Monday, August 20, 2012

On openings

Following up on this morning's post (as well as discussions from Kayle Hatt and Chantal Hebert), I'll offer my theory as to why a Quebec NDP might be a perfect fit for what's otherwise a relatively crowded provincial scene.

At the outset, Quebec voters have shown an inclination to give a chance to parties who decline to get caught up in the traditional federalist/sovereigntist polarity in favour of a more policy-based approach fronted by a well-regarded leader. In the past few years, the ADQ provincially, NDP federally and now the CAQ provincially have all fit the bill. And all have managed to earn the support of a substantial proportion of Quebec's electorate without the strength on the ground of the province's better-established political machines.

But there's an important distinction within that list of parties.

The right-leaning ADQ and CAQ have run out of steam around 30% of the popular vote in trying to pair a "change" message with their ideological bent, while the NDP's support has at times reached up into 40s and even 50s even through a change in leadership. And I suspect that's the result of the NDP offering a set of political values which represents a better match both for the province at large, and in particular the set of voters who are open to new allegiances.

At the moment, the Quebec scene features three sovereigntist parties fighting for left-of-centre votes, along with multiple centre-to-right parties trying to claim the federalist mantle. And the new parties for this election cycle merely added to those pairings.

But there's a reason why those well-worn combinations are producing diminishing returns across the board. And there's surely nobody in a better position to offer an alternative that can draw from dissatisfied voters in both broad camps than the party which has already managed the feat federally.

Of course, a provincial NDP wouldn't yet have one of the common ingredients for a Quebec breakthrough. But I'd have to figure it would have a strong chance to find a leader who can fill in that gap - whether from the ranks of other parties as has been the trend, or from among the NDP's current base.

And with Quebec's current parties fighting to see who can eke out enough seats to cling to power with support from between a quarter and a third of the province's voters, the prospect of a party with a real opportunity to approach true majority status could make for an even more dramatic orange wave than the one which swept 59 NDP MPs into office.

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