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Lysiane Gagnon

Lysiane Gagnon

LYSIANE GAGNON

Even Harper wants Quebec Add to ...

Many were those who thought Prime Minister Stephen Harper had given up on Quebec. After all, the Conservatives won a majority in 2011 with just five seats in Quebec, and since then, they’ve been stuck around 15 per cent in the polls there. But Mr. Harper is a cautious strategist and there was no way he could ignore a province with 78 seats (including the three ridings to be added with the new electoral map).

The seduction operation began as early as last August, when Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Denis Lebel did a 12-day provincewide tour in a van paid for by the party. And now, the Conservatives have landed two high-profile candidates for the coming federal election – potential cabinet material in both cases.

Pascale Déry, an anchor for TVA, the province’s most popular television network, has just resigned her job to run in Mount Royal, which was Pierre Trudeau’s riding and was also held for 16 years by Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, who is retiring.

Mount Royal, which includes Côte-Saint-Luc and Hampstead, is home to the largest Jewish population in Quebec. The Montreal area has long been a wasteland for the Tories, but if she wins the nomination, Ms. Déry will be an ideal fit for the riding. She was born in and lives in Mount Royal and she is herself Jewish. The 38-year-old mother of two is the kind of well-educated politician Mount Royal residents like to be represented by. She is trilingual (her third language is Spanish) and holds master’s degrees in political science and international law.

In Mount Royal, Mr. Harper might finally reap the benefits of his staunch pro-Israel stand. In 2011, Conservative candidate Saulie Zajdel, a relatively unknown former city councillor, came a close second to Mr. Cotler.

Another catch is Gérard Deltell, a former journalist and provincial politician who will probably run in the riding of Louis-Saint-Laurent, in northwestern Quebec City. Mr. Deltell has been sitting as an MNA since 2008, first for the Action Démocratique du Québec and later with the Coalition Avenir Québec, after the two parties merged. The son of French immigrants, he is an articulate public speaker and will reinforce the Conservative presence in the Quebec City area.

Mr. Deltell has been courted by the Conservatives for many years. Not only is he unabashedly a man of the right, but he’s also an “unconditional federalist” – a rather rare breed within the political class. And he is a “true Blue” who enrolled in the Progressive Conservatives at 17, three years before Brian Mulroney’s Tories came to power.

Paradoxically, the unpopular Conservatives are, at least for now, the only party in Quebec that has managed to land two high-profile new candidates. The Bloc Québécois is in disarray. The Liberal Party’s only star candidate in Quebec is Leader Justin Trudeau himself, although there are many candidates vying for Liberal nominations. And the New Democratic Party doesn’t have much room for new faces, considering its 57-strong caucus – its only new recruit is Maria Mourani, a former Bloc MP.

Of course, it’s easier for a governmental party to attract new candidates – especially with the latest national polls showing the Conservatives surging ahead of the Liberals. But then, the election is eight months away, and there is ample time for the Conservatives and the Liberals – by far the two leading parties nationally – to trade numbers.

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