Monday, October 13, 2008

Election Oracle 2008: Quebec

In Quebec, at the start of the campaign, the Tories were all set to scoop up perhaps up to 20 seats from the Bloc. But that all changed as the Bloc, aided by the other opposition parties, were able to make the arts funding cuts a major issue in Quebec. As Tory numbers plummeted to below their 2006 level, the Bloc continued to rise. It may be that the Bloc’s surge has abated, but for the Tories, the damage has been done: the majority is denied.

The Liberals remain strong in Montreal, and may win some Bloc seats there, but are a non-player in most regions outside the city. The NDP has seen its support more than double in the province, with strength in Montreal and the capital region, but that seems to have subsided late in the campaign. The Conservatives will struggle to hold on to their seats, while the Bloc will emerge from the campaign seemingly renewed.

Montreal region

In the region of Montreal, there are 22 seats, of which 10 were won by the Bloc and 12 by the Liberals in 2006. The NDP’s Thomas Mulcair later won the long-time Liberal seat of Outremont in a by-election and looks set to be re-elected there. The NDP is running a very strong campaign in Westmount-Ville Marie with star candidate Anne Lagacé-Dowson, but I predict a Liberal hold. The only other changes for this region are two Bloc seats that will likely be re-taken by the Liberals: former MP Eleni Bakopanos who lost by less than 1,000 votes in 2006 is running in Ahuntsic and will likely take that seat, while Justin Trudeau, son of Pierre, is running in a very tight race in Papineau and will likely defeat Bloc MP Vivian Barbot. Thierry St. Cyr, the Bloc MP for Jeanne-Le Ber, will likely hold his seat, despite a strong challenge from both the Liberals and NDP.

2006 result: Lib 12, Bloc 10, NDP 0
2008 prediction: Lib 13, Bloc 8, NDP 1

Northern Quebec

Northern Quebec has ten seats, of which nine were won by the Bloc in 2006. The Conservatives won one seat here in 2006 and added another in a 2007 by-election. I predict the Conservatives will hold their two seats, including Jonquière-Alma, where polls apparently show the Bloc ahead of Tory MP Jean Pierre Blackburn. The Bloc should easily hold their remaining eight seats.

2006 result: Con 1, Bloc 9
2008 prediction: Con 2, Bloc 8

Rest of Quebec

The rest of Quebec, which comprises a variety of very different regions, contains 43 seats. In 2006, 32 went Bloc, while 9 went Conservative, one went Liberal, and one elected an independent. The rise in Bloc fortunes has shifted the political scene toward one very similar to 2006 and I expect remarkably few changes as a result.

The only change I do predict is that the Conservatives will lose MP Luc Harvey in Louis-Hébert. While they’ll hold the rest of their seats, they’ll be disappointed when Senator Michael Fortier loses in Vaudreuil-Soulanges. Independent quasi-Tory MP André Arthur will have no problem being re-elected in his riding.

As for challengers, in Brome-Mississquoi, it looks like the Bloc’s strength will ensure that Liberal Denis Paradis will fail in his comeback bid. In Gatineau and Hull-Aylmer, two seats very heavily targeted by the NDP, I predict re-election for the Bloc and Liberal candidates, respectively. In Rimouski, where Bloc-turned-Independent MP Louise Thibault is running, expect the new Bloc candidate to win. The Bloc should also win again in the closely watched ridings of Sherbrooke, Saint-Lambert, and Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot.

2006 result: Con 9, Bloc 32, Lib 1, NDP 0, Ind 1
2008 prediction: Con 8, Bloc 33, Lib 1, NDP 0, Ind 1

Provincial total

2006 result: Con 10, Bloc 51, Lib 13, NDP 0, Ind 1
2008 prediction: Con 10, Bloc 49, Lib 14, NDP 1, Ind 1

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