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Crunching Numbers

How a new centre-right party would reshape Quebec Add to ...

A new centre-right party led by former Parti Québécois cabinet minister François Legault would help oust the Liberal government of Jean Charest, destroy the Action Démocratique du Québec, and radically change the landscape of provincial politics, according to the findings of a new poll by Léger Marketing.

Though this hypothetical party does not and may never exist, Quebeckers appear to have a political appetite for something different. The poll conducted by Léger Marketing was spurred by the announcement that Mr. Legault, 53, is trying to form a coalition of federalist and sovereigntist centre-right forces in Quebec. While the former minister has said that the movement, under the working title of Force Québec, would only advance different ideas for the future of the province, there is little doubt that Mr. Legault, well-known to have had eyes on the PQ leadership, has greater ambitions in mind.

According to the results of the Léger poll of 1,001 Quebeckers taken between Oct. 8 and Oct. 10, the Parti Québécois has the support of 39 per cent of the province's voters, with the Liberals at 29 per cent and the ADQ, the province's current right-of-centre party, at 12 per cent. Québec Solidaire, a left-wing sovereigntist party, has the support of eight per cent of Quebeckers while the provincial Greens stand at six per cent.

When Force Québec is added to the ballot, however, fully 30 per cent of Quebeckers opt for the new party. The PQ would retain 27 per cent support, while the Liberals would be reduced to 25 per cent. The ADQ drops to seven per cent, while Québec Solidaire and the Greens also see a decrease in their provincial voting intentions.

Force Québec would draw support from every party, taking half of the ADQ's vote and about a third of provincial support from the PQ, Greens, and Québec Solidaire. About 14 per cent of Liberal voters would switch to the upstart centre-right party.

Mr. Charest's Liberal government currently holds 65 seats in the National Assembly. With 51 MNAs, Pauline Marois's Parti Québécois forms the Official Opposition while the ADQ holds four seats and Québec Solidaire one. Three seats are held by independents and one is vacant.

Based on the results of this Léger Marketing poll, the Parti Québécois would be projected to hold 51 seats and form a minority government. Force Québec would win 40 seats and become the Official Opposition, while the provincial Liberals would be reduced to only 32 seats. Québec Solidaire would win two seats, both in Montreal.

Force Québec's 40 seats would be won in all corners of Quebec. As most of them are ridings that have been or are currently held by the ADQ, Force Québec would replace Mario Dumont's old party in most of the province. But Mr. Legault would win 26 seats that are presently held by Mr. Charest's Liberals and eight seats currently represented by the Parti Québécois. While many of Force Québec's victories would come in regions of the province in which the ADQ has traditionally performed well, such as around Quebec City, the Laurentians, and Montérégie, the centre-right movement would also win seats in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, the Eastern Townships, and Laval.

With the Parti Québécois boasting superior vote distribution (the party would be tied with Force Québec among francophone voters), they would be able to form government with fewer votes than Mr. Legault's party. But while at first glance it appears the provincial Liberals would suffer most at the hands of Force Québec, much of the damage to the Liberal brand has already been done. Based on Léger Marketing's findings before the introduction of FQ, the Parti Québécois would win 81 seats in the province and form a strong majority government. The Liberals would win 35 seats, the ADQ seven and Québec Solidaire two. In other words, Force Québec would win most of the seats that the Liberals are already expected to lose to the Parti Québécois.

As a party that does not yet exist can be everything to everyone, the results of this Léger Marketing poll need to be taken with a large grain of salt. There is little doubt, however, that a market for such a party as Force Québec exists. According to the poll, 20 per cent of Quebeckers consider themselves federalist while 21 per cent consider themselves sovereigntist. These two groups are currently represented by the Liberals and Parti Québécois, but the 48 per cent of Quebeckers who consider themselves nationalists without necessarily supporting provincial independence remain unaffiliated. Since the days of René Lévesque, it is these voters who have decided which party wins elections in Quebec year after year.

Éric Grenier writes about politics and polls at ThreeHundredEight.com

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