Asbestos, Quebec Voters re-elected Liberal Karine Vallieres, MNA for Richmond by a wide margin April 7, 2014
The tables have turned again and the Quebec Liberals are back in control. In the previous Quebec Provincial election in 2012 Premier Jean Charest and his Liberal Government fell to a Parti Quebecois Minority Government led by Pauline Marois. On April 7, 2014 the Liberals came back with a large majority Government. The Town of Asbestos, home of the Jeffrey Asbestos Mine is in the Provincial riding of Richmond. Asbestos was a big issue in the 2012 election as Jean Charest had promised loans to reopen the asbestos mines with support from the Harper Federal Government. The separatist party of Quebec Independence gained popular support across the Province by promising to forever keep closed the asbestos mine. This allowed Karine Vallieres, age 36, the daughter of long-time Liberal member, and friend of asbestos, Yvon Vallieres to hold the Richmond Riding seat for the outgoing Liberals despite the Jean Charest failure across the Province. Mr. Vallieres who is now 65 years old held the seat from 1973 to 1976 when he lost it to the PQ. He was returned in 1981 and held the Riding since then until 2012, retiring with his daughter to run in his place in an election where the future of the Jeffrey Mine was a major issue especially locally.
The PQ created Quebec Charter of Values was supposed to be the key issue in this election. It is extremely controversial in its attempts to make Quebec a secular society where minorities will be restricted in their cultural expression much like use of the English language is already restricted. The rights of minorities mean little outside of the Liberal base of Montreal and Premier Pauline Marois was hoping for a majority government which would allow Independence to again be the issue as the next step. Premier Marois tried to keep Quebec Independence from being an issue in the 2014 election but she did not succeed. The PQ moved to the right working to get its Conservative French rural community base to support them. To assist they are using star candidate and strong advocate of Quebec Independence, Conservative Billionaire Pierre Peladeau, known in Quebec by his initials PKP. Pierre Karl Peladeau among other things, owns Quebecor, Videotron, Sun Newspapers and the extremely conservative and controversial Sun TV News Channel. The choice of candidates hurt the PQ among its more left leaning supporters and may be the prime reason the PQ lost on April 7th, 2014. The PQ had very little chance in the big cities as well because of ethnic populations who strongly oppose the Quebec Charter of Values,
Asbestos and the asbestos mine was not an election issue and nobody suggested that the asbestos mine would reopen. The Town of Asbestos and surrounding area are helped by government assistance to create new jobs to replace jobs in the Jeffrey asbestos mine.
In the last Quebec independence referendum a majority in Richmond Riding voted for Quebec Independence and so there was a good chance the PQ could take the seat, with asbestos and the local Jeffrey asbestos mine no longer an issue. It was a close election last time and considered a swing seat in 2014 but Ms. Vallieres was re-elected by a very wide margin of votes. Premier Marois had been hoping that Quebec Independence would not be an issue either this time but made critical errors in the campaign which cost her even her own seat in the National Assembly. The Liberal Opposition continuously pushed the PQ on the Quebec Independence and Referendum issues and led in the Polls. It is highly unlikely that the new Liberal Government headed by a Neurosurgeon Philippe Couillard, who as a previous Liberal Quebec Health Minister brought in restrictions on cigarette smoking in public, will do anything to reopen the asbestos mines of Quebec.
The people of English Canada are overwhelmingly happy to see the PQ defeated, but do owe a debt of gratitude to them for having ended Canada’s role in mining and exporting deadly asbestos. Asbestos mining is not likely to ever be an issue in Quebec again.