On a perfect late summer day, a woman of a certain age tip toes (she's wearing high heels) into an apple orchard. She climbs a ladder leaning against a tree. She reaches and reaches for the delicious, ripe fruit. It is all she desires.

This seemingly fairytale scene is, in fact, real.

On Saturday, PQ leader, Pauline Marois visited the orchard in the riding of Iberville, where the Parti Québécois and its new worst enemy, the Coalition Avenir Québec, are locked in one of those too-close-to-call races. It is the kind of race that will determine whether Marois realizes her desire and wins a majority government.

The relevance of the imagery is even more poignant with the release of the new poll on Sunday; the last one that will be released in this campaign.

The newspaper that commissioned the poll heralded the "news" that the PQ is within one percent of winning a majority government. Big headline. Not news.

Marois likes to say it is her programs and policies that have made the difference in this campaign. Yet, stuck in the polls at 32 to 33 per cent per cent support for the PQ has not budged — not during the 33 days of the campaign and not for months preceding the election call. 

It seems policies on family care, or promises to eliminate the Liberals' health care tax have made no impact.

What Marois has succeeded in doing though, is satisfy the "pure et dure", the party hardliners. How? By compromising herself and committing to several programs she doesn't like, some she even fought against.

For example:

  • The PQ promise to expand Bill 101 and block access to English CEGEPs by allophone and francophones. This was imposed on Marois by the party's general council in April. 
  • Same thing for the citizen-driven-referendum initiative. This is the brain child of Bernard Drainville. 
  • Plus,  the secular charter idea and the promise to constantly promote sovereignty during the campaign, and to hold a referendum during the first four years of a PQ government. 

All those proposals Marois rejected then caved in to. This was the price of saving her political skin and not being tossed out as leader of her own party. 

The fact that those policies drew no new support to the PQ during the campaign is irrelevant to the hardliners. And in a sense, irrelevant to Marois, because what she has been given, in exchange for her political skin, is the full-hearted backing of her own party members. And that hasn't always been the case with the PQ.

'Blue Machine' revving up for election day

The result is evident in the newest poll. Among those who say they will vote for the PQ, 85% say they will not waiver, they will not change their mind. That is a high percentage of assured support.  

The Liberals, the CAQ and the smaller parties surely envy the solidity of the PQ voter base. Two days from election day, they are still struggling to understand who their supporters are.

So while those parties are scrambling, the PQ can rev up their famous Blue Machine and concentrate on getting out their already-committed electors.

No matter that the policies that have the PQ leading the race right now have driven support for sovereignty to near-record lows; no matter that Marois may not like the campaign policies that got her here; no matter that she will resist implementing them if she is elected (and she has already started muttering about not being able to apply the most controversial of them).

Those are battles for another day perhaps. For now, Marois is still on that ladder. She strains a bit harder to grab the shiny red fruit. 

Her dream for 30 years has been to become the first woman premier of Quebec. The apple is within her reach.