François Legault, trying to close the deal

Paul Wells explains why it’s a peculiar moment for the leader of upstart party


I pointed the Inklessmobile toward Montreal today and two hours later I was at the outskirts of the great city. An hour after that I was downtown, having spent most of the intervening time parked on the Décarie Autoroute. I caught up with François Legault at a cocktail reception for supporters of his upstart Coalition Avenir Québec party. He gave a short speech and leapt into the crowd to shake hands, at which point I took this relatively good Instagram photo:

He was not in fact doing his Fonzie impression. Onward. It’s a peculiar moment for Legault, the former Parti Québécois cabinet minister who’s formed a vaguely centre-right party that hopes to appeal to people who are fed up with the old fights. What’s happening is that he seems to be succeeding — but perhaps not enough. The front-running PQ is stable or dipping slightly, the Liberals are wilting especially among francophone voters, and Legault is gaining — but he’ll need to pick up the pace of those gains if he’s to close the distance that separates him from Pauline Marois’s PQ. And with the debates behind, there’s not much anyone can do to change the race’s momentum.

Legault does what he can. Today he gave interviews to two English-language news outlets; tomorrow he’ll be phoning in to popular English radio morning man Terry DiMonte’s show. He’s playing a long shot here: that a former separatist rising star can peel away enough anglophone and allophone voters to — well, it seems nutty even to finish that sentence. What? Take Westmount from the eternal Liberal incumbent Jacques Chagnon?

Can’t win if you don’t play. He added a brief coda in English to a stump speech that was otherwise empty cheering (“We have six days left before we start cleaning things up”). The English bit was an attempt to reassure non-francophone voters: “Sovereignists, federalists, forget that,” he said with a wave of his hand. “We’ll be together and we’ll be proud to be Quebecers.”

Legault will, by late Thursday morning, have had enough of playing the long odds and head back out to where the CAQ has the most growth potential:  Quebec City, Saguenay, and the North and South suburbs of Montreal. I would recount the day’s assorted gaffes and mishaps in every party’s campaign, but suffice it to say that nobody is running a flawless campaign or anything close. The stakes are too high, the outcome too hard to predict. It’s a raggedy-assed, unlovely campaign, but it’s fascinating to watch, and I’ll be in and around Montreal for the rest of it.


François Legault, trying to close the deal

  1. I didn’t have much of an opinion about Legault one way or the other, that is until he threatened to use the NWC in order to curb an exodus of precisely two doctors net as far as i could gather.
    What is it about politics in Quebec[Charest and liberals included] that makes them resort to such bizarre theatrics? Plenty of time for him to take that one back i guess – or maybe it wont be commented on there at all? Does it look as nutty from the inside – as it does to me anyway – from the outside?
    Marois, Legault or Charest…pity the poor punter in la belle province these days.
    Edit: One thing Legault seems to have going for him; no matter how weird or over the top he or his campaign may get, Marois is more than a match for him.


    On the other hand i could be very wrong.

    • Can you elaborate on the threat to use the NWC for doctor exodus curbing? Didn’t see anything about that. TIA.

        • Well, that article does make it sound like amateur hour. Not to mention he sounds only somewhat less hardline on English than Marois. Sigh.

      • Legault said ” If the doctors don’t agree to stay for five years , he would be forced to use the NWC ! for myself i thought that rather drastic, better to find out why they need to go .. Not that their is anything unusual in that. Perhaps they find living here sickening (??) Better to use a little “honey” . This is not a police state (Yet)

    • You know, Quebec has become very liberal in their comments, Anything goes, the end justifies the means, “If i don’t get what i want Now , i will make your life unbearable until i do . Like the Nazis. Marois is a prime example . she dosn’t care who she hurts . Supream commader of the “Elite race” who’s culture and language overides everyone else. How did that happen ???

  2. Bienvenue à bord du dernier droit excitant et fascinant en effet. Mais la CAQ a une bien maigre équipe. Seul Legault a exerçé le pouvoir comme ministre. Avec seulement quelques autres ex-députés d’arrière-banc dans une opposition ou une autre, son parti ne peut gouverner pour le moment.
    Il trouvait le PQ trop lent pour un rèfèrendum et démissionna en 2009, fatigué d’être dans l’opposition. Ce brusque virage à droite suscite beaucoup de méfiance. Cette soif du pouvoir à tout prix peut lui jouer des tours.
    A part faire le ménage dans tout, il n’a su à date, expliquer ses solutions pour bousculer toutes les structures.
    Depuis janvier, sa réponse fut souvent “On verra”. ¨Ça lui est resté collé comme une gomme au soulier.

  3. Welcome. And to quote Yogi Berra, nobody drives on the Décarie anymore. It’s too crowded.

  4. Que pols all look like they explaining sandwiches – was Legault asked about Isaac and he’s talking about a tasty po’ boy he had a few months ago in New Orleans?

  5. The problem with quebec politics ( and i think every quebec citizen who are not CEO or associated with the Liberal party or a bank owner will agree) is that since rene levesque, we have to elect the lesser evil, and not the best··· we have no best… Seeking the lesser of two or three or even four evils is trying. Who will screw us less this time??? Only time will tell but let me tell you something. I am scared. Really scared.

    • Dear Jean-François, I don’t where you were in the last 15 years, but PQ with B. Landry, and Mrs. Marois, developp one of the best multi media video of the world to name one,and she developp CPE ( child gardering) and Congé parental ( parent well-care ). Now you have choice to continu that way or going for the Wizard novice!

      • And the rest of Canada sends money to pay for it. Good trick!

      • absulutely ! Not enough money being generated for all these freebees. I understand a third of the province is on wellfare, some of them third generation1 wow ! one wonders how long this can go on ?

    • i feel for you.,, trouble is sometimes the “underdog ‘ can exibit dangerous tendencis when cornered, and i don’t mean the french.

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