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Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe speaks to party election workers as he visits his riding headquarters Sunday, May 1, 2011 in Montreal.

Jacques Boissinot/ The Canadian Press/Jacques Boissinot/ The Canadian Press

Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe spent his last day of the campaign trying to undermine the credentials of NDP candidates in Quebec and urging his supporters to prove that the last round of polls were wrong.

Stunned by an NDP surge that has been fed by bleeding support in his own ranks, Mr. Duceppe's main goal on the eve of the election was to sow doubts about his new-found rivals in Quebec.

He pointed out many NDP candidates did not engage in debates during the campaign, with some of them living outside their ridings and others not being able to speak French.

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"These NDP candidates are nowhere to be seen," he said on his last rally of the campaign in Laval, north of Montreal. "It's insulting."

Mr. Duceppe lamented the fact that despite Quebec's enacting of Bill 101 back in the 1970s because businesses in downtown Montreal refused to provide French-language services, the NDP is still showing a "lack of respect" for the province's population.

"The Québécois nation has been recognized, it has a national language, which is French," Mr. Duceppe said during a stop in his own riding early Sunday. "How could we accept putting our confidence in people who don't even speak our language?"

The attacks were part of a week-long strategy by the Bloc to present the election as a battle between sovereigntists and nationalists. It's a tall order as many sovereigntists are also left-wingers who are attracted by the NDP's progressive policies.

Mr. Duceppe campaigned over the weekend with Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois in six ridings between Montreal and Quebec City, on both shores of the St. Lawrence.

The goal was to reach out to PQ supporters and encourage them to vote in the federal election as part of the sovereignty movement's broader strategy.

"In order to achieve sovereignty, the more elected representatives who are in place to defend the project, the easier it will be to go out and meet with citizens to promote this project," Ms. Marois said.

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Still, the NDP wave in Quebec is threatening to take over long-held sovereigntist strongholds, including the riding of Laurier-Ste-Marie that Mr. Duceppe first won in a by-election in 1990.

He acknowledged on Sunday that this election is unlike any other since he came to Ottawa a few months after the death of the Meech Lake Accord.

"Harder? I've seen some hard ones, let me tell you," said Mr. Duceppe, whose first election as Bloc Leader in 1997 was marred by mishaps. "Is this one different? Yes, I can't pretend otherwise. The way the forces at play are aligned today is different than it has been in the past."

Although he refused to make any predictions, his comments confirmed the fact his party is facing a tough slog on Monday.

"When we say that we have to prove the polls wrong, it's throughout Quebec. When we talk about the ridings in Quebec, it's always been my policy to take nothing for granted, otherwise I'd be showing contempt for voters," Mr. Duceppe said.

The Bloc Leader refused to look back at his party's campaign, or even muse about the status of his leadership, until the polls close Monday evening.

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The NDP has gone ahead of the Bloc in all recent public opinion surveys in Quebec, with a clear lead in Montreal. If the results hold up on Monday, the province's electoral map will be radically redrawn.

The Bloc currently holds 47 of 75 ridings in Quebec, and it has won a majority of seats at every election in Quebec since the 1993 general election. Any major defeat on Monday would be interpreted as a step back for the sovereignty movement.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Daniel Leblanc studied political science at the University of Ottawa and journalism at Carleton University. He became a full-time reporter in 1998, first at the Ottawa Citizen and then in the Ottawa bureau of The Globe and Mail. More

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