Thursday, December 22, 2011

CAQ minority?

Last Friday, Le Devoir/Montreal Gazette released a new Léger Marketing poll on the political situation in Quebec at the provincial level. With an election rumoured for 2012, though I can't imagine why Jean Charest would want to rush into anything at these numbers, where the parties stand right now is very important. This is the first poll, along with La Presse's CROP, to show the landscape since the announced merger of the CAQ and the ADQ.
Since Léger's last poll taken between November 14-17, the Coalition-Avenir-Québec has gained two points and now leads with 37%. It appears that either all of the 8% the ADQ scored in the last poll has not gone to the CAQ, or that the CAQ has lost some of the support it had before the merger.

I imagine that is the case. With the ADQ now melded into the CAQ, the party is now more obviously right-of-centre, whereas before François Legault spoke of a "gauche efficace". It would not surprise me that more than a few Quebecers were not pleased that Legault aligned himself with the ADQ.

The Parti Québécois, for example, has gained three points and now trails the CAQ with 24%. As Gérard Deltell had taken the ADQ in a definitively federalist direction, it is possible that the CAQ has lost some of its more sovereigntist supporters with the merger.

The Liberals are unchanged at 22%, while Québec Solidaire is up one point to 9%. The Greens are up two points to 5%.

Adding further evidence that the merger of the CAQ and the ADQ has cost Legault support in some quarters, his party is down three points in the Montréal region to 31%. The Liberals are up six to 27%, while the PQ is down one point to 21%.

On the other hand, the CAQ is up big in the Quebec City area and in the other regions of Quebec. They now lead with 43% (+14) in Quebec City and 43% in the rest of Quebec (+7). The Liberals trail in Quebec City with 22% while the PQ is up nine points to 28% in the rest of the province.

Among francophones, the CAQ is up two points to 42% with the PQ up four points to 28%, while among non-francophones the Liberals lead with 53% to the CAQ's 15%.

With these regional numbers, ThreeHundredEight projects that the CAQ would win 59 seats on the old 125-seat boundaries. As the new boundaries aren't officially in place yet, I am holding off on making projections based on the new electoral map.

The Liberals would form the Official Opposition with 32 seats, while the PQ would win 31 and Québec Solidaire would win three.

That means a minority government for François Legault. It would be a difficult proposition to govern in such a situation - it is unclear to me who Legault would turn to for support. Perhaps he would be able to lure four or five PQ and Liberal MNAs to his side.

Now, it may come as a surprise that I am projecting a CAQ minority with these numbers. Firstly, the projection model is a regional model, and the CAQ's lead in the Montreal region is quite small. It generally assumes that the CAQ's Montreal strength is in the suburbs and not on the island, while its "rest of Quebec" strength is disproportionately concentrated in the area between Montreal and Quebec City, leaving the western and eastern edges more to the PQ.

Secondly, the CAQ's support is based on the ADQ's 2008 support base. This means that in some areas there is very little growth for the CAQ, even if the party is doing two or three times better than the ADQ did in 2008.

The old model I was using that had both the ADQ and CAQ included assumed that the CAQ's support was more uniform, like the NDP's support was in the 2011 federal election. This was a safe assumption because the CAQ was almost as new to Quebec as the NDP was in May, and because Legault embodied that same element of change.

But now that the CAQ and the ADQ have joined forces, I think that the party will be identified more with the right-of-centre political spectrum, and will have its best performances in areas where the ADQ performed well in 2007. The recent by-election in Bonaventure gives us some evidence. The area was never good ADQ territory, and the party did horribly in the by-election. But polls indicated that a CAQ candidate would have only gotten around 15% support - almost exactly what my current projection gives the CAQ in Bonaventure.

The CAQ and the NDP have only their novelty in common. There is no reason to think that the civil servants of the Outaouais, a perhaps natural clientele for the NDP, would vote for the CAQ, or that Gaspesians, who have some of the province's better ranked hospitals while also being among its poorest residents, are going to warm up to the public/private health care proposals of the CAQ.

The CAQ follows in the ADQ's footsteps by winning in its traditional areas of support: 13 seats in Quebec City, 12 in central Quebec (Mauricie, Centre-du-Québec, Cantons de l'Est), and 12 in Montérégie. The party also wins 12 seats in western Quebec (Laurentides, Lanaudière, primarily). But like the ADQ, the CAQ has less luck in eastern Quebec, winning only two seats. But unlike the ADQ, the CAQ actually breaks into the metropolis with two seats in Montreal and Laval.

The Parti Québécois is strongest in the parts of Quebec where the Bloc Québécois performed well in the federal election, primarily in eastern Quebec. The PQ wins 12 seats there, with seven in western Quebec, three apiece in Montérégie and Montreal/Laval, and two apiece around Quebec City and in central Quebec.

The Liberals win 22 of their seats in Montreal and Laval, with another three coming in Montérégie, two apiece in Quebec City and western Quebec (the Outaouais), and one apiece in eastern Quebec and central Quebec.

Québec Solidaire wins all three of its seats on the island of Montreal.

Is the potential for a bigger CAQ sweep there? Absolutely, as with the older model of uniform CAQ support the party would win more than 90 seats at these numbers. But I don't believe that their support will be uniform. Their message will find resonance particularly in the ADQ's traditional strongholds. What Legault brings to the table is the ability of the CAQ to breakthrough into areas the ADQ was never competitive. But I do not think that Legault will have the widespread appeal that Jack Layton did, and the 2012 election will look more like 2007's provincial vote than it will the 2011 federal result.


  1. Quebec should look at cutting the number of seats in half, or do what Ontario did and follow the federal boundaries.

  2. Why should they do that Jordan? 125 is a pretty reasonable size for a legislature. Romeo Saganash represents an area larger than Pakistan federally, and I think that's really stretching the limits of how large an electoral district really can feasibly. More electoral districts tends to make the elections more proportional. Obviously this has a limit, but 125 is pretty comparable to the size of sub-national legislatures in other countries.

  3. 125 is reasonable? If Ontario can make out fine with 107 seats provincially then I think Quebec's number of seats could be reduced. Electoral districts, similar to the size of Saganash's, could be made smaller to help MNAs if that's such a big issue. Quebec has a huge deficit and debt yet they're spending millions on an oversized legislative assembly. Most provinces in Canada could cut there number of elected representatives.

  4. Just looked and the provincial district of Ungava is actually larger then Saganash's riding, so the geographical size of districts isn't really an issue.

  5. Meanwhile New Brunswick has 58 seats despite a tiny population and Alberta has over 80 seats provincially despite less than half of Quebec's population. Its really the smaller provinces that have ridiculously bloated provincial legislatures

  6. I'd argue Ontarians could be better served with more MPPs too Jordan. Both of those provinces have massive fiscal deficits in the billions; their problems are not caused by spending a few million dollars on a few extra MNAs or MPPs. What they need is better, more accountable government.

    I'm not saying there should be a massive expansion of either legislatures though - there are other ways of creating more accountable government too. I'm just saying that ~125 seats or a few more seems a perfectly reasonable, and that for a government that manages tens of billions of dollars in spending, a few hundred thousand dollars in salary for an MPP or MNA isn't particularly important.

    How does Ungava being huge not make geographical size an issue? If you reduce the number of districts you increase their size, period. Ungava is big enough as it is. Skewing seat allocations to favour rural areas can help address this somewhat, but only to a point. If you go too far down that road.

  7. Proportionality is especially important in a place with 4 major political parties like Quebec. I realize that increasing the legislature only makes things modestly more proportional, but I'll take what I can get ;). And really, when the Greens can take 8% of the vote in 2007 and 0 seats, or when the Ontario Liberals (a party I'm a member of) gets a 20 seat advantage from 2% of the vote, I don't consider that as working well.

  8. 125 is just enough to get sufficient competent people elected. If you want capable ministers, you need to be able to draw from a reasonable pool of capable candidates. At 107 split between 3 parties, does the PM have enough ministrable candidates or do you end up with many Bev Oda-like and Maxime Bernier-like MPs? In Quebec, there are more departments to find ministers for as the province has chosen to double some federal departments (like Transport for example) in order to have its specific choices promoted. It is a decision that we have made and are ready to pay for. Don't criticize our choice if we are ready to pay for it. It is a social and political concensus. As for the Ungava riding, just forget about this outlier, or Les Iles de la Madeleine. Democracy sometimes requires to bend the rule of average size to let remote people have a voice.

    Finally, I think the Legault vote (like the NDP protest vote) will be uniform throughout the French vote (450 or elsewhere) and we will get a large Legault majority government. I predicted the NDP wave to my friends by 'smelling' a small sample of friends and family. When the protest vote goes across the traditional Liberals, Bloc and Conservatives lines, you know something is brewing. I hear the same silent grumble undercover right now. Legault will get a surprise wave...


  9. Jordan,

    Who says 107 seats works out for Ontario all that well? One can argue, quite well in fact, that the redistricting of provincial boundaries to contain roughly 100-115K has really broken down the local representation we have in Queen's Park.

    You have to remember that there are different responsibilities between the federal and provincial government. Provincial governments have a lot more say in local affairs. Therefore, why should there not be a greater diffusion of representation among the local population provincially, where it matters the most?

    That's part of the reason why there are 107 ridings and not 106 - the 107th comes from the existence of North Bay, which didn't feel like being lumped with Timiskaming, given that their local concerns, of which the province bears some responsibility, were different from those farther north. It would only make sense to allow North Bay its own local representative.

    Now, who is to say other communities don't, hm?

  10. What is all this nonsense floating around canada that small legislatures are better? they don't cost all that much. They weaken the hold of the party leadership. Its down right perverse when a majority of the government caucus is in government. We would have a more accountable system if there were more legislators, not fewer trained seals

  11. Which three seat do you predict will go to Québec solidaire. I can only think of Mercier and Gouin (the districts of each of the two co-leaders).

  12. The third is Sainte-Marie-Saint-Jacques, but it is a squeaker.

  13. @Calivancouver - Yah, it's really disappointing that the Liberals are spending this nonsense. Obviously there's a limit to how large a legislature can feasibly be without the legislators becoming almost irrelevant, but 338 is not that limit for a country the size of Canada.

  14. Hey Ryan

    Countries population is just under 33 Million. So you think one national legislator for ever 10 K is cost effective or efficient ???

    'Sheesh !!

  15. Peter.

    Being an accountant, I can calculate that 33.8 million divided by 338, gives 100,000 per seat, not 10,000.

    Sheesh!! Financial literacy running low.


  16. Guess what Anon ????

    You just prioved my point !!

    I seat to represent 100K ?? That's bloody over representation !!

  17. Peter,

    No it is not. In my opinion at least.

  18. Eric,

    You know Quebec better than I do, so which areas outside of Montreal are the QS's likely best shot at some seats? This is just assuming that they become a bigger player.

  19. I'd say that QS has a long way to go before they start challenging outside of Montreal, but they have a lot more legitimacy now that Khadir is in the National Assembly and the party is polling relatively well. With the right candidate, they could do well.

    Their best shot is in the Outaouais. It was the NDP's next best shot at a seat before the last election, and they have had decent results in Hull (partly because of the candidacy of Bill Clennett, perhaps best known as the guy who owned the throat that Chretien grabbed).

  20. "The CAQ and the NDP have only their novelty in common."

    Beware of brushing off novelty; as tired as Quebecers were of Duceppe and Harper in May, they will be even more tired of Charest and Marois in 2013. With a 14-point lead in the francophone vote, the CAQ would win in every region, the Liberals would win only a few seats in Montreal and Gatineau, and the PQ would be lucky to win a handful of seats.

    The only thing that could derail the CAQ in 2013 is what hurt the ADQ -- the prospect that they might gain power will subject them to more scrutiny. That's something the NDP didn't have to worry about in May since there was little prospect of them winning the election.


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