POLITICS

Federal Election 2015: Tories Aim To Win Seats In Quebec City Area

08/16/2015 10:20 EDT | Updated 08/16/2016 05:59 EDT
Quebec City talk radio host Jeff Fillion says citizens around his region are different from other Quebecers, which is one reason he believes the NDP couldn't sweep the province's conservative heartland in 2011.

While the left-leaning NDP picked up 59 seats out of 75 four years ago, the Conservatives kept four ridings in and around the provincial capital and have been pushing hard to regain those lost in the so-called NDP orange wave.

Fillion, host of various shows on Quebec City's popular Radio NRJ, says the region's conservative tendencies stem from the fact residents live "in the heart of the machine."

That machine, he specifies, is Quebec's large bureaucratic public service, "which makes people more receptive to the message of lower taxes and control of public spending" — two policies the Tories regularly tout.

"There are a lot of taxes in Quebec, there is a big machine to feed," he said. "And people here have the impression they give and give and give and don't get back as much as what they were told they would get when they were asked for the money to begin with."

While the Conservatives don't have any seats in Quebec City proper, the party holds four ridings south of the provincial capital.

The Tories' fifth seat in Quebec is held by Denis Lebel, Stephen Harper's Quebec lieutenant, and is about 250 kilometres north of Quebec City.

In 2008, the Conservatives took almost all the seats in and around Quebec City, and where they didn't win they placed second.

The Tories have a strong chance at regaining at least one Quebec City seat on Oct. 19 — Louis-Saint-Laurent. Their candidate is Gerard Deltell, a popular former provincial politician with the right-leaning Coalition for Quebec's Future.

The region stands out for more than voting habits: Quebec City and the area south have unemployment rates of about four per cent, the lowest in the province and half the provincial average.

Another difference is that conservative talk radio is highly popular and ubiquitous.

Guillaume Ratte-Cote, host of Politiguy Correct on CJMD, based in Levis, across the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City, says the influence of conservative talk radio in the region is unmistakable.

"In Montreal, there isn't anyone (francophone) — anyone! — who picks up a mic and offers a conservative way of thinking and in Quebec City it's everywhere,'' said Ratte-Cote. ''People here are more federalist and have a tendency to be conservative in the typical sense of the word — to keep the status quo."

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair stood on a cliff overlooking Quebec City's famous Chateau Frontenac during the second week of the federal election campaign and said the Tories have done nothing for the region.

He called on "progressive" citizens to "finish the job" started by the orange wave in 2011.

The problem, said Fillion, is that many citizens aren't buying the NDP's message.

For example, he noted, the NDP has been championing the cause of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, which is furious at Canada Post's decision — supported by the Conservatives — to end door-to-door delivery as a cost-cutting measure.

"I've been living here 16 years and there is no door-to-door delivery where I am," Fillion said. "The people here understand that Canada Post can't deliver mail to everyone's door when there is less and less mail. You don't need to draw us a picture. We get it."

The NDP has also opposed Tory legislation that forces unions to provide detailed financial information to the government.

Fillion says that despite the high levels of unionized workers in the region, many citizens like the new law.

"People here think it's bizarre to be against something like that," he said. "People want to know where the money is going that is taken from their paycheques every week. The NDP doesn't have a chance here with ideas like that."

Citizens approached recently in downtown Quebec City had mixed feelings about the Conservatives and, while some were undecided, others said they would vote for the Bloc Quebecois.

"I think that out of all the parties the Conservatives are the ones who have kept their promises, like lowering the federal sales tax twice," said Jocelyn Drolet, 52. "I'm not obsessed with elections or politics, but that (tax reductions) is big for me."

Solange Desjardins, 68, said she's voting Bloc, despite the fact the party won only four seats in 2011 and could win even fewer if current polling trends continue.

"It takes someone to represent us," she said. "The NDP, I don't think is realistic, with its (national) daycare and the $15 (federal) minimum wage pledges."

Alain Rivet, 46, says he's also voting Bloc.

"I'm a sovereigntist," he said. "I know there are a lot of sovereigntists who vote NDP but that's because they are either confused or not really sovereigntists."

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