Michelle Gagnon (CBC News):
One month into the campaign and more than one to go, it’s clear Quebec’s Orange Wave was no fluke.
No, the NDP’s 2011 sweep of the province was what Quebecers wanted. And now, in a campaign that’s all about change, Quebecers are opting for continuity.
A fluke, of course, is how the Bloc Québécois and the Liberals explained away the NDP’s haul of 59 of 75 Quebec seats. As the theory goes, Jack Layton tapped into the attraction Quebecers have shown for charismatic leaders, and once brought into the fold as Le bon Jack, the deal was sealed.
But Layton did not live long enough to lead the Official Opposition in the last Parliament. And, now, almost all polls suggest the NDP will keep its seats in Quebec or add more, increasing the count all the way up to 67.
So if not a one-off, what?
The answer may have as much to do with Tom Mulcair’s NDP as it does with its rivals.
Ringing in first is anti-Harper sentiment. If the rest of the country is holding a referendum on the prime minister, Quebecers decided long ago. He’s just not their guy. Too English despite his successful efforts to speak French, too establishment for their contrarian streak, and too conservative to represent collective self-perception as social democrats, be it true or not.
And the feeling is mutual, so to speak. Stephen Harper has formed successive governments, won a majority even, without Quebec, effectively unseating the province as traditional kingmaker, and cementing an uncomfortable truth for a province that tends to vote with and for power.
The Liberals, once the recipients of such favour, may well have taken a page from Harper’s book. The party organization decamped from Quebec when Justin Trudeau became leader, leaving its forces there diminished. And Trudeau’s lineage, a boon in some parts of the country, remains a handicap in Quebec, a reminder of resentment over his father’s handling of the patriation of the Constitution that coloured federal-provincial relations for years.
Which is where the Bloc comes in. Or doesn’t, actually.
Brought down to four seats in 2011, the Bloc lost party status, then self-mutilated with the election of controversial leader Mario Beaulieu. Despite an initial surge, Gilles Duceppe’s last-minute return to the helm has done little to improve the party’s fortunes.
But the biggest clue to the Bloc’s predicament can be found in Quebec’s 2014 provincial election. The ousting of the PQ was read in many ways, but one incontrovertible explanation was ebbing sovereigntist sympathies, a loss that led many to speculate that separatism is a generational issue.
On the federal level, that translates to a potential shift away from the longtime federalist-separatist divide toward a more ideological left-right split.
And so enters Mulcair’s NDP.