Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Quebec

It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that Paul Wells and Andrew Coyne have the best analysis of the Quebec by elections this morning. Building a bit on Coyne's post, here is the average change in popular vote for the respective parties in the three by elections (compared to election night 2006):

Conservatives +10.2%
NDP +10.2%
Liberals -1.6%
Greens -1.8%
Bloc -15.3%

Before I get into a party by party breakdown, let's remember these were by elections. And weird things can often happen in by elections. The Tories and NDP both benefited from strong local candidates in the ridings they won and a strong local candidate has a much larger impact on a by election than on a national campaign. Also, voter turn out was low, with Outremont only getting 59% of the total votes cast there they got in the 2006 election. Still, their results shouldn't be discounted because even if weird stuff goes down during by elections, they can often be quite telling of shifting political winds.

CPC: The Tories made big gains in both the rural ridings (dropping in Outremont) and certainly have the Bloc on the run. Despite all the flack Harper has gotten over Afghanistan, it certainly appears that the potential for a Quebec breakthrough is there under the right circumstances. If you ask me, he's a bigger winner than Layton tonight, because I can't see the NDP gaining from this in the next election, whereas the Tories could pick up another 10 or 12 seats if things broke right during the next campaign.

NDP: Yeah, it was somewhat historic, but they did take a 1990 by election in Quebec too and the 1993 election didn't exactly usher in a socialist revolution. Outremont was their best riding in 2006 and I really can't see another seat that's within their grasp. That said, having a Quebec MP is a huge boost for the Dippers and they now have a strong leader in waiting, with even more facial hair than Jack Layton. Not that leadership is really a question now, as Jack must be grinning even more than usual today.

Liberals: Like Coyne said, the drop in Outremont wasn't cataclysmic given that it was an incredibly inept local campaign, from the sound of things. And, hell, maybe Jean Lapierre had some appeal on the Quebec nation that was lost on me. But it's still a big body blow to the Party and to Dion. There's no denying that, especially when you consider that the party seems to be worse off now in Quebec than during the height of Adscam. What hurts more than the by election loss is the internal party snipping. At the risk of losing my "G" rating, enough with the fucking anonymous quotes already. That goes for the Iggy people who may or may not be trying to undermine Dion and that goes for the Dion people who see a conspiracy plot around every corner. It's abundantly clear that unless this party can renew itself, get better structurally organized, and come together, we won't win another election for a long time. And that's true regardless of whomever the leader is. Dion is here until at least the next election whether people like it or not and the kind of antics that are reported to be going on don't help anyone.

Bloc: Ouch. The Bloc had massive drops in support in all three by elections, losing to the NDP in the cities and to the Conservatives in the rural seats. This party is in deep trouble and the only real question is whether it's them or the Liberals who will be forced to reluctantly support Harper in an effort to stave off an election.

Greens: Lost in the shuffle is the fact that the Greens lost more support than the Liberals province wide - and they had very little to begin with. Despite all the talk about the environment and high poll numbers, it just didn't happen for them - and one would expect more protest Green votes in by elections than in a general election too.


So that's a snapshot of the scene in Quebec. By elections in Ontario and Saskatchewan this fall should give us a better sense of the rest of the country.

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33 Comments:

  • "even if weird stuff goes down during by elections, they can often be quite telling of shifting political winds."

    As I write in my blog, I think this is a shifting political wind.

    By Blogger nuna d. above, at 5:39 PM  

  • Coyne is missing some of the context of the Liberal drop. 2006 represented a scandal-mired Liberal party, getting some of its worst results in Quebec since the 19th century. You aren't supposed to go down in that context!

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 6:24 PM  

  • "Before I get into a party by party breakdown, let's remember these were by elections. And weird things can often happen in by elections."


    You mean ike AB Liberals winning seats in Calgary?

    By Blogger herringchoker, at 8:57 PM  

  • I mostly agree with CG on this one. I will have to disagree, however, on the NDP not having any growth potential in Québec. For years I've been saying that were I a dipper, I'd be pretty pissed at not being able to break through in the province closest to my ideology... that is Québec. It looks like they've finally broken the ice. Differecnes between Outremont and Chambly have been pointed out, but I'll add something. Mulcair, as Dan interested us all with, might be a leader in waiting. He has a popularity rarely matched for a politician in Québec. If and when the next session starts up, the NDP will get significant air time in Québec thanks to Mulcair. If we remember the last general election, no one gave the Conservatives a chance at a Québec riding, yet when the snowball effect started... we ended up with ten (unless my memory fails me). Even the ADQ, six months prior to the last Québec general election, was left for dead, it had no money, no credibility, and someone I had the (mis)fortune of meeting got killed for the ADQ with less than 2% of the vote in a 2006 by-election, yet a year later, we all know where the ADQ is.

    If the NDP's ever going to break in Québec, it's now. And, it can - in Montréal. Montréal is generally left of the political spectrum, so I can see both disappointed Liberals and tired Bloc voters switching to a party that holds social values close to their own. OK - I don't think Mr. Cotler has to worry too much for now, nor Mr. Duceppe, but some ridings like Papineau (although star power might affect that one), Lasalle-Émard, Jeanne-Le Ber, Ahuntsic and Bourassa have enough cultural heterogeneity so that the NDP could stand a chance. Although... that really might not mean much, as the ethnic components of Outremont's closest relatives are Ahunstic (half-half BQ and Liberal) and... Saint-Laurent-Cartierville.

    By Blogger jeagag, at 10:03 PM  

  • And that's true regardless of whomever the leader is.

    Too right. I'm candidly disappointed in Dion - he whines too much and makes outlandish ultimatums that aren't realistic. But, he's not *awful*. The bigger problem is the Liberal "brand", as the cool kids are calling it now. There's no new ideas, there's too much sniping about the Conservative government over things the Liberals never got done - most Liberals (Dan most certainly excluded) just don't get it. It's frustrating: I was very unhappy when the conservatives (PC/Reform) couldn't get it together to challenge the ruling party, now everything old is new again. It only works when there's competition keeping the government on edge - which isn't happening now.

    Ah, this has all been said thousands of times already.

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 10:22 PM  

  • Strategic voting hurt the Greens. In Outremont, they were expected to do better than the CPC. The decrease in votes meant that environmentalists went to the NDP instead, enhancing Mulcair's vote.

    Greens do benefit being the cleaner alternative federalists in the Montreal era, while the Dippers do have a nationalist and even sovereigntist bent. As the Bloc collapses, expect the Greens message to become more muddle.

    By Blogger Mushroom, at 11:24 PM  

  • Spock: "They're dying."
    Kirk: "Let them die!"

    I'm speaking, of course, of the Bloc (not the Klingons).

    They got together roughly around 1990 and they said only until they had another referendum ... which they had in 1995, and lost.

    But they didn't leave.

    Spending your federal tax to break up your country for 17 years.

    Quebec: Get rid of them!!! I don't care who you replace them with, nor who you choose provincially. But quit sending separatists to Ottawa!!

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 11:52 PM  

  • mushroom said:
    Greens do benefit being the cleaner alternative federalists in the Montreal era, while the Dippers do have a nationalist and even sovereigntist bent. As the Bloc collapses, expect the Greens message to become more muddle.

    I'm not sure I agree with you. The dippers I personally know are federalists. Every left-wing sovereignist I know supports the Bloc or the Greens. Of course, it's from personal experience, it's hardly universal, but the media generally portrays the NDP as a party even more centralist than the Liberals... something to scare away sovereignists. Until now, apparently.

    Still, I'm curious as to why you'd call the NDP nationalist and sovereignist. I don't get why you'd say that on a provincial level (my memory fails me, but wasn't the links between the NDP and the NDPQ severed on a question where the federal party refused to accept the NDPQ's request to have independence in its program?), as the NDP is clearly a federalist party who's elected every one but two of all of its historical candidates in provinces other than Québec. Candian sovereignist? Sure, ok, but the Liberals and Conservatives too.

    By Blogger jeagag, at 12:26 AM  

  • herring; Yeah, weird. But, like I said, it can also be a sign of shifting political winds.

    jeagag; It seems to me that the NDP vote was gained on the backs of a lot of Bloc voters so they're certainly catering for the nationalist crowd. That's probably a good thing though. That crowd has to vote for someone and it's better for Canadian politics in my opinion if it's the NDP or Tories, rather than the Bloc.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 12:42 AM  

  • what I wanna know is why you say the person making anonymous comments against Dion is always an Ignatieff supporter.

    Gerard Kennedy and Bob Rae are still having organizational meetings as well. I've seen the Kennedy people throw more mud at Ignatieff than even the uber-paranoid Dionistas.

    Gerard is far from innocent in all this and I can see what his supporters have been doing all over the place. Making Ignatieff look like the bad guy when all he has done is stand by the leader. Classy idneed...

    Another thing, I have told Justin he was a fool for posting it because he has no idea what is going on over there. Don't blame a local campaign for a 20 point loss. He was there 3 weekends, going supposedly door to door and never spoke to one voter about the by-election, just telling them there was an election. He missd a lot of what was going on. He knows his mistake now.

    Im sure Liberals are used to it in Alberta and I know you tell yourselves there is nothing organizaers can do if the disadvantage is 20%.

    The problem in Quebec is the same between the BQ and the Libs. They are used to fighting each other and not fighting other parties.

    By Blogger Antonio, at 9:20 AM  

  • Gotta dump the blame at the door folks, it serves no useful purpose. The fact is, the Liberal brand in Quebec has been in decline for years, the coming by-elections in the rest of Canada will help determine whether this is a trend exclusive to Quebec or its going nation-wide. These are dangerous times for the Liberal party. Dangerous in that if party members continue to snipe one another in private and in blogs, it shows a very divided party that can't seem to rally around its leader.
    If the Liberals are in decline in Quebec, then it needs to look west and appeal to voters in provinces like Alberta, for example, by stealing a page from the now abandoned Reform Party playbook: democratic reform. Reform the Senate. Tax cuts. In short, the Liberals need to shift to the right and bump the Tories from the mushy middle, a place that used to be the exclusive domain of the Liberal party.

    By Blogger Sean Cummings, at 9:37 AM  

  • Wow. Excellent analysis and pretty telling. I hope a ton of the Liberal think-tank folk read this post and then read it again!

    I think this could be the breakthough the party needs though. Finally hitting rock-bottom and figuring out "hey, we need to re-think things". I think if the party actually trys to renew itself because of this, we could all be looking back on these by-elections as a blessing in disguise.

    By Blogger Riley Hennessey, at 10:05 AM  

  • I have to ask myself who are the Liberals bringing into their tent in Quebec? The Tories are paving every road in rural Quebec and aren't shy about telling voters they will get nothing if they don't vote Tory. So, it will be hard to break into rural Quebec. The BQ is collapsing and their votes are going either Tory or NDP. Where are Liberal votes supposed to come from?

    By Blogger Greg, at 11:49 AM  

  • antonio: Damn it. Kennedy is holding secret meetings and I wasn't invited? I'm hurt...

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 2:05 PM  

  • Any more than I was invited to the secret Ignatieff conspiracy. I appreciate that it's been in the news and all but I haven't seen a single iota of evidence that there's been any sinning of omission on the part of people from our old campaign. I've had Dion as my facebook politco for the sake of clarity for months now and I love the guy, but I'd really rather not be told to 'knock something off' or sign loyalty oaths.

    That said - I really think the 'party factionalism' story is going to die off shortly. I think there are a lot of more important (and rational) worries at hand and no way to help party unity except by being united (which isn't the same as hyperventilating about unity.)

    Chiefly, I think we should remind ourselves of and work to publicize Dion's strengths. And recognize the emptiness of the punditry's present 'anti-honeymoon,' which is mostly the product of boredom and their own unoriginality.

    And incidentally, it seems to me the Tories missed the boat on getting the best publicity out of this whole affair that they could have; regardless of what they say now, the bloom is off the story and they played it quiet. Tasteful, maybe, but effective?

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 2:42 PM  

  • I know lots of Dippers who support separatism. They're just volunteers and supporters, I don't know any executive types, but there is a strong streak of "English guilt" through many in the party.

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 3:02 PM  

  • I don't think the Tories really needed to broadcast it from any rooftops - no bloom has vanished from their story.

    They kicked the Bloc when it was already done, and they'll do it again. No need to shout it - Quebec already knows it. I think, personally, that Harper has played this victory for him just exactly right.

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 3:07 PM  

  • Grit says: "Dion is here until at least the next election whether people like it or not and the kind of antics that are reported to be going on don't help anyone."

    Keith says: Except Harper.

    By Blogger Keith Richmond, at 3:24 PM  

  • Grit says: "By elections in Ontario and Saskatchewan this fall should give us a better sense of the rest of the country."

    Keith says: "Only if the throne speech passes. Watch for Harper to put together a throne speech that none of the opposition parties can support, but is still palatable to Canadians. Then watch the opposition parties (none whom want an election) squirm to find way to justify "having to support such an awful plan", or pull the plug.

    By Blogger Keith Richmond, at 3:26 PM  

  • Watch for Harper to put together a throne speech that none of the opposition parties can support, but is still palatable to Canadians

    That would be quite the feat, I've yet to see Harper do anything that impressive. HIs support remains in the mid-thirties. If the Tories cause another election and there is another minority situation, this proroguing of parliament and ignoring the will of the majority of Canadians and their elected representatives can no longer be tolerated. Even if the Cons get the most seats they will have lost the mandate to govern and I hope a coalition government can be formed by the other parties.

    By Blogger Emerys, at 4:53 PM  

  • I sort of disagree, I think, Keith. I'm betting Jack Layton is feeling good and ready to go to the polls.

    But I'm not sure...

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 6:21 PM  

  • Jason, I don't always agree with Vincent Marissal, but he made an interesting point in La Presse this morning. In his opinion, Layton wants to flaunt his Québec trophy around for a while, showing Mulcair around as a talented candidate, and proof that Québec is winnable. A general election in the near future would be a huge risk. Also, I'll repeat my opinion that it's in the NDP's interest in Québec to have question period shots of Muclair (in French, naturally... but also in English for the ROC's benefit), as it's virtually the only exposure the NDP has in the province.

    By Blogger jeagag, at 6:59 PM  

  • I'm sure Layton isn't squirming, but Dion has talked his way into a box by listing those four requirements for the Throne Speech.

    Duceppe must realize that he can no longer afford to be seen as propping up Harper anymore. At the same time though, with the PQ in a tailspin, he does not want to face an election with a demoralized election team.

    None of the three parties will want to vote for the Throne speech, and each will want the other to do it. I am tempted to say that scores of Liberals will come down with fevers the day of the vote.

    By Blogger SouthernOntarioan, at 7:00 PM  

  • Emerys: Even if the Cons get the most seats they will have lost the mandate to govern

    Not very familiar with concepts like "democracy" and "the Westminster system", are we?

    By Blogger The Invisible Hand, at 2:52 AM  

  • Good analysis Dan.

    I think you're right to be frustrated with all those anonymous Liberals taking potshots at the leader and the party in general. In NO way does that help your party.

    I wonder if you'd be so bold as to write a post on *your* thoughts on Dion's leadership?

    Take care,
    M

    By Blogger Matt Bondy, at 8:48 PM  

  • Just ragging you CG. Just remember, people are watching.

    I pretty much agree with most of your observations, although when assessing votng swings its worth remembering that voters got a sneek peak with the polls a week earlier. My guess is that this identified Mulcair as the go-to guy for the "send a message" anti-Grit vote. It may also have depressed the Liberal turnout. That type of riding specific info wouldn't be available at a general election.

    We're of one mind on the Greens. The Otario vote this month will probably confirm their lack of voting day gravitas. Lizzy May should take a page from the Dippers and throw everything into Central Nova and perhaps another riding. Even at that, it will be a long shot.

    By Blogger herringchoker, at 10:19 PM  

  • Not very familiar with concepts like "democracy" and "the Westminster system", are we?

    Are you?

    "The head of government, usually called the Prime Minister, must be able either (a) to control a majority of seats within the lower house, (b) to ensure the existence of no absolute majority against them."

    By Blogger Emerys, at 11:55 PM  

  • But quit sending separatists to Ottawa!!

    I think the people of Quebec are starting to agree that the Bloc has outlived its usefulness.

    "The head of government, usually called the Prime Minister, must be able either (a) to control a majority of seats within the lower house, (b) to ensure the existence of no absolute majority against them."

    emerys - If the next election sees no majority, but the CPC still has the largest number of seats, Harper will continue to govern unless toppled in the Commons. Then, if the (up until then) Opposition tries to govern, such a rickety coalition government will, I think, last for far less time than your average Italian coalition government.

    By Blogger Brian in Calgary, at 5:31 PM  

  • "The head of government, usually called the Prime Minister, must be able either (a) to control a majority of seats within the lower house, (b) to ensure the existence of no absolute majority against them."

    And winning a second consecutive minority would fail this test how?

    Do you consider Pearson's post-1965 government to have been illegitimate?

    PS- I'd advise against quoting Wikipedia as your source.

    By Blogger The Invisible Hand, at 10:27 PM  

  • Do you consider Pearson's post-1965 government to have been illegitimate?

    No, because he gained the support of the majority of MPs. He also wasn't proroguing parliament or acting like he had a majority when he didn't.

    If Harper can't work with the majority of our elected representatives then he doesn't get to govern, its that simple, I shouldn't have to provide any sources for that if you knew anything about parliamentary democracy.

    So, alls I am saying is if the Cons fail to get another majority and are still this arrogant and derisive of the will of the majority of our elected representatives, then I hope the other parties can cobble together a coalition, I know that is what I would want my representative to work towards.

    By Blogger Emerys, at 11:12 PM  

  • Well, obviously if Harper loses a confidence vote, he's lost the mandate to govern. Don't waste our time with tautologies. Your original claim, however, was that Harper automatically loses his mandate if he gets a plurality of seats in the next election, which is completely false.

    By Blogger The Invisible Hand, at 10:20 PM  

  • Your original claim, however, was that Harper automatically loses his mandate if he gets a plurality of seats in the next election, which is completely false

    No, that was not my claim, your imagination seems to have created the word 'automatically' out of thin air. Oh well, reading comprehension is something that can be improved over time, good luck!!

    By Blogger Emerys, at 10:13 PM  

  • You original quote was:

    If the Tories cause another election and there is another minority situation, this proroguing of parliament and ignoring the will of the majority of Canadians and their elected representatives can no longer be tolerated. Even if the Cons get the most seats they will have lost the mandate to govern and I hope a coalition government can be formed by the other parties.

    It wasn't until later that you tried to pretend you were just saying that the loss of mandate wouldn't happen until after a confidence vote. Just because "automatically" wasn't the exact word you used doesn't make it any better.

    By Blogger The Invisible Hand, at 6:33 PM  

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