I have always lived in electorally safe Liberal ridings.
In 2011, when the Orange Wave was sweeping Toronto, my MP's seat was safe enough that she campaigned in British Columbia ("we have to stop Harper," was her justification for spending time away from the riding during an election.)
The last Ontario election was the same: another painfully safe Liberal candidate winning his painfully safe Liberal riding.
I moved to Québec permanently in June. Within a month of my move, the date was set for a fall provincial election.
I'd soon discover what it's like to live in the midst of a real electoral fight.
I now live in the riding of Taschereau, which consists of Québec City's downtown. It includes the old city, the National Assembly, working class and gentrified neighbourhoods and the cultural and tech centres of the city.
Taschereau has been held by Parti Québecois MNA Agnès Maltais since 1998. As one of just two ridings in Québec City held by the PQ, the Liberals are eager to win the seat back.
From the beginning, Taschereau was going to be a battleground.
The Liberals dropped Clément Gignac into Taschereau from his Montreal riding of Marguerite-Bourgeoys. Gignac is the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry and the Minister responsible for the controversial Plan Nord. At the beginning of the election, it was hoped that his popularity would help unseat the PQ in Taschereau.
That gamble isn't likely to pay off. The Liberal presence in Taschereau is muted. I had to press my nose to the office window of the Gignac campaign to see if it was actually their office. Instead, it looks like the local pet shop is supporting the Liberals.
Their office was also victimized by a can of red spray paint, which also hit a few banks and blank walls in the neighbourhood, demanding that the people of Québec wake up to the injustices around them, and support a Québec Libre.
Threatening Liberal seats across Québec City is the Coalition Avenir du Québec. The unfortunately abbreviated CAQ is polling ahead of the Liberals and PQ in Québec City, and relying on their city-wide popularity to pull ahead in Taschereau.
As the CAQ siphons off votes from the Liberals on the right, the PQ are facing a threat of their own on the left. Québec Solidaire has eked out support from many people who once supported the PQ, and young people who have been politicized by the student strike. Their promise of a new kind of politics and the success of co-leader Françoise David in the televised debate has increased their visibility and viability.
Serge Roy is the QS' best hope of winning a seat in Québec City. He's the former president of the Québec public service employees’ union (Syndicat de la fonction publique du Québec) and this is his third time running in Taschereau. At a round-table hosted by his campaign on neo-liberalism, the packed room listened and cheered for Roy as he outlined his criticisms of neo-liberal governments, including the last PQ government, and how he believes Québec should invest in public services rather than implementing austerity measures.
His campaigning style has included Sunday bike rallies through the riding and 15 minute discussions that held on busy street corners.
It's not surprising that the PQ has encouraged Quebecers to vote "strategically." QS is a legitimate threat in Taschereau, which is a rare example of a genuinely four way race in this election.
Whether or not the scare tactics implicit in the cries for "strategic" voting will work will only be seen on September 4.
During the October 2011 Ontario election, I biked through the riding of Davenport every day. It was clear that the NDP was going to win that riding for the first time ever. There were streets where the only signs on lawns were for NDP candidate Jonah Schein.
In Taschereau, there are few signs, mostly affixed by the parties to public spaces. There is no sign war. It's impossible to determine who will come out ahead judging by the streets alone.
Since the last election, Taschereau had its boundaries changed, making predictions about the outcome even harder.
On election night, watch Taschereau and keep your eye on Québec Solidaire.
Update: A Segma-le Soleil telephone poll released on August 29 places the PQ support in Taschereau at 41 per cent, the Liberals at 19 per cent and QS tied with the CAQ at 16 per cent.
Nora Loreto is a writer, musician and activist based in Québec City. She is mid-way through a Master's in Education Foundations at the University of Saskatchewan. She is formerly the Editor-in-Chief of the Ryerson Free Press and the Communications and Government Relations Coordinator for the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario. Nora's music can be heard here: www.soundcloud.ca/nora-loreto and her blog is at www.noraloreto.ca
Photo: Alexandre Claude/Quebec Solidaire/Flickr
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