In ROC – the Rest of Canada – this election is beginning to look like 2004, when the Blues and the Reds were in a dead heat outside of Quebec, and the NDP were trailing in third.
The 2015 numbers are taken from today’s Mainstreet poll. There wouldn’t be too much difference from Leger or other recent polls. The trends are similar.
As you recall, 2004 was a Liberal minority. In 2006, the Conservatives started pulling away, ending 13 years of continuous Liberal rule. They built up their margin in ROC in 2008 when they squared off against Stephane Dion and decimated the Ignatieff Liberals in 2011 outside Quebec. Meanwhile Jack Layton had flat support levels in ROC from 2004-2008 and even in 2011, while the rise was significant, it was not as dramatic as Conservative gains. The NDP paradigm shift was in Quebec.
Which brings us to la belle province. A series of polls is showing the NDP in free fall. Since the start of the campaign, various pollsters have shown a drop in the neighbourhood of 20 points. Now, Mainstreet shows them in third. Leger last night showed them tied. Both have them in mid to high 20s.
The chart below shows the volatility in Quebec in federal elections since 2004. (Again, Mainstreet numbers are used for 2015)
While ROC is looking like 2004, Quebec does not offer the same comparable.
The steady decline of the Bloc Quebecois has been apparent and they still remain below 2011 levels when their share of seats collapsed. However, the demise of the NDP creates opportunities for regional gains for the Bloc, CPC, and Liberals. If one party pulls away from the pack, there is potential to win a lot of seats. Or a small NDP uptick to bring the party over 30% could save many or most of their seats. We are in the territory, under a three or four-way first-past-the-post fight, when the difference between 27% and 32% means a pile of seats.
If the dynamic in ROC holds – which is a close two-way race, a shift in Quebec could very well be the difference. Quebec has shown it can move en masse as it did for Diefenbaker in 1958, PET through most of his elections, Mulroney in 1984 and 1988, the Bloc in 1993, and Layton in 2011. Perhaps this time will be different as the Liberals and CPC appear to have regional limitations.
This federal election has become a a two-way race with a big wildcard in Quebec.