[UPDATE: Political Arithmetik has graphs of the polling trends, and an analysis of the latest polls, which show an average lead for the Conservatives nationally of 2.5%, though a tracking poll shows slippage in recent days. It is worth reiterating that the following--original--post is based on the poll that has been most advantageous to the Conservatives.]
[SECOND UPDATE: Via a comment at the above-linked Political Arithmetik post, I just discovered a blog, Peace, order and goood government, eh?, that is setting up a poll tracker that looks like it will be quite nice.]
Yesterday I noted that a poll by EKOS showed the Conservatives with a 6-point lead over the Liberals nationally. A closer look at the poll background report at the EKOS website shows that the biggest source of the Tories’ national gain is their surge in Quebec. In that province, the separatist Bloc Quebecois remains in front with 43.8%, but the Conservatives (20.2) are closing in on the Liberals (21.9) for the federalist vote. In fact, this result means that the Conservatives are also chipping away somewhat at the BQ vote.
If the Conservative vote in the election later this month were to remain this high it would be quite a remarkable turnaround from the 2004 federal election result in Quebec:
However, given first-past-the-post voting, the Conservatives would not be likely to pick up many seats. In fact, if the EKOS swing were to be realized on election day, and to be relatively uniform across Quebec (two big “ifs” to be sure), the BQ could pick up as many as nine seats despite losing five percentage points in the vote compared to 2004. All of the seats in question would be at the expense of the Liberals. The Conservatives, on the other hand, would be in position to win perhpas no more than three (also at the Liberals’ expense) despite being by far the big winner in votes.
The Conservatives currently hold none of Quebec’s ridings, while the Bloc Quebecois has 54 (or 72%, despite less than half the votes).
The only Quebec riding where the swing suggested by EKOS, if it were to occur uniformly, would be quite likely to fall to the Conservatives would be Pontiac. They would be within striking distance in Beauce and Brome-Missisquoi (though in the latter, a complication for the party is that the riding’s former Progressive Conservative MP is running with something called the Progressive Canadian Party).
Given the Conservatives’ bleak prospects for actually winning seats, it is likely that the party’s surge in the province–and thus, to some degree nationally–will prove temporary, as many Quebec voters currently leaning Conservative recognize that the battle in their province remains BQ vs. Liberal.
Another trend suggested by this poll–and others recently that have shown the former Liberal lead dwindling if not gone–is the very real possibility of a reversed plurality: The Conservatives may wind up with the most votes, yet the Liberals may retain the most seats. A majority for either party still looks very unlikely, but the new parliament could have more BQ members, and thus a result that is even more disproportional and dysfunctional than the current parliament.