A solid lead built up by the Liberal Party during the month-long Quebec election campaign is holding while support for the Parti Québécois is melting away to a surging third party, according to two new polls.
The Coalition Avenir Québec has drawn a last-minute spike in support on the strength of a strong debate and the last 10 days of campaigning by its leader, François Legault, according to the poll by Léger Marketing published in the Journal de Montréal on Saturday.
The Liberals sat at 38 per cent support, ahead of the Parti Québécois at 29 per cent, down four percentage points from the last Léger poll. The CAQ meanwhile showed 23 per cent support, an eight percentage point jump from a Léger poll 10 days ago.
An Angus Reid Global survey released Saturday showed similar overall results, with the Liberals at 39 per cent and a 12 percentage point lead on the PQ among likely voters. That survey of 1,410 Quebeckers conducted April 2 through Friday showed the CAQ just two points behind the PQ.
The most critical numbers, however, are how each party fares among francophones, as they will cast the decisive ballots in most of Quebec's swing ridings in Monday's election.
The Liberals have maintained a solid lead in the Quebec election campaign, while support for the Parti Québécois is melting away to a surging CAQ.
The Angus Reid survey showed the PQ with only a one point advantage over the Liberals among Francophone voters. That kind of result Friday would give the Liberals a majority.
The Léger poll, meanwhile, showed the PQ at 35 per cent compared to 29 per cent for the Liberals and 23 per cent for the CAQ. If the results are reflected in the election, they would lead to a Liberal government but a majority would be far from guaranteed with the unpredictable split among francophones.
Pollster Jean-Marc Léger says three key factors make the final outcome uncertain: Participation rate, the sudden rise of the CAQ, and the fact 25 per cent of poll respondents said they could still change their minds.
As a result, all three of the main parties are on a final blitz this weekend. The Liberal itinerary evolved as the weekend went on, shifting more toward CAQ seats than the PQ. Pauline Marois, leader of the PQ, planned all along to split her time between ridings of the Liberals and the CAQ, which has eaten most dramatically into PQ support.
Liberal Leader Philippe Coullard made an open plea to CAQ supporters to beware of splitting the vote.
"I would remind Quebeckers who voted in 2012 for the CAQ, they woke up the next day with a bad headache and a PQ government," Mr. Couillard said. In the last election, the Liberals (then under Jean Charest) lost to the PQ by four seats.
"That's something we should all be worried about, we don't need the return of a PQ government that's for sure," he said.
At the same time Mr. Couillard tried to avoid questions about whether a Liberal minority government could work with the CAQ if it held the balance of power.
"Mr. Legault speaks in soundbites, soundbites with little substance," he said. "He also speaks with little respect for his adversaries."
Campaigning in his stronghold of Quebec City, Mr. Legault had a spring in his step from the poll results as he tried to bleed more support from the PQ and Liberals.
Mr. Legault said anything is possible as Quebeckers try to avoid another referendum under the PQ and the "worn out" Liberals.
Ms. Marois hasn't given up hope of stopping the Liberals from forming the next government despite poll numbers that show support for her party dropping significantly.
"It's not over yet. Let's not draw any conclusions. Let us go to the voters and that is what I will do until Monday," Ms. Marois said during a final campaign blitz through central Quebec where she continues to promote her "dream team" of candidates.
When asked what her biggest disappointment of the campaign was, Ms. Marois said candidly that should have stopped answering questions about another referendum.
"I should not have answered so many questions about sovereignty since what is at stake here is the election of a government [and not a referendum]," Ms. Marois said.
Ms. Marois is urging supporters to tell voters that the only way to stop corruption and to stop the Liberals from returning to power was to elect a PQ government.
"If you want to stop the worse from happening vote Parti Québécois," Ms. Marois said at a party rally in Sherbrooke on Friday. It is a message she will continue to drive home during the last 48 hours of her campaign before the April 7 vote.
The Léger poll was conducted through an internet panel of 1,220 voters on April 2 and 3. The margin of error for such an internet survey cannot be calculated, but a traditional telephone poll of the same size would have a margin of error of 3.2 per cent.
With files from the Canadian Press