has since reaped the best scores among young people.

According to the Léger poll of September 20, QS obtained the support of 36% of 18-34 year olds, or more than three times the 11% of voters in this cohort who said they intended to vote for the PQ. The Coalition avenir Québec enjoyed the support of 21% of young people, well below its score of 38% among the electorate as a whole. The CAQ downgraded the PLQ among those aged 55 and over, with 50% in the voting intentions, compared to 17% who supported the Liberals. As for QS, only 8% of Quebecers aged 55 and over said they intended to vote for the progressive party. Polls conducted by the Toronto firm Mainstreet Research confirm this split by age among the Quebec electorate since the start of the campaign.

This clash of generations essentially explains why we are witnessing, in the home stretch of the election campaign, an increasingly obvious dialogue of the deaf between the CAQ and QS. The two parties are no longer at the stage of persuasion. One week before the vote, they have moved on to the stage of mobilizing convinced voters.

This is how the co-spokesperson for QS, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, multiplies the calls for young people to vote in what he describes as a « last chance for climate change » election and accuses the leader of the CAQ, François Legault, of « we [faire] crash into the climate wall”. QS relies on a platform essentially focused on the fight against climate change, ignoring the consequences of these policies on the economy.

Mr. Legault summons Mr. Nadeau-Dubois to say how many QS businesses intend to close to achieve its greenhouse gas reduction objectives and deplores the obsession of young Quebecers for environmental issues , at the expense of educational issues. But his comments are not aimed at reaching young people; it is rather to the old, reputed to be more conservative and who vote in greater numbers than the young, that the CAQ leader addresses.

Even the Conservative Party of Quebec would not be conservative enough for people aged 55 and over. According to the same Léger poll, only 8% of voters belonging to this
age cohort intended to vote for the PCQ, whose platform proposes a slimming of the state apparatus and an increase in the private sector in the health sector.

It is the 35-54 year olds, who had largely supported the CAQ in 2018, who are the most likely to want to support the PCQ this time around. This forces Mr. Legault to bet even more on voters aged 55 and over. This is how he urges the leader of the PCQ, Éric Duhaime, to say how many more elderly people he would have been ready to sacrifice during the pandemic in order to free Quebecers from health measures. “Twice as many seniors? Three times as many seniors? Mr. Legault asked his Conservative opponent during the leaders’ debate last Thursday.

For the past few days, Mr. Legault has been citing the threat of an imminent recession as “an additional reason to vote for the CAQ”. This is a variation of the argument favored by Jean Charest,
in 2008, when the latter had pleaded for the need to have “both hands on the wheel” during the economic storm which then hit the North American continent.

This is the type of argument that resonates particularly well with those 55 and older, for whom financial security and economic stability are at the top of their list of priorities. It is therefore not surprising to see Mr. Legault boast
suddenly the merits of federalism, and the 13 billion in equalization payments that it brings to Quebec each year, to strike the final nail in the coffin of the PLQ, which, still according to the CAQ leader, would have » lost the monopoly to be against sovereignty.

After all, it pays to be the party of old people.

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