Making Sense of the NDP Gains in Quebec
That hope is not totally unfounded. Over Jack Layton’s tenure, the NDP has gained a lot of strength in Quebec — mostly at the expense of the Liberals and mostly to the benefit of the Bloc.
Now, that certainly doesn't sound like crazy talk, and it fits in with what Hebert has been saying over the past year about the benefits of a Liberal-NDP merger or non-aggression pact.
Where the argument falls down, is in the supporting evidence. Let me call as my first witness, the finest political columnist in Quebec, Chantal Hebert, to rebut her own point. From earlier in the same article:
Since the New Democrats wrestled [Outremont] from the Liberals in 2007, it has fallen off the BQ radar. That was a fortunate development for NDP deputy leader Thomas Mulcair. In 2008, the erosion of the Bloc vote in his favour ensured his re-election.
Yes, despite Hebert's belief that the Liberals and NDP are splitting the federalist vote, it appears the NDP's lone victory in Quebec came with a little help from their separatist friends. This is consistent with the first two "second choice" polls I found on a google search - both show the NDP as the clear cut second choice of Bloc voters.
Now, that's not completely inconsistent with Hebert's argument. It's possible Bloc voters like the NDP but NDP voters don't like the Bloc (or, at least, prefer the Liberals). But I'm not so sure that's the case. Those same polls show that 20-25% of NDP voters in Quebec list the Bloc as their second choice. And just yesterday, Gilles Duceppe announced the poaching of a second former NDP candidate.
Moreover, a look at the 2008 Canadian Election Study shows the following previous election (2006) vote breakdown of NDP supporters in Quebec last election:
Yes, there's no denying some of the NDP's Quebec gains have come at the expense of the Liberals. It's certainly possible a strong NDP in Quebec hurts the Liberals. That's definitely true in Outremont.
But I just can't accept that this is as simple as the federalist vote being split. The NDP are fishing in Bloc waters, and I have to imagine that at least concerns Duceppe. And the fluidity between NDP and Bloc support in Quebec has to make you wonder if a Liberal-NDP pact would do either party any good there.