Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Duceppe Leaving?

There's no doubt, if Duceppe were to leave it would shakeup the status quo in Quebec, although I disagree with the columnists tortured, factually wanting, thesis:
In Montreal political circles, rumours have intensified in recent days that Gilles Duceppe is planning to resign as leader of the Bloc Quebecois before Parliament resumes. If he were to do so, the federal political dynamic would be redrawn in Quebec and the door would be thrown wide open for the Harper Conservatives to stage a comeback.

Assuming there is any substance to these rumors, the potential offers a very intriguing development. Adam Daifallah spends the rest of the article arguing how Duceppe leaving really works for the Conservatives. Apart from the fact that it buys the Conservatives more time- an election surely put off- to regroup in Quebec, the assumptions he makes read more like wishful thinking, than solid analysis:
Bloc voters are more likely to go to the Conservatives than to the Liberals as a second choice, and the Tories have been working hard since last December's election to reinforce riding-level ground organizations in the province and to rebuild bridges

On the latter point, the Conservatives don't operate in a vacuum, the Liberals have been working equally "hard" "rebuilding", with the added benefit of using a provincial party appartus to help the cause. Cancel out, or net positive for the Liberals, on balance.

That's a side issue, this premise that the Conservatives are the "second choice" of Bloc supporters couldn't be further from the truth, just a lazy assertion based on certain political assumptions. In FACT, not only are the Conservatives not the second choice of Bloc voters, they've consistently been the LAST option now and in the recent past.

Whether you look at recent findings or pre 2008 election polling data, the Conservatives don't benefit from a Bloc erosion. EKOS just asked the question, with a large sample size, and found the Liberals enjoy THREE times the support as second choice, over the Conservatives- 26.2% compared to a LOWLY 8.9%. The NDP enjoys 29%, the Greens 15%. These results were mirrored by NANOS last fall, same order, Conservatives dead last on second choice. Where the columnist fabricates this Conservative second choice notion escapes me, the opposite finds empirical basis.

Taken further, the NDP's high preference, as well as a respectable total for the Greens, translates to a left of center preference, it speaks to how at odds Conservative policy is with Bloc voter sentiment. Despite this high potential, it is reasonable to wonder if these percentages would translate at the voter booth. The NDP and Greens both suffer from a "credible option" problem in Quebec, which means when push comes to shove, any movement away from the Bloc would probably go to a party with the potential to win seats, form government. Seems pretty self evident that the Liberals are better placed on the political spectrum to benefit form this potential sensibility. If anything, the NDP total speaks to a resistance to the Conservatives as an option. Factor in Ignatieff having the "nation" angle covered, the advantage Conservative argument even less persuasive. There is also the little tidbit of Ignatieff consistently towering above Harper (Layton bests him too) on the best PM measure.

I'm not saying that a Duceppe departure wouldn't give the Conservatives a new sense of optimism, because there's no guarantee how it would shake out. That said, the other parties can project that same optimism, and they have the benefit of some factual underpinning to support their belief, as opposed to the wishful thinking and tortured logic exposed in the National Post. I suppose when you're dead, any development that changes the standard dynamic is a welcome sign. But, this superficial argument that any Bloc loss is the Conservatives gain is based on tired assumptions that don't hold water after the slightest of examination.

One thing is certain, if Duceppe were to leave, we would enter a fascinating phase in Quebec federal politics.


DL said...

If Duceppe were to quit, it would create a bit of a vacuum in Quebec, but as Steve says, the Tories are LEAST likely to be able to fill that vacuum. I think any reasonable person can cook up scenarios where a Duceppe retirement helps the Liberals or the NDP (forget about the Greens they are as dead as a doornail in Quebec) and it is also possible that the BQ vote is less dependent on Duceppe's leadership than we think and they may do just as well with a new leader. Back in 1997 a lot of people thought the BQ would collapse because Duceppe was so low profile and uncharismatic compared to Lucien Bouchard! But one thing for sure is that the Tories are going no where in Quebec.

The most significant impact of Duceppe leaving is that it would probably mean no election this fall and that in and of itself would be significant.

Anonymous said...

Personality is king in Quebec federal politics. The fate of the Bloc will rest with whom they choose to replace Duceppe. Don't count the Bloc out yet.

Anonymous said...

Rumours...hmmmm. Don't you think Duceppe would have done this through the summer and give time for the BLOC to get a new leader?

Hey, maybe Duceppe will wait until after an election, then get a new leader so that the new leader has time to learn, etc.

Who knows - but I don't put much stock into what this particular extremely partisan who's hero is Conrad Black and whom I never seen in anything but his little pin stripe suit.

Anonymous said...

Daifallah in the National Post. Hmmm ... even if true, the replacement will not be quite as well known, but that doesn't mean traditional Bloc voters will leave en masse. Paquette will probably replace him, and he already has a fairly high profile in Blocland.

Actually, Duceppe's exit could hurt the Conservatives in that the Liberals could run up the middle if the Bloc supporters don't show up in numbers.

√Čric said...

This is from the National Post.

Enough said.

It's yet another example of the complete mis-understanding of the Bloc voter you often see in English-language media.

If Duceppe steps down, and he will eventually, but I don't think he will this time, it wouldn't change things drastically. About 30% of Quebecers are committed sovereigntists and won't vote for another party. Pierre Paquette is the likely choice, but Bernard Bigras might also be a good candidate.

Unless Paquette or Bigras step on a baby or something, the Bloc would still get about 1 in 3 votes in Quebec. It doesn't leave much for anyone else, and if (impossible as it is) the Tories got all of that lost Bloc support they'd still only be at about 2006-levels.

DL said...

I think that the BQ will be around in some form for a long time - but they could lose more ground. Remember that the PQ only got 29% of the vote in the 2007 provincial election, so its clear that it is not impossible for the PQ/BQ vote to go that low. There is no question that the BQ faces way more competition in Quebec than they used to. In 2000, the NDP to 1% of the vote in Quebec, last year that was 12% and most of those are ex-BQ voters, similarly the Tories took a slice of what was left of the old Creditiste/Union National Quebec nationalist vote that had been uneasily parked with the BQ. Ignatieff may or may not fly in Quebec, but he's unlikely to do any worse than Dion - so the BQ will probably slowly erode and you may start to see more and more sovereignists abstaining from voting in federal elections.

Skinny Dipper said...

I'll agree with Anonymous 12:51 and Eric in that the Bloc won't collapse if Duceppe quits. There are other capable people ready to lead.

Anonymous said...

Since when you stealing posts verbatim from Silver?

Anthony said...

Daifallah spent enough time in Quebec. He understands the politics here but I think the ONLY benefit Duceppe's departure would have is it would buy the Tories some time to let the economy recover.

That being said, a weak Bloc benefits the strongest federalist party in Quebec. Adam knows first hand what its like to be a federalist in no mans land in Quebec. Bloc voters would surely drift to the Liberals without Duceppe. Lower numbers mainly benefit Liberals as they were on the short end of much more close races in 2008 and with their numbers up in the province, should make major gains.

Patrick Ross said...

Writing this off merely because it originates from the National Post is far from a persuasive argument.

It's called the genetic fallacy. I'd encourage Eric to look it up.

That being said, I can't say I fully agree with Steve's assessment of the matter. I'm not in a rush to agree with Daifallah on this particular matter, but the changing circumstances of a BQ change in leadership could potentially invalidate the results of the EKOS poll cited here.

Not that I would count on a drastic change, but political change tends to be a real X factor in politics. That often limits the decisiveness of polling data.

Steve V said...


I'm offering nothing definitive, as I said nothing's certain. It's more the backdrop probabilities that I'm using, which is all you have and completely refutes the contention that the Cons are Bloc voters second choice. They're clearly not, if anything they have the most work to do to win them over, if they ever did look elsewhere.

Patrick Ross said...

The Conservatives clearly are not the second choice of Bloc voters at present, Steve. The polling shows us that.

But, by the same token, a voter who has re-thought who his first choice will be will also re-think who their second choice will be.

Voters often define their political choices in comparison to their alternatives, and often according to the perceived probability that they may have to settle for an alternative.

When a voters' first choice party undergoes a drastic change, these concepts often interact in unpredictable ways to produce results that are, well... unpredictable.

You could as easily be right about what you're saying here as you could be wrong. And vice versa. That's really all I'm saying.

Steve V said...

Let me get this straight, you're saying the future is unpredictable ;)

Patrick Ross said...


Also, I'd like to point out that Daifallah wasn't exactly predicting a Diefenbaker- or Mulroney-style Quebec landslide. He was predicting a "respectable showing".

I guess the other question we need to ask ourselves is how we define a "respectable showing".

What do you think?

DL said...

Considering how the Tories have done almost everything in the power over the last 9 months to turn off Quebec voters - with everything from their histrionic attacks on the BQ as "separatists" to neo-con red meat policies to designed to shore up support in rural Alberta - I would say that a "respectable" showing for the Tories in Quebec in the next election would be to salvage 3 or 4 seats (as opposed to the current 10) - but I don't rule out the possibility that they get wiped out.

Steve V said...

I'd say they're poised to lose seats, and I don't see any realistic scenario where they win more then they have now. Sure that could change, but you can say that about everything in life, can't you?

Patrick said...

"with everything from their histrionic attacks on the BQ as 'separatists'"

The goal of the Bloc Quebecois is to help facilitate the secession of Quebec from confederation. This is no secret, and it never has been.

Just because Stephane Dion and Jack Layton are ready to pretend this isn't so when he sees an opportunity to overturn an election defeat after the fact doesn't mean the rest of us are obligated to do the same.

Patrick Ross said...

Hey, folks, here's a bit of an update on this story.

It's no surprise, but Duceppe insists that not only does he not plan to retire, but he plans to go another 10 years.