If there were any doubts about the Liberal slide in Quebec, the Strategic Counsel poll on the front page of today's Globe and Mail should dispel them. In fact, if the Quebec results are accurate, the Liberal descent is accelerating, presaging a Bloc Québécois sweep of the province - not exactly a propitious position from which to launch sceptical Canadians into their fourth election in five years.
What's left unsaid today by Strategic Counsel pollster Peter Donolo is that it's Michael Ignatieff who's been driving down the Liberal numbers in Quebec - according to the two most recent CROP polls published in La Presse. Indeed, in the more recent Leger poll published in Le Devoir, Mr. Ignatieff now finds himself at Stephen Harper levels of unpopularity in Quebec, which means that the Liberals will likely continue to sink in that province.
Based on the French-language ads released on the weekend, the strategy of the Liberals - a party that traditionally has cloaked itself in the mantle of national unity - is to target not the secessionist Bloc Québécois but the federalist Conservatives in Québec. The future of Canada? Hey! - it's time for the natural governing party to restore its rightful place in the political firmament. Or is it simply that Michael Ignatieff - who's not getting any younger - is growing impatient to claim the job for which he returned from abroad?
In today's La Presse, we learn that things may get a lot worse for Mr. Ignatieff and the Liberals in Quebec. Reporter Denis Lessard got an early look at the Bloc Québécois campaign ads: "the publicity will present side-by-side photos of Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff - in unflattering profile shots. The Bloc will hammer home the message that, on Quebec, the two men are 'lookalikes.' The radio ads will equate their positions on the environment, GST harmonization, forestry and even the Québécois nation."
Ironically, the more the Liberals succeed in demonizing Stephen Harper, the more effective will be the Bloc's anti-Liberal/anti-Ignatieff message; perhaps Denis Coderre, who hankers after Mr. Ignatieff's job, did not explain this to him. And the same goes for the NDP, as La Presse reporter Joel-Denis Bellavance garnered from his conversation with a party anonymouse:
"We'll be targeting Michael Ignatieff as much as we target Stephen Harper" ... the strategist said Ignatieff supported George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq in 2003, supported Canadian participation in anti-missile defence in 2004, and in the spring he vigorously defended Alberta's tar sands."
UPDATE Here's a sample of the Bloc ad campaign - Two parties, One vision - released today by Gilles Duceppe. With Prime Minister Harper in the basement of public opinion, the objective is to have Michael Ignatieff join him there.