Some of these involve questions about high-profile personalities — including some of the leaders — in this year's campaign:
- In La Pinière, long-time Liberal Fatima Houda-Pepin is running as an Independent after quitting the party over its stand on the secular charter. Can her personal popularity in the riding trump the Liberal tradition in this riding that dates back to 1989?
- in L’Assomption, Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Légault is facing a tough challenge from popular former Bloc Québécois MP Pierre Paquette with a decade-long track record of election wins at the federal level.
- In Saint-Jérome, watch for the political debut of businessman Pierre Karl Peladeau. His Liberal opponent is his former employee Armand Dubois, who worked at TVA for 16 years.
But there are also several individual riding races that can help the CBC Decision Desk get an early idea of how the overall election will unfold after the polls close. Here are four of those ridings that might send an early signal about who will win the night.
PQ Leader Pauline Marois called this election because she believed she could win a majority government. The calculation she made was that the PQ could hold all the seats it won last time and gain nine more to get to the “magic number” of 63 seats.
If Marois’s election gamble is going to work, one riding the PQ needs to win is Groulx. It’s a CAQ riding in the suburban belt of ridings around Montreal, where the PQ usually does very well. The PQ won this riding in 2008. There is no CAQ incumbent. If the PQ is not winning this riding, it’s an early sign that its hope for a majority could be lost.
For the Parti Québécois to maintain its place as the government in Quebec with a minority, it would need to hold on to the gains made in 2012, including Laval-des-Rapides, also located in the Montreal Belt battleground.
The PQ won in 2012 with student-leader-turned-candidate Leo Bureau-Blouin. The president of the Liberal Party, Saul Polo, is his opponent this time. Laval-des-Rapides has a tradition of voting with the winning party; it was a Liberal riding for the Charest years, but a PQ riding during the ‘90s.
If the PQ is losing this riding early in the night, the future of its government might be in doubt.
An early sign that the Liberals might be on their way to forming government could come in the Quebec City riding of Charlesbourg. CAQ incumbent Denise Trudel won last time by more than 1,000 votes. The PQ candidate is Dominique Payette, former journalist, university professor and mayor of Lac-Delage. The Liberal candidate is François Blais, the dean of the faculty of social Sciences at Laval University.
The Liberals won this riding twice in the past decade and if they are winning this tough, three-way race in the early going, it will be a sign the party is making the gains in this region it needs to form a government.
Remember, for the Liberals to win a majority tonight, they need to hold what they won in 2012 and gain 13 seats, a tall order.
A riding that might signal the Liberals are on their way to a majority win is Champlain. The party has not won here since 1989.
The North Shore riding includes a portion of Trois-Rivières and is held by PQ incumbent Noella Champagne. The PQ has won this riding in every election since 1994, except for a loss to the Action Démocratic Québec in 2007. The ADQ candidate that won that election is Pierre Michel Auger, who is now running for the Liberals.
Auger ran as a Liberal last time and lost. But if he goes from third place to first in this riding in the early results Monday night, then it will be shaping up as a good evening for the Liberals and a bad night for Marois and the Parti Québécois.