The Conservative Party of Canada is benefiting from the downfall of the Bloc Québécois, picking up support in Quebec where Leader Andrew Scheer has been actively courting nationalist voters, a new poll says.
Mr. Scheer appeared on the popular Quebec TV talk show Tout le monde en parle earlier this month, and the Conservatives organized a major gathering in Saint-Hyacinthe over the weekend where former prominent Bloc MP Michel Gauthier took up a membership card.
At the event, Mr. Scheer said he was contemplating a series of proposals for the 2019 election, including a transfer of federal powers over culture and immigration to the Quebec government. In addition, the Conservative Party would get Quebec taxpayers to file a single tax return to the provincial revenue agency instead of the two each person or business must currently fill out, meaning each person and business would no longer file a federal tax return.
“Inside the Conservative Party, there is room for both nationalists who are tired of squabbles and federalists who can no longer stand seeing [Prime Minister] Justin Trudeau living in his Care Bear world,” Mr. Scheer said in a speech to hundreds of supporters.
A new Léger poll, conducted earlier this month, suggests the Liberal Party of Mr. Trudeau remains in the lead in Quebec with the support of 40 per cent of respondents. However, the Conservatives are firmly in second place at 29 per cent in Quebec, up seven points in the province since March and up 12 points since the 2015 general election.
The NDP is at 15 per cent in Quebec, down 10 points since the previous federal election, while the Bloc is at 10 per cent, down nine points.
Christian Bourque, who is Léger’s executive vice-president, said the Liberals have benefited from a prolonged honeymoon with Quebec voters, based in large part on Mr. Trudeau’s continuing popularity in the province. However, he said the Conservatives are having some success in recreating the “blue alliance” between Conservative supporters and nationalist voters, which was a key to Brian Mulroney’s strong showings in Quebec in the 1980s.
“We were heading toward an election in which the results in Quebec were already set in stone,” Mr. Bourque said. “At the very least, the Liberals now have a challenger.”
Mr. Bourque said the Liberals are the main beneficiaries of the NDP’s failing fortunes in Quebec under the leadership of Jagmeet Singh, while the Conservatives are managing to win over many former Bloc voters.
While 10 Bloc MPs were elected in the past federal election, the party has recently split in two feuding camps over the leadership of Martine Ouellet, who replaced former leader Gilles Duceppe. According to the Léger poll, only 12 per cent of respondents are satisfied with Ms. Ouellet’s leadership, compared with 55 per cent who are dissatisfied.
While the Conservatives are doing well in Quebec, Mr. Scheer remains an enigma to a large number of voters in the province. According to the Léger poll, 29 per cent of Quebeckers are satisfied with his leadership, 24 per cent are unsatisfied and 47 per cent have no idea or refused to answer.
Mr. Bourque said the high level of undecided voters shows the challenges ahead for Mr. Scheer, but also the opportunity of having a relatively “clean slate” heading into an election year.
The Liberals have tried to attack Mr. Scheer as “Stephen Harper with a smile,” arguing there is no major policy difference between the current and the previous Conservative leader.
Conservative MP Alain Rayes said Mr. Scheer will continue to listen to Quebeckers and strive to increase his public profile in the province.
“He is not yet defined in the eyes of the public, so people will get to discover who he really is,” Mr. Rayes said.
At the national level, Léger found the Liberals in the lead at 39 per cent, followed by the Conservatives at 36 percent and the NDP at 15 per cent.
The Léger web survey was conducted between May 4 and 10. There were 2,103 respondents across Canada, including 1,018 in Quebec. Its margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points for the Quebec numbers, and plus or minus 2.1 points for national numbers.