Denis Lebel, deputy leader of the Conservative Party and former minister in Stephen Harper’s government, will be resigning his seat of Lac-Saint-Jean over the summer. When a vote is held to replace him, it could be a tough test of Andrew Scheer’s new leadership of the Conservatives.
It also will provide a glimpse of where the Liberals and NDP stand in the province — and whether the Bloc Québécois has any future under its new leader, Martine Ouellet.
Lac-Saint-Jean, a riding north of Quebec City in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region, was first won by Lebel in a 2007 byelection when the riding was known as Roberval–Lac-Saint-Jean.
Lebel has since been re-elected three times, most recently in 2015. But his share of the vote in that election fell by nine points. With 33.3 per cent of ballots cast, Lebel just narrowly defeated the NDP’s Gisèle Dallaire, who captured 28.5 per cent of the vote.
The Bloc and Liberal candidates trailed with 18.4 per cent of the vote apiece.
But with Quebec now showing some of the most volatile poll numbers in the country, the riding could be a toss-up whenever the byelection is called — and all four parties will have something to prove.
Scheer’s first real test?
Lac-Saint-Jean might prove a real challenge for Scheer. It won’t be his only electoral test, however, as a byelection will be needed to replace Rona Ambrose in the Alberta riding of Sturgeon River–Parkland.
But that is a Conservative stronghold. In Lac-Saint-Jean, Scheer will be tasked with retaining a close seat in a province that helped deliver him the party’s leadership.
Lebel was a former mayor of the town of Roberval within the riding and his candidacy was instrumental in the party’s 2007 win there. Since 2011, Lebel has been the sole Conservative MP in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region.
His decline in support in 2015 — when the Conservatives marginally increased their share of the vote province-wide — should be of…