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.