Weekly Writ for Dec. 13: When it comes to Poilievre and Quebec, let's be realistic
Gains are possible for the Conservatives in Quebec, but not yet a dark blue wave. Plus, new Prairie polling and a key swing seat in New Brunswick.
Welcome to the Weekly Writ, a round-up of the latest federal and provincial polls, election news and political history that lands in your inbox every Wednesday morning.
There’s been a bit of chatter recently about the Conservatives’ polling gains in Quebec and the possibility that the province is opening up to Pierre Poilievre.
It is — but only a little bit.
And, after hearing one of the panelists on the Curse of Politics podcast mention the Conservatives potentially winning 20 to 25 seats in Quebec, I think a dose of reality is needed.
The simple fact of the matter is that the electoral geography in Quebec severely limits the Conservatives’ potential gains.
The Conservatives won 10 seats in Quebec in the last election and, with the exception of Chicoutimi–Le Fjord, they were all won by healthy margins. In all likelihood, the Conservatives will be able to win those 10 seats again.
Beyond that, the party has a few targets.
That’s because the Conservatives have indeed made progress in the province. The party captured just under 19% of the vote in Quebec in the last election and the latest polls suggest their numbers have improved to the 23% to 24% range (with a handful of polls sometimes putting the Conservatives just above or just below that range).
While it might not have been a perfect transfer from one party to the other, the Liberals are the ones who have fallen back the most, usually in the 28% to 29% range. That represents a slide of five to six points.
The Bloc Québécois has largely held steady, usually in the 30% to 31% range, a drop of only one or two points.
So, the total swing between the Conservatives and the Liberals might be as big as around 11 points. It stands at about seven points between the Conservatives and the Bloc.
That’s probably not enough to move a lot of seats.
There are three that are very much on the bubble. The Bloc beat the Conservatives by just 0.1 percentage points in Trois-Rivières, and on the new electoral map the Bloc has only an advantage of one point in Beauport–Limoilou and three points in Montmorency–Charlevoix. The swing in the polls suggest that those three seats could move from teal to dark blue, bumping the Conservatives up to 13 seats.
After that, though, the pickings are slim.
Next on the target list might be Louis-Hébert in Quebec City, but the Liberals won that seat by 14 points. That is on the outside edge of the swing we’ve seen in the polls, but it’s a plausible pick-up. We’re at 14 seats.
We then get into a range that stretches plausibility. If the Liberal vote collapses, then perhaps the Conservatives could inch ahead in Québec Centre (which the Liberals won by 18 points), Brome–Missisquoi (19 points), Compton–Stanstead (20 points) and Argenteuil–La Petite-Nation (20 points). But those are big asks for the Conservatives – particularly since in all of those ridings the Bloc beat the Conservatives by at least 11 points. That means there not only needs to be an 18-to-20 point swing between the Conservatives and the Liberals (which means the Liberals dropping to around 24%, the Conservatives increasing to 29%), but the Bloc also needs to collapse and likely fall behind the Conservatives.
If that happens, then perhaps seats like Lac-Saint-Jean and Jonquière could flip, but there again the Bloc won them by big margins in 2021 (18 and 22 points, respectively).
That would get the Conservatives to 20 seats. To win as many as 25 would mean flipping Liberal seats like Pontiac–Kitigan Zibi and Saint-Maurice–Champlain, which the Liberals won by more than 20 points, as well as Abitibi–Baie-James–Nunavik–Eeyou and Saint-Hyacinthe–Bagot, which the Bloc won by more than 20 points. In such a scenario, maybe we could even imagine a West Island anglophone riding going Conservative.
But we’re out well over our skis trying to get to 25 seats for the Conservatives in Quebec — which requires a complete collapse of both the Liberals and the Bloc, with the Conservatives well over 30% support in the province. The polls are not hinting at anything of the sort being on the horizon.
The Conservatives have a good shot of increasing their holdings in Quebec to 13 seats. If things go really well, maybe they can add two or three more to that haul. But 20 or 25? On se calme le pompon.
Now, to what is in this week’s instalment of the Weekly Writ:
News of a resignation from the House of Commons and the latest addition to the first ministers’ table.
Polls on François Legault’s predicament, plus some new post-election numbers in Manitoba, how Albertans feel about issues facing the province and what the race ahead in Saskatchewan looks like.
A PQ minority government if the election were held today.
A key swing seat in New Brunswick in this week’s riding profile.
Saskatchewan’s very first election in the #EveryElectionProject.
A new milestone for Tim Houston.