With the air full of excitement and optimism on day one of the Parti Quebecois’ pre-election convention, it didn’t feel like they’re a party on the brink of losing official opposition status.
“We are organized, mobilized, and determined,” PQ vice-leader Veronique Hivon told hundreds of party members in a passionate speech at the Drummondville Best Western Hotel.
As leader Jean-Francois Lisée strolled into the hotel to rally his troops, he said trailing from behind isn’t necessarily a bad place to be.
“People who start the campaign in first place like Thomas Mulcair on the federal level, or Denis Coderre in Montreal or Doug Ford in Ontario, do not finish first. It’s sometimes the third that finishes first,” Lisée said.
The PQ pitch includes better services for Quebecers, as well as denouncing Liberal budget cuts.
“Clearly, the Liberals have weakened the education system, the health system, the justice system,” Lisée said.
Even though they’ve pledged to put separation from Canada on the back burner until a second PQ mandate, it was talked about an awful lot on the first day of the convention.
“The number of reasons to be independent is as great or greater now than it was 20 years ago,” Lisée said.
Economist Jean-Martin Aussant quit the PQ in 2011. Recently, he spent some time in London, England working for Morgan Stanley Capital. Now, he’s back with the PQ for one reason.
“Quebec sovereignty. That’s the main reason for my involvement in politics,” he told Global News.
Among the dozens of candidates presented on stage at the convention was Jennifer Drouin, an anglophone.
“I was the only anglophone on stage just now, but I’m not the only anglophone in the party,” she said.
Drouin believes Quebec independence would also benefit anglophones.
“Ottawa decides how Quebec’s money is spent rather than Quebecers deciding for themselves,” she told Global News.
The PQ election platform will include new measures to strengthen the French language, including stricter French requirements for CEGEP and university students.
“If you give a diploma to an English student who is very good in his field, but cannot thrive in the labour market, you have failed this student. It’s like giving him a diploma and a ticket to Toronto. I don’t want that,” said Lisée.
The party also said goodbye to François Gendron, who is leaving politics after being with the PQ since the days of Réné Levesque. They brought a number of new, young candidates on stage, and spoke of how the party isn’t just one of a single generation.
“We unite all generations,” Hivon said.
The PQ convention continues on Sunday, when the party platform will be officially adopted.