Monday, September 03, 2007

"Fight For Their Lives"

It's no secret that Chantal Hebert isn't a huge fan of Stephane Dion, but her opinions on Quebec politics are generally insightful. The fact that Hebert refers to the Outremont by-election as a "fight for their lives", in reference to the Liberals, is one more indication that the NDP is a credible threat:
the Liberals are in a battle for third place with the NDP in two of the three ridings at play while they are fighting for their lives in a Montreal seat that they have held for most of the past century...

Even more worrisome for Dion is the battle unfolding in Outremont, a rare riding with a strong francophone component that the Liberals managed to hang on to over the course of the sponsorship affair...

Throughout its history, the riding of Outremont has only once failed to return a Liberal to the House of Commons. In 1988, in the midst of the debate on abortion, pro-choice MP Lucie Pépin lost the ultra-conservative Hasidic vote and the seat to the Conservatives. That campaign was also dominated by Brian Mulroney's free-trade deal with the United States, a project that enjoyed widespread backing in Quebec.

The NDP for its part has only ever held a seat once in Quebec and then only for three years, between 1990 and 1993.

These days, Liberal strategists quote both those facts as a mantra as they fret about the closing gap between their candidate and Jack Layton's. But should Outremont be lost to the party on Sept. 17, the hit inflicted on Dion on the occasion of his first electoral test as leader will be all the more stinging in light of the long odds overcome by the victor.

I doubt Hebert would openly muse about a Liberal defeat in Outremont, dislike for Dion aside, if the prospect didn't seem realistic. Another commentator who is sensing something on the ground, who directly challenges the "safe seat" mentality.

The above doesn't suggest a likely NDP victory, but the ground is clearly fertile for a seismic defeat. I've said this before, Outremont could be a watershed moment for both Dion's future and the Liberal Party in general. If a seat is lost, in the last remaining Quebec bastion, then the Liberals are in a desperate state, with a potential "lame duck" leader in his home province. The stakes are high, and I'm not sure people appreciate the consequences, but Hebert's words are another sign of the shifting sands in Quebec.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey, we don't need our nation's capital to be Ottawa anymore - Quebec is ruling our country.

Too bad people wouldn't just hold their noses once when voting - to counter-attack Quebec's control.

Enough is enough. They don't even want to be part of Canada.

Steve V said...

anon

What does that have to do with a by-election in Quebec?

Anonymous said...

It can in the future affect whether or not Harper gets a majority!

Ti-Guy said...

Chantal Hébert is often wrong about a lot of things. And she's not unusual in that respect; most political discussion is just wild speculation and most of it is, as with political polling, designed to limit political thought, not encourage it.

I can't imagine what the voters of Outremont think they're going to get by voting NDP (although I quite often under-appreciate 'self-satisfaction') but whatever...I don't live there, so I don't care.

lept said...

'a potential "lame duck" leader in his home province'
Rather a wishful turn of phrase there Steve V. I generally find Hébert to be disappointing in her analysis of Québec: I was particularly unimpressed during the last federal election when she was a virtual cheer leader for Harper (seems her ardour has since cooled).
But she is right about the coolness to Dion here in Québec and the quote from her article that I find the more telling is:
"In the heat of that battle, Mulcair once quipped that he had found Dion so contemptuous in his approach to Quebec-Canada files that he had come to better understand why so many Quebecers had been driven to support sovereignty."
The only hope for Canada, it seems, is for another Harper minority with the dim hope that the Liberals will then elect a leader less directly from the party establishment.

Steve V said...

ti-guy

Fair enough. I'm curious why nobody has actually done a poll of the riding, given the national interest.

lept

As it relates to the "coolness", it is very disappointing to date, that the Liberals have made no attempt to "re-brand" themselves in Quebec. From the outside, everything appears status quo and that clearly won't cut it.

Anonymous said...

Well then:

liberal.ca/donate_e.aspx?riding=24047

bigcitylib said...

Steve,

I would second everyone's reservations re Hebert. Basically she is claiming that the Libs don't play well out of Montreal, which everyone one knows, and that they will lose the two seats everyone knows they will lose.

Then she also claims that they are a bit worried about a seat they shouldn't lose, and that who knows? maybe they'll lose that seat too.

And who knows, maybe they will? But there is absolutely no new facts in her piece, unless you count her "intuitions", which are never wrong because they trail usually the polls by about 48 hours.

Steve V said...

"unless you count her "intuitions", which are never wrong because they trail usually the polls by about 48 hours."

Touche :) She is stating the obvious in the other two ridings, but I do see her perspective on Outremont as somewhat indicative, or at the very least reflective of the "buzz".

Mary Soderstrom said...

Yes, Thomas Mulcair could win Outremont for the NDP. He is a man of rare integrity--having quit the provincial Liberals over a number of environmental issues--and that appears to be much appreciated in Outremont.

Beside NDP candidates have often done very well in Outremont. Check out my blog for more.

Mary