Sunday, April 08, 2007

"Holding Pattern"

The new SES poll suggests Harper's Quebec strategy is working, but it comes with a cost, that renders any gains meaningless:
the poll indicates the Conservatives would win about 36% of the popular vote, with the Liberals close behind at 33%, the New Democrats with 16%, the Bloc Quebecois 10%, and the Green Party 6%.

The bad news:
The biggest change for the Conservatives has been in Quebec where they have jumped from 20% in early February to an impressive 28% this week.

At the same time, the Liberals have been losing ground at a precipitous rate in the seat-rich province they once all but owned, dropping from 27% support two months ago to only 18% in the latest survey. Gilles Duceppe's Bloc Quebecois lead with 37%.

The other side:
In the West, support for the Conservatives remains unchanged at 41%, while the Liberals have increased their support five points to 35%, again taking votes from the new Democrats and Greens.

In the Maritimes, all the Harper-bashing by Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams over the budget has not altered Conservative support from two months ago.In fact, it is the Liberals that have bled about five points to Jack Layton's NDP and Greens, although the Grits still lead the Tories 40% to 28%.

The SES poll differs from some others, in that we see Harper making big gains in Quebec, which should give Liberals some pause. However, the Quebec strategy looks to have a cost in Western Canada, with the Liberals now QUITE competitive, when you factor out Alberta. Atlantic Canada is still solid Liberal terrority, even with the downtick, the Tories will lose seats if those numbers hold. Ontario is a deadheat, which seems to support the other polls which show volatility.

Whatever gains are made in Quebec, are countered with the potential loses elsewhere. Harper's Quebec numbers could mean a 10-15 seat gain the province, but you can quickly find a corresponding seat lose elsewhere in the country. If not for the gains in Quebec, the landscape would look decidedly bleak for Harper's prospects. One worrisome angle for the Conservatives, despite the momentum in Quebec, you can't discount the native son entirely. Dion might be down, but it would be foolish to think he can't rebound in his home province. If that were to happen in the campaign, then Harper's gambit may turn to disaster, as he has clearly alienated other regions to get his prize.

I don't see a great deal in this poll to cause Conservative excitement. You would have to think the Tory braintrust takes SES seriously, given the track record. This quote sums up the situation:
Nanos said. "I think for all intents and purposes, we are in a holding pattern."

The status quo, despite mountains of cash, favorable conditions and a supposed weak opponent. Maybe it's time for the media to turn the lens back on Harper's own failures, because that is real story in my mind.

UPDATE

Accidental Deliberations makes some relevant points about the NDP's fortunes in Quebec.

14 comments:

A BCer in Toronto said...

Steve, I guess it depends on to what you attribute the Quebec gains.

If you attribute them to the budget then sure, his Quebec strategy is working. If you attribute it to the flurry of sponsorship/Lafleur stories during the polling period, then Harper's Quebec strategy is a failure and the gains are dumb luck, although still gains nonetheless.

If it's the latter, at least there's the potential for any gains to me more shortlived then the former.

Steve V said...

jeff

The other polls have shown minimal gain for Harper in Quebec, so maybe the sponsorship angle is the cause. Having said that, and this is just pure speculation on my part, you would expect Harper to get some boost from "tackling" the fiscal imbalance.

A View From The Left said...

"Maybe it's time for the media to turn the lens back on Harper's own failures, because that is real story in my mind."

Here, here. Unfortunately I think the only way the MSM is going to start talking about Harper's failures is if he ends up behind in the polls.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Dion should take a daring chance and explain to Quebecers that he is glad the investigations into the sponsorship scandal are still in process because he'd like to clear up all doubts once and for all.

Just a though. Don't run away from the problem, deal with it head on.

Also, if Quebecers can't forget, perhaps Harper's own views on Quebec over the years would anger them enough and put a dint in their pride.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Dion should take a daring chance and explain to Quebecers that he is glad the investigations into the sponsorship scandal are still in process...

Yes, after all, that all happened under the last, er second last guy. Here's a chance for Dion to prove he's an "agent of change" and "mad as hell". Fine advice.

And there's no need to post anonymously David Herle...

Anonymous said...

The post wasn't from David Herle, whoever he is.

It was just a thought from a blogger reader.

The only exercise some people get is jumping to conclusions.

Mushroom said...

If I am Harper, I am happy where I am at.

In previous elections, Conservative gains are usually made on the election campaign. This is based on the concept that it is not the natural ruling party.

Harper is doing better than Mulroney. He is at Mike Harris standard right now.

For the Liberals, one should note that once the party's popularity surpasses Harper, it is almost game, set, and match. This signals that the centralist voter has returned to the Liberal mode and that Harper is left with his hard core support.

knb said...

One worrisome angle for the Conservatives, despite the momentum in Quebec, you can't discount the native son entirely

Absolutely true. In keeping with that, I heard on CBC today, a caller speak to how much coverage the mistakes on the plaques at Vimy had received as well as Harper shunning other Party leaders to accompany him to Vimy, has received in Quebec, unlike "english" Canada. It's those things, some would say small things, but very significant to Quebecers, that can have a big impact. IMO, the reason is they show the hypocrisy of any Government, like nothing else.

Steve V said...

knb

I remember after the leadership, there was some polling of Quebecers impressions of Dion, and surprisingly they were quite open-minded, given the history. I don't think you can count Dion out in Quebec, obviously he will have to run a strong campaign, but his policies are more a natural fit in Quebec, you would think that will be a factor. Even though Harper has made some inroads, I don't think there is any firm support, and if the meme about Quebec voters and sophistication is true, I suspect they can see through the motivations. Dion has opportunity to frame Harper, it's not just a one-way street.

Steve V said...

"If I am Harper, I am happy where I am at."

Mushroom, I disagree. Look a the spending spree, the budget, moving to the center, symbolic gesturing, attack ads, and Harper still sits exactly where he was on election night. I really believe these guys thought they would see more of a spike, they have been consumed with boosting their numbers. This poll is sobering, given the effort. Everyone respects SES, there are no high fives in Toryland with these results.

ottlib said...

mushroom said:

"In previous elections, Conservative gains are usually made on the election campaign. This is based on the concept that it is not the natural ruling party."

If you go back further in recent electoral history (about 50 years) you will note that the sitting government always loses support during the election to the benefit of the Official Opposition.

We saw this thoughout the Chretien/Martin era and it finally culminated in the Liberals loss. You also saw it with Mike Harris, Gord Campbell and Jean Charest. All started out with higher polling numbers at the beginning of their second elections than they finally received on election day.

The reason is simple. There is an inexorable tendency for the electorate to become tired of a sitting government and to want change. This next election will be no different.

Looking at history the sitting government can expect at least a 2 point drop in support between the time the writ is dropped and election day. It could be more depending on the mood of the electorate and the election campaign.

So, Stephen Harper may want to think twice before calling an election when he is statistically tied with the Liberals.

Mushroom said...

Ottlib,

Of course, Bush did better in 2004 than in 2000.

FAW,

The point I am raising is not the first sentence but the second one. What if Harper realizes that his shelf life is limited? That the CPC can govern for no more than one term. Stephen Harper being the 21st century version of at worst Arthur Meighen and at best R.B. Bennett.

This may be the reason why Harper is throwing all his eggs into the basket right now. Come fall, Dion may be popular enough to defeat Harper after the next throne speech and become PM.

Sheeple said...

Steve,

Have you ever considered bringing this meme through the media youself? You and Jeff are doing a really good job of exposing this and I think it would be good to see it written in a newspaper. Perhaps even a local newspaper.

Anonymous said...

Some decent newspaper or media outlet / CBC , Globe .MacLean’s. ??/ should open a column/maybe a forum form/
with the title
/peoples Forum/ ??/

Dear Stephen Can We Talk??

and ask ONE question of EACH DAY about what Harper wants with this what he ants with that where does he want to take Canada ect.
if he answers we will see what is “ at the other side of the mountain....”
if he doesn't answer then that will tell even more.

provoke him. Bring drag him out in the open…. he can't just hide his real intentions and goals..

marta from Vancouver

It sounds like a naive idea ..but think simple things simple questions and strait answers what the electorate wants to hear..