Jeffrey Simpson (Stop Tickling Quebec And Win. Or Tickle It Often And Lose - Nov. 11) misreads the Conservative win in the Montmagny-L'Islet-Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup by-election. It's an exception to conventional wisdom that by-election results can't be extrapolated into a broader trend. Stephen Harper's first attempt to woo small-town, rural Québécois voters was only a partial success. He then stabbed himself and his party in the chest during the 2008 election with maladroit policies on cuts to arts funding and tough youth-crime measures.
Since the setback, his Conservatives have offered rural, small-town Quebec a much warmer and tangible second French kiss. Will it be reciprocated? Yes: There's more than enough circumstantial evidence to conclude his second gambit might do the trick. The Conservatives have reached out with bags of taxpayers' stimulus cash, as well as more pandering on the language front.
Will this let them rout the Bloc in rural, small-town Quebec to help win a majority? It depends on if and how Gilles Duceppe can counter the steady flow of hard cash in rural constituencies that have fallen on hard times. Neither the Liberals nor NDP can challenge the Bloc or the Conservatives in rural Quebec.
Canadian Federalism and Constitutional Studies, University of Ottawa