Polygonic

That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

Québec: Factor Orange

It’s St-Jean Baptiste Day! So, vive le Québec, vive le Canada…… and while we’re at it, vive le Brasserie Unibroue!

I can think of no better occasion to pore through a new EKOS poll of Canadians’ voting intentions (bottle of Maudite may be required), however sad it seems. But there’s an interesting feature in Québec, so I think it’s perfectly justified.

Overall, it’s a well-worn tale. Tories on 31%, Liberals on 27.7%. NDP on 16.5%, Green on 13% (again, if the NDP-GPC could get together and consolidate their demographic, would we not have a real fighting progressive party that’s statistically tied with the ruling Tories?). And the Bloc down on 9%.

So far, so uninteresting. But EKOS finds something that I (at least) would love to explore a lot more – page 5 of the survey report, regarding voters’ second choices.

There appears to be some predictable love between LPC and NDP supporters, as well as between NDP-Green. But while 38.7% of NDP supporters would back the Liberals as their second choice (unsurprising), a full 34.5% of NDP supporters would back the Bloc as their second choice. I thought this was quite wowwy.

This is good and bad news for the NDP, though, depending who’s doing the spinning. 🙂

Harper-For-Life types will love this news as it draws a link between “socialists and separatists.” Who could trust Jack Layton to babysit your kids, when 35% of his fans are also fans of Gilles Duceppe?

But NDP supporters have to be happy to learn that this means they’ve got a verifiable surge in Québec, and in the nationalist community as well. What seems quite astonishing is that the survey seems to suggest that, if a third of NDP supporters back the Bloc as a second choice, than at least a third of NDP supporters are living in Québec. No longer is La Belle Province the exclusive bastion of the Liberals and Tories when it comes to federalist support.

But there are problems for the NDP in these numbers too. The Liberals and Conservatives can fight over anglo federalist Montréal and the banlieues, but the NDP is charting new territory in nationalist areas. It’s good news in many ways, but this support must remain locked in the deep freeze of stalwart Bloquiste ridings that don’t appear likely to turn federalist soon. Or could they?

We first have to ask how the NDP, a party that errs on the side of a more centralised Canadian federation, are managing such support in the francophone Québec nationalist community.

Layton’s personal appeal in Québec is a big part of this, but we can’t forget the fact that a good number of Bloc voters are not actually anti-Canada “separatists” – they are just French-speaking, left-of-centre social democrats who like the Bloquistes’ daycare plans and like their policies on public investment in health and education.

And if they don’t believe a referendum is winnable or on the table anyway (CROP in April concurs – only 14% of Quebecers believe an independent state is on the cards), then this only empowers francophone progressives in Québec to “safely” give voice to the Bloc based on their social democratic credentials, and nothing else. I think that’s the logic in a lot of Québec.

So, after all, it may be the case that the NDP aren’t winning over Québec nationalists – they’re winning over social democrats (and soft nationalists at best) who just don’t fully identify with “distant” federal parties. So the question for the NDP is, how they convince francophone progressives that their natural home should be Team Orange, not Team Bleu?

Hard to do when identity is such a major feature of Québec voting trends. But if the NDP presents a respectable, federal, social democratic face to Québec, this has got to be good for unity. It says that there’s at least one well-regarded federal alternative in Québec amongst the soft-nationalist community, and that the federalist option isn’t necessarily the “stuffy, squareheaded” option.

Jack Layton should spend some serious time in Lac-St-Jean and the Townships this summer. Unless he’s there already for the Fête-Nationale?

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