Éric Duhaime, who had established himself as the champion of those angry at the severity of the measures taken by the State to curb the progression of COVID-19, released the Conservative Party of Quebec (PCQ) from anonymity.
Under his leadership, the PCQ saw its support jump. He received 12.91% of the votes in 2022, compared to 1.46% of the votes in 2018. More than 530,000 voters supported the political party with the slogan “Libres chez nous” in the last general election.
Brought to the head of the PCQ in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Éric Duhaime held a speech based on free choice — free choice to receive the vaccine and its suite of boosters or not, for example – to which thousands of Quebecers have subscribed, including followers of conspiracy.
Like a tightrope walker, the Conservative leader has sought — and often succeeded — to stay away from the most extremist discourse, without depriving himself of support from adherents to conspiracy theories, who are three times more numerous within of his training than elsewhere, according to McGill University’s Research Project on Electoral Disinformation in Quebec.
The journalists who followed him during the election campaign forced him to admit the “Democratic result of the 2020 US election”, which culminated in the victory of Joe Biden, and to say that he sees “absolutely no” connection between 5G, “neither the chips nor Bill Gates”, and the COVID-19 pandemic. That said, he never ridiculed antimasks and antivaxes, hammering home that the pandemic has been difficult for many people.
The day after the election on October 3, Éric Duhaime attested to the defeat of each of the candidates who had run for the votes under the banner of the PCQ. A victim of electoral distortion, the PCQ won nearly 13% of the vote, but none of the 125 seats in the National Assembly. Having found no outlet in the National Assembly, the anger of his supporters will have to be expressed elsewhere. Unless it fades. Or turn against him.
Moreover, after forming a united front for the duration of the campaign, conservative activists have been torn apart in recent months. Some have criticized Éric Duhaime for not having contested the election results, or even for having betrayed them. Others attacked his entourage, accusing him of preparing a nationalist turn after courting English-speaking voters.
Failing to have succeeded in being elected, Éric Duhaime managed to impose the Conservative Party as one of the five main political forces in Quebec and to “normalize [les] ideas” that he has been promoting for years, starting with that of increasing the presence of “private healthcare”.
After accusing him of “shooting the boat” during the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister François Legault said, the day after the election, he wanted to work to improve the efficiency of the state with him.
On the other hand, Éric Duhaime has made a greater number of Quebecers aware of the limits of the first-past-the-post system, currently in force: a subject which until then interested only a handful of “intellectuals”, according to Mr. Legault.