In the final days of the campaign, the ridings just north of Montreal have become the battleground for a final and perhaps decisive confrontation between the Parti Québécois and the Coalition Avenir Québec.
PQ leader Pauline Marois spent the day shaking hands at an open market, a outdoor family-activity day in Laval and popular restaurants in several other ridings knowing that this could be where she will win or lose her bid for a majority government.
“I believe that part of the support I will get here could make the difference on Tuesday night,” Ms. Marois said during a stop in Saint-Jérôme where the CAQ’s star candidate and anti-corruption crusader Jacques Duchesneau is running against the incumbent PQ candidate Gilles Robert.
A public opinion poll showed that close races in seven or eight ridings located just north of Montreal and stretching further east of the northern beltway could decide whether the PQ wins a majority government or if the CAQ forms the official opposition according to pollster Jean-Marc Léger.
The PQ leader was campaigning with confidence, sensing that she will become the first woman to become premier of Quebec. Presenting herself as a winner has become a major drawing card at several campaign stops.
But Ms. Marois’ greatest fear was that the PQ may come just short of forming a majority. PQ strategist believe the handful of predominantly francophone middle-class ridings in the so-called 450 area code could determine her fate.
“What will make the difference is that voters clearly understand the solutions being proposed by the various parties … especially those being proposed for the 450,” Ms. Marois said. “The commitments that we have taken have a particular impact on the families of the 450.”
Among the key PQ promises aimed at attracting support in the area are improvements to the commuter-train system, more daycare spaces and the elimination of the unpopular $200-per-worker health tax. “We want to give them a break by eliminating the health tax,” she said.
“What I want to stress in these last days of the campaign is that it is one thing to have candidates in a riding but it is another to have the possibility to elect a government that can implement the commitments they have taken,” Ms. Marois said.
At each one her stops Ms. Marois was starting to create a buzz. People gathered around her, especially women who wanted to be photographed with the leader they believed will be the first woman to lead the province.
“Oh look it’s Ms. Marois,” said two middle-aged women at an outdoor market. “Let’s see if we can meet her,” as they moved closer to shake her hand
Ms. Marois was more than pleased to pose for pictures, shake hands and greet each voter, especially women.
“What I have experienced on the ground is that many women come and meet me to express the pride they would have in having a woman leading Quebec,” she said. “This is a signal that everything is possible for women. That’s how I experience the message I’ve been getting.”
Ms. Marois said she wasn’t deliberately playing the gender card.
“My objective is that between now and Tuesday … I want my rank and file members … to go out and meet the undecided. I have asked each one of them to persuade one or two (undecided voters to vote PQ) and that is what will make the difference on Tuesday.”