Dominique Anglade, a Canadian-Haitian who leads the Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) and Official Opposition of Quebec, is on the ballot Oct. 3. She faces multiple challenges as the first Black woman and the first person of Haitian descent to become premier
By Ruolz Ariste, Ph.D.
The Quebec provincial (state) election will be held Oct. 3. Among the candidates is Dominique Anglade, a Canadian-Haitian who is the current leader of the Quebec Liberal Party—PLQ (center-right) and leader of the Official Opposition of Quebec. She is the first woman to lead the Quebec Liberal Party, the first Black woman to lead a provincial party in Quebec, and the first person of Haitian descent to be a cabinet minister in Canada. She is the daughter of the respected academic Georges Anglade.
While she’s running a relentless campaign, she’s facing many challenges. At the start of the campaign, her party counted 109 candidates over a total of 125 ridings. This means she didn’t manage to fill up all the ridings at the start, which is unusual for a major political party. Several withdrawals happened during the weeks preceding the launch of the campaign on Aug. 28, though various scenarios have been in play for these potential candidates. In a recent poll, 13% of Quebec voters living in the Greater Montreal Area said Anglade is the best person to be premier.
Could Anglade’s campaign be running out of steam, and what would be the underlying reasons?
Three possible reasons for a challenging campaign
Firstly, the PLQ was weakened by a few scandals during its almost 15 years in power (2003-2012 and 2014-2018), namely charges of systemic corruption in the construction industry and favoritism. In the last election in 2018, the party managed to win only 31 seats out of the 125. Any party leader who inherited such a legacy would have a lot of work to do.
Secondly, as previously mentioned, Anglade is the first Black woman to lead a provincial party in Quebec. This comes with its own set of challenges that don’t take time to emerge. She opposes François Legault, the premier of Quebec (equivalent to state governor) and the incumbent candidate. On the first day of the campaign, Legault referred to his PLQ counterpart and opponent as “cette madame’’ (that lady). The hashtag “madamegate” has then appeared on social media. Legault set himself the goal of not naming Anglade, nor any of the opposition party leaders by their name, during his media outings for the election campaign. Then, the expression “that lady” came to his mind. Anglade judged that Legault had disrespected her by calling her other than by her name.
Later, Legault admitted his blunder saying he could have referred to Anglade by her title as leader of the PLQ. If his expression cannot be clearly perceived as racial discrimination and/or misogynism, it is paternalistic, condescending, and even macho. The situation can be characterized as a case of microaggression, or at the very least unconscious bias, if this was not calculated. It is not a far stretch to extrapolate this mindset of unconscious bias to the general Quebec population, which could influence voting behavior or pattern.
Thirdly, the economic environment has significantly improved in Quebec. The unemployment rate is at 4.1%, remaining close to its record low (3.9%) and among the lowest of all Canadian provinces. Besides, Québec’s real gross domestic product at market prices was up 1.7% in the first quarter of 2022 while this growth was only 0.8% at the Canadian level. Such an economic boom typically plays in favor of the ruling party.
The PLQ is not the only provincial Liberal party to struggle to get back on its feet
The Liberal party in the most populous province of Canada, the Ontario Liberal Party, is facing almost the same challenges as the PLQ. It won 54% of the seats in the 2014 election but lost official party status in the 2018 election, having fallen to seven seats out of 124, the worst defeat of a governing party in Ontario history. Prior to this 2018 election, the party had won every election since the beginning of the 21st century and had governed the province for the previous 15 years. In the 2022 provincial election, the Liberals saw a modest increase in support, finishing second in the popular vote, but only winning 8 seats.
Again, charges of corruption and favoritism inside the OLP are primarily to blame for this pitiful result: the Ornge air ambulance scandal and Hydro One mismanagement are cases in point. However, there was no possibility of racial discrimination, misogynism, microaggressions or unconscious bias because the OLP leader was a male Caucasian during this challenging time. The impact of corruption can be more easily teased out in the OLP case. At the end of the day, both the PLQ and the OLP are currently in the penalty box.
It is important to note that the other major political party in Canada, the Conservative Party, also gained controversy surrounding the Airbus scandal, in which kickbacks were accepted, In-and-Out scandal involving improper election spending and the Robocall scandal designed to suppress opponent votes.
The PLQ leader is facing multiple challenges as the first Black woman and the first person of Haitian descent to become premier. Her race, ethnicity, and sex may be part of what is being at stake but may not constitute the main issues. The troublesome party past that she inherited and the favorable economic environment in Quebec do not play in her favor.
Besides, there are a few other candidates of Haitian descent who are seeking a seat in the Quebec National Assembly: at least six with the PLQ and three with Legault’s governing party, Coalition Avenir Quebec. We wish them the best of luck!
Finally, anyone familiar with my column in the Haitian Times knows my stance against corruption. In developed countries, corrupted leaders pay the price via the ballot box and the judiciary system, which is sorely lacking in Haiti.