Quebec Liberals acknowledge looming uphill battle

‘We are determined to win,’ Anglade tells Saul Polo supporters

Quebec Liberals acknowledge looming uphill battle
The PLQ’s incumbent candidate in Laval-des-Rapides, Saul Polo, centre, is seen here with a virtual who’s who of Quebec Liberal cabinet ministers, as well as a few federal MPs, during the launch of his 2018 campaign on May 12.

Martin C. Barry

The Quebec Liberals face a potentially difficult struggle leading towards the October provincial election, a ranking member of Premier Philippe Couillard’s cabinet acknowledged during a speech delivered in Laval during an investiture meeting for incumbent Laval-des-Rapides Liberal MNA Saul Polo last weekend.

Tough times ahead

“The elections that are coming will not be an easy battle,” Economy, Science and Innovation Minister Dominique Anglade told the more than 150 supporters who came out to École de l’Arc-en-ciel on Meunier St. on May 12 to see Saul Polo crowned the PLQ’s Laval-des-Rapides candidate.

Alluding to surveys that came out last week showing the Coalition Avenir Québec ahead in the polls and the Liberals behind, Anglade remained upbeat.

Quebec Liberals acknowledge looming uphill battle
Incumbent Laval-des-Rapides Liberal candidate Saul Polo arrives for his 2018 election investiture meeting École de l’Arc-en-ciel in Laval-des-Rapides on Saturday May 12.

‘We are determined’

“Remember that we are ready, that we are determined to win the next election, that we are working relentlessly, but mostly that we need Saul Polo with us at the National Assembly next Oct. 2 [the day after the election],” Anglade said.

Firing one of the first salvos of the 2018 pre-campaign period, Municipal Affairs Minister Martin Coiteux took aim at the CAQ when he noted, regarding the PLQ, that if “you listen to the speeches of the political parties, there’s just one – one in the National Assembly – that can and is willing and which has demonstrated it during all its history, that it promotes the unity of all Quebecers.”

CAQ in PLQ’s sights

Alluding a little more directly to the CAQ, Coiteux continued, “We have never divided Quebecers in terms of their being Canadians. No, we have never incited Quebecers to break from the Canadian federation. We are federalist. We are the only real federalist party in the National Assembly.

“The CAQ is not a federalist party,” he added. “The CAQ is a party that on this question is seated on the fence and doesn’t know on which side it will fall.” Referring to the CAQ’s leader, François Legault, Coiteux said, “He’s perhaps changed his mind several times. And it is, in fact, his habit to change his mind virtually a few times a day.

Questions about Legault

“But I’m not sure he’s changed his mind on this fundamental question with regards to being part of Canada. I’m not convinced at all. And I don’t think he’s going to be able to persuade Quebecers that he has truly changed his mind in a definite way on this question.”

Coiteux also took aim at the CAQ, as well as the Parti Québécois, for their xenophobic thinking. “The Parti Québécois and the CAQ are asking themselves whether it’s a good idea to have immigrants in Quebec and whether it might be a good idea to test them after a few years to see if they should remain to be among us in our society,” said Coiteux.

For his own part, Saul Polo, who was first elected in the 2014 Quebec general election, spoke (at times quite emotionally) about his family’s roots in the South American nation of Colombia, as well as their early experiences upon arriving in Canada and Quebec three decades ago.

Respected within the PLQ

After joining the PLQ in 2005, Polo became known within the party (as several of the Liberal cabinet ministers confirmed while praising him in their speeches last Saturday) as a loyal and reliable team player, whose contributions made a lasting impact, for example, in the riding of Westmount-St. Louis, where Polo served as the riding association president, before running and winning for the Liberals four years ago in Laval-des-Rapides.

That said, Laval-des-Rapides has a well-established reputation as being one of the most volatile swing ridings in the province, where elections are usually close and where the Liberals and the PQ have been the top two contenders for at least the past 35 years. A particular oddity about the riding is that since being created in 1981, Laval-des-Rapides has consistently voted for the winning party in every general election.

Sometimes unpredictable riding

In an interview with the Laval News, Polo acknowledged that elections in Laval-des-Rapides can be as unpredictable as the weather, but that he’s determined to give it his best shot leading towards the Oct. 1 election.

“From day one after the last election I never took things for granted,” he said. “I’ve worked very hard for the past four years. Ultimately I think that the residents and citizens of Laval-des-Rapides have seen what I’ve been able to do for the riding and I will continue to demonstrate to them that I am the best person to serve them in Quebec City.”