The major federal parties are facing a new environment in the key battlefield of Quebec, as the issue of national unity disappears as a wedge issue after the election of a Liberal government.
The Bloc Québécois stands to be the biggest victim of the rout suffered by the Parti Québécois on Monday, with the leaderless group of four MPs struggling to justify its continued existence without the possibility of a referendum over the next four years. The Bloc took 23 per cent of the Quebec vote in 2011, and a portion of its electorate appears willing to shift to a federalist party in the 2015 general election.
Any movement of Bloc voters would have a profound effect on the final results in the parts of the province that traditionally feature three- and four-way races.
The NDP, which already ate into the Bloc’s support in 2011, will be going after more left-wing, traditionally nationalist voters in Quebec.
“The priority on the federal stage is to offer a progressive alternative to Stephen Harper’s government. If former Bloc voters want that alternative, it’s offered by the NDP,” NDP MP and campaign co-chair Alexandre Boulerice told reporters.
The NDP stands to benefit from the fact that its controversial Sherbrooke declaration – which would allow Quebec to secede with a vote of 50 per cent plus one – is becoming more theoretical than practical. The policy had opened up the NDP to attacks from the federal Liberals in recent months, but NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair has always insisted that he is one of the sovereigntist movement’s main foes.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said this is not the time to declare the death of the sovereignty movement.
“There are still many Quebeckers who are passionate about the idea of sovereignty, and that will continue,” he said. “But what Quebeckers have indicated is that today, they want their government to focus on building a strong economy, long-term stability and not identity and divisive politics.”
The Conservatives, which are hoping to mount a comeback in the Quebec City area in the next election, applauded Quebeckers for choosing a government that will focus on economic issues instead of constitutional ones.