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Cablegate: Quebec by-Elections : Liberals Defeated in Three Out Of

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 QUEBEC 000169

SIPDIS

WHA/CAN FOR TERRY BREESE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV CA
SUBJECT: QUEBEC BY-ELECTIONS : LIBERALS DEFEATED IN THREE OUT OF
FOUR SEATS

REF: QUEBEC 0128


1. This cable was jointly prepared by the Quebec City and
Montreal Consulates.

2. Summary: In the first test of its support among voters
since its election victory in April 2003, the Quebec Liberal
government held four provincial by-elections on September 20;
three in the Montreal area and one in Quebec City. Premier Jean
Charest lost three of the four ridings up for grabs. As
predicted, the Liberals were re-elected in their stronghold of
Nelligan, and the Parti Quebecois was re-elected in the Gouin
riding. However, there were two surprising results. A Parti
Quebecois candidate won narrowly in the riding of
Laurier-Dorion, which had been a Liberal base since 1981, and
in Quebec City's Vanier riding Mario Dumont's Action
Democratique du Quebec (ADQ) seized a fifth seat in the National
Assembly from the Liberals. End Summary.

VANIER CONTEST

3. Young ADQ contender Sylvain Legare won handily in the Quebec
City riding of Vanier with well over 4,000 votes and a 46.8%
majority. Liberal Michel Beaudoin came in second place at
27.9%, and the PQ's Sylvain Levesque at 21.9%. The ADQ lost
badly in the three other ridings, coming in fourth place behind
the new left-wing Union des Forces Progressistes (UFP). Vanier
is usually a bellweather, regularly voting for the party that
will form the next government. Leader Dumont's strategy to
crusade in favor of local radio station CHOI-FM (see reftel) and
against juvenile prostitution proved successful. He will face
his members at the ADQ party convention next weekend head high.

4. The PQ came in third in the Vanier contest, francophone and
blue-collar, with only 20% of the vote, even though voter
dissatisfaction traditionally leans toward the opposition.
Opposition Leader Bernard Landry's leadership has been under
close scrutiny and voters seem unconvinced that he is the right
man to lead the PQ to a possible victory in 2007.

MONTREAL RACES

5. In Montreal, two of the three by-elections followed
expectations: Liberal Yolande James and the PQ's Nicolas Girard
each easily won their parties' respective strongholds of
Nelligan and Gouin. The lone upset occurred in Laurier-Dorion,
where the Liberal candidate and Greek community representative,
Voula Neofotisos, lost to the PQ's Elsie Lefebvre. The
multi-ethnic character of the Laurier-Dorion riding -- in which
Greek-Canadians are the largest ethnic group - would have
suggested that a sovereignist, pro-French language, PQ candidate
could not win. However, Elsie Lefebvre campaigned very
actively, and apparently was able to get enough of her
supporters to the polls to win by the relatively small margin of
435 votes.

6. The ethnic community vote is closely watched in Quebec as a
harbinger of whether the appeal of sovereignty can extend beyond
the province's Francophone population, and attract growing
numbers of non-Francophone voters from more recent immigration
waves, who mostly live in and around Montreal. But most
analysts are discounting the significance of this particular
by-election result. Turnout was a very low 35 percent. (Voter
participation rates in general provincial elections are usually
between 70 and 80 percent.).

NEW BLOOD IN THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

7. The four new members of the National Assembly distinguish
themselves by their young age. Yolande James, a 26-year-old
lawyer, will become the first black woman to sit in Quebec's
National Assembly. Elsie Lefebvre, also 26, is completing a
master's degree in international studies. Nicolas Girard, 32,
was the press attache and protege of former PQ Environment
Minister Andre Boisclair (who has temporarily left politics to
study at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government). The ADQ's
Sylvain Legare is 35.

8. Comment: Premier Charest came back from Ottawa with a health
care agreement in his back pocket that was advertised as a
precedent for provincial-federal negotiations. The Premier's
success at last week's health conference with PM Martin and the
other Premiers did not go totally unnoticed, but it failed to
dispel general dissatisfaction among voters or to incite Liberal
voters to go to the polls. There is tangible dissatisfaction
with the government and now, after 16 months in power and a
dismal showing in the polls, Charest and his party will have to
regroup. However, by-elections are customarily fought on local
issues and last night's results will likely have no long-term
political impact. The current standings in the National
Assembly are: Liberal 74, the Parti Quebecois 46, and ADQ 5, of
a total 125 seats. End Comment.


STRUDWICK

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