In an interview in July, 62-year-old Lebouthillier was unequivocally confident in her chances of winning a third term, despite the closeness of the vote last time out.
The outgoing federal revenue minister said a close election is normal in a riding with such a low population, noting that she had won her first election – as reeve of her regional county municipality – by a single vote.
“I’m going to win the next election and I’m going to win it with the Madelinots and I’m going to win it with the Gaspésiens because they want to continue to see themselves represented in Ottawa,” she said.
Her main challenger is Bloc Québécois candidate Guy Bernatchez, the local mayor and logging industry leader whom she narrowly beat in 2019.
Bernatchez said he was better known and prepared the second time around, knowing more about the process of recruiting volunteers and working on the phone.
“Certainly, I will be better, I will be better known. The Bloc is not that far behind and has done a great job since 2019,” he said.
Lebouthillier and Bernatchez are expected to address key issues in the riding including an aging population, labor shortages, need for jobs that go beyond seasonal tourist work or fishing , the threat of erosion linked to climate change and the need to repair and maintain key infrastructure such as ports.
Recently in the Gaspé, citizens expressed mixed opinions.
Marie-Andrée Beauchamp, who works seasonally in the hospitality industry, says the return of the Bloc Québécois would be “a dream” but isn’t sure it will happen.
She says the Liberals have made investments in the area, including repairing the storm-damaged Percé boardwalk, but believes most of the investments were for tourists, not locals. What locals need, she says, are higher wages.
A seniors’ residence in Gaspé, about a 45-minute drive away, seemed like more liberal-friendly territory. Several residents sitting enjoying the sun and the view of the river at Résidence Foyer de Gaspé all said they would probably vote Liberal.
A resident praised Lebouthillier, who was described as outspoken. A guest, who was visiting her mother at home, praised Trudeau’s handling of the pandemic.
“I think he was the only one who really helped people,” said Rose-Marie Dorion, sitting outside on a wooden bench.
But Dorion, who works part-time with older people, said she also believed the benefits had lasted long enough and people were now reluctant to work.
Lebouthillier said the Liberal government has invested heavily in the region and delivered results.
As an example, she cited the announcement of the Trudeau wind power plant as a major investment that will help the region continue to develop as a wind energy industry and create some 200 well-paying jobs in an area where Wages are traditionally low-paid services and fishermen. .
Unlike the Liberals, “the Bloc Québécois can only complain,” she said.
Bernatchez, for his part, acknowledges that Lebouthillier is appreciated in some circles, but he also believes that citizens are disappointed with the Liberals’ inaction on certain issues, ranging from the failure to increase benefits for young seniors to the non- restoration of the Cap-des-Rosiers Lighthouse, which adjoins Forillon National Park.
He rejects Lebouthillier’s argument that the Bloc can’t do anything because it will never be anything but an opposition party, noting that the country has several opposition parties that never formed the government.
Also running in the riding are Lisa Phung for the NDP, Jean-Pierre Pigeon for the Conservatives and Christian Rioux for the People’s Party.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 18, 2021.
The Canadian Press