Tuesday, July 6, 2010

PQ increases support in Vachon

There was a provincial by-election in Quebec last night. It took place in the riding of Vachon, an electoral district in the Montérégie region, centred around St-Hubert (Longueuil).

To give you a little background on Vachon, it was created in 1980 and has elected the Parti Québécois seven out of nine times (the Liberals won two elections in the 1980s). The riding voted 56.8% in favour of the OUI in 1995, and has been represented by the PQ since 1994.

The PQ won the riding in 2008 with 48.6%, ahead of the PLQ who had 32.3%. The ADQ, which had almost won the riding in 2007 (34.9% PQ to 34.2% ADQ), saw its support drop to 13.7%.

So, the by-election (caused by the resignation of Camil Bouchard, who had represented the riding since 2003) wasn't expected to be won by anyone but the PQ. But the by-election is the first electoral test that the PLQ government of Jean Charest has had to under-go since it's support has plummeted.

The turnout was 29.3%, not a bad result considering it is the middle of the summer, just after the Canada Day long weekend.

The two main contenders for the election were Martine Ouellet (PQ), a former engineer for Hydro-Quebec, and Simon-Pierre Diamond (PLQ). Diamond, at the age of 22, was the youngest MNA in Quebec history when he was elected under the ADQ's banner in 2007. He's now 25, and as Ouellet is (I believe, a quick search hasn't helped) under 40, this was a race that would inject some young blood into the National Assembly.

The result was a resounding win for the Parti Québécois and Martine Ouellet, who increased her party's vote by 10.6 points (22%).With 59.2%, this is the biggest win any candidate has had in Vachon since its creation. The PLQ has to be disappointed with its 24.3% result, a drop of eight points or about 25%. They are back down to the result they had in 2007, when they finished third in the riding.

It was not a good by-election for the ADQ, which has tended to perform badly in by-elections since their 2007 surprise. Alain Dépatie, the ADQ's candidate, earned only 6.6%, a drop of 7.1 points from the 2008 election. However, this is not one of their traditional strongholds, so it isn't surprising to see them at such a low level. And it's likely that some ADQ supporters voted for Diamond, an ex-ADQ "star".

It was a decent by-election for Québec Solidaire, however, who went from 2.2% in 2008 to 5.5% in 2010. This indicates their higher support levels we've been seeing in polls is not an illusion.

The PVQ (Greens) did not increase its support, maintaining the 3.2% they earned in the 2008 election. But, even that is down from 2007 when the party had 4% support. This, perhaps, indicates that their higher support level in polls is an illusion.

Interestingly, if we take Léger Marketing's last poll (released on June 11, 2010) and apply the uniform swing method compared to the 2008 election, we get 57% for the PQ, 23% for the PLQ, 11% for the ADQ, 7% for the PVQ, and 5% for QS. Using a MOE of 3%, that puts us comfortably within the actual election results.

Arguably, we can use this uniform-swing model to say that the Vachon by-election confirms the province-wide polls we've been seeing. More specifically, it shows that the PQ's increased support is real, that the PLQ is in trouble, that the ADQ is going nowhere (fast), and that QS is actually becoming a bit more competitive.

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  1. Not surprising at all, no, but is it really representative of the province, even if the general poll results seem to match up? I wouldn't consider Vachon a bastion of PLQ or federalist support in any situation.

  2. Eric talk to me about Quebec Solidaire.

    Are they a threat to split the vote with the PQ ?

    If they really have doubled support over 2008 is it possible they'll win additional seats ?

  3. --- Are they a threat to split the vote with the PQ ?

    Yes and no. QS is the result of a merger of several far left parties, so they have existed before.

    They are starting to gain some traction, polls that put them at 8% mean that the PQ is down anywhere from 3-5 points from where they should be.

    QS is a sovereigntist party, but they are first and foremost a left-wing party, so it is unlikely that the PQ is losing a lot of their sovereigntist vote to QS. They are losing some of their left wing vote, but because of QS's policies they have a pretty low ceiling.

    While QS remains below 5% in elections, the PQ isn't in any real danger. QS polls best on the island of Montreal, but mostly in ridings where the PQ has the advantage. It isn't much of a case of QS keeping the PQ from winning in individual ridings.

    --- If they really have doubled support over 2008 is it possible they'll win additional seats ?

    If QS continues to improve its vote, it is very likely it could win an extra seat. Francoise David in Gouin did very well in the 2008 election, and is the next likely QS person to be elected. In fact, I'd say it is a very good chance. But after that, not so sure. They would need to gain a lot of support, as they didn't have a third good riding.

  4. Éric,

    Agree with you. Don't expect an ADQ type takeoff for QS, followed by a crash and burn. Good thing too for sovereignists. Otherwise, the Liberals would have a fighting chance -- even under Charest.

  5. The PQ and QS also work together relatively well, at least in Opposition.

    I'm sure Khadir and David would be bothersome opponents if the PQ forms the next government, but they have far more in common than QS does with the Liberals. And if it ever came to a referendum, you can expect QS to be on side with the PQ, like the ADQ was in 1995.

  6. I see the situation now as very similar to 2007- Charest is unpopular but the PQ leader is hardly inspiring people, making it possible for a relatively little-known party to grab a lot of undecideds at the next election. If QS gets invited to the leaders debate and Framir Khavid performs well, they could eat into PQ support.

  7. Marois is more electable than Boisclair, and while Boisclair took the PQ from nearly 50% down to 28%, Marois has taken the party from 28% to 40%+.

  8. While true, I suggest that current PQ support is a mile wide and an inch deep. The Liberals (and Charest in particular) are at record dissatisfaction levels, so almost anyone could lead the PQ and it would be way ahead. Marois' attempts to define issues have, in my analysis, not been very effective since she took over (just as one example, her most recent stance on expanding Bill 101 to daycares and CEGEPS when the large majority of francophones polled were against this). The PQ's poll numbers have only started turning around since it has been revealed that the Liberals are more corrupt than a travelling carnival run by auto mechanics.

    You could also compare provincial politics now to the early days of the 2009 Montreal municipal election, where Louise Harel was at first way ahead just by virtue of being the only familiar alternative, but then Bergeron came out of nowhere and won a significant number of votes by virtue of being not the corrupt incumbent or the boring alternative.


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