Monday, September 25, 2023

Conservatives have a long, tumultuous history of trying to figure out Quebec

Once upon a time (back when John A. Macdonald was running things) Quebec reliably handed a majority of its seats to the Conservative Party in election after election. The province was an important part of the Conservatives’ governing coalition — and a battleground where Liberals laboured in vain to break through.

Much has changed since the days of Sir John A., of course. Ever since his death in 1891, the Conservatives have struggled to figure out Quebec. That struggle is coming to a head again, as the party prepares to choose the latest successor to the Old Chieftain.

Michelle Rempel Garner, a Conservative MP from Alberta, has lamented the fact that so much of the focus in the early days of the Conservative leadership race has been on Ontario, Quebec and the candidates’ facility with the French language — with Western Canada being taken largely for granted.

The results of the last federal election explain this focus. The Conservatives won 54 of 62 seats in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, but made no significant gains in Ontario and actually lost seats in Quebec — the only province where that happened.

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