QLP leadership race: Looking for a captain to save the ship?

The Quebec Liberal Party (QLP) is a shadow of its former self. Five years ago, it was a formidable electoral machine, raking in millions of dollars in political funding and claiming seats in every region.


Since Premier Phillipe Couillard’s defeat in 2018 at the hands of François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), the QLP has not found its bearings. It keeps dropping in the polls and its voting intentions diminish with each election.

The party will hold its general council on October 14 and 15. This will be an opportunity to unveil the terms of the party’s leadership race and the results of the committee on the PLQ’s relaunch.

A foreseeable downfall

The QLP’s internal culture problems are nothing new. But their consequences have been felt since 2018. The party does not promote activism. Its partisan culture is focused on financing and organization. It makes it difficult to develop innovative ideas and visions.

Party membership is declining. Members aged 65 and over from the referendum years and young people under 25 form the majority. There is an abyssal gap between the two. Local party associations are struggling to renew themselves.

Party activists are professionalized, i.e., they have a professional interest in getting involved. Simple activists of conviction are rare. With the reform of political financing in 2013, many of these activists have lost their interest in getting involved.

The party’s finances are fragile. It no longer collects as many donations as it used to. It is at the bottom of the list for provincial party financing. So much so, in fact, that it has had to mortgage its premises in downtown Montreal.

These internal difficulties are reflected in the electorate. The party has elected members in the Montreal region and one in the Outaouais. French-speaking voters, the vast majority of the population, have turned their backs on the party. The QLP has been leaderless since the fall of 2022.

A moribund leadership race

There’s no hurry to enter the race to lead the QLP. Several eminent personalities have been mentioned. None of them dared to take the plunge. On the whole, they denied the rumours.

Some prominent elected officials were courted- but to no avail. André Fortin of Pontiac and Marwah Rizqy of Saint-Laurent declined for family reasons. Ms. Rizqy was strongly urged to run, considering the lack of competition in the upcoming race. Mr. Fortin is also very experienced and an excellent orator.

From then on, only 3 MNAs remained. Monsef Derraji and interim leader Marc Tanguay kept the suspense alive. They both announced that they would not be running. Just before the Jean-Talon by-election was called.

The newly elected MNA for Marguerite-Bourgeoys, Frédéric Beauchemin, confirmed his intention to run for the leadership. Internally, party members would have liked him to “get his feet wet”, to get to know the party before taking the plunge.

Mr. Beauchemin hired two members of the party’s youth wing. They allegedly harassed the youth wing president into supporting his leadership bid as a group. As a result, Mr. Beauchemin was the subject of a complaint for psychological harassment. He has been excluded from the caucus while the party investigates.

Although the race has not yet begun, there is no plethora of candidates. This is a clear sign of disinterest for the oldest political party in Quebec’s history. Nevertheless, there remains one choice candidate who could take up the mantle.

Joël Lightbound has never denied the rumours that he is considering running. The Liberal Party of Canada MP for Louis-Hébert in Quebec City has been making moves for some time now. With almost 8 years of experience in federal politics, he has made several statements that run counter to his party line.

In particular, he criticized his government’s handling of the pandemic and the stigmatization of the truckers’ convoy protesters in 2022. As a result, he was demoted from his parliamentary duties. Recently, he referred to the debate over the 3rd highway link in Quebec City as an idiot’s dinner.

Does Mr. Lightbound have what it takes to save the QLP? The party should not make the mistake, already made, of hoping for a renaissance thanks to a new leader. It’s the party’s foundations that need to be reviewed. That’s what the committee on the renewal of the QLP has been working on.

The QLP Renewal Committee

As a reminder, the QLP had the worst result in its history in the 2022 election. It therefore set up a renewal committee to begin rebuilding the party, founded in 1867. After almost a year and meeting hundreds of activists, the report had just been made public at the time of this writing.

The proposals revolve around three themes: asserting ourselves, uniting and prospering. The 14 members of the committee put forward a number of solutions.

On the assertiveness axis, they want Quebec to adopt its own constitution, introduce a preferential voting system and become a leader of the Francophonie. In a way, the party would be reviving the liberal nationalism of yesteryear.

In terms of uniting, the committee wants to rework the identity card in its own way. An Interculturalism Act, incentives for French as the workplace language and the creation of a committee to depoliticize the issue of Quebec’s capacity to welcome and integrate newcomers are on the menu.

On the prosperity axis, the members propose consolidating the right to the environment in the Quebec Charter, cutting red tape and investing more in the regions. The committee takes up projects already proposed by other parties and the government- but in its own way.

The publication of the committee’s report should at least allow the party to occupy headlines for a few days. Its identity proposals have the merit of differentiating the party from the Charest/Couillard years.


Will the party use the report wisely? More importantly, will it enable the party to reconnect with Francophones between now and the 2026 elections? With a new leader, the QLP can hardly do worse than in 2018 and 2022.

The committee’s exercise has the merit of wanting to change things and proposing solutions. This weekend’s general convention will be an opportunity to see whether militants are in tune with the party establishment. New candidates for the leadership race could be announced shortly, following the unveiling of its rules.

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