Monday, December 12, 2011

Quebec-born leaders give federal parties a significant electoral edge

While the nine NDP leadership hopefuls have to wait till March before a winner is named, the Bloc Québécois announced Sunday that Daniel Paillé will be taking the reins of the sovereigntist party. His main opponent in the province will be decided after New Democrats cast their ballots and history suggests that his chances will be greatly improved if they opt for a non-Quebecker. 

You can read the rest of the article on The Globe and Mail website here. You can also read my column in this week's Hill Times here (subscription required, but it is money well spent!), and my piece on what Paillé's victory means at The Huffington Post Canada website here.

Daniel Paillé won the Bloc's leadership race yesterday on the second ballot, defeating Maria Mourani and Jean-François Fortin. Paillé isn't a Member of Parliament but he is in no rush to become one, meaning that a by-election in Quebec is not going to be forced by the resignation of one of the Bloc's four sitting MPs.

Paillé is calculating that he is not going to get much attention in the House of Commons as head of a party without official status. Instead, he can do interviews in Montreal and Quebec City and make preparations for 2015. Jack Layton, after all, spent more than a year outside of the House of Commons after he became leader in 2003. We shall see how it works out for Paillé, but the deck is already stacked against him.

His leadership run, though, was quite successful.

About 38% of the Bloc's members voted, or some 14,000. But the party has been losing members since the election as members allow their memberships to lapse. Undoubtedly, many of the 62% of Bloc members who did not vote are not going to be members this time next year. Though I imagine we won't know how many members the Bloc has in June 2012, that actually might be the better number to determine the participation rate of the Bloc's membership in the leadership race.

Daniel Paillé took 44.1% of the vote on the first ballot (I've seen 44.5% reported elsewhere, but the Bloc's website says 44.05%), with Maria Mourani beating out Jean-François Fortin by only 39 votes to take 28.1% to his 27.8%. That means Fortin was dropped off.

With the preferential system, the second choice of Fortin's supporters was then determined. Roughly 60% of Fortin's voters opted for Paillé, giving him 61.3% of the vote to Mourani's 38.7%.

What is really interesting to contemplate is what would have happened had Fortin received 40 more votes. Mourani would have been dropped off, and I think there is a much better chance that Mourani's voters would have gone to Fortin rather than Paillé. Mourani was the candidate promising to shake things up the most, while Paillé was the "establishment" candidate. Fortin being somewhere in the middle means he could have taken a good swathe of Mourani's support. I imagine Paillé was too close to the 50% mark to lose after the first ballot, as Fortin would have needed about 80% of Mourani's support, but it probably would have been a lot closer.

The endorsement system did its job, which was to gauge support within the party apparatus and give us an idea of the frontrunner. It isn't meant as a predictive model, but it tells us what the party elites think. Often, based on my tests of past leadership races, the party elites reflect the opinion of the general membership. This could be because they are of the same mind, because the elites don't want to be at odds with the membership, or because the membership respects what the elites think. It is probably a combination of all these factors, which is why an endorsement system like this will, more often than not, reflect the eventual result. There are always cases, though, where the membership and the elites do not see eye-to-eye.

What the endorsement system also shows us is how candidates performed within their own membership compared to the elites. Fortin was about par for the course, while Paillé was not as popular among the Bloc's membership as he was among the party's elites. Mourani was the outsider's candidate, as she greatly over-performed expectations. Her support from the Bloc's youth wing, usually the more dedicated supporters of any party, was probably a major factor.


  1. Are there any potential Quebec Liberals who could takeover the party? If the NDP fail to elect a Quebec leader then it could help the Liberals if they do.

  2. Hey, you've forgotten to add Ed Schreyer to @ThomasMulcair's list of endorsements! He is a former premier and a former NDP leader in Manitoba. He started Manitoba's NDP dynasty! He's like the Tommy Douglas of Manitoba.

  3. Anonymous 10:43, not really. The federal Liberals and Quebec Liberals are not affiliated, and the two don't always see eye to eye. I have trouble seeing any well-known Quebec Liberal moving to the federal scene and having success.

    Anonymous 10:48, I did not forget, I just have not done it yet. The last update to the NDP's endorsement rankings was before Schreyer's endorsement of Mulcair.

  4. I know Jack was born in Quebec but could you really consider him Quebecois? He lived most of his life outside of Quebec and his career was built in Toronto, not Montreal. I have a hard time seeing him as from the province.

  5. That sounds a lot like the arguments used against Michael Ignatieff's Canadian-ness. It's up to individuals to decide, I suppose, but his being born and raised in Quebec is more than enough to make him a Quebecer.

  6. I think Volkov raises a good point. If you identify people born outside Quebec but running there separately, then I think it would make sense to have people born inside Quebec but running elsewhere identified on their own too. Small quibble.

    I'd be interested in how this compares for native sons in other Provinces too.

  7. Eric,

    I wasn't necessarily referring to a member of the Liberal Party of Quebec, but just a Liberal, elected or non-elected, from Quebec. Maybe I should have said a Quebecois Liberal.

  8. Ryan, Layton was the only Quebec-born leader who ran outside of Quebec that I found, so it does not make much difference.

  9. Anonymous 14:28, Justin Trudeau is the obvious one, but he has said he isn't interested.

    Denis Coderre is probably headed to the Montreal mayoralty and while Marc Garneau is a possibility, I don't see him winning a leadership race.

    Martin Cauchon was supposed to be a future leader, but he was beat by Thomas Mulcair in Outremont in the last election and that might have dashed his hopes.

    Honestly, Bob Rae is the only solid candidate for the Liberal leadership that I can see at this point.

  10. @Anonymous 14:28

    There's Justin Trudeau...

    Dominic Leblance is the candidate who I'm personally hoping for, and while he is not quebecois he is francophone (a la Paul Martin).

  11. Irwin Cotler would be pretty impressive in my opinion too. I seriously wish Ralph Goodale would learn French though...

  12. And I managed to spell Leblanc wrong. Great lol.

  13. I like Scott Brison, personally. He's a convincing speaker and has a great media presence. I've always thought that he is one of the best men in the Liberal party.

    If Bob Rae sticks around, though, he'd better find a way to convincingly explain that how he ran Ontario was not as bad as has been portrayed or that he's learned from his mistakes, because he WILL be attacked on that front, and heavily.

  14. I like Brison too. Bob Rae speaks pretty eloquently and convincingly about the mistakes he made as premier, so I'm not sure that it will be as big a problem as it could be. I think it's actually hard to attack him on this 21 years later. Most people will just shrug.

  15. Rae's numbers both for the Liberals in general and on a personal level are so far not bad in Ontario, but it is an easy line for the Tories to take on the attack.

  16. Someone like Ted Hsu would be a fresh face for the Liberals.

    I'm surprised you don't think there is anyone within the Quebec a Liberal Party Eric.

  17. Do you have a suggestion of one?

  18. Someone mentioned in passing to me once that that there was a small gaggle of Liberal MNAs thinking about running for the federal Party. I mean, it's not surprising given that there is some cross-over, especially in Montreal. If you had some prominent and capable members, like Christine St-Pierre for example, interested in being in the federal Party, I could see them even running for the leadership...

    Then again, this was before the collapse in May. St-Pierre is personally my favourite to push to replace Charest too. But there's got to be someone with ambitions in that caucus, just a question of whether or not they want to do the work, right.

  19. The thing is, I wasn't even living in Canada at the time of the Rae government (I only came around the time when Mike Harris was voted in), but I've been hearing everywhere about how awful his time in power was. Even after all these years, any news story about Rae is likely to mention it.

    So I don't think the time limit necessarily matters. People who weren't around during his premiership have had plenty of opportunity to hear bad things about it second-hand, even if they're not sure what exactly he did that was so bad.

    "Bob Rae speaks pretty eloquently and convincingly about the mistakes he made as premier"

    I haven't heard an example of that. Could you post a link where he does that?

  20. Since we're all spamming names for the federal Liberal leadership, I agree with the picks in Brison and LeBlanc. They're capable, intelligent, and they're not (as) tainted by the old squabbles as some others. That includes Goodale.

    But - and bear with me - what about someone like Martha Hall Findlay or Siobhan Coady? They were extremely impressive in Parliament back when they were still in it.

  21. I'm not really familiar with the Liberal caucus, so I don't know if someone is a federal Conservative, Liberal, or New Democrat.

    One name I think that pops out is Jean-Marc Fournier. I don't know how popular he is in Quebec or if he is even leadership material.

    I'm looking through the party's website now to see some of the younger faces within the caucus and their bios. While some of these people may not have a high profile we are discussing the leadership of the third party. So perhaps; Stéphane Billette, Patrick Huot, Yolande James, Alain Paquet and Gerry Sklavounos.

    I'm not sure what their political ideologies are and a number of these people are still quite young and probably aren't ready to take on the leadership of a federal party but I'll still throw their names out there.

    There must be a "Brian Mulroney" for the Liberals out there as well. What I mean by this is a businessman or businesswoman with a profile within the Liberal Party.

  22. Quebec is fertile electoral ground in both the provincial and federal level. I think most Quebeckers want good moderate government rather than a left vs right, separatist vs federalist debate.

    During the spring election, I think the Liberals, Tories and Blocs pondered more to Quebeckers than the NDP did. Shameless pondering to Quebec interests would not work anymore. Unfortunately, the NDP is trending that way at the moment.

    As for the discussion on Liberal leadership candidates, I am surprised nobody mentioned David McGuinty. He has shown interest in the leadership and could be a top-tier candidate.

    While Rae has been impressive lately, I think he knows better than to run for leadership as he represents the old guard of the party. It would seem like Igantieff all over again when the interim leader becomes leader.

    LeBlanc and Brison can be dynamic candidates. It would be good to have a Liberal leader from Atlantic Canada. An area of the country where the Liberal fallout wasn't as severe. On the other hand, I doubt old-timers like Goodale and Cotler would even run for re-election in 2015. These guys have plenty of experience, but they are not the type of leader the Liberal party should be looking for.

  23. Volkov I think you have to admit all the juice is with Harper these days. His incremental approach holds the base but doesn't scare off John Manley types.

    Until that changes the Liberals won't be winning again.

    So I think instead of trying to pick someone who could be the next PM the Liberals should pick a theme and a leader who matches that theme and then try to go out there and establish a positive brand around that.

    Become a specialty party. Get and hold a dead cat bounce. Be like the PC's after '93 with Charest (just don't lose him and end up with a retread dud like Joe Clark.)

    Elizabeth May would be a good leader for the Liberal party in the next election.

  24. @Esn,

    I'd have to dig something up. The time I'm thinking of I was there in person and I can't find it on youtube.

  25. We have a lot more seats than a "specialty party" still. I don't think many Liberals would be much interested in conceding power to the NDP and Conservatives either.

  26. @Anonymous 00:49, Dalton McGuinty has said he's not interested several times. Besides, he has unfinished business in Ontario - big plans for reshaping its economy that are only part-done. I'm not sure he'd want to walk away before he's sure that the foundations he's built are solid and can't be easily undone. If he does leave, it won't make sense for him to do it until Ontario's economy improves, so that he can say "see, my policies worked".


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