As I write, Jean Charest is en route to the Lieutenant-Governor's residence to get the ball rolling on Quebec's provincial election campaign. With a new poll out this morning, the projection now shows the Parti Québécois ahead by a narrow margin.
Combined, the Liberals and CAQ could hold 63 seats. That's the bare minimum for a majority, complicated somewhat by the presence of the Speaker. The PQ and Québec Solidaire (6.7% and two seats) could get together for 62, just one short of a majority.
Considering how close the result could be, the high and low ranges for each of the parties becomes even more significant. The Parti Québécois has the edge over the Liberals, being projected to win between 44 and 72 seats (though, of course, something closer to 60 is far more likely than either extreme). The Liberals stand to win between 37 and 71 seats, while the CAQ sits at between seven and 18. Québec Solidaire should win one or two seats.
The Montreal area is night and day, with the Liberals leading with 41.1% to 29.0% on the island and the PQ ahead 38.5% to 27.5% off of it. This results in lopsided seat totals, with the Liberals winning 20 of 28 on the island and the PQ winning 21 of 30 around it.
The most hotly contested part of the province is central Quebec, where the Liberals have a narrow edge with 32.4% to 29.3% for the PQ and 25.9% for the CAQ. In terms of seats, every party is in play: the Liberals could win between 1 and 15, the PQ between 3 and 12, and the CAQ between 2 and 9. The ridings in this part of the province are the ones to keep an eye on.
The poll by Léger Marketing is somewhat unremarkable, showing no major shifts in support since their last report of June 12-14. The PQ has 33% (+1) to the Liberals' 31% (-2) and the CAQ's 21% (+2).
In terms of statistically significant leads, the Parti Québécois is ahead among francophones, in the suburbs north of Montreal, and in eastern Quebec. The Liberals lead among non-francophones and in Quebec City. The rest of the province is close enough for no party to have a definitive lead.
But it's the other tidbits from the Léger poll that are most interesting. A majority of respondents said their intention to vote for the CAQ, QS, or Greens was not definitive, while the PQ's supporters were the most certain to vote. That bodes well for the Parti Québécois. And with 60% of Quebecers saying they want an election on September 4, the province seems geared up for the campaign.
In terms of what the major issues are, accessibility to healthcare topped the list with 35% saying it was one of their top two issues. This was followed by lower taxes and corruption (22% apiece) and tuition fees and job creation (14% apiece).
But broken down by party, we get an idea of the issues that are most important to people based on how they vote. The top three issues for PQ supporters are healthcare, corruption, and sovereignty, while the top three issues for Liberal voters are healthcare, taxes, and job creation. CAQ voters are most concerned with healthcare, corruption, and reducing the size of the state, while QS supporters chose corruption, tuition fees, and healthcare as their top issues. It very nicely lines up with how these parties have positioned themselves (aside from healthcare, which is a consensus issue).
The Parti Québécois's advantage among francophones, with 39% support to 24% for the Liberals and CAQ each, is extremely important. It means that they have an edge off the island of Montreal and in the more rural regions of Quebec. These are the parts of the province that have always given them the edge when things were close between them and the Liberals. Jean Charest will either have to close the gap or hope that François Legault does if he is to have any chance at re-election.