Quebec Politics

Quebec Votes Tonight

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Polls, Quebec Politics | 9 Comments

Today, Quebecers head to the polls, ready to elect what may be the least scary PQ government in the province’s history. That’s not a commentary on Marois, who is running on a disgustingly xenophobic platform. But even if the PQ gets a majority, it will be a majority built on only a third of the votes, at a time when there is no real appetite for another referendum. Premier Marois will change the country’s political dynamic and will put federal politicians on the hot seat, but this outcome won’t prompt the large-scale national panic that usually follows a PQ victory.

That is, assuming she wins. As I wrote on Friday, the conditions are ripe for a surprise – though that surprise would likely only be in the size of Marois’ win, or the composition of the opposition benches.

I’ll be blogging the results as they roll in tonight, but won’t hazard a guess as to the outcome. Here are the final polls and projections from those who are:

Forum (Sep 3, n = 2781 robo-dial)
PQ 36%
Lib 29%
CAQ 25%
QS 6%

Ekos (Aug 31 to Sep 3, n = 1749 robo-dial)
PQ 36.0%
CAQ 24.5%
Lib 23.2%
QS 10.7%

CROP (Aug 27-29, n = 1002 phone)
PQ 32%
CAQ 28%
Lib 26%
QS 9%

Leger (Aug 29-31, n = 1856 online)
PQ 33%
CAQ 28%
Lib 27%
QS 7% PQ 63, Lib 33, CAQ 27, QS 2 (PQ 34.1%, Lib 27.9%, CAQ 26.3%, QS 7.1%)

Too Close to Call: PQ 66, Lib 33, CAQ 24, QS 2

Democratic Space: PQ 55, CAQ 35, Lib 33, QS 2

Forum: PQ 72

Clare Durand from WAPOR bucks the trend, concluding the undecideds will break Charest’s way, giving him a 33.1% to 29.5% edge in the popular vote and a minority government.

Your Guess is as Good as Mine

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Polls, Quebec Politics | 11 Comments

Three parties entered the Quebec election with a chance to win, and while the PQ appears to be stumbling to victory, it’s nearly impossible to predict what will happen on Tuesday.

Of course, that’s not stopping anyone.

La Presse (thanks to CROP) projects a PQ minority, while the National Post (thanks to Forum) and the Globe (thanks to project a majority. TooCloseToCall has the PQ with a 1-seat majority.

Even in the best of times, seat projections are an inexact science, but this is an election where they might not fare much better than the TSN playoff monkey.

Unlike Herman Cain, I’m not someone who distrusts the polls – but as the Alberta election showed us, shaky methodology and a volatile electorate can lead to journalists frantically re-writing their copy on election night. A robo-dialled Forum poll last week showed the Liberals riding a post-debate momentum wave to a 6-point lead over the PQ and an 11-point lead over the CAQ. That poll sticks out like an anglo at a PQ rally, but it’s still being included in the cumulative poll projections, and whose to say we won’t get another outlier in the final week?

Complicating things is the turnout issue. We know the PQ and Quebec Solidaire vote skews younger and young people are too busy smoking pot and listening to loud rock and roll music to bother voting…but are the polls factoring this in? Do the student protests change this? It really comes down to which party’s supporters are most motivated after an uninspiring August election, and I don’t think there’s a clear answer to that question. gives the Liberals an “advantage” for being in government, but this is based on a study of just 16 elections, and I’m not convinced it will translate through to a party that’s on the way out of power. And if it does, the other seat projections are under-estimating Liberal support.

Even if we had 100% confidence in the polls, transferring that confidence to seat projections is a recipe for disaster. Seat projections work reasonably well when there’s a good baseline to work off and relatively uniform shifts. Last year’s Manitoba election is a good example of this – with support levels only moving slightly from 2007, seat projections were spot on the money.

The problem with this election is that we’re dealing with a jumble of 3-way races and the rise of a new party, so there’s no baseline to work off. We can’t simply assume the CAQ will build off ADQ support uniformly, because this is a very different “third party” than the one Quebecers rejected four years ago, and they’re targeting a different type of voter.

So even when we’re treated to detailed regional numbers, there’s no way of knowing how that vote will transfer to individual ridings. Precise regional splits are a rare luxury, as many polls treat “Montreal”, “Quebec City”, and “Rest of Quebec” like three distinct and uniform regions. Anyone who has looked at riding-by-riding results in Montreal will know that’s certainly not the case.

My gut feeling is we’re heading for a Marois minority (and we all know how much she hates minorities!), but conditions are ripe for a surprise. Tune in Tuesday.

The Dog Days of Summer

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in by elections, Federal Politics, Ontario Politics, Quebec Politics | 1 Comment

Pauline Marois will make Quebecers long for the tolerant Premiership of Jacques Parizeau

With politicians away from Ottawa and politics the last thing on the minds of Canadians, the summer news cycle usually slows to a crawl. Short of extraordinary events – war, disaster, or the great Census crisis of 2010 – politicians are content to stay on the back pages of the newspaper, and Canadians are more than happy to keep them there.

At least normal Canadians are. Those of us with an unhealthy addiction to politics need something to talk about at BBQs, now that the Jays have fallen out of contention. During the minority years, you could count on an interesting poll and a fresh round of election speculation every week. Now that we’re in a majority, the best we can do is work ourselves into a lather over Harper’s “monumental” Cabinet shuffle, then act surprised when, as has been the case with every single Cabinet shuffle Harper has ever done, it failed to live up to the hype.

Still, there are some news stories floating around as the summer comes to close. Among them:

1. Quebecers will head to the polls in under 2 weeks, and there are still three candidates with a legitimate chance at being Premier when the dust settles. The most likely, despite what today’s bizarre Forum poll suggests, is Pauline Marois, who is catering to the rawest, most hateful forms of human emotion to get herself elected. She would prevent francophones from attending English CEGEPs. She would forbid employees in public institutions from wearing religious symbols, hijabs, and turbans (but not crucifixes). She would ban anyone who does not pass a French test from running for office. While I agree not being able to speak French is a liability for an elected official in Quebec, so is being a racist, and there’s (obviously) no law against them running for office.

2. Two days after the Quebec election, voters in Kitchener-Waterloo and Vaughan will decide whether or not to hand Dalton McGuinty his third majority government, after a year of minority probation. Given Tim Hudak shows no interest in keeping the government afloat, and the Liberal-NDP marriage seems about as solid as a typical Kardashian marriage, it likely won’t be long before all Ontarians head back to the polls if the Liberals don’t sweep these two by-elections.

3. In slightly less exciting by-election news, the next Conservative MP for Calgary Centre will be chosen this Sunday. Daveberta provides the low-down on the candidates.

4. Today marks the one year anniversary of Jack Layton’s death. At the Globe, Brian Topp weighs in on what the NDP have done right (not being Conservatives) and what they’ve done wrong (not choosing Brian Topp as their leader) over the past year. Actually, Topp is quite gracious towards his former leadership rivals, but it is interesting to see him raise the issue of re-opening the constitution. In the midst of a Quebec election, no less.

Also marking the anniversary is a Harris-Decima poll, under the headline “New-look NDP not that different from the house that Jack built“. Of course, the poll says the exact opposite of that – for better or worse, only 8% of Canadians say the NDP of today is “very similar” to the Layton-led Party.

Quebec Votes

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Quebec Politics | 8 Comments

Jean Charest has been around forever. He’s the longest serving Quebec Premier since Maurice Duplesis, and has been PLQ leader for over 14 years. Older Quebecers no doubt remember him from his role on the “Non” campaign in 1995, and his time as a curly haired Cabinet Minister in the Brian Mulroney government. So it’s understandable that Quebecers are looking for a change – especially given the controversies and scandals he’s had to endure.

Still, this man has been the Lazarus of Canadian politics, so it would be foolish to count him out. Especially when you see start-of-the-campaign poll numbers like this:

PQ 33%
PLQ 31%
CAQ 21%
And all the rest 15%

Yes, the electoral map likely favours the PQ, but the Francois Legault’s “we love the future and puppies” party is very much a wild card when calculating the electoral math, and Quebecers have demonstrated a willingness to shift their votes mid-campaign. It’s very much anybody’s game.

And while Jean Charest has proven he can outcampaign Pauline Marois, if the election shifts to Charest versus the protestors, he’s going to win hands down:

Student protesters target Liberals as Quebec election kicks off

A disorderly scene erupted in downtown Montreal at the start of Quebec’s election campaign as a night protest saw injuries, multiple arrests and clashes with police.

The tense atmosphere during this spring’s student unrest was rekindled Wednesday as Jean Charest called an election and cast the tuition hike dispute as a central theme.

Nothing says “strong leader” like standing up to the mob, and most polls have shown there’s minimal sympathy for Quebec students, whose cell phone bills are higher than their tuition rates.

It’s surprising that Charest is even still around to fight this election. The shocking thing is, he might even win.

The Name Game

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in --- 2013 LPC Leadership Race, Federal Politics, Quebec Politics | 7 Comments

Despite all quantitative evidence to the contrary, trust me when I say Quebecers hate these two men more than the Boston Bruins

In today’s Globe & Mail, Lysianne Gagnon takes aim at Justin Trudeau:

Is Justin Trudeau really the Liberals’ best option?

If the Toronto Liberal intelligentsia believe that Justin Trudeau, being a Trudeau and a Quebecker, can revive their party’s fortunes in Quebec, they are mightily wrong. (One might also wonder if anybody can save the Liberal Party of Canada now that the NDP occupies the centre-left, but this is another question.)

Justin’s surname is as much a liability in French-speaking Quebec as it is in Alberta. Personally, I find this hostility regrettable and irrational to boot, but the reality is that more than anybody else, Trudeau Senior remains the nemesis not only of the sovereigntists but of all of Quebec’s “soft” nationalists.

Any mention of the former prime minister provokes even more anger and resentment in Quebec than in Alberta, where people still fume over the infamous national energy program, which was seen as a violation of the province’s right to control its natural resources.

On behalf of the Toronto Liberal intelligentsia, allow me to offer a brief rebuttal.

I don’t doubt that many Quebecers spit whenever they hear the Trudeau name, but despite what the Quebec chattering classes have been saying for decades, there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest this feeling is widespread.

Take this Angus Reid poll from last summer asking Canadians who they’d pick as the best Prime Minister from the past 40 years. Topping the list in Quebec, with 26% of the vote, was none other than Pierre Trudeau. That’s double the percentage ranking Trudeau the worst Prime Minister, and it’s double the vote share the Liberals received in Quebec last election.

Supporting Justin Trudeau’s pre-natal Liberal leadership bid because of his last name and lingering feelings for his father would be a mistake. Opposing it for that same reason would be downright folly.

Provincial Matters

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in BC Politics, New Brunswick Politics, Newfoundland Politics, Nova Scotia Politics, PEI Politics, Quebec Politics, Saskatchewan politics | 10 Comments

Charest stands a better chance running against this guy, than against Pauline Marois and Francois Legault

Your Friday morning coast-to-coast link roundup:

Atlantic Canada: CRA’s quarterly poll numbers have been released, showing the PCs up by 12 in New Brunswick and the NDP up by just 2 in Nova Scotia. The PEI headlines scream about “plunging” satisfaction with the Ghiz government, but the Liberals still lead 20 points – I think most Premiers would be happy if their numbers plunged to those depths. In Newfoundland, the PCs still lead by 16 points, but that’s a far cry from the old days when Danny Williams routinely polled over 100%.

Quebec: Expect protests on the streets of Montreal to continue through the summer, as negotiations between embittered students and the Quebec government have broken off. Far be it from me to tell Jean Charest what to do, since the man has repeatedly proven himself to be a modern day Lazarus, but if I were him I’d roll the dice and call an election on this issue. Even if the public is mixed on his handling of the protests, it’s a chance for him to look strong and make the election about an issue he could potentially win on.

Saskatchewan: Nothing to see here – everyone still loves Brad .

British Columbia: At the other end of the “most popular Premiers” poll is Christy Clark, who has taken to explictly criticizing Angus Reid. Perhaps the situation isn’t as dire as the polls suggest, but it’s been over a year since any pollster showed Clark ahead and four different companies confirm double-digit leads for the NDP. We’re still a year away from the BC election, but that incumbent winning streak we’ve heard so much about is going to be seriously put to the test (if not before then in Nova Scotia or Quebec).

Monday Quick Hits

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Polls, Quebec Politics | Leave a comment

1. The Hill Times has released their annual MP survey. John Baird and Bob Rae do well in the more meaningful categories, while Rona Ambrose and Pablo Rodriguez continue their dominance in the “best hair” category. Rona is also on top for sexiest woman, with Helena and Ruby falling off the list after a difficult year. For the men, Peter McKay held off a challenge from the “hippest MP”, Justin Trudeau, to defend his crown.

2. In other polling news, the latest from Environics shows few changes in Alberta since March:

PC 34% (nc)
WAP 28% (-2%)
ALP 23% (nc)
NDP 12% (+2%)

They do some seat projections that show the PCs with a razor-thin majority but, for the life of me, I’m not sure how you can do a credible seat projection when a party rises from obscurity to second place.

3. In Quebec, the news is less rosy for the incumbent:

PQ 40%
Lib 31%
ADQ 8%
QS 8%
Green 7%

With the PQ up 48% to 22% among francophone voters, they’re squarely in majority territory. We’re still a ways off from an election but the federal parties should at least start thinking about the implications of having a separatist government in Quebec in a few years.

4. Speaking of which, a regular reader is looking to give away a pair of hardcover Rene Levesque biographies – Memories and My Quebec. If you’re in Calgary you can pick them up, otherwise you can send cash for postage. If you’re interest, drop me an e-mail and I’ll get you in touch.

Sondage Says…

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Polls, Quebec Politics | Leave a comment

It’s been a busy week for political polls…I’ll have the May poll dance up by week’s end, but with two Quebec-only polls in field at the same time, this is a good chance to take a close look at a province which is all too often overlooked by both pundits and politicians – Quebec.

Leger, CROP, and Ipsos were all in field last week – if we take a weighted average based on their Quebec samples, we get the following:

Liberals 35%
Bloc 35%
CPC 14%
NDP 13%

Pas pire, no matter how you slice it, considering the Liberals have generally been about 15 points back of the Bloc in all three post-Chretien elections (although they did hit 34% in 2004).

I haven’t been able to see the regional tables at all, but the CROP poll does detail the collapse of Harper’s Quebec City Fortress:

Puis, les troupes de Stephen Harper ont glissé au troisième rang des intentions de vote dans leur bastion de la région de Québec, tout juste derrière le Bloc québécois et à 10 points du Parti libéral. À ce chapitre, le PLC termine au premier rang, avec 33%. C’est du jamais vu depuis janvier 2004, soit quelques semaines avant la publication du rapport dévastateur de la vérificatrice générale sur le scandale des commandites.

The Liberals haven’t won a seat in Quebec City since 2000, and finished third in every riding there last election – usually well over 10,000 votes behind. With little organization in the region, they’ll clearly have to put some resources into it – all the more evidence why it makes sense to have a 308 riding strategy, where you at least have a base level of organization in every riding that can be mobilized when things like this happen.

So what does this all mean electorally? Well, it’s too early to tell, but a real quick and dirty seat projection based on the 2008 results shows the Liberals poised to win between 20-30 seats in Quebec. And that’s just the way the Quebec map usually plays out – in the 1997 election for instance, the Bloc edged the Liberals 38% to 37%, but beat them on seats 44 to 26.

So while these gains are nice, they also show the 66-seat gap won’t be closed in Quebec alone. Even in the best-case Quebec scenario, the Liberals will need to flip at least 20-25 seats elsewhere, in order to get back to government. (certainly doable, given stories like this)

Bart’s Books: French Kiss

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Book Reviews, Quebec Politics | Leave a comment

French Kiss: Stephen Harper’s Blind Date With Quebec
by Chantal Herbert

I’ll be honest. The only reason I decided to review Chantal Hebert’s latest book was because I’m hoping to get a few google hits for “french kiss”. I’ve always found Hebert’s view of federal politics and federalism frustrating but she certainly knows Quebec politics inside out and is undisputedly Canada’s preeminent Quebec columnist for people living outside of Quebec. With a Quebec election behind us and the possibility of both separatist parties delving into leadership races, now seems like a good time for an in depth look at Quebec politics and some speculation about the future of the politics in that province.

Unfortunately, French Kiss doesn’t really provide either. It’s yet another book on the dynamics of the Martin versus Harper era, with a focus on Quebec. Less than half the book deals with Quebec politics which is unfortunate since Hebert is clearly more in her element when writing about that topic than about, say, Alberta politics, where there is no real deep analysis on her part. There’s also no profound speculation about the future beyond “Harper will fail…or he won’t”, which is probably fair enough since no one really knows how Harper’s courting of Quebec will end. For Hebert, it’s hard to predict how the Harper positives of offering more autonomy for Quebec will be balanced against policy issues like Afghanistan and the environment where he’s completely off base from Quebecers. She does get off a good line at the end of the book though, by cautioning that Harper should “not read too much into a first date kiss”.

Hebert should have taken a page from her subject’s focused priorities approach, because she jumps around from topic to topic in Paul Martin style, leaving the reader dizzy at times. For example, one chapter starts off talking about the benefits of a Liberal-NDP merger, moves into electoral reform, and winds up lamenting the lack of women in politics. Another chapter starts off talking about the legacy of the Charter in Quebec, moves on to BC politics, and ends with an analysis of the equalization formula. As a result, French Kiss reads like the transcript of how you might imagine a talk with Chantal Hebert over beers at a pub might sound, rather than a book tightly focused around a central thesis about Quebec politics.

Much like Chantal often does, I’m probably sounding fairly negative so far, so I will say that Hebert does provide enjoyable reading when she sticks to Quebec. Her opinion that the presence of the Bloc Quebecois has hurt the separatist cause was especially fascinating. In her view, by showing separatists working with Canada and by bringing Quebec issues to the fore, it undermined the argument that Canada doesn’t work. Hebert also believes that the Clarity Act debate turned into a “family affair” with Dion and Duceppe duking it out in Ottawa, whereas without the BQ, it might have been seen as Ottawa imposing its will on Quebec.

Not surprisingly, I strongly disagree with Hebert’s opinion that the only way to power in Canada is through “open federalism” and decentralization. Throughout the book, she is constantly urging the Liberals and NDP to copy the Harper/Mulroney federalism blueprint. In addition to disagreeing with this in principle, I’m not sure it would be a political boon for either party to shift their view in that direction. Her chapter long “Ode to Meech” where Hebert describes the utopian society Canada would be had the ill-fated accord passed had me rolling my eyes a few times.

Still, even though I disagreed with many of her points, throughout the book Hebert defends her arguments well and writes in a very readable style, full of colourful analogies. So while it probably won’t be my favourite political book of 2007, it does have its moments.

Recommendation: Pick it up as a bargain book or borrow it from a friend.

Other Reviews
Bound by Gravity
A BCer in Toronto
Political Staples interview

A copy of French Kiss was provided free from Random House, for review

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