Premier Jean Charest has taken his time trying to figure out when an election would hurt his Liberals the least and on August 1 he decided September 4 had to be it.
The date could cause problems for all the university and CEGEP students who will be moving in and starting classes – probably exactly what Charest wants given the nearly year-long battle he’s had with student groups over tuition fees.
Some students have been striking since February 2012 to protest a move by Charest’s government to increase tuition fees by over $1,500 in the next five years. The protests have included massive demonstrations across the province, including a march by between 300,000 and 400,000 people in Montreal on May 22.
The government has been trying to negotiate with student groups, but then enacted Bill 78, which was found to violate the fundamental freedoms of the student citizens.
The question of this election will be: will students be able to get organized enough to vote on September 4?
Many will be moving to new addresses, some will be just starting classes. Student groups will have to ensure that their members are aware of rules about proof of address for voting and when advance polls are taking place. Presumably these students are dedicated to this cause and will be passionate about their right to vote, but Charest seems to be betting on students being too busy or voting being too complicated.
The election date also falls immediately before the Charbonneau Commission resumes on September 17. The commission is investigating the Quebec construction industry and its connections to government – specifically whether political parties in Quebec have been getting kickbacks from the companies the government awards contracts to.
Whether Charest can weather the storm or Quebec voters are fed up and want to try something new we will see on September 4. According to recent polling, the Parti Quebecois is currently 2 points ahead.
Photo Credit: Kunal Shah