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Federal riding profile: Chicoutimi-Le Fjord in Quebec's Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region


The Chicoutimi-Le Fjord riding in Quebec's Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region may be the ultimate swing riding.

In the last four federal elections, electors have voted in candidates from four different parties: the Bloc Québécois in 2008, NDP in 2011, Liberals in 2015 and Conservative MP Richard Martel in a 2018 byelection and again in 2019.

The riding has also been a bellwether of sorts for Quebec.

If the past is anything to go by, Martel, a former hockey coach and Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole's Quebec lieutenant, could be in a tight battle for re-election. 

In 2019, Martel beat Bloc Québécois candidate Valérie Tremblay by just 834 votes as the surging sovereigntist party roared to its best showing in years. 

This time, Martel will be challenged in the race by Bloc Québécois candidate Julie Bouchard, who served most recently as the president of a health-care workers union. Bouchard has said health care transfers, seniors benefits and economic development are among her priorities.

The region, located some 200 kilometres north of Quebec City, is known for stunning natural landscapes including the Saguenay Fjord. Its main industries include tourism, agriculture, and forestry.

During the first week of the campaign, Martel spent most of the early days outside his riding, attending nominations of other candidates in the region and travelling to Quebec City to introduce O'Toole.

The Conservatives held 10 seats in Quebec at dissolution. O'Toole has made a bid to increase that number by pledging a new "contract" with the province and rolling out a set of promises he would fulfil in his first 100 days in office, if elected.

Those include working with the province to apply a local French-language bill to federally regulated businesses, giving it more power over immigration and "respecting the right of Quebec to pass its own laws to protect its language and culture.”

Before the election was called, the Tories held 10 of the 78 seats in Quebec, two fewer than before the last federal election was called in 2019. Conservatives haven't managed to secure more than 12 seats in the province in years.

O'Toole is hoping to change that, by also promising funding for a tunnel under the St. Lawrence River that would connect Quebec City and Levis, Que., and benefit commuters.

The Liberals confirmed their candidate is Jean Duplain, while the New Democrats are running Ismaël Raymond, the Greens have selected Yves Laporte and the People's Party of Canada have put forward Jimmy Voyer.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 15, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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