Thursday, April 21, 2011

Developments in Quebec

Two polls out last night show the NDP in front in Quebec, CROP (online, 1000 respondents, 13 to 20 April) and Ekos (telephone, 1084 respondents, 18 to 21 April). Some thoughts...

First of all, as a Liberal, while I would prefer it if that movement in Quebec to the NDP was coming this way, I have to say as a political junkie that there is a refreshing aspect to this that can appeal to all partisans. It shows the power of the voters that the pundits, the polls, nobody has been able to predict or capture. That is the great thing about politics, the element of unpredictability and it's a great reminder to anyone trying to analyze Canadian politics.

That we are seeing these Quebec polls now, rather than say a week from now, also means it's game on and there is time for all parties to adapt there. The polls may change yet again and it's not certain these two are determinative, I'll leave that to professional analysts of these things.

What else is going on in Quebec? Last weekend Gilles Duceppe gave that strong address to the PQ convention, talking up sovereignty. He may have misread the mood of the Quebec electorate and it's possible that the polls showing his party going down in support are a reaction to that pitch. Or, it could also be fatigue with the Bloc which is more generalized, as articulated by Vincent Marissal on the Bloc's campaign:
Quant à Gilles Duceppe, il mène sa pire campagne depuis 1997. Pas de gaffe majeure comme en 1997 (il est trop expérimenté pour ça), mais il est tellement prévisible. Peu inspiré, blasé même par moments, et souvent hargneux. À force de rebondir sur les mêmes sujets, sur les mêmes vieux réflexes, le Bloc a usé ses ressorts.
Whatever the reason, if indeed Bloc support is on the wane, it's good news for federalists and we'll see if it holds. The Bloc waning, by the way, may also spell problems for the NDP if they view this Quebec uptick as transferable. It may be solely tied to the Bloc phenomenon.

What else happened this week? Harper fanned the flames of that Duceppe speech and now sees these poll results showing a decline in Bloc fortunes and his own party's in Quebec. That undercuts his Bloc bogeyman/majority argument should these numbers hold up. People in Quebec may have rebelled against that dynamic and started looking elsewhere. Whether Harper cares about his own party's numbers in Quebec, it's possible that he just doesn't or they've made the calculations that they can skate out of Quebec with their Quebec City seats, or enough of them, intact. Fanning the flames, as Harper has, it's shameful conduct that's not in the national interest. As an incumbent Prime Minister too.

It also has to be acknowledged that the NDP's campaign in Quebec seems to be paying off. I say "seems to be" since as stated above, we'll see if this holds. For now, disgruntled voters looking for a change seem to be going NDP. And for that reason, their policies may now get much more attention.

How this shifts seats in Quebec is a whole other question. For what it's worth, Hélène Buzzetti of Le Devoir has a bit of an analysis today on how increased support for the NDP might affect the seat fallout in the province. Not sure it was written to account for the polls late last night though, since it still refers to the NDP as being in second. In that analysis with the help of Jean-Marc Leger it says the NDP could elect a few but the main effect could be to help elect Conservatives and Liberals by the NDP eating away at the Bloc vote in ridings where in 2008 the Bloc was in tight against one of those parties. There seem to be more ridings where a loss of Bloc votes might tip a riding to Liberals than ones that could be tipped to Conservatives. But, if Liberals are losing votes in Quebec too, then such predictions might be less useful.

For Liberals, Ignatieff is in Outremont this morning, a bit of remarkable timing there. Also, Ignatieff is on "Tout le monde en parle" on Sunday, with a 1.7 million viewing audience and a big opportunity to reach out to Quebecers. As noted yesterday, his favourability numbers have been increasing during the campaign, indicating a possibility that the race may tighten in these final weeks. That appearance is a big one for him.

It's getting interesting again, game on, people!