Friday, September 07, 2007

Quebec By-Elections

Elizabeth Thompson writes a succinct synposis of the Quebec by-elections and the ramifications. The basic thesis, these regional by-elections will have national consequences, a view I tend to endorse.

The Liberals:
The byelections are the first Mr. Dion has faced since becoming leader last December, and many -- both inside the Liberal party and outside -- see them as a test of his ability to bring the Liberals back to power. Should the party perform poorly or lose its stronghold of Outremont, insiders predict serious questions about Mr. Dion's leadership.

Jocelyn Coulon, appears to be in a tight race with former Quebec environment minister Thomas Mulcair, who is running for the New Democrats. Mr. Coulon, a foreign affairs expert and former journalist, has had to repair relations with the local Jewish community who felt some of his writings on the Middle East were too critical of Israel. The New Democrats also claim that dozens of Liberals, many unhappy with Mr. Dion's leadership, have volunteered to help Mulcair.

I wouldn't put much stock into NDP spin about Liberals deserting to Muclair, but there is no question that this race is effectively a referendum on Dion's leadership. Should his hand-picked candidate lose, or scrape by, it will only fuel speculation about Dion's leadership.

Conservatives:
Privately, however, the Conservatives are working hard to wrest Roberval and St-Hyacinthe-Bagot away from the Bloc in the hopes that the loss of two traditional strongholds will cool any interest the Bloc may have in bringing down Mr. Harper's minority government anytime soon.

If the Conservatives pull off an upset, and take a seat away from the Bloc, then they clearly have wind in their sails and concrete proof that they are making inroads in Quebec. While a victory might dampen the Bloc's desire for an election, it will be countered by Conservative enthusiasm.

NDP:
For the New Democrats, who have never elected an MP in Quebec in a general election and only once in a byelection, Outremont represents their best hope of gaining a Quebec foothold, which could be used to show the NDP as a truly national party and a viable option for left-of-centre voters.

"More and more people will realize that we are a party that can bring the fight to the Tories on key issues," Mr. Mulcair said when asked about the impact of the vote outside Quebec. "Like the environment, like Afghanistan, like gas price gouging, like ATM fees -- the type of issue that people would like somebody to do something about."

This by-election is Layton's only hope for a breakthrough in Quebec. It is unlikely that the NDP will be able to field another candidate of Muclair's stature, which might explain the intense campaign the NDP is waging. Just a by-election, but should the NDP win, it would represent a seismic shift in federal politics.

One interesting admission:
Marcel Proulx, MP for Hull-Aylmer and the Liberals' Quebec lieutenant, dismisses suggestions there are divisions in the ranks or any drop in support for the Liberals. He says the Liberals are competitive in all three ridings and will win Outremont, but perhaps not by as much as in the past.

Proulx says the Liberals will win, but his admission of a lesser margin is further proof that the race is up for grabs. That is the first comment from a prominent Liberal, wherein there is recognition of erosion. Sept 17 is shaping up to be a very interesting day for all the parties involved.

UPDATE

Jeff offers another point of view.

13 comments:

knb said...

Proulx says the Liberals will win, but his admission of a lesser margin is further proof that the race is up for grabs.

Perhaps, but it's one opinion. Mulcair has been out there and to be honest I haven't seen much of Coulon...though the media certainly isn't following the Lib's.

"More and more people will realize that we are a party that can bring the fight to the Tories on key issues,"

The standard NDP line, (though why did they use z rather than s in realise?)

The comment of course is ridiculuos and easily countered, if Coulon is out there doing that.

If he is, and if he speaks to the Jewish community, which I believe he has, I think we're fine.

Positive thoughts people, now is not the time to shrug.

Steve V said...

knb

NDP rhetoric aside, I found Proulx's comment revealing, in that he is setting the bar quite low, which indicates some concern.

Anonymous said...

"z" instead of "s"? When I was a kid it was spelled with a "Z". Neither is wrong.

Jeff's view might be a little slanted as he's always been an avid supporter of Dion.

We'll know when we know.

I can't imagine why anyone would vote for a party on the "ATM" fees issue - not all that important when you consider other things going on.

lance said...

The bank fees issue is worth more money than income trusts and is more relevant to a larger percentage of people than income trust investment.

And Layton isn't talking about only excluding only an industry sector or two, he's talking about the banks being 'fair' to everyone.

(I disagree with Layton's position, but it is a universal one.)

Cheers,
lance

Aaron said...

Steve V, what would be a good result for the Liberals?
Just curious...

Steve V said...

aaron

I don't think it really matters in the other two by-elections, but a clear win in Outremont would be enough to avoid any lingering criticism. If the Liberals squeak by in Outremont, they can use the NDP star candidate as an excuse, but it would feed the impression that there are no safe seats left for the Liberals.

Neil McKenty said...

If I may interject here, a good result for the Liberals would be to hold Outremont even with a reduced majority. The fact is its's a must-win for Dion. If he loses, Mulcair is not the big winner. Ignatieff is.

Steve V said...

neil

Reduced, but not razor thin :)

lept said...

The Liberal leadership race may not have been huge news here in deepest Québec but many left leaning (Bloc voting) types were casting sidelong glances at the process because of how they dislike Harper. A bunch of us, myself included, were seriously thinking of voting Liberal (for the first time in our lives) - even for Dion - if he showed himself capable of change - his first major signals were the mutterings about Pelletier being a wonderful guy etc.; his ongoing parading of the Clarity Act, and polarization that it represents, has not helped: but it is his obvious comfort with and closeness to the Liberal old guard that has sent us all back to the Bloc.
When we have the likes of Louise Beaudoin talking about the changed reality in Québec (last week on Radio Canada) and how our party has to adapt to this under Marois, to move on from the referendum thing etc.,- to be simply an effective government - it becomes clear just how much of an opportunity the Liberals are bypassing: there is a real state of flux on the political scene here - Jeff presents the old line blind Liberal orthodoxy that could eventually give the majority to the Harperites.

Steve V said...

lept

Thanks for the perspective. I agree, to date, the Liberals seem content with business as usual, when clearly the dynamics are changing and the rhetoric seems out of date.

This may sound cynical, but even if the Liberals were to develop some new language superficially, it would help in re-shaping the image. The Liberals don't necessarily have to move too much philosophically, but update the "packaging" in the very least and appear modern.

ottlib said...

There is one week before the by-election.

If Mr. Coulon were really in trouble we would have heard much more about it by now.

And the reason is simple. The current media narrative is Mr. Dion is a weak leader. If his hand-picked choice for Outrement were in serious trouble the MSM would be trumpeting it to the world as it would give credence to the narrative.

Instead, I hear very little from the media about any of the Quebec by-elections. (Which includes the three Quebec newspapers I read on a daily basis. I really need to get a life:))

The only columnist I have observed writing in depth about it is Chantal Hebert and her piece was so lacking in facts as to be dismissed out of hand.

In all likelyhood next Monday night is going to be boring as there will probably be no surprises in any of them.

Scott Tribe said...

For what its worth, 2 people with Lib Party connections who were in that riding over the past few days believe the Liberals are in trouble.

Steve V said...

ottlib

Ever the optimist :)

scott

That is very interesting indeed.