Poilievre in Québec: between aspirations and reality
As 3,000 federal Conservatives prepare to gather in Québec City for the party’s convention next weekend, the province is once again the center of attention in federal politics. Though Ontario will be the main battleground of the next election, Québec will significantly influence who comes out on top, and if there is a majority or minority government.
In Québec, Conservatives are benefiting from a drop in popularity of the Liberal government. Enthusiasm is high as the troops see that a victory is within grasp. The problem is that, to get to a significant gain of seats, the party has to get much, much higher in voting intentions.
As most of the Conservative vote is still concentrated in the Québec City region and its surroundings, the party is almost guaranteed to win between 10 and 12 seats, even with something like 18-19% of the vote. But to get to 15-plus seats requires getting closer to 25-26% of the vote. This is a level no leader of the modern Conservative party has been able to achieve. Even Stephen Harper, winning his majority in 2011, managed to get only 16.5% of voting Quebeckers to support his party.
In a province where the Bloc Québécois is still a force, and legendary at attracting any form of protest vote, it is much harder for the Conservatives to make inroads.
As with previous leaders, Poilievre has to make tough choices. Predecessors Harper (especially in 2008), Andrew Scheer and, to a lesser extent, Erin O’Toole, all made a strong play for Québec. All three adjusted the party platform on certain issues to please Québec, such as transfer payments, immigration, and the environment. All three failed at even coming close to 15 seats out of 78 (previously 75) in the province.
Poilievre’s mastery of French is largely superior to any of the three previous leaders, his wife is from Québec and he won the province in a landslide during his leadership bid. These are all pluses. The upcoming convention, both on policy and style, will reveal how much the leader wants to push in Québec. Considering his own unique qualities, and sunnier polls, he might be tempted to prove he can succeed where others have failed.