Glass Half Full (but not of wine) for three main QC parties in Northern Québec

Taking a look at the key Northern Québec federal ridings.

As I look out my window, and notice how some perilous clouds have decided to shield the sun from my view, I was presented with writing about the Northern Québec federal ridings, as they will be very interesting to watch in 2019.

The interesting thing about Northern Québec is that if you look at the Northern Québec overall numbers, it’s essentially a tight three-way race in the overall popular vote. The Bloc Québécois, Liberals, and Conservatives will definitely have their eyes focused on the seats of this region. Furthermore, there are no truly 100% safe seats for any of the parties, in my view.

An interesting note is that the NDP currently holds 2 of the 5 seats I’ll be diving into, and 2 of the other 3, they came within a mere few % points of winning in 2015. Now, they find themselves a distant fourth in this region, with no chance of winning a seat.

THE SEATS

Abitibi–Baie-James–Nunavik–Eeyou

– Incumbent: Romeo Saganash (NDP) – not seeking re-election

My current projection:

Liberal – 37.8%

Bloc Québécois – 22.2%

Conservative – 13.9%

Green – 12.3%

New Democratic – 11.6%

Declaration: safe LPC gain

I’m going out on a limb here and saying this is one of those times where the model (and in fact, all models) may be missing something. This is a northern Quebec, nationalist riding, that has voted Bloc in the past and PQ provincially. In 2008, before the Orange Wave, 70% of voters here voted for either the BQ or the Conservatives. Now that the NDP is no longer a relevant option, I think many of those nationalists will come back to the BQ. For evidence, I’ll point to the fact that even though the BQ lost about 6% support province-wide from 2011 to 2015, they actually gained very slightly in the vote share here four years ago. In fact, most ridings with heavy NDP support, I think are gonna see gains for the BQ that are greater proportionally than any province-wide gain. However, this riding was a Liberal riding (albeit a hotly contested one) during the Chrétien days, so this is not the most likely gain for the Bloc, although I think it may be a sneaky one, and that this race is probably closer than it seems.

(Oh yeah and did everyone notice the NDP in 5th?)

Chicoutimi-Le Fjord

– Incumbent: Richard Martel (CPC) – won in a by-election, 2018

My current projection:

Conservative – 29.8%

Liberal – 28.4%

Bloc Québécois – 19.2%

New Democratic – 9.4%

Green – 8.9%

Declaration: Toss up

This is an interesting riding because the Conservatives gained it in a by-election where their insane margin of victory (23 points) caught everyone by surprise.

It’s a riding where all three parties will definitely be committed to trying to win.

For the CPC, it would be a key win in a province where they really need to increase their presence to form government, especially if their Ontario woes continue. It would also prove the by-election win was no fluke.

For the LPC, it would be a gain in an area that before 2015 had only gone Liberal once in the last 30 years, and that was with the popular former PC MP André Harvey running with no PC opposition in a PC riding.

The Bloc Québécois held this seat from 2004-2011, though their margin of victory never surpassed 10%.

I think this is one of the most intriguing three-way races in Québec because unlike say, Jonquière, or Rosemont, which I believe will be tight races we have to watch until the last votes trickle in, I think one of the parties (especially CPC if those by-election numbers are to be a foreshadowing) could win it by a good-sized margin.

Jonquière

– Incumbent: Karine Trudel (NDP)

My current projection:

Liberal – 30.9%

Bloc Québécois – 25.7%

Conservative – 23.4%

New Democratic – 10.8%

Green – 6.8%

Declaration: Leaning LPC gain

This is another one of those seats where the model says LPC in an area that is not traditionally LPC.

I do believe this race is going to be one of the tightest, and probably ends up being a bit of a bellwether in the sense of who has the best night in Québec.

The thing for the Liberals is, much like Chicoutimi, this riding just doesn’t go Liberal. They never came within fewer than 4000 votes of winning in Jonquière or Roberval (parts of which were redistributed into this riding,) until 2015. In fact routinely, in both Jonquière and Roberval, the Liberals were below 10% throughout the 2000s. However, if the Bloc and Conservatives make no further gains, I can see it going Liberal. And if they do get this seat, they’ll take 50 or more seats easily.

For the Bloc Québécois, this is one they expect to come back to them. Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet has spent some time here with his candidate, Université du Québec lecturer Mario Simard, and will definitely be back here on occasion throughout the campaign. If the Bloc do take this one solidly, they probably end up with breaking the 20 seat barrier at night’s end.

The Conservatives are interesting in this riding. They were regular victors in Jonquière-Alma, under the former PC MP Jean-Pierre Blackburn, who was a cabinet minister in the Harper government. If you don’t value personal votes much, you probably see this as a sign that this riding just may go Conservative. If it does, watch for some Conservative gains elsewhere in Québec.

Lac-Saint-Jean

– Incumbent: Richard Hébert (LPC) – won in a by-election, 2017

My current projection:

Conservative – 42.8%

Bloc Québécois – 18.8%

Liberal – 18.6%

New Democratic – 9.7%

Green – 6.8%

Declaration: Safe CPC hold (from 2015)

I think myself and most other aggregators and observers have this going Conservative, and I expect it to do so. However, much like in Abitibi, I would not be surprised if the Bloc nets some more of the nationalist vote than expected. This is a Conservative and more importantly, Caquiste, zone, and for that reason secularism may be a key issue. Since the Bloc Québécois have got on the train of “la laïcité, c’est nous” (secularism, it’s us,) some of that may go BQ and may lead to a surprise here. But I still would expect a Conservative victory here. Also I’m not high on the LPC in this riding, despite their incumbency (they got 3% here in 2011, and finished a distant third in 2015)

Manicougan

– Incumbent: Marlène Gill (BQ)

My current projection:

Bloc Québécois – 41.8%

Liberal – 29.3%

Conservative – 13.1%

Green – 7.3%

New Democratic – 5.9%

Declaration: probable BQ hold

I personally think this may be the safest Bloc seat in the province right now (Plamondon’s is safer right now but that’s because he’s Plamondon.)

This is another riding that I see as evidence supporting my theory that the BQ will gain in these areas (especially Northern Québec) that had huge NDP support in 2011 – because in 2015, the NDP loss here was disproportionately large, and the BQ had a fairly large gain despite losing ground provincially.

Also, interesting tidbit, Marlène Gill is married to Pierre-Boucher MP Xavier Barsalou-Duval, which is interesting because their ridings are almost as far apart as humanly possible in Québec, and it means ⅕ of the current BQ caucus signed their marriage license.

One thing I’d like to note is that the Conservatives are running Francois Corriveau, a former ADQ (now merged into the CAQ) MNA who drastically outperformed his party in this riding. That could be something to watch, and I can see the CPC having a surprise 2nd place finish here.

The sun has now presented itself, however somehow the shade of the clouds is only darker, and hopefully we have a better idea about Northern Québec’s races now.

Note, I’ve heard some people throwing bodily fluid (not literally, thank goodness) at aggregators and poll aggregating as a whole lately, and I want to quote Kevin Parker and say that “nothing that has happened so far has been anything we could control.” Poll aggregation often does only as well as polls do, and poll aggregators are most definitely not responsible for an election result. Also, aggregators are constantly spending time coming up with models, improving them, checking on polls, crunching numbers, for the love of it and to provide perspective and information. And there’s a wealth of good aggregations out there for you to check out (follow Lean Tossup and checkout theirs if you haven’t, they do things a little differently and definitely do good work.)

So, with all the mind mischief we’ll be seeing throughout the campaign, just keep calm, keep checking my projections ;), and let it happen!