The author is a former conservative strategist. He was a political adviser in the Harper government as well as in the opposition.
Huguette, from Joliette, and Gaston, from Saint-Léon, are fictitious people, but oh so important. Their names make people smile because they rhyme, but what they represent is crucial in politics. Both are indeed propitious voters to change their vote from election to election.
Imagine them making dinner for their loved ones or themselves before settling down to watch their favorite shows after a hard day’s work. Huguette can be a mother, a single parent or not, or a grandmother, it doesn’t matter. Gaston the same. Let’s imagine that they are between 35 and 70 years old. They keep one eye on the cooking of the meal, the other on the TV, with the news in the background. They follow the news a bit, without paying too much attention to it, skimming over the headlines sometimes on the radio they listen to on the way to work, sometimes on the Web or social media, on their tablet or phone.
Huguette and Gaston are the typical voters that my former political adviser friends and I study to analyze the effects of a policy or a scandal. Does it touch them, challenge them, interest them, shock them? Will it affect their lives and their decisions? Will they remember that when the election comes?
Huguette doesn’t really know what the consulting firm McKinsey is, but she thinks that, if we talk about it in the media, it’s that something fishy must be brewing, especially with fees of 100 million dollars. .
Huguette does the grocery shopping, and the price of food increases her strength to make choices, to wonder where to cut to respect her budget. She dreads the electricity bill for the winter months. She knows the price of gasoline and the price of everyday necessities.
For her, government spending of $100 million or $1 billion is the same thing. Huguette wonders which bill she will be able to pay this week and which one will have to wait. They amount to a few hundred or even a few thousand dollars, at most. She dreads a repair to be done on her car. An electric car, she sees that as a luxury. She knows what a $300,000 to $800,000 home is. Beyond that, it’s fiction, like on TV. She knows that her mortgage payment will increase as rates rise.
Whether Quebec receives $4 billion or $28 billion more from Ottawa after its showdown with the provinces for health funding matters little to it. Gaston, he just wants to have a family doctor, and not have to go to the emergency room, because he knows he will be waiting a long time. He’s afraid of getting sick because he doesn’t trust the system. His little ailments, he hopes they will sort themselves out. Who will win the standoff, in the end, Quebec or Ottawa, does not matter.
The debate on the use of the notwithstanding provision, preventive or not, does not change anything in the life of Gaston, who does not like the bickering between Ottawa and Quebec. He does not know all the subtleties of the division of federal-provincial powers, because what happens in Ottawa is sometimes far from his daily life.
Huguette speaks French, and the protection of her language is a subject that challenges her. She frowns when spoken to in English at the Tim Hortons near her home. Huguette is not against Islam and she did not like the comments of the representative of Justin Trudeau, Amira Elghawaby, on Quebecers.
Gaston wonders what’s wrong with Roxham Road. We have a border, but there are thousands of irregular entries. He is not against immigration, on the contrary, but he finds it strange, this situation which persists. He does not want to deport migrants who are already in Quebec after this painful and dangerous journey, but the status quo does not seem acceptable to him either.
Huguette is charitable, but she thinks she has to turn to food banks, something she had never considered before. She’s getting tired of being asked at every store transaction if she wants to donate when she’s having trouble getting groceries herself.
Gaston is exasperated to receive calls and text messages, in English, telling him that there has been a fraud on his credit card. He knows it’s phishing, but he wonders why the government isn’t doing anything. He also knows that he could be the victim of real fraud, of identity theft, and that, again, the government will be of little help.
Huguette is sensitive to the environment, she does what is asked of her: she recycles, composts, accepts that there is less and less collection of non-recyclable waste. She knows she has to change her windows, better insulate her house, and she will do it, when she can afford it. But she can’t do much more.
Crime challenges Gaston. He’s for rehabilitation, but not for candy sentences. He suspects that the justice system is failing. He knows that the delays are too long and that there are criminals who get away with it because of the Jordan decision.
Huguette knows that Canada will not play a decisive role in Ukraine, Iran or against China. Foreign Affairs, as their name suggests, is far and often strange. She wants him to contribute, but she doesn’t expect miracles of diplomacy either. For Huguette, the army is for floods, storms and other disasters in Canada.
Gaston voted for Justin Trudeau in the last three elections. With more conviction the first two times, but he did not change his vote in 2021. In a pandemic, change was less attractive. In the past, he has also voted for Mulroney, Chrétien and a few times for the Bloc and once for Layton. Gaston is not an ideologue. He votes for the party that seems to care most about his problems. The party and the leader who speak its language, its priorities, with a weakness for a Quebec leader.
And since the end of the month and high prices are currently their biggest concerns, Huguette and Gaston find themselves identifying much more with Pierre Poilievre and the Conservatives. Not because they claim that everything is broken, that they chant “freedom”, or because they strangely repeat the word “triple” three times in each sentence, but because, like them, Pierre Poilievre is concerned about inflation and the ever-increasing cost of living.
Justin Trudeau would benefit from being as concerned about it as they are, because there is not an electoral scenario that will allow him to hope for a fourth victory in a row if he loses the support of the Huguettes and the Gastons, whom whether they are from Joliette, Saint-Léon or elsewhere.