Quebec separatism might not be on full throttle these days, but there’s definitely a “different-from-the-rest-of-Canada” spirit to how federal candidates are promoting themselves in La Belle Province via their campaign signs.
Elsewhere in the country, campaign posters and signs tend to be generic: the colour of the party, candidate name, party logo, and riding name—pretty cookie-cutter. Quebec’s signs, however, are rich in visuals, with candidates’ faces and illustrations. It probably has a good explanation.
I would think it might have to do with the province being a cultural beast of its own, possessing a joie de vivre that stands unique. After all, it’s the home of Cirque Du Soleil, Carnaval de Québec, a vibrant arts scene, and where entire streets shut down in summer for festivals. Life has a certain flair, and whether in the city or the outskirts, the fun never stops, because there’s a party to be had at any hour. In that respect, no frills plain posters would be bone-dry boring in comparison.
Another theory: no doubt political parties realize there’s stiff competition in Quebec, where any seat could flip in an unpredictable direction, necessitating some advertising panache. Remember how, in 2011, Quebec turned bright orange, helping Jack Layton’s New Democrats become the opposition party? Remember how, in 1993, Lucien Bouchard’s Bloc Quebecois took 54 seats—nearly all of the province—making him the opposition leader? Time to get creative with marketing, leave nothing to chance! More pageantry!
By way of example, powerful branding contrasts are evident between Grit and Tory signs, with layered messaging (if you know what to look for).
One difference is in what the candidates are wearing. Liberals, with light-coloured button-downs, signal a casual “have a lemonade with me on a summer day” feel. Montreal incumbent Anthony Housefather, for example, wears a light-hue pink, no doubt carefully curated to give off the modern “metro” vibe to appeal to youth and female voters.
On the flipside, Conservatives are decked in professional attire: dark blouses for the women and dark suits and ties for the men. It’s selling the more serious approach; that is, no bhangra dancing, no bananas stuffed down the pants, no Chewbacca socks, no hugging puppet unicorns, no “drink box water bottle things,” no shirtless selfies. It’s saying “we mean business” (in both the “talk turkey” sense of the word and bringing business to Canada sense of the word).
In what is often a fourth-place party in Quebec—after the default Liberals, NDP, and Bloc—the Conservatives have attempted to differentiate themselves by tapping into local parochial sensibilities. They added a slogan on their signs: “agir pour le Quebec”—meaning “act for Quebec.” Wait… what? Isn’t this a federal election? Don’t we already have a Quebec-centred party looking out for the province’s best interests? It’s almost as though the Conservatives think Quebeckers need to be seduced, coddled, and kowtowed to—playing the “special status” card for votes. Or worse—that they think locals are solely focused on self-interest rather than the welfare of the country as a whole. But in case people really didn’t get the hint that the Tories seek to appease Quebec, in the background there’s subtle (subliminal) array of fleur-de-lis placed around the candidate’s image. It’s a gamble, but the Tories have little to lose.
On the Liberals’ signs, in contrast, to the right of the candidate’s image is a collage of faded faces of varying colours, ages, and genders, as if to imply that they’re the party of the multi-culti “everyman” (or “peoplekind,” whichever you choose). It’s a something-for-everyone unity-and-love message versus the niche patriotism message. It’s peculiar, though, as one might have thought it would be the Liberals who’d place emphasis on Quebec, since they likely need it to hold onto power.
What also stands out is how prominent—or hidden—the party name is on the signs. The Liberal name is unabashed, big and bold at the top right-hand corner, seen from 18 feet away, right next to the candidate’s image. But on the Tories’ signs, the word “Conservative” is the equivalent to a footnote at the bottom, in puny font. Passersby have to squint to see it. It’s kind of a “by the way, we know you’d never consider voting for this party, but maybe there’s an off-chance we could convince you if the picture looked like a bus ad from a realtor, lawyer, or insurance salesman.”
Because image is paramount for the Trudeau Liberals, especially in Quebec, each election requires a complete sign makeover. “A fresh look, for a fresh outlook” might as well be the slogan, like a cliché cosmetics television ad. Take the example of Marc Garneau, a Liberal candidate in the Montreal area. In 2019, his clothing was dark, versus 2021’s light colours. In 2019, he wasn’t wearing glasses, but in 2021, specs play better.
In 2019, on the left-hand side of the Liberals’ signs there were pictograms symbolizing things like economy, jobs, and housing, whereas in 2021, issues were too much for constituents to think about, apparently. The marketing team must have realized no one’s expecting much from Trudeau’s “zero calorie” policies anyway. A simple face and a name was all voters needed to know.
This is as much true with Justin Trudeau’s recent election signs, featuring him in an off-white button-down and dark-blue tie (wrong team colour, but marketing said it suggests he has “range.”) Suit jackets, apparently, are an unnecessary accessory—too stuffy!—relegated only for Parliament, solemn events, and meeting other dignitaries.
Only two other messages are printed: Team Trudeau, and Liberal. It’s all about the face, really. The photo is virtually indistinguishable from any other perfectly coiffed, air-brushed campaign mug from the past decade. Not a wrinkle, not a sprout of grey. Quebeckers: he’s the same youthful, charismatic, fils de Pierre we’ve all come to love, so if you want more cute, vote Liberal again.
In everything from tone and image to messaging and branding, Quebec’s campaign signs and posters are so unlike those in the other provinces that it is indeed as though they’re from another country.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.