Friday, August 22, 2014

Bloc falls in Quebec as Liberals move ahead

After a long drought of polls, two new ones were released yesterday. One, by Forum Research for the Toronto Star, I looked at for The Huffington Post Canada. The other, by CROP for La Presse, is the one we'll focus on here. And it is an interesting one.

The latest missive from CROP pegs Liberal support to stand at 38% in Quebec, up six points from CROP's last poll of June 12-16. That has moved them into first place, ahead of the New Democrats who were down three points to 32%.

The Bloc Québécois, in the midst of internal turmoil as Jean-François Fortin leaves the party and Claude Patry confirms he will not run for re-election in 2015, dropped five points to just 13%.

Though Nanos Research has had the Bloc below 13% on several occasions over the last few years, this is the lowest a Quebec-based polling firm has put the Bloc in recent memory. In all likelihood, this is the lowest the party has ever been since it was founded in 1990. What is the opposite of a honeymoon? Whatever it is, that is what new leader Mario Beaulieu is experiencing.

The poll asked Quebecers whether they felt the Bloc was still pertinent, and 65% of them said it wasn't. But worse is that 44% of sovereigntists agreed. Considering that Beaulieu has opted to focus on independence above all else, that is a crushing rebuke from the very people he is supposed to be firing up. More respondents said they would consider voting for the Bloc if it reverted to its traditional role of defending Quebec's interests.

The Bloc's drop of five points is outside the margin of error (or would be if this was a probabilistic sample) and is part of a recent trend of Bloc weakness. Of the eight polls conducted since Beaulieu won the leadership race, the party has been pegged under 20% in all but one of them. Prior to that, we have to go back 23 polls (to January) to find seven that has the party that low.

Perhaps most embarrassingly for the Bloc, which has run in the past on being able to 'block' the Conservatives, the party was just one point up on the Tories in Quebec. They were at 12%, up two points, while the Greens were at 5%, up one.

The Bloc's support among francophones dropped dramatically, down six points to just 17%. The Liberals were the beneficiaries, up 10 points to 34%. That helped them close the gap on the New Democrats, who were in front at 36%.

Among non-francophones, the Liberals led with 53%, followed by the NDP at 18% and the Conservatives at 16%. That was double their standing in June, however. The Greens were also up big, by nine points to 14%.

On the island of Montreal, the race was tied at 37% apiece for the Liberals and NDP, representing a 14-point gain for the latter. The Conservatives were third at 11%.

In the suburbs around the island, the race was also close: 33% for the Liberals vs. 32% for the NDP. The Bloc was third here with 16%.

The Liberals made a big jump in Quebec City, gaining 14 points to lead with 33%. The Conservatives dropped to 30%, while the NDP was down 15 points to 22% in the provincial capital.

And in the rest of the province, the Liberals were ahead with 44% to 32% for the NDP and 15% for the Bloc.

In terms of seats, the province-wide model gives the New Democrats 46, with 27 going to the Liberals and five to the Conservatives (the Bloc Québécois would be shutout). But, as I've discussed before, province-wide models in Quebec may not do the job well as the Liberals have gained support disproportionately outside of Montreal. Taking that into account, there are another eight seats that could fall to them instead of the NDP, narrowing the gap to 38 seats for the NDP and 35 for the Liberals.

On who would make the best prime minister, Justin Trudeau saw a four-point jump to lead with 31%, followed by Thomas Mulcair at 26%. That was a drop of five points. Stephen Harper was at 10%, while Beaulieu tied Elizabeth May at just 2%. By comparison, André Bellavance averaged 3.4% during his interim tenure, and Daniel Paillé averaged 4.3%. Back between 2007 and 2009, Gilles Duceppe averaged just under 20% in polls by Nanos.

The question that will only be answered in the coming weeks and months is whether this is a blip for the Bloc or the first sign that the party will not be able to hold on to any seats in 2015, which would be the final nail in the party's coffin. The Bloc was not en route to a triumphant return under Paillé, but he did have enough support to hold his seats and perhaps win a handful more due to vote splits. Under Beaulieu, it seems that the Bloc may not be able to hold onto the majority of its seats even before the election begins. One would expect the NDP, the party that benefited from the Bloc's downfall in 2011, to take advantage. But CROP, at this stage, gives the nod to the Liberals. Will that hold?

35 comments:

  1. Does this mean the complete loss of the Bloc ??

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  2. The regional results are not what I expected. I thought the Liberals would be leading big on the island with the Ndp leading in the "rest of Quebec". Seems the opposite has happened.

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    1. Nationalist Francophones on the Island have given up on the Bloc and turning to the NDP.

      Anglophones are mostly Liberal but have a portion of left leaning NDP supporters.

      Allophones are huge Pierre Trudeau supporters and that name will carry Justin to dominate this demographic on the Island.

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    2. That is odd. I wonder if this is a one-off, or if the Liberals are making impressive gains outside of Montreal.

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  3. Are there any predictions as to how this would impact the provincial level PQ support?

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  4. In my simulator, those numbers give me:

    41 LPC
    31 NDP
    6 CPC

    I also get a BQ shutout and to gain just one seat, the LPC needs to come down 4 points, which would all go to the BQ. If we do this with the NDP instead, it's 7 points down that all goes to the BQ for them to win a single seat.

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  5. I am struck at how the Greens can garner 14% among non-Francophones but, only 3% among Francophones.

    Is this usually the case? Do French speakers not care about environmental issues?

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    1. Those are young anglos who are not political and live in solid red Liberal ridings.

      Most of those a not interested in politics and are not guaranteed to turn out to vote.

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    2. I don't think it has anything to do with not caring about environmental values, actually, I'd say francophones probably care about them more than anglophones here in Québec.

      The difference is visibility. We don't have a Green party provincially (well, we do, but... it's a farce more than a party), we don't have ads on French TV, we don't see May on the French news... So we don't really know the Green party.

      Also, it's not like the NDP wasn't green, so we have another green option. It's a lot more visible and now, the leader is from Québec and was involved in provincial politics before and rather well liked. Same thing at the provincial level, you have the Green party, but you also have Québec Solidaire which was maybe even greener than the Green party.

      I think that the GPC doesn't care much for Québec right now and would rather concentrate on garnering votes in the much bigger English Canada and then aim for Québec. It's a rather sound strategy in our current electoral system, even if it's absolutely ridiculous when talking about democracy as a whole...

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    3. Seems odd, could be a quirk of the poll, or just a statistical outlier as well, always possible though not saying it is the reason specifically

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    4. I believe Francophones do care about environmental issues. The Bloc and federal NDP are passionate environmental causes which contribute to their overall appeal.

      At the moment, Elizabeth May's Green Party does not look like a strong first choice party for many francophones. Especially when May is weak in French herself. The party is also not putting any effort outside of Montreal.

      I think non-Francophones see the Green Party as a none of the above choice who may be tired of the Conservative government, not warm enough to the Liberals and think the NDP is too cozy with nationalists.

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    5. From what I have seen while living in the West Island: The NDP is seen by Francophones as the party of the environment while the Anglophones see it as an allied to sovereigntists and prefer the Greens instead. Same thing on the provincial scene: The Greens is the only alternative to left-leaning Anglos who prioritize environmental issues as QS is sovereigntist even is the Greens are inexistant outside Anglo-dominated ridings.

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    6. it's a protest vote from young anglos who live in guaranteed Liberal ridings who feel like voting for something else. In West-Island, Liberals are always guaranteed, so you have these youngsters who vote Green

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    7. Thanks to all who replied to my question. The variety of responses is interesting in and of itself. It is also interesting that many would equate environmentalism in Quebec with the NDP whereas, in English Canada the NDP record is more significantly tied to labour particularly in resource extraction industries.

      To be blunt, in BC at least, the NDP is not considered particularly environmentally friendly. Partly this is the result of their support for big labour unions in resource industries and opposition to the carbon tax (which I think has permanently split the environmental wing of the BCNDP from the party).

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    8. FC Pete, BC is a particular context for the NDP - in every other province you haven't had the same level of equating pro-labour NDP with resource extraction at the expense of the environment.

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    9. Point taken but, in Ontario the NDP support for the big auto unions or heavy industry in general is not exactly environmentally friendly either.

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    10. No, but manufacturing in Ontario is not what it used to be, and the environment is a much bigger issue in BC than Ontario (that is, there's much more environmentalist organisation and activity there).

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    11. I just don't see the NDP as an environmental party. When Mulcair made his Dutch disease comments he was making an economic case for Ontario and Quebec not an environmental case on the use of finite natural resources. The NDP is fully behind Muskrat falls hydroelectric development. In the NDP policy book the first section is entitled "Industrial policy: Supporting strategic
      sectors". The environment doesn't appear until page 7 after such topics as "Our rights as consumers".

      I can not think of anything the NDP has done to warrant people viewing them as any more environmentally friendly than Liberals or Conservatives. Arguably both Liberals and Tories hold better environmental records by virtue of being in government more frequently.

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  6. If we are seeing the actual demise of the Bloc are we not pleased ?

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  7. I realise this isn't the appropriate place to bring this up but this aboriginal women murders has to be seen as a national disaster and the CPC approach to the issue by refusing a national inquiry, despite the fact the RCMP has stated there are over 1000 cases !!

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    1. Peter,

      To politicise something like this as you have by criticising the Tories doesn't do any good. Frankly all it shows is a segment of Canadians only want to pay this issue lip service instead of action. We know why this national tragedy is occurring and it has more to do with social determinants of health than the need for royal commissions or national inquiries. If the Liberal party took this issue seriously they would have announced policies meant to improve social determinants of health among the Aboriginal population.

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  8. There have been a few articles recently about how the Stephen Harper policies of staying out of issues of Provincial jurisdiction. The irony is that the better job the Federal government has done in making the Bloc irrelevant, the more support goes to the Liberals.

    Maybe if Harper wants to win at all costs, he should fan the flames of separatism to build the Bloc back up. The other option is to do whats best for Canada and put the final nail in the Bloc coffin, but lose next year.

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    1. It`s ironic only if you actually believe that Harper is responsible for the Bloc`s demise. Obviously that theory may hold sway in some right wing editorial offices in Toronto but it doesn`t seem to have any at all in, you know, Quebec.

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    2. Ironically, the Bloc vote collapsed in 2011 partly because Quebec nationalist/soft-separatist voters believed that the Jack Layton led NDP was the best option to oppose Stephen Harper!

      I don't think a Bloc surge will benefit Stephen Harper in any way. The Liberals can still form government without winning a majority of seats in Quebec. Most of those former Bloc strongholds are still out of reach for the Liberals whether they increase their vote share in the province.

      I think the relevance of the Bloc has always been overstated. They really don't have much power to advance the separatist cause in Ottawa. The PQ and other separatist elements in Quebec City have more power (if they are in power).

      From 1993 to 2011, the Bloc served primarily as a party to defend Quebec's interest from whatever the government of the day was. Almost like an "official opposition" but for Quebec only. Under Gilles Duceppe, separatist rhetoric was toned down a lot.

      The Bloc dying does not make Canada better or worse. Separatist elements will continue to thrive and just lurk around in other parties. I would not be surprised if a new Quebec nationalist party emerges in the distant future once the Bloc is defunct and francophones are mad at the NDP/LPC/CPC.

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    3. Most of those former Bloc strongholds are still out of reach for the Liberals whether they increase their vote share in the province.

      This is faulty reasoning. Those seats are very much open and in play. For the first time in two decades people there will have to sit down and make a decision who to vote for. Last time they were confronted with this question they surprised everyone and voted for a previously non-existent Quebec NDP. Next time around they could again go in all directions. Some CPC, some LPC, some NDP and even some others Green.

      Those districts are a blank slate and the winner will be whoever can connect best with the post-separation aspirations of Le Quebec provincial.

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    4. Polstats: That dynamic actually works against the Liberals, who benefitted from being the default federalist vote and have completely neglected building any kind of grassroots organization. As someone who lives in one of those ridings, I have to say that all signs point to the NDP winning these.

      The NDP appears to have a much stronger grass roots organization and takes advantage of Mulcair's connections to the provincial Liberals as well as the left in Quebec. They maintain a high visibility while the Liberals are pretty much stuck with the angryphone vote on the West Island (some of whom might vote Conservative).

      Anything can happen, of course, but the NDP is here to stay in Quebec. I'd bet right now on a Liberal minority government next time. I think people like Trudeau, but they won't necessarily hand over complete power until they know what he stands for.

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    5. Polstats,

      I think it is faulty reasoning to assume that former Bloc strongholds are a "blank slate" right now. The voters in this region still have nationalistic and soft-separatist tendencies that go against the staunch federalist values of the Liberals.

      The majority of seats in this region are currently held by NDP incumbents that are favoured to be re-elected despite a Liberal surge in the province.

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    6. @Guy you are overestimating the importance of the grass roots organizations. The NDP had none just before they won Quebec in the orange wave. This is not to say they are irrelevant, but simply to state the fact that the lack of one is an issue that can be overcome.

      @Big Jay: Those districts were separatist the last time they thought about it, which was over 20 years ago. An entire new generation of voters has come of age since. Their issues and demands are different as proved by Couilard's victory. in the last provincial elections. Look at this map and tell me with a straight face that there are any strong spearatist regions left in Quebec:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quebec_general_election,_2014#mediaviewer/File:Quebec_election_2014.svg

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    7. @Polstats

      I agree separatism has waned in Quebec. However, I used the terms "nationalist" and "soft-separatist" instead of separatist for a reason. The NDP is more appealing for the these types of voters than the Liberals and polls are showing that.

      Nationalistic elements are still strong in Quebec. Support for separatism can be triggered in the right circumstances. Remember Pauline Marois was hovering around majority territory before the election. She and her ilk just ran a lousy campaign.

      In the end, my claim, whether you agree or disagree is that the Trudeau Liberals will be weaker in areas where the Bloc won comfortably. Those seats are more likely to go to the NDP than the Liberals.

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    8. Those seats are more likely to go to the NDP than the Liberals.

      Let me put it another way. Those are the seats where I would put the most resources in. Montreal will vote LPC by default, other parts sway conservative (Quebec city, border with ON). In which places do I have a chance of making inroads? the former bloc seats. No long term incumbent, people ready to make a fresh decision.

      So in absolute numbers there might not be many seats won there, but in terms of percentage of seats in play that is where the money is.

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  9. I find it surprising that there is still a core of support for the Conservatives in Quebec City. What is it in that city that leads them to like the Conservatives more than in other areas of the province? I would have thought that with all the civil servants there who are in government jobs that they would not be that fond of an anti-civil service party like the Conservatives. If the Liberals are up in Quebec City, will it be possible for them to win one seat there like they used to have in the Chrétien days (eg. Louis-Hébert) or will it allow the Conservatives to win back a couple seats there from the NDP in a vote-split?

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    1. Middle class prosperity, strong local candidates, and a resistance to the centralizing policies of the Pierre Trudeau Liberals. Quebec City is a pretty small-c conservative place: mostly suburban, good white-collar jobs, and maxed-out RRSP's.

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    2. The civil service ballooned by over 20,000 during the early Harper years until falling over the last two years or so to about where it was in 2008, roughly 263,000.

      it really is a myth that Harper is pro-small government; he's rebuilding the Navy invested significant amounts of money in the military such as the F-35, building a deep water port in the Arctic, helped save a couple of car companies that should have gone bankrupt. Government spending now tops $300 billion.

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  10. And we've just had announced that another BQ member will sit as an independent, doesn't agree with the leadership.

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