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Political scientist says key to Trudeau re-election may hang on volatile territory: Quebec

Last Updated Oct 8, 2019 at 3:09 pm MST

FILE: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at Saguenay Chambre of Commerce award gala, Thursday, April 4, 2019 in Saguenay, Quebec. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

A surging Bloc Québécois in la belle province could have a big impact on the outcome of the federal election

Political scientist in Montreal says Quebec has seen dramatic swings in representation in the past

Political scientist believes the Liberals are primed for a strong showing in that key province

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – For many English-speaking voters, Monday’s federal leaders’ debate was their first real exposure to Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet.

A strong showing from the Quebecer is lending credibility to the idea that the party is surging in Quebec once again, and that could have major implications for what kind of government we end up with once the campaign ends in two weeks.

While the Bloc may have zero influence in the west Blanchet’s appeal is sure to play a major role in the final result.

Nearly a quarter of the seats in the House of Commons are in Quebec, and at least recently, the province has seen dramatic swings in representation.

You might remember the “Orange Wave” of 2011, which made the NDP the official opposition for the first time ever. However, Brooke Jeffrey, a political scientist at Concordia University in Montreal, says it’s different this time around.

“I’d be surprised if they hold any of their seats,” she says, adding typically, in Quebec, the NDP trades votes with the Liberals, and the Conservatives trade votes with the Bloc. That, according to Jeffrey, may not be good news for the Tories.

“The resurgence of the Bloc pretty much indicates that the Conservatives are in more trouble than they were under the Harper administration,” she explains, noting the importance of understanding that the Bloc’s resurgence is relative.

Jeffrey notes it may have less to do with the appeal its leader has, and more to do with the province’s dislike of Andrew Scheer and his social Conservative leanings.

“His position on a woman’s right to choose, for example, or same-sex marriage. And, frankly, his French isn’t that good either and if you saw the Quebec debate, he was very difficult to follow and wasn’t very persuasive,” she tells NEWS 1130.

She believes the Liberals are primed for a strong showing in that key province, where they picked up 33 seats the last time around.

So how is it that the Bloc can swing so wildly in representation, when the share of the vote remains fairly consistent? Jeffrey explains it all comes down to vote efficiency, and how the vote is spread out.

“The Liberals, first of all, they’re far ahead at roughly 40 per cent of the vote, so they’re going to take the federalist vote. They also take, geographically speaking, urban areas, especially around Montreal.”

She says this means the Bloc is essentially fighting for rural areas, and the party it is going up against is the Conservative Party. Throw some NDP-held ridings into the mix, and Jeffrey says that “diffuses the vote.”

“But essentially, it’s the number of seats that they’re active in, or that they’re viable in, that is limited, so regardless of the percentage of the popular vote, they take those seats by more or less of a vote. It doesn’t get them votes somewhere else.”