Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Pollcast: The Bloc Québécois looks for a leader


The Conservatives and New Democrats have been in the midst of leadership contests for months, but the Bloc Québécois, which kicked off its leadership race at the beginning of February, will reach the finish-line first, on April 22.

Calling it a race, though, might be generous — because it is setting up to be a coronation.

You can listen to the podcast heresubscribe to future episodes here, and listen to past episodes here.

The Bloc has been without a permanent leader since Gilles Duceppe resigned on election night in 2015. There are two candidates officially in the running: Félix Pinel, who ran as a candidate for the party in the last election, and Martine Ouellet, an MNA sitting in Quebec's National Assembly.

Ouellet, who twice ran unsuccessfully for the leadership of the provincial Parti Québécois, left the PQ caucus after making her candidacy official and is sitting as an independent. If she wins the vote — she has the support of most of the Bloc's 10-member caucus — she intends to continue sitting as an MNA in Quebec City until the province holds its next election in October 2018.

Will Ouellet face any serious obstacles in her run for the Bloc Québécois leadership, or is her victory all but assured? How would Ouellet balance being a federal party leader and a provincial legislator at the same time?

And after two elections in which the once dominant Bloc has seen its support slide to less than 20 per cent in the province, does the party still have relevance in Quebec's federal political scene — or a future, with support for sovereignty at new lows?

To discuss the race and the future of the Bloc, I'm joined by Radio-Canada's Philippe-Vincent Foisy and Le Devoir's Marie Vastel.

You can listen to the podcast heresubscribe to future episodes here, and listen to past episodes here.

33 comments:

  1. I'm guessing asking for a written transcript of the Pollcast is too much? It's easier for me to read articles than listening to podcasts... Can the CBC do it for you? :P

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    1. Ha, no chance of that. But there must be a way to have that done automatically (i.e., play it and have a transcription program write it down?)

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    2. Too bad the CBC doesn't believe in accessibility...
      If there's a way to have it done automatically, why doesn't the CBC do so.

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    3. Resources and time are finite? When I saw automatically, I literally mean play it on your phone and see if Word or something will transcribe. I have no idea if that is feasible or not.

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    4. A number of transcription programs exist, they cost $80+, you may need a microphone as well. I have to say however, when I used one of these programs a year or so ago the accuracy left much to be desired. I ended up transcribing myself as it was less tedious than continually fixing transcription errors.

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    5. Time is finite? That’s a new one.
      It’s the allocation of resources that is frustrating. If the same information were recycled as a written article (either on CBC.ca or 308.com), then the lack of transcripts would be less restricting. As it stands, we get one podcast and two articles per week, each with a different topic, so unless you are listening, we’re missing out on a third of the political news from Eric.

      http://www.cbc.ca/accessibility/
      “New CBC.ca projects undergo assessments to ensure that they follow accessibility guidelines and best practices.”
      “[Closed captioning] exists for the majority of CBC Watch content and we continuously add described video for as many shows as possible moving forward.”

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  2. Another Bloc leader with no seat in Parliament, guaranteed to be ignored by the Ottawa press for another three years? Not a great option for reviving a nearly moribund party.

    The Bloc already had the toxic reputation for being the PQ's Senate, where they sent troublesome or retiring caucus members so that they could collect a salary without doing much damage. This demotion for Ouellet from Quebec City to Ottawa will only reinforce that reputation. Why would even a sovereigntist vote for something as cynical as that?

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  3. Éric,

    Ouellet lacks judgment. You simply can't be an effective leader when you spend most of the time sitting in Quebec City and collecting your badly needed pay cheque. Won't work, if she wins.

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  4. Short of some sort of crisis I don't see the BQ regaining official party status. Nor, do I see them disappearing entirely. Being a M.P. is a good gig-great pension and benefits, the House only sits for about three months a year and the free Via Rail tickets are just the icing on an already tasty cake.

    Somehow-these separatists (I use the term lightly) are able to receive a salary, pension and benefits from Her Majesty even while they undermine her authority and break their oaths as Members of Parliament by promoting a separate republican Quebec.

    I'm sure separatists would justify their hypocrisy by stating they are wasting Canadian resources or something equally trivial but, the reality; Governments are quite happy to have a separatist element in the House of Commons so the prime minister, whomever that may be, can look like Captain Canada on occasion.

    A new BQ leader will help at least temporarily gain media coverage which all things considered is a positive result for a movement whose next big test is a provincial election in the first half of 2018. So long as Donald Trump is president I would not expect another referendum; It is quite clear under a Trump presidency a separate Quebec would have to negotiate the terms of its entry into NAFTA, would have to have a military with spending at 2% of GDP that an independent Quebec could ill-afford and Trump might annex the place if they voted to separate! Jurisdiction and sovereignty over the St-Lawerence would come into question.

    So the separatist will continue to garner 5-25% of the popular vote in Quebec for probably another two decades but, their days as a political force are long over.

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    1. "Somehow-these separatists... (I use the term lightly) are able to receive a salary, pension and benefits from Her Majesty even while they undermine her authority and break their oaths as Members of Parliament by promoting a separate republican Quebec"

      I have heard this over and over, but it makes no sense. Advocating constitutional change is legitimate in any democracy. The NDP wants to abolish the Senate -- does this mean that they are disloyal to our constitutional order and to Her Majesty who appointed the Senators? No, of course not. That separatists want a (very major) constitutional change that you don't support doesn't make them disloyal or illegitimate.

      I don't happen to think Quebec independence is a great idea, nor do I think it is very effective to advocate for Quebec independence from the Ottawa backbenches, and in that most Quebecers agree with me.
      But pro-independence Quebecers are as entitled to representation in the House of Commons as anyone else and if they elect people who want Quebec independence then they are entitled to do that. It's pretty chauvinist to argue that reforming the constitution to change the Senate's powers is totally fine but advocating a constitutional change to give sovereignty to a province is "wasting Canadian resources".

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    2. Goaltender Interference,

      There are three criteria to be a member of the House of Commons: swear the Loyal Oath and be a Canadian citizen 18 years of age or older. Unlike the Senate there is no residency requirement.

      Advocating both republicanism and the break-up of Canada is fundamentally opposed to the promise of bearing true allegiance to either the Sovereign as a person or as a representation of the state (Canada) as prescribed in the loyal oath. If you wish to be a republican or independentiste fine but, under our current constitutional system parliamentarians are by law expected to be loyal to the current system; Queen and Country.

      BQ and PQ members should not swear an oath which they will not follow or keep. They should sit in abeyance as members of Sinn Fein do in the UK Parliament-that is true leadership and maintaining one's principles! The BQ are only in it for themselves and their actions in this respect are dishonest and immoral. For a party which advocates separation collecting a salary from Canada creates more linkages between Quebec and Canada it is at base in opposition to their modus operandi! Self-defeating! Never mind the utter hypocrisy, it looks foolish.

      Political groupings do not hold a right to representation in Parliament! Geographies or more specifically, the people therein have a right to be represented: Not political views or policies! If the duly elected member can not fulfill the role or does not meet the membership criteria including swearing the oath of allegiance he or she should be disqualified and is unsuitable for that office. In fact BQ and PQ MNAs and M.P.s who ascribe the loyal oath while actively supporting independence and republicanism are committing a crime-perjury! Parliament is a court and so to swear the oath dishonestly is to lie before a court, perjury

      The problem: Separatists know Quebec Independence is a lost cause. Instead, they nickle and dime their way through life living off the benefices and charity of their opponent. Separatist must ask themselves; If as Separatists we are unable to break from Canada how can we ask Quebecois to break from Canada?

      Anyone who votes for the BQ or PQ in the belief they will enact any form of sovereignty is fooling themselves in my mind. These "separatist" politicians do not believe in Quebec independence! They have not only sworn an oath to Canada but, they are being paid by Canada and benefit far more from Canada than the average Quebecois. I'm calling Lisee's bluff! Stop B.S.ing people M. Lisee! 18% of Quebecois want to separate according to Angus Reid. That's it! That is where the independence movement stands. Separatists are a fringe group-a francophone alt-right, nothing more.

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    3. Bede -- I've never before seen anyone advocate that Quebec sovereigntists should look to Sinn Fein as model behaviour. Perhaps you should speak to people in Northern Ireland about how happy they have been with 90 years of people getting killed over symbolic things like loyalty oaths, and then let me know if you have changed your opinion.

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  5. bede,

    Bouchard talked about a referendum only if they had winning conditions. Translated, that means a better economic outlook outside of the federation. Now you know why sovereignists are still waiting.

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    1. "Winning conditions" are really an admission the project (Quebec independence from Canada) is over. At base it is simply a reluctance to try; an acknowledgement Quebec is best off in Canada. Stephen Harper and Jack Layton defeated Quebec separatism!

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  6. bede,

    It will take more than dwindling poll numbers to kill sovereignty. Remember that Pauline would have won again had it not been for sexism and misogyny.

    What they need is another lightning rod PM in Ottawa and none of the federal parties are stupid enough to take the bait.

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    1. I thought it was Karl Peladeau's fist in the air and the Charter of Values that did her in...

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    2. I will disagree Ronald. It will only take dwindling poll numbers to kill sovereignty. The poll numbers are poor, Quebeckers have never endorsed separation. The 1993 federal general election was the high watermark of the movement; 49.3% of Quebeckers voted for the BQ. Even at their moment of greatest anger toward English Canada a minority of Quebeckers were in favour ofd separation. That means on their best day separation will fail-it is a lost cause!~ Now the BQ's poll numbers are in the low twenties on a good day! Nobody takes the separatists seriously anymore-they are a spent force. With low poll numbers comes scant media attention and with little attention in the media the public soon forgets. It's a vicious cycle that leads to public ignorance of both the BQ and the sovereigntist cause.

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    3. Actually it was when Pauline Marois started talking about sovereignty (in particular, whether there would be inspectors at the Ontario/Quebec border) that her poll numbers started going down. Up until PKP's fist-pump speech, the party had completely avoided talking about a referendum and in fact PKP was recruited precisely to talk about economic issues rather than sovereignty. But after his obviously-not-vetted speech, her handling of the sovereignty topic made everyone think that sovereignty would become the PQ's priority if elected.

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    4. PKP's fist was a problem only in the sense that the PQ didn't know how to respond to the PLQ's attacks of hidden referendum. That's the only card they had (the only card they have every election, mind you) and they played it to perfection.

      As for the Charter, it was much, much more popular than the PQ itself, so on that aspect alone, they should have won a majority. Now, that has changed, but at the time, it was still a pretty popular measure.

      I don't think sexism and misogyny are the only reason the PQ lost under Pauline (she was an atrocious politician, among other things...), but it definitely played a part. Seeming contradictory about her politics (green energy but oil exploration, referendum but don't know when so maybe no, etc) was probably a bigger issue.

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    5. Thierry - Not living in Quebec, I'll have to take your word for it, but I don't remember any online commentators or news stories on the topic of how she was a woman, or feminist issues. Isn't hidden misogyny an easy strawman to blame electoral defeats on?

      The charter, on the other hand... It was polling at 50-40 if I remember correctly. Certainly more popular than Pauline and the PQ, but certainly not a slam-dunk, and deeply polarizing.

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    6. I don't mean it was obvious, but it was an undercurrent. You'll be hard-pressed to find someone in the population who openly admits not voting for a woman as PM, but they'll find a host of other reasons not too, some pretty laughable. She would either be too business and arrogant, which was fine for the men in front of her, or she'd be too maternal and soft, which was fine for the men to look like good fatherly figures. It seemed she couldn't ever do right in terms of which approach she had to take.

      The PQ can aim at a majority government with 35% of the vote, so a 50-40% split isn't so bad for them, it's actually quite good (the PLQ had a majority with 41%, so 40% is good, no matter the party). Of course, support for the Charter didn't mean an automatic PQ vote, it split strongly with the CAQ, for example. And the fact support for it was going down as the campaign progressed was the last straw, they just couldn't keep the momentum it gave them at first (I said at the time they should have went to the polls in December to keep surfing the wave because it would die down... they waited too long and it did).

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    7. The PQ could win a majority with 35%? Isn't that is a bit optimistic, Thierry?

      The nearest comparison would be 1966 when the Union Nationale won a majority government of 2 seats on 40.82% of the vote. Jean Lesage won a plurality of popular 47.29% but only 50 seats. Two independents were elected with 3.13%.

      The second more recent comparisons would be the 2007 Quebec general election when Jean Charest secured a minority government of 48 seats on 33.08% of the popular vote, 15 MNAs short of a majority. Or the 2008 Quebec general election whereby Pauline Marosi won a minority government of 54 seats on 31.95% of the popular vote, the Liberals on 31.20% and 50 seats, the CAQ with 19 seats on 27.05% of the popular vote, and Quebec Solidaire doubling their representation to 2 seats on 6.03% of votes cast.

      I would estimate 35% of the vote would likely give the PLQ, PQ or CAQ about 55 seats and would be surprised if any party could win a majority government on such a small vote share.

      It would be a strange election but, in the context of Quebec politics with three major parties plus the QS an unusual split of for example; 35, 29, 28, 8 becomes possible. To achieve a majority government though with only 35% would probably require a substantial popular vote differential between first and second place. It's possible the PQ could pull off such a feat but, I think I'd want some pretty good odds before I put money down.

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    8. I cannot speak for Eric's model, but if the PQ has 35% of the vote, they can win a majority relatively easily. The PLQ has to be at least 3 points down (32%) and the CAQ 10 (25%). QS make them lose their majority if they reach 15% of the vote, so that seems unlikely.

      Because of the concentration of the PLQ vote, if they want a majority with 35% of the vote, they would need the PQ down by at least 12 points (23%)! The CAQ would need to be 10 points down (25%). And if the CAQ goes any lower, the winner would be the PQ, so it doesn't actually help the PLQ much (only 1 seat).

      That's my model, of course. It's much simpler than Eric's, so you can take it with a grain of salt (it still has a 90%+ success rate with actual numbers after an election, and an 80ish% success with polls before). I don't know how is own model would do and if he would get somewhat similar results.

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  7. bede,

    We must not confound the BQ with the PQ. Remember that the PQ lead by Lisée is only a mere 5 points back in the poll of polls. That means they are competitive to win government in the next provincial election. It's my view that past Liberal corruption will finally put the PQ back in power. I might have egg on my face on election night, and I might not.

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    1. The PQ is five points back but, the probability they'll form government is far lower than the poll of polls may indicate. The PQ has not attracted 40% of the vote since 1998! They did win a small plaurality of the vote in 2012 .075% good enough for a minority government, that is about their best hope. PQ poll numbers peaked in 1981 (49.2%) and have declined since with periodic spikes few and far between. Of the last six Quebec general elections the Liberals have won four and the PQ two but, the PQ has only won a plurality of the vote once! They have been stuck at the mid-30's in opinion polls for the better part of two decades.

      Today with the CAQ attracting half their vote, the PQ is little more than a token presence, they have become the NDP of Quebec, useful because they pressure the CAQ and Liberals to address nationalist issues, but, utterly hopeless at government.

      They can not speak openly about independence which means they are in perpetual existential crisis. What is their purpose, platform, plan or goal? It can not be the preservation of the French language within North America because their policies have done the exact opposite; the colonial Bill 101 helped to make Montreal no longer a French majority City. Indeed, at the 2011 census only 52% of Quebeckers were unilingual francophone, a number sure to decline with the 2016 edition. Quebec's influence both within and outside Canada has declined, in general their socio-economic status is lower than English-Canadian equivalents and Quebec's economy is less than half the size of Ontario's and only 83% as efficient. A person residing in Quebec can expect to have an income $9,196 less than someone across the river in Ontario. So quite rightly, noone should take the separatists seriously anymore because to vote for independence is to vote against one's self-interest and prosperity. "Winning conditions" will never exist-the jig is up, the game over. To vote for a separate independent Quebec is to cut off one's nose to spite one's face.

      You may be right Ronald, the PQ may return to power due to Liberal corruption but, if so they will not achieve office through talk of separation and you can bet your bottom dollar that if it is mentioned it will be with the caveat of "winning conditions"-an illusionary concept.

      English Canada should ignore the separatist, eventually, they'll recognise the utter futility of their situation and go away. If we continue to pander we'll be stuck in this cycle of fear needlessly.

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    2. bede,

      Excellent analysis but what about this? It's my view that this in crunch time for the CAQ.

      Lisée is just the guy to move right-wing nationalists over to the PQ. It's clear that the public will never entrust the premiership to Legault -- a guy who can't recognize that his best-before date was a while ago (kind of like Harper). There is a way for the CAQ to form government. It means talking Legault into retirement. If they do that -- and draft Deltell, they are on the way to power. If they maintain the status quo, they are playing right into Lisée's hands. He apparently already has a game plan for maximizing CAQ crossover.

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    3. I think Lisée will turn out to be a shrewd politician who will excel at maximizing his votes. He doesn't look like much, but he has a great read on the people. That means he's a close to the people (in a way), but it also means he can change opinion quickly if it suits him.

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    4. Thierry: Lisée's problem isn't his shrewdness; I think everyone agrees that he is a good tactician. His problem is voter fatigue - he has been around since the Parizeau government from almost 25 years ago. Ever since, he has been a talking head on every piece of media out there. He is known as a referendum strategist in an era where even sovereigntists are tired of referendums. When he took over as leader, he got barely any new-leader poll spike, because he was such a known quantity. When people are already tired of you on your first day, you're going to have trouble.

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    5. Ronald,

      The problem is independence is against everyone's best economic, political, cultural and social interests. Lisee has a plan but, does his plan eliminate uncertainty? No. The gambit of independence will produce an unklnown result and that is why independence as a movement is a lost cause. Quebecois-don't want to gamble their future so that some champagne socialist can become Quebec Ambassador to Paris. Risking access to the United States is too high a price for a Quebec Olympic Team etc... Independence is or was for the baby-boom generation. Gen Xers and millenials want good education, healthcare and job opportunities, higher standards of living! The ephemeral world of ethnic Quebec nationalism has little place in their lives.

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    6. Ronald,

      Lisee has a plan but, the PQ's message does not resonate.

      Legault is not going anywhere and while he may not become premier, he's built up a fairly solid constituency over the last five years.

      Lisee is just as much "yesterday's man" as Legault or Harper. An opinionated partisan academic he long patrolled, the TV and radio airwaves and newspaper editorials.

      At the end of the day campaigns matter and the unexpected happens. Plans are good, the long term trends for independence is pretty clear. Whether people become fed up with Liberal corruption is the question that will probably decide the election. Just like in B.C. the Quebec Liberals hold the Trump card-"The Socialists or Separatists are at the gates"! It's why both Liberal parties are, at this point anyway, favoured to win re-election.

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  8. I don't think it is clear that Legault's time is up. He doesn't have especially high negative numbers. It's just that CAQ (and ADQ before it) has always had trouble distinguishing itself - neither sovereigntist nor federalist and pirouetting between economic conservatism and interventionism. So during elections, his message is muddled and tends to get ignored.

    Maybe this time Lisee and Couillard will be so unpopular that they will produce the disaffected electorate willing to try something new, even a vague platform such as CAQ. I would even wager $10 on the long odds that disaffection will be so high and the vote split so unusual that a repeat of 1976 happens, with Quebec Solidaire coming from nowhere to become the largest party. Politics is so weird these days that a sovereignty referendum in 2020 led by some fresh-faced QS leader no one has yet heard of is not out of the question.

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    1. Goaltender Interference,

      That would take quite a leader for QS. Maybe Aussant, if they can swing it.

      I can tell you that our office phone lines really started heating up the morning after the PQ was elected to form a government in 1976.

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    2. I guess you saw that rookie MNA Manon Massé and former student leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois both want to be co-leaders of Quebec Solidaire. Neither has any significant political experience, and while GN-D is telegenic his handling of the student protests didn't exactly garner him huge public support. So I expect those long odds of a QS victory will get a little longer.

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