Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Pollcast: The state of the Parti Québécois leadership race

The Parti Québécois last finished a leadership race in May, 2015. The next one, brought about by the sudden resignation of Pierre Karl Péladeau last month, will come to a close in October. Will the man who finished second last year come out on top this year?

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Alexandre Cloutier, MNA for the riding of Lac-Saint-Jean, took 29 per cent of the vote in his losing leadership bid in 2015. This time, he is widely seen as the campaign's front runner. A poll published last week by Léger gave him 37 per cent support among PQ voters, more than double the support of his nearest rival. About a dozen caucus members have endorsed him.

But the race is far from over and the debates over what strategy the Parti Québécois should adopt on the question of the next referendum still rage. 

Cloutier shares a similar position with Véronique Hivon, MNA for the riding of Joliette, in waiting for "winning conditions" before launching another referendum campaign on Quebec's independence.

Other contestants for the PQ's leadership have different takes. Jean-François Lisée, MNA for Rosemont, thinks a referendum should not be held in a first mandate should the party form government. Martine Ouellet, the MNA for Vachon who took 13 per cent of the vote as a leadership contestant last year, thinks the party should hold a referendum as soon as possible.

Polls suggest support for sovereignty is still low and that there is little enthusiasm for another referendum in the short term. But the uncertainty over whether the party would hold a referendum if re-elected helped doom the PQ's campaign in 2014. Will the PQ's membership endorse Cloutier or Hivon's less well-defined position, or opt for the clarity offered by Lisée or Ouellet?

Joining me to discuss the race and Léger's latest poll numbers is Christian Bourque, executive vice-president at Léger.

You can listen to the podcast here and subscribe to the podcast here.

2015 federal election saw youth vote in unprecedented numbers

The 2015 federal election saw a huge increase in turnout among young Canadians — particularly young Canadian women — according to data released by Elections Canada.

While there was an increase among all age groups, the biggest occurred among eligible voters aged 18 to 24, the elections agency said. Turnout among this group increased 18.3 points, to 57.1 per cent compared to 38.8 per cent in 2011.

Elections Canada said Wednesday this is the biggest increase in turnout among this age group since it began making demographic turnout estimates in 2004.

You can read the rest of this article here.

It might be a long wait before Tory, NDP leadership contenders make the jump

And they're off! Eventually.

The Conservative and NDP leadership campaigns are taking some time to get going. In addition to being abnormally long, they both suffer from a lack of high-profile candidates officially in the running.

So when will the serious contenders step forward?

The Conservatives will choose their next leader on May 27, 2017, while the New Democrats will hold their leadership vote between Sept. 17 and Oct. 31, 2017. Three contestants have entered the Conservative race: Maxime Bernier, Michael Chong and Kellie Leitch. No official candidates have yet emerged on the NDP side.

The conventional wisdom is that the higher profile candidates may wait a significant amount of time before taking the plunge — and with good reason, according to an analysis of how federal and provincial leadership races have played out over the last decade.

You can read the rest of this analysis on past leadership races here.


  1. Say what you will about Trudeau, but the ability to inspire so many previously apathetic people to vote, probably for the first time for many of them, is a worthy feat.

    1. You say that now, but if Donald Trump manages the same thing that might be bad.

    2. Not to discount Kyle's belief in young Trudeau's drawing power but, Elections Canada along with most provincial election organisations has since, 2004 delivered get out the vote and registration campaigns targeted at young Canadians. The increase in younger voters may partially be explained by these campaigns finally bearing fruit.

      I think it dangerous to attribute a single societal event to an individual when really all we have is circumstantial and anecdotal evidence. Maybe it was Trudeau or Elections Canada registration drive but, for all we know the extra long campaign gave people ample opportunity to vote at advance polls. Or perhaps good weather was the reason or extended voting hours? It is far more likely a combination of events produced a boost of young voters than just Trudeau especially because Trudeau's "hardcore fans" if you will, are primarily middle aged women living a comfortable existence and not necessarily first time voters.

    3. Not to totally discount Kyle's assertion but, I find that doubtful. We have only circumstantial and anecdotal evidence that a single individual's charisma boosted turnout. Far more likely is turnout increased due to a combination of factors. Elections Canada and its provincial equivalents have actively courted the young vote since at least 2004. It's possible the increase turnout among young people is simply the result of these campaigns bearing fruit as young voters mature, get married, buy houses and otherwise become more familiar with governments and taxes. Alternatively, the long campaign may have given young voters ample time to go to advance polls or perhaps good weather boosted turnout?

      It is dangerous to give a single individual credit for what are complex sociological behaviour both for the individual, for whom high expectations become norms and for society if they do not address the underlying causes of declining turnout.

    4. Fair points Pete, though I'd also caution against assuming too much about the size of the role given to things like "good weather." Yes, voting patterns can be influenced in many complex and nuanced ways, but many times the reasoning is much simpler than you would think.

      We know extremely charismatic leaders can increase turnout by several factors, especially among previously apathetic or alienated demographics. There is good reason to believe that this was the case in 2015 with youth and First Nations voters. Of course various things go into that, but I suspect the combination of the popular Trudeau and despised Harper was the overriding reason behind such movement.

    5. During the election, I repeatedly heard people say that Stephen Harper inspired them to get out and vote. They tended to be very emphatic. Thinking back, I don't remember hearing that once from a self-proclaimed Tory.

      There may be many reasons for the jump in the youth vote.

  2. Can anyone explain why a majority of NDP delegates voted to replace their leader without any high-profile replacement being interested or available? Is it just that they didn't remember or learn from the 1990s and early 2000s when untested, low-profile NDP leaders led to three consecutive elections with under 12% support?

    1. I think it was a response to a lousy campaign and a significant loss of vote.

    2. Mulcair, as leader, was about as effective as the pre-Layton leaders. The outlier here is Layton, not Mulcair.

      Moreover, it's possible that Layton himself wasn't extraordinary. Perhaps it was the weakness of the Liberals during that period that was the difference. The post-Chrétien Liberals were remarkably weak, and they grew weaker with each passing election. That's the only way we ever got a zero-charisma PC like Stephen Harper, and that could also be how we got the NDP to be official opposition.

      Layton's NDP was in the right place at the right time. They were the only party who could capitalize on the collapse of the Bloc, and that thrust them into the spotlight.

      Now that those ideal circumstances have gone away - no more weak Liberals, no more charismatic leader - we see the NDP return to their natural position: a fringe party.

    3. I agree with Ira except I would add the Liberal Party weakness started with Chretien who won by default in 1993, barely hung on to office in 1997 then won a third majority in 2000 at the cost of a bitterly divided Liberal Party. I come to the same conclusion during this period 1980-2015 the Liberal party was historically weak even in the face of a fractured opposition.

      Goaltender Interference, I think your assessment of the NDP in the 90's and early 2000's overly pessimistic. Alexa McDonough only managed 11% of the popular vote in 1997 but gained 12 seats mostly in places where the NDP had not been competitive before. This new found popularity in the Atlantic changed the NDP from primarily a Western based party into a national party and demonstrated the NDP could do well in non-traditional areas. These were important precursors for Layton's eventual "breakthrough" and I would add Layton's breakthrough in Quebec would not have been possible without Alexa McDonough's preceding leadership. The 2000 election was not as helpful for the NDP but, they retained their official party status (not an easy feat in an Italian style parliament we had at the time) and retained their national character winning seats in the West, Ontario and the maritimes. This was new for the NDP and helped justify its existence as a national party. Both are important accomplishments when faced with a roughly 25% decline in the NDP popular vote.

      To answer your question: Mulcair failed to achieve what he was hired to do as leader; hold the Party's dominant position in Quebec and participate in Government. When you don't do your job you get fired and that is why Mulcair is no longer leader. Was removing Mulcair a mistake? It may well turn out to be. As Eric informed us just before the NDP convention leaders in their second campaigns often do better than rookie leaders on the hustings. Mulcair for all his failures is a known entity and that holds some political value in its own right.

      None of the high profile contenders have yet joined the race but, with over a year to go before the convention plenty of time remains for well known Dippers to drop their hat in the ring. One should remember Jack Layton was pretty much an unknown outside Toronto prior to his election as leader. I write all this as someone who does not vote NDP.

    4. Politics is a game of expectations, and Mulcair failed to meet the NDP's spectacularly.

      There are a bunch of points related to how he was a stranger in a strange land (a rather moderate, cautious federalist Quebec MP running a party that prides itself on radicalism and contrarian positions) and how he was swept up in a wave of support for this Leap Manifesto business, but really at the end of the day, he was given the job of winning and he did not, so why keep him as leader? His time was up on October 19, he just didn't heed the warnings.

    5. I agree that Layton's success was exceptional and had much to do with the weakness of the other parties. But Mulcair was certainly more effective than, say, Aubrey McLaughlin or Alexa McDonough -- he ran a real national campaign, got media attention in both languages, even led in the polls for a while.

      Even if the NDP is always a darkhorse to win an election, it isn't currently a "fringe" party in the sense of the Greens or Bloc, with no hope of achieving power and doubtful to achieve official party status. The NDP has only been in that "fringe" position when it had leaders with little name recognition or federal NDP experience. So far, I haven't heard of anyone even thinking about running who has a higher profile or more leadership experience than McLaughlin or McDonough. And so my question remains: what are NDP members hoping to achieve with forcing a leadership change?

    6. Goaltender Interference,

      By what metrics was Mulcair more successful than McDonough? No. Mulcair was not as effective as McDonough. McDonough increased the NDP's vote, base and seats even after the 2000 election she had still improved the NDP's performance. Mulcair decreased the NDP's base, votes and seats. That is why McDonough got two elections and Mulcair only one.

      The NDP is a minor party today. Usually, although no strict guidelines exist, 25% popular support is regarded as the marker between a minor party and a national or major party. The NDP rarely breaks this barrier for any substantial period of time nationally. The NDP only consistently polled above 25% between Mulcair and Trudeau's respective elections as leader, then again briefly for the two months immediately preceding the dropping of the writs in the Summer of 2015 before falling back to more traditional levels below 20%.

      McDonough had tonnes of leadership experience prior to her election as leader. She had been a member of the House of Assembly for 14 years and leader of the NSNDP for 13 out of those years. her provincial leadership included four general elections campaigns and she was a well known figure throughout the Maritimes and within the NDP.

      I don't agree with your position on Mulcair but, hey, maybe the NDP has made a terrible mistake? Perhaps a draft Mulcair movement will form and he'll succeed himself in the tradition of The Chief. Politically for Mulcair it may not be a bad idea, who else is there? The vote in Edmonton was close there is every reason to think a one-member-one-vote system may have produced more favourable returns than the delegated convention for Old Tom. If we reach this time next year and Cheri di Novo is still the only declared unofficial candidate pressure will surely mount to draft Mulcair or a suitably prominent replacement; Olivia Chow, David Miller, Bernie Sanders.

  3. Éric,

    As a Québécois, I think it would be a mistake for the PQ to go with Cloutier. That would be fighting the last war using the Justin Trudeau template. That can't work because of the divisive nature of sovereignty. Cut and paste has no chance of working here. My choice would be Hivon, mais on verra!

    1. I'm not a Quebecker but, I did live in Quebec for a couple years.

      I think this idea of waiting for "winning conditions" madness. The PQ's raison d'etre is independence so, to, wait......perhaps, indefinitely is to undermine the party's very existence and purpose. No wonder people don't trust the PQ-they can't even be honest with themselves!

    2. It's hard to see how anyone can be a successful PQ leader while indefinitely putting off an independence campaign; that's the #1 goal of the party. It's like a Green leader saying they would put off any new environmental initiatives for five years because that's what voters want.

      The PQ keeps losing support to Quebec Solidaire, which has basically revived the PQ platform of the 1970s. The ADQ/CAQ has also gradually created a solid base of nationalist support by saying that they would indefinitely postpone a referendum but never rule it out.

      While it is hard to see the idea of Quebec independence ever completely disappearing, if trends continue the PQ could get squeezed by the CAQ and QS until it becomes a minor party. That's basically what the PQ and Creditistes did to the Union Nationale 40 years ago.

    3. "Winning conditions" are policies for a Government seeking re-election and even then the concept is a strange one to prioritise for a party supposedly dedicated to making Quebec an independent state.

      if I recall correctly "Saint" Lucien Bouchard was forced into making such a declaration to secure the re-election of his PQ Government in 1998 General election which he achieved albeit with fewer votes than Jean Charest and the Quebec Liberal Party.

      It was bad policy then. The fact the PQ is still wrestling with this issue that clearly is not in the Party's best interests says much about the sovereignty movement and its leadership.


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