Is this the CAQ’s 10th, 15th, or 20th birthday?


 19 February 2021

Before you answer, remember that the CAQ has gone through not one, not two, but three general elections. Yes, three general elections. So, how old would you think the CAQ is?

The answer is… 10 years old, but even this is not totally accurate. The CAQ will turn 10 on November 14. It might be tempting to see the glass as either half full or half empty — it could be “10 years already? Time flies,” or on the other hand, “Only 10 years? They have gone through so much in so little time!”

In fact, when looking at the CAQ’s history, we must admit that they had to work twice as hard from the start. And we can’t forget that at the beginning, the CAQ was more of a movement than a political party.

For those who like great stories

People will say whatever they want, but there is always a great story behind the creation of something new. There is always this nervousness, where the will to succeed meets the fear of failure. There is also always a well-planned strategy, which at the right moment, receives the help it needs, what we call good luck. With its help, things fall into place and we can believe that everyone stands a chance. CAQ’s story was no exception.

The idea behind the CAQ originated 10 years ago, on February 21, 2011. A group of 12 people led by

François Legault and Charles Sirois (French only) had submitted their manifesto Coalition pour lavenir du Québec (alliance for the future of Québec) to the press. This eight-page-long manuscript laid down the foundation of a group that strongly believed that Québec can and must do better in every field, including education, health, economy, trust in institutions and its representatives, etc.

At first, the approach of Coalition pour l’avenir du Québec was apolitical and non-partisan. Its goal was to widen the scope for further debate on the future of the province. The manifest received so much support that the thought of creating a political party was increasingly present. That’s when the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) was officially created, on November 14, 2011.

The creation of a political party was already in discussions for a while when the CAQ decided, in October of 2011, “to integrate a silent observer into its strategic committee: the journalist Alec Castonguay,” from the magazine L‘Actualité. “The goal: to document the launch of a party that, even before its creation, was at the top of the polls — extremely rare for the annals of Quebec.”

This is how Alec Castonguay got his nickname “La Chaise (The Chair),” from sitting in a corner, silently taking notes. After a six-month immersion, he could recount the fine tales of the CAQ in Dans le ventre de la CAQ (French only), a 32-page-long piece (a must if you like suspense or beautiful stories).

In this article from Alec Castonguay, we learn that, at first, François Legault did not want to be the leader of the party. He first tried to get Lucien Bouchard onboard.

Only after Lucien Bouchard refused did François Legault come to realize what his inner circle already knew: he was best suited for the role. François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec was officially born on November 14, 2011.

On that day, temperatures soared to a record high of 19 degrees Celcius (French only). The good weather made François Legault happy, because everything was moving fast.

A month later, on December 13  (French only), François Legault’s CAQ announced a possible merger with Gérard Deltell’s ADQ (Democratic Action of Québec) party. On  December 19 (French only), four independent MNAs decided to join the rank of the CAQ: former ADQ members Marc Picard and Éric Caire, and former PQ members Daniel Ratthé and Benoit Charrette. The merge of the ADQ and the CAQ became reality on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2012 (French only). In total, 9 members (French only) joined the CAQ.

On August 12, the CAQ introduced its first electoral platform in a Plan de relance pour le Québec (French only); it included as many as 94 educational, health, economic, and integrity-of-state commitments.

On September 4, 2012,  only ten months after its creation, the CAQ had its first general election and elected 19 MNAs (French only) in a Parti Québécois minority government. In all of Québec history, a political party as young as the CAQ (only 10 months old) had never elected so many MNAs.

At this point, the CAQ was just getting used to what had happened. Québec was back in election 19 months later, on April 7, 2014 (French only), and the CAQ elected 22 MNAs in a Québec Liberal Party (QLP) majority government.

Long story short, in only two and a half years, the CAQ went through two elections and became a well-established party in Québec’s political landscape.

For the first since its recent creation, the CAQ finally had four years ahead to prepare for the next elections.

October 2, 2017 by-election

The purpose of by-elections is often to send a message to the current government, especially when they are held in a stronghold of the party in power. The October 2, 2017 by-election in Louis-Hébert sent a rather clear message. After the departure of Sam Hamad — who had won five consecutive elections without much difficulty — it was Geneviève Guilbault from  the CAQ who won Louis-Hébert with an overwhelming majority of 51%. This by-election was a turning point, and with this stunning victory, the CAQ proved to be a strong contender for the next general election a year later.

September 23, 2018

A week before the vote, polls predicted a tie between the CAQ and QLP, but acknowledged that anything could happen. The outcome was so uncertain that Philippe J. Fournier from Québec125 made his guess in the form a question: “Victory for the CAQ, and popular vote for the QLP? (French only)”, that foreshadowed a minority government. However…

October 1st 2018

Following a demanding and tight campaign after 6 years and 10 months of existence, the CAQ has beaten all predictions (except those of the CAQ strategists), requiring only 19 minutes to be declared the winner and 34 minutes to be elected majority (French only), winning 74 seats. On October 1, 2018, the CAQ made history.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing is the membership of so many Quebecers from all walks of life. Hundreds of thousands of women and men recognized themselves and decided to get on board. The original coalition became a true popular party and a government of locals.  It took the CAQ only 6 years and 10 months to go from the idea of a few to the government of all.

On the way to its 10th birthday

To celebrate its 10th birthday, the CAQ has decided to put its key figures in the spotlight throughout the year. As the months go by, important figures of the CAQ’s great adventure will be featured in our podcasts. Depictions of those who have marked out history will be posted on social media: from the first employee, to the first “paid” employee, the first elected member of Parliament, the first accountant, the first desk lamp… not to mention Chuck, the CAQ’s most loyal employee and only mascot to date.

Of course, there will also be plenty of surprises throughout the year. 10 years is still worth celebrating.

In the meantime, until the pandemic is in the past (and we can finally celebrate together), take care of yourself, keep your distance, wear a mask, and wash your hands.

Lastly, the entire CAQ team would like to thank, on behalf of all its members and collaborators, the 12 signatories of the February 21, 2011 Manifesto.


François Legault, cofounder Charles Sirois, cofounder
Bruno-Marie Béchard Marinier Lionel Carmant
Jean Lamarre Sylvie Lemaire
Michel Lemay Chantal Longpré
Marie-Ève Proulx Stéphanie Raymond-Bougie
Anie Samson Jean-François Simard


Thank you for bringing the CAQ into the world.

But most importantly, thank you to the thousands of members, and the hundreds of thousands of Quebecers who trust in us.

Another lockdown for Québec?


 11 September 2020

The question itself is depressing. Let’s be real: spring wasn’t all that easy, and nobody wants another round.

Disliking or hating the virus won’t miraculously make it disappear. Ignoring the facts doesn’t work. The virus is still around. If we do not act accordingly, we’ll all collectively suffer the consequences again.

Does this mean that Québec might have to close completely again this fall? Short answer, no, but it’s more complicated. In fact, there are two possibilities.

We have a choice

On the one hand, if everybody diligently follows the public health updates, and if we get back our collective spirit from last spring, the lockdown will continue to be lifted gradually. Best-case scenario, this is what we want. Fewer people are sick from the virus and a faster economic recovery.

On the other hand, nobody’s perfect. We cannot expect everybody to be a public health role model. Whoever never took a break from social distancing should cast the first stone. It’s normal. We are human, perfection is unattainable.

What does living in an imperfect world mean? It means that we’ll probably witness outbreaks in some regions or economic sectors this fall. And if we’re not careful enough, these outbreaks might spread, forcing a partial closure of the economy. However, if we’re careful, the situation will not escalate, as we’ll be able to control small outbreaks to avoid the worst.

A fragile situation

In Québec, we learned about COVID-19 the hard way during the spring. At the peak of the pandemic, our numbers were not reassuring. To say that Québec had the worst numbers globally would be to exaggerate the numbers, but still… The virus didn’t spare us.

Fortunately, things have changed, and we were able to regain control of the situation in seniors’ residences. During the summer, the daily number of new cases went way down. This was the result of our efforts to flatten the curve of the first wave. It wasn’t a miracle.

The good news is that our economic results have been encouraging. We have already recovered a good part of the jobs lost before the lockdown. There is evidence to show that the economy has recovered faster in Québec than in other provinces.

Summer slowly turns into fall, and the number of cases is on the rise. The situation is not dramatic, but these past few weeks, there has been a clear trend upward. A reminder that we are not sheltered from a full return of the virus.

If the end of the first wave was the result of discipline; the new upward trend is the result of letting go. It is the result of family dinners and nights out with friends, and the irrepressible desire to sing Dancing Queen huddled together in a karaoke bar. It’s the result of so many minor acts, as well as some completely irresponsible behaviours.

Évolution des cas

Source : INPSQ

When we look…

We are not the first globally to see the numbers rise. Many other countries overcame a first wave — like here in Québec — but are now facing a second one.

Let’s take France as an example. In the spring, the French were amongst the hardest hit in Europe. During the summer, the number of cases went down, and life slowly went back to semi-normal. There was even a special edition of the Tour de France!

The Tour de France did take place, but the period of calm did not last. In the last few weeks, France broke its record of daily new cases from spring many times over. With this new peak, there are about 10,000 confirmed cases daily, or about 147 cases per million inhabitants. Québec, at a similar rate, would have about 1,247 cases daily. It would seriously start to look like a second wave.

Nouveaux cas quotidiens en France

Source : gouvernement français

But we haven’t reached that point here. For now, the numbers are about 20 cases per million inhabitants, or about where France was at the end of July. In France, the second wave came after a period of letting go, and an outbreak much bigger than what we are currently observing in Québec.

This comparison is at once encouraging and scary. In reality, we are not safe from this. We could be just a couple weeks behind France. If we are not careful, we could also be back to a high transmission level. We might have to close parts of our economy.

Better prepared than last spring

Let’s be pessimistic for a moment, and imagine that Québec follows down France’s path. If, mid-November, we have the same number of new cases daily that we had last spring. Would that mean a total lockdown for Québec?

The answer is no. Last spring, we were less aware of what we had to do. We had to act carefully in order to face the unknown. Our testing ability was less developed. We did not know exactly who were the most vulnerable people or where the contagion was the most dangerous. The most cautious thing was to close everything, to reduce risks as much as possible.

Now that we know a little more, we know that it’s possible to organize daycares and schools in order to reduce the contagion risks as much as possible. We also know that it’s possible to go back to the office, shopping, or to the hairdresser safely, if everyone follows the guidelines.

This all means that this time, we’ll know better who to look after and what to look for in order to stop the contagion, if it all becomes necessary. Our ability to test is here. We can identify new outbreaks quickly, before they spread, so it will not be necessary to undergo a complete lockdown and to jeopardize the incomes of thousands of Quebecers.

Évolution du nombre de tests au Québec

Source : INSPQ

Learning to dance

Have you ever heard about Tomas Pueyo? If you had asked me a few months ago, I would’ve said no, like most people.

Tomas Pueyo is a Franco-Spanish engineer. He was relatively unknown, but that changed last March. On March 10, he published an article urging the implementation of fast, strong measures to stop a COVID-19 outbreak. He suddenly became very popular. His article was viewed millions of times by everyone, including CEOs and politicians from around the globe. Many got the now-famous expression “to flatten the curve” from the article.

Fewer than ten days later, he published another article that confirmed his views. He compared the first series of measures against the virus to a Hammer strike. The countries that closed their borders, their schools, and a good part of the economy had hit hard enough to flatten the first wave.

However, the most interesting part of his article was about what happens after the first wave. After the Hammer’s strike, we’ll have to learn how to dance with the next waves of contagion, says Pueyo. We have to learn the right moves to stop the spread of the virus before another wave crests, without having to use the Hammer again.

Coronavirus cases

Pueyo’s metaphor is useful to understand what is going on right now. If we want to be in control of the health crisis, without having to compromise the economy, we’ll need to learn the right dance moves. If the cases increase, we’ll need to put in lockdowns, whereas if they decrease, we can lift restrictions.

We have to be able to act with surgical precision in order to suppress the virus as soon as it appears, without having to stifle the economy.

Surgical strikes against the virus

In Québec, we now have a regional alert system. It has four alert levels: green for where the contagion is under control, yellow for where control weakens, orange for where the situation is getting serious, and red for the highest level of alert.

If another lockdown is necessary, it will happen accordingly to the contagion level of a specific region. If the situation were to get out of control in Laval, some businesses might close, but it wouldn’t affect those in Montréal or the rest of the province. Similarly, Gaspésie won’t be in red because things are not going too well in Outaouais.

This essentially means that we won’t put Québec completely under lockdown all at once, like in spring. Even if we were to put some specific regions under lockdown, we would first target the most problematic sectors — where the public health measures are not implemented properly. For example, we might close bars, but not schools, like in British-Columbia.

It’s our dance

By being aware of the alert system and continuing with mass testing, we should be able to dance with the virus, and to hit back in a surgical manner. We should not have to entirely shut down Québec.

Worst-case scenario, some areas in some regions could be put under lockdown for a while. Best-case scenario, the population continues to respect public health measures, and we’ll continue to progress carefully with reopening.

The choice is ours!

COVID-19: Should we fear a second wave?


 28 June 2020

Yes. And we will be the ones determining its intensity. To be honest, we will get the second wave that we deserve. If we do not follow the guidelines, it will be strong and last longer. If we do follow the guidelines, it will be mild and short.

We should ask ourselves, what do we want the second wave to be like? The answer to this question will vary according to the way we will act after the the lockdown lifting. Which path will we follow? The path of those who were still outside when the Premier, François Legault, announced the lockdown? Or that the people who stayed home because the virus is still out there?

This means we are facing two kind of reactions: on one side, people for whom lockdown lifting is easy and, on the other, people who still have a deep fear of the virus.

The virus is so unpredictable that there is good reason to fear it

At the same time, we have so few losses (except in CHSLDs), so we are under the impression that everyone who is not at high risk (i.e. elderly, immunocompromised, immunosuppressed, or people living with a severe chronic disease) is safe from it.

We tend to forget that during the first wave, Quebec succeeded in not overcrowding hospitals. We did not see horrific scenes like in New York, Bergamo, or Paris. If that were to happen here, it would result in death among all levels of the population.

Between the free-for-all and the deep fear of lockdown lifting, maybe we should hear what the expert have to say on this matter. That’s what I did, and we must face the facts, experts are unanimous: to prevent a second lockdown, we should continue to follow the basic health guidelines closely, i.e. maintaining social distancing (2 m), washing our hands often, and wearing a mask in public.

To get a better picture of what the potential second wave could be like, an observation of what is happening in grocery stores – or even better – in hardware stores or garden centres is enough.

Following guidelines is key

There is nothing more to say to retailers. They are following the guidelines issued by the government and public health in an exemplary manner (i.e. two-metre marks on the floor, masks or medical face shields, waiting lines with two metres’ social distancing to the cash, service counter, etc).

We cannot say the same about the clients. Some are very keen to respect the guidelines, but some others seem to be back to their pre-pandemic, worry-free life. Some are quick and to the point when doing their groceries, while others take their time in the aisles, weighting products, touching fruits and vegetables, comparing the ingredients of big brands with the ones of the home brand…

Masks are efficient, if worn correctly

Same goes for masks. There are two categories: people who are in a rush to go back to normal and people who are afraid. On the one hand, some people wear a mask even when they are alone in their car, and on the other, some wear it under their chin, on their neck, or simply leave it in the car.

To get back to the main topic, there are no wrong answers and maybe we should all be afraid, and — above all! — continue to closely follow the guidelines that François Legault and Dr Arruda keep repeating.

What are we waiting for? All we have to do is to protect ourselves and others for as long as we do not have a vaccine. The key is to remain vigilant and to respect guidelines.

Tens of thousands of lives have been saved during the first wave

I know what you are going to say already : you’ve had enough of all of these guidelines — but keep in mind that respecting guidelines and the lockdown rules helped reduce the impact of the first wave — maybe it will help you to further respect and such guidelines.

To this point, Imperial College London’s latest study1 (the ninth-best university worldwide) clearly shows the lockdown saved Europe from the worst, and that the actions put in place in the 11 countries in the study saved 3 million lives between early March and early May 2020.

According to a co-study by experts (French only) of the Institut national de santé publique du Québec and Université Laval2, the number of deaths would have been 10 time higher in Québec if the government had not put lockdown and social distancing into place. 10 times higher!

Daily deaths in the population

The chart above shows that without the actions in place, the death toll would have tenfold. The distancing and lockdown put in place in Québec might have saved tens of thousands of lives. The deaths without hospitalizations in CHSLD are not included in the projections.

Even if the situation is slowly getting better every week in Québec, it is important to know that it is getting worse everywhere else in the world, according to the WHO (World Health Organization). From May 30 to June 8, there has been an average of more than 100 000 new cases every day worldwide. That’s enormous.

If the world had reacted sooner to Dr. Li Wenliang’s3 warning from Wuhan, late December 2019, millions of lives probably could have been saved.

We have to keep protecting ourselves

So, can we just be less vigilant and go back to normal? The answer is no.

We should keep protecting ourselves and others, and remain supportive, because we are all in the same boat. We must stand together to fight the pandemic. COVID-19 is an invisible enemy: unpredictable and insidious.

Fighting the virus and winning are our common objectives. They must go viral.

We don’t want the second wave to be worst than the first one, because if that were the case, we can all agree it would be extremely difficult to go back to normal.

Personal choices have a direct impact on all Quebecers

What do we want? What kind of second wave do we want? There’s a way to think about it properly and collectively, because every personal decision impacts the consequences that everyone will have to face.

Enough deaths, enough grieving families that could not accompany their relatives in their final moments, enough overtired guardian angels, enough people with financial or mental health struggles, enough businesses scraping by. In the end, everyone is affected.

If you ever wanted to go back to the pre-pandemic world, be aware that it will never be the same. If it could be, we could also go back to the 2000’s or to the 1970’s, depending on our age.

If the 1920’s were the roaring age, maybe we could name the 2020’s the wise age. It would still be a better name than the dead years.

I would like to tell you that it is our own right to choose and not anybody else’s, but we do not really have a choice. Nobody has the resources -or the will! – to go back to lockdown, and lose a loved one.

I am a son (my mom will turn 88 year old soon), a father (to children ages 30, 33, and 38), a grandfather (to a little girl ages 5, and by mariage, to two great granddaughters of 18 and 20 years old), a husband (to an adorable retiree), and I want to be able to cherish my loved ones for as long as possible.

Do not give up

I have made my decision. I will continue to follow the guidelines set by Premier, François Legault, and public health director, Dr Arruda. I will do that I can to make the second wave as mild and as short as possible.

What do you want the second wave to be like?

1 Published June 8, 2020 in the scientific journal Nature.
2 Research group on mathematical modeling and on health economics on infectious disease, under the direction of Marc Brisson.
3 Dr Li died of COVID-19 on February 2020 at the age of 33 years old.

Where were you on March 12, 2020?


 14 June 2020

Where were you on March 12, 2020 when the Premier and Dr. Arruda first talked about a pandemic? I was at a brewery after my weekly hockey game. All of the TVs were broadcasting the news instead of the sports channel. On TV, the Premier was next to the Minister of Health, and the next star of Québec, Dr Arruda, National Director of Public Health (French only).

We were having a beer and celebrating our buddy’s birthday. We did not grasp the extent of what was next. Even if we were aware of the virus, we did not realize how serious it was for a group of almost-sixty-year-olds.

I was on the road (from Montreal) to home (Mauricie), and
I remember telling myself that our hockey season had probably come to an end. Strangely enough, on that evening, I felt like it was the end of the world as we know it and the beginning of new, unfamiliar one.

Where were you on March 12? What were you thinking about on that day?

The 1 pm meeting

If someone had told me that one day, the press briefing of the Premier would beat the audience ratings of popular TV shows like La Voix or District 31, I would have answered it would happen when two Sundays come together or when pigs fly.

But it happened! The daily press briefings of François Legault had an average of 2 to 2.5 million viewers and reached a peak of 2 735 000 viewers on April 7.

I watched it too. I did not miss one press briefing of the Legault-McCann-Arruda trio. I watched it every day, without exception.

Why? Because I wanted to know. Everything. The moment that we were living was exceptional and called for exceptional solidarity.

The word exceptional is without a doubt the one that best describes the work of the 1 pm press briefings’ three main characters.

I always thought that François Legault would be a good Premier, not only because he is good with numbers, but because he is authentic and humane. His 1 pm meetings proved that he was better than I had initially thought – a real statesman – and that he was up to date with his files like I had rarely seen before.

What more can I say about his two colleagues? They were both outstanding in their respecting fields: Danielle McCann was always precise, receptive, and hardworking, and as for Dr. Arruda, he was always clear, sympathetic, and able to explain epidemiological science in an approachable manner.

No wonder they soon became social media heroes. I even saw leftist intellectuals praise François Legault, whereas in October 2018, they were very vocally vilifying him and wishing for his defeat. This shows that both left and right can wear blinders. All of a sudden, everybody is happy that the Premier is an accountant, because accountants ask the right questions, so they get the right answers. Accountants ask for accuracy; they do not settle for approximations.

To be totally honest, I think that we should congratulate ourselves that François Legault’s party was in power during this pandemic. I do not think anyone else could have done a better job given the circumstances.

I think that in times of crises we recognize great men, and François Legault is one of them.

No one knows anyone who had it

At the end of March, every time I called someone, I was asked the same question : “Do you know anyone who had it? Because I don’t.” This question made me smile, because, deep down, I hoped I would never know of anyone.

So I answered: “Me neither”, to switch topics as fast as possible, because I knew someone who had it… Me.

Yes, I had COVID-19.

My wife got it first and gave it to me, without being aware that she had the virus. I also got it without really knowing. I am among the lucky ones who had the milder version.

On March 12th, my wife got the shingles vaccine. She probably caught it then. Two days later, she had a runny nose, she was coughing a little and she felt sore. “I think I caught a cold like the one from last year. Everything hurts.” She felt very tired, and she only wanted one thing: sleep. She slept 10 to 12 hours a day. I told her, “it’s probably just the side effects of your shingles vaccine,” to which she answered, “maybe…”

On March 17th, I also started having a runny nose and feeling tired. Then, little by little, it got worse, but it didn’t stop me from working. Even then, I thought I was lucky: I had a job.

Days went by, until on March 22nd or 23rd, my wife told me, “it’s weird, I can’t smell or taste anything.” I told her that she “should maybe call her doctor,” before adding that I also could not smell or taste anything.

On March 24th, her doctor told her that lost of taste (anosmia) and sense of smell (ageusia) were now COVID-19 symptoms, and that we should get tested.

On March 25th, we went for the test, and on the 27th, we tested positive.

On April 3rd, we were declared clear.

Nothing else to report

All I felt was immense fatigue and a loss of taste (ageusia) and sense of smell (anosmie). Nothing else. I did not have shortness of breath, nor did I cough or have a fever. I was lucky. Especially given that I am a part of a high-risk group, the “60 and overs”.

I was keeping track of the death toll on TV and counted myself very lucky. Lucky to have had almost nothing, to be in perfectly good health, to be immune. Ans also extremely lucky that our mothers, 87 and 90 years old respectively did not catch it and are still very lively.

Every single day, my thoughts are with the families of the ones who were less lucky, and who – how sad – lost both of their parents during the same week.

Breaking down the COVID-19 numbers: does Québec compare to the rest of the world?


 7 June 2020

Simply put, yes. It is possible to compare the COVID-19 death rate of Québec to those of other states if using the right basis for comparison.

No one will deny that Québec, especially the Greater Montreal area, is the COVID-19 pandemic epicentre of Canada. The thousands of deaths that happened in CHSLDs are a sad reminder. However, it takes a lot of bad faith to state that Quebec has one of the worst coronavirus mortality rates worldwide.

To portray the situation in such manner is preposterous, especially as we have seen images of overstretched hospitals in Alsace (French only) and in Paris; the dead bodies piling up in northern Italy and in Madrid; and the refrigerated trucks lined up in New York to receive the corpses coming from hospitals by dozens. Not to forget that some systems were so overwhelmed that doctors had to choose who lives and dies. Despite the significant number of deaths in CHSLDs, the province was never confronted with such situations.

Such conclusions are based on shaky comparisons. Let’s break it down.

Not all death are recorded…

Commentators often give pieces of data. Each state has its own way to record the cause of death. Sometime, only the people that have been tested or the people who passed at the hospital are taken into account, and not the one who passed at CHSLDs.

According to experts (French only), the only way to evaluate the actual death rate of COVID-19 is to look at the excess deaths by comparing the number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic to the average at same period for previous years.

Respectable mass media like the New York Times, the Financial Times, and The Economist have special reports on excess deaths. In many countries, there were scandals accusing the authorities of hiding deaths related to the pandemic. In the United Kingdom, the excess deaths rose to 55,000 as of May 8; however, only 38,000 COVID-19 deaths were reported. This left 17,000 deaths unaccounted for.

New York Times - Excess deaths

This New York Times table shows that as of May 9 in New Jersey, 5,500 more deaths had been officially reported. That’s a lot! In Illinois and Michigan, it was 1,500.

In order to vet the numbers of death from a geographic standpoint (city, region, country), the analysis should be conducted with similar data by using the excess death numbers, if possible, according to epidemiologists (French only).

By doing so, a less negative picture emerges for Québec.

Surmortalité en mars et avril 2020
COVID-19 excess deaths

All COVID-19-related deaths were recorded in Québec.

On the other hand, other countries besides the United States and the United Kingdom have inaccurate data. Based on the numbers collected by international media, the death rate reported by authorities everywhere is seriously underestimated, with the exceptions of Belgium (French only)… and Québec!

Unfortunately, excess deaths numbers are not available everywhere. In fact, the data for Ontario is unknown.  In Québec , Institut de la statistique du Québec made the data on excess public on April 25 (French only)

Comparing Québec to similar states

Comparing the COVID-19 pandemic in Québec to the pandemic in other countries has significant limitations. When comparing Québec to a country like France, the data from areas actually affected by the pandemic is diluted.

To address this issue, Québec, the province with the highest number of cases in Canada, should be compared with Grand-Est (French only), the region with the highest number of cases in France. If Québec were to be compared to Italy, it should be compared with a province like Lombardy (French only) which was hit hard by the pandemic. Similarly, if the province were to be compared to Spain, it should be put side by side with a region like Madrid.

Putting things into perspective makes Québec numbers less negative.

Décès déclarés par régions des pays européens
Areas of European countries

Québec numbers are far more encouraging than the ones from neighbouring north-east areas

Comparing Québec’s data to the United States is also questionable. The U.S. is a vast country that has urban areas that are heavily populated, as well as more rural areas with low population density.

Although some Québec regions are sparsely populated, the fact that the population of the Greater Montreal, 4.1 million people, is almost half of the province’s population. In addition, as we will observe later, the Pacific region, from British Columbia to Los Angeles, has been relatively spared.

To make a fair comparison, we should compare ourselves to states from the same geographic area, such as New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey or Connecticut. These states have highly populated and less populated areas, like Québec. When comparing ourselves with those neighbouring states, we are able to observe that we have been less affected by the virus by far.

In fact, when comparing northeastern cities like Montreal, Boston, New York, or Washington, Québec numbers are the most encouraging by far!

American states from the northeastern area

Geographic regions were not hit equally

It might be tempting to compare Canadian provinces and come to the conclusion that one succeeded while the other failed. Yet, all major geographic areas in North America have not been hit the same by the virus. Urban areas from northeastern areas like Montréal, Boston, New York and Washington were most affected, while in the Pacific coast, regions like Vancouver-Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles were less affected by the pandemic.

As of May 31, the mortality rate by COVID-19 in the Pacific coast was 101 deaths per million, whereas in the northeast, it was almost 10 times as high, with 938 deaths per million. What could possibly explain such a difference?

For now, nothing is certain. It could be the origin of the pandemic. In the Pacific coast states, the virus came from Asia, where the spread of the virus was contained shortly. Meanwhile in the northeast, the virus came from Europe, a region where it was not contained. In Québec, we know that the March break and the fact that the borders were open played a significant role.

This data shows two things:

  1. It is impossible that all Pacific coast states did a good job at containing the virus while northeastern states were all bad at it.
  2. Among the northeastern states, Québec has the most encouraging numbers.

Décès COVID-19 par million d'habitants par zone géographique

Décès COVID-19 par million d'habitants par zone géographique
COVID-19 death toll by geographical area

The Montreal area and the rest of Québec

When addressing Québec’s numbers, it would be important to analyze the different realities between the Montreal area and the rest of the province.

The Montreal area was without a doubt struck the hardest by the pandemic, with 1,038 deaths per million as of May 31. Other regions show more encouraging numbers, 93 deaths per million.

In the following table, it is possible to see that even if the Montreal region was hard-hit, it was much worse in cities like New York. However, Montreal was hit in a similar way to cities like Detroit and Boston.

The figures show that it is hard to compare dense urban centres with less populated areas. In this pandemic, there are more similarities between Boston and Montreal than between Montreal and other Québec regions.

Décès COVID-19 par million d'habitants
Urban centres with high population density vs areas with low population density

Conclusion: Québec’s numbers are not the worst globally

It is easy to make it look as if Québec was among the areas with the worst mortality rates worldwide, but it is a matter of choosing the right comparisons.

When compared to areas in Europe where the virus hit the hardest, Québec numbers are far more encouraging. When compared to similar northeast geographical areas, Québec’s mortality rate is the lowest. If the death excess method – recommended by epidemiologists – is used to paint the real picture, it is possible to see that Québec is one of the only areas in the world where no COVID-19 deaths are unaccounted for. Finally, if the pandemic did hit Montreal hard, the situation is different for the rest of Québec that show encouraging numbers.

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in many deaths in Québec.

No one can deny the impact of the pandemic in CHSLDs, but to exacerbate the numbers to make it look among the worst on an international scale is an insult to the population of Québec. Public health experts have established that Quebecers have saved millions of lives by staying home. In a projection (French only), they showed that without the quarantine, there would have been up to 10 times the number of deaths between April and May.

We should probably congratulate them!