Saying goodbye to the Quebec Liberals’ Dominique Anglade

To say we had hardly gotten to know Dominique Anglade by the time the Quebec Liberal Party’s leader announced her resignation last Monday is no understatement.

Anglade announced her decision at a news conference in Montreal, her departure coming a little more than a month after the Quebec provincial election.

The past decade has marked a fairly-long and circuitous journey for Anglade. The Laval News can remember, back in 2012, when she was one of a handful of newly-minted Coalition Avenir Québec candidates who were trotted out for a press conference prior to that year’s provincial election.

Although she lost in Fabre to the Quebec Liberals’ Gilles Ouimet, Anglade was a stand-out at the time among the other mostly bland CAQ candidates.

While they responded to questions with standard platitudes, Anglade expressed herself with some original thinking and ideas, distinguishing herself as someone who seemed to possess greater potential to take on some eventual form of higher leadership.

Thus, the irony is that following her decision to join the Quebec Liberal Party in 2015, followed by her nearly uncontested bid to become the PLQ’s leader in May 2020, whatever promise Anglade might have held as the first woman to lead the party (and the first black to lead a provincial party in Quebec), she turned out (in the harsh and unforgiving reality of live fire) to have actually been a dud.

Although Anglade managed to secure for the PLQ the shaky status as the Official Opposition in the National Assembly following the October elections, there is no getting around the fact that under her leadership, the Liberals won just under 15 per cent of the popular vote — the lowest share in its history.

Her lacklustre performance during the election betrayed a seeming lack of personal confidence, at a time when incumbent CAQ Premier François Legault was shining like a supernova, and the polls were predicting long before election day that he would easily be winning a second mandate.

Although the Liberals hung on to most of their stronghold seats on the island of Montreal, but conversely were shunned by a large majority of francophone voters, the party ended up wining just 21 seats.

In another example of a fumble by Anglade, the 21 seats were reduced to 20 after Vaudreuil PLQ MNA Marie-Claude Nichols was kicked out of caucus by Anglade, further contributing to speculation about Anglade’s temperament and her future as the party’s leader.

“Our party is confronted by numerous challenges,” Anglade said last Monday, while conceding that she was leaving, and admitting at the same time that the Official Opposition would be in an especially vulnerable position if she were to remain and allow the apparent rift to continue.

The 2018 election is often interpreted as having been a turning point in Quebec politics, signalling the end of the traditional debate about federalism and sovereignty in the province. Many experts have said that the Liberals, under Anglade, failed to reposition themselves in this new political reality.

Over the past century and a half or so of the Quebec Liberal Party’s existence, the PLQ has seen its fortunes rise and fall, with long periods out of power when Maurice Duplessis’s Union National governed during several uninterrupted decades, as well as lengthy periods when the Parti Québécois seemed to rule endlessly until finally interrupted by a return of the provincial Liberals.

Still, the Liberals always held faithfully to their core belief in being able to provide a reasonable and stable middle-ground politically, when polarizations on the political spectrum cast other parties to each end with irreconcilable differences.

It is perhaps in that sense that the Liberals, under a new leader and a renewed vision, will once again be able to rise to the occasion and play a useful role as the reconciler and mediator in Quebec politics.