Mr. Wright is awaiting a bill introduced in the Commons in April that would create 30 new ridings, giving 18 seats to Ontario, seven to British Columbia and five to Alberta. What makes the legislation controversial is that no new seats will go to Quebec, which already has 75 in the House.
The pollster asks: Why bother with Quebec? Mr. Wright suggests the Harper government has already given up trying to woo the province after making so many concessions with so few results.
“I think there has been a politically conscious move to almost ignore Quebec as a political entity to deliver seats,” Mr. Wright says, suggesting Mr. Harper likely asks himself: “Why am I wasting my time?”
Eric at 308 offers his rebuttal, slicing and dicing past election results to conclude:
But if the Liberals and Conservatives think they can get a majority by ignoring Quebec and waiting until the boundaries are redrawn, they are sadly mistaken.
Personally, I don't think it's ever wise for a political party to give up on any part of the country. Five or ten seats anywhere is the difference between winning and losing, or between majority and minority. To completely write off a region is irresponsible and a lot of people would take it as a sign the party in question isn't ready to govern.
But when looking at the math, there's an argument to be made that Quebec simply isn't the best use of resources for any of the federalist parties right now.
In my July seat projections, I came up with a probability of each party winning every seat in the country. From this, you can create a 95% confidence interval for their showing in each region...a good way of looking at "best case" and "worst case" scenarios:
You quickly see that there isn't a lot to fight over in Quebec. The Liberals and Tories each have about 6 swing seats right now to look at in Quebec - less than they have in Atlantic Canada (11 and 10), Ontario (19 and 20), or even the West (12 and 15).
That's not to say they should ignore the province when it comes to resource deployment - those Quebec seats are grouped together and can be targeted. But in terms of making huge policy concessions that will hurt you elsewhere in exchange for votes in Quebec? It just isn't good politics.
Now, maybe you don't like my seat projections. That's fine. Let's do the math another way. Take the 2008 election results and keep increasing the Liberal or Tory vote until they get enough seats for a majority. Here's where those "needed seats" come from:
Liberals: Atlantic (7), Quebec (14), Ontario (46), West (11)
Conservatives: Atlantic (2), Quebec (0), Ontario (6), West (4)
Simply put, because there are so many Bloc strongholds out there, it simply isn't in the interest of the major parties to bend over backwards to please Quebecers. And when new seats are added to the map in 4 years, it will become even less so. (For a look at what redistribution means, check out my previous blog post on this topic)
Now, I put some caveats up front and I'll add some more here. The "simple majority math" example is really only looking at the short term. It requires the Liberals to win 84 seats in Ontario, which isn't sustainable in the long run. The goal should be to get in a position where more and more seats in places like Western Canada and Quebec are in play than right now.
Similarly, it would have been tempting for Harper to give up on Quebec completely after looking at the 2004 election results. But he didn't, and it won him the 2006 election and nearly got him his majority in 2008. There's absolutely no reason the Tories can't win seats in rural and suburban Quebec, just as there's absolutely no reason the Liberals can't win more seats in Montreal, Quebec City...Regina, Edmonton, and Vancouver.
But in terms of targeting regions for the next election? Well, Quebec has become more and more like Alberta - there simply aren't enough seats in play to justify pandering to voters there.