Conservative Party of Quebec leader Eric Duhaime gave a keynote speech at last weekend’s Canada Strong and Free Networking (CFSN) conference in Ottawa, and True North’s Elie Cantin-Nantel had the opportunity to talk to him afterwards.

Duhaime said he chose to give a keynote at the CFSN because it is important to have links, adding his party has a similar vision to other conservative parties when it comes to issues like fiscal responsibility, tax cuts and the development of natural resources. 

It should be noted that Quebec’s centre-right politics have often been absent from the Canadian conservative movement.

Duhaime said that as a Quebec nationalist, he supports Quebec’s Bill 21, which bans the wearing of religious symbols by the public service and is more controversial in English-speaking Canada than francophone Quebec. He added that there is a consensus of support among Quebecers when it comes to the bill, and he would not want to “reopen a can of worms”.

When it comes to the issue of abortion, Duhaime said he is not going to allow the debate to be reopened – despite the Campaign Life Coalition noting that not a single pro-life elected official sits in Quebec’s National Assembly.

Duhaime added that he is the first openly gay leader of a Canadian conservative party.

During his keynote, Duhaime admitted having voted for Quebec premier Francois Legault’s Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) party in the past. During the pandemic, Legault implemented some of the harshest restrictions in the Western world, including curfews and a vaccine passport that limited access to groceries.

Duhaime said that it is not only Legault’s “abusive” measures that have turned him away from the CAQ, but also the party’s abandonment of fiscal responsibility and natural resources. He added that the CAQ had become a “Parti Quebecois 2.0.”

When it comes to comparing the Quebec conservative movement to that of English-speaking Canada, Duhaime said that conservatives in Quebec believe in provincial autonomy. He added that he believes conservatives in Canada need to be more in favour of decentralization. 

In 2018, the Conservative Party of Quebec received 1.46% of the vote, although many polls now put them in second place. The party also outperformed the Liberals in a recent by-election.

Quebec’s next general election is set for Oct. 3.