The Liberals are targeting NDP ridings in Quebec by recruiting high-profile, left-wing candidates who stand to also attract voters away from the Bloc Québécois or the Green Party.
On Tuesday, a former Parti Québécois minister and sovereigntist announced plans to run for the Liberals in a riding south of Montreal, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will attend a nomination meeting for a well-known environmentalist on Wednesday. Both Réjean Hébert and Steven Guilbeault want to run in ridings that went to the NDP in 2015.
The Liberals are hoping to make gains in Quebec in the Oct. 21 election, so they can offset expected losses in other parts of the country and win a second mandate.
After the controversy over the SNC-Lavalin affair earlier this year, the Liberals lost much support in Quebec to the Conservative Party and the Bloc Québécois, with Mr. Trudeau’s ratings also suffering in the province.
In an attempt to regain momentum, the Liberals are trying to assemble a coalition of progressive voters who are not only motivated by the prospects of a second term for Mr. Trudeau, but also concerned by the possibility of a return to a Conservative government in Canada.
The first priority for the Liberals is to try to hold on to their 40 seats in Quebec out of 78, but they are also trying to steal support away from the NDP, which has 15 seats in the province.
The NDP’s deputy leader, Montreal MP Alexandre Boulerice, said the Liberals are overhyping their progressive credentials.
“It’s an honour to be their target, it shows that we bother them. They don’t like the fact they are criticized by a party that is more progressive than them,” Mr. Boulerice said. “They pretend they are progressives, but many of their decisions contradict that.”
On Tuesday, Mr. Hébert, a former Parti Québécois minister of health, announced he will seek the Liberal nomination in the riding of Longueuil-Saint-Hubert, located in the suburban area south of Montreal. In the 2015 general election, Pierre Nantel won the riding for the NDP by 700 votes over the Liberals.
Mr. Hébert said he is hoping that former NDP and Bloc Québécois voters will join forces in the next election under the Liberal banner.
“There are former sovereigntists who think like I do and who are turning the page on sovereignty in order to focus on important social issues – I think those sovereigntists will come to us,” he said in an interview. “In the same way, there are NDP supporters who understand that it is not in opposition that you can bring society forward and that the Liberal Party offers a very progressive agenda.”
Mr. Hébert, a doctor who wants to improve home-care services, said he is convinced that Canada is in better hands under the Liberals.
“The last thing I want is a return to the Harper years,” he said in reference to the Conservative government led by prime minister Stephen Harper between 2006 and 2015.
On Wednesday, Mr. Trudeau will attend the nomination meeting for Mr. Guilbeault, a prominent environmentalist in Quebec. While Mr. Guilbeault is opposed to the federal government’s decision to reapprove the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, he is supportive of the Liberal government’s overall environmental agenda.
Mr. Guilbeault will be running in Laurier-Sainte-Marie, a riding in Montreal that went NDP in the 2011 and 2015 general elections.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh will be spending much of next week in Quebec, going to mid-sized cities such as Sherbrooke, Drummondville and Trois-Rivières that are currently represented by his party. However, the NDP has not done well in public opinion polls in Quebec under his leadership.
Conservative MP Gérard Deltell said the Liberals are being cynical if they think that attracting a former sovereigntist and an anti-pipeline environmentalist to their ranks will convince voters that they will deliver on their progressive commitments.
“Whatever the Liberal Party says or promises in the next campaign will have little or no value,” he said.