A Léger poll published over the weekend by Le Devoir and Le Journal de Montréal had bad news for the Conservatives, placing them in third place nationally for the first time in this campaign.
Léger had the NDP leading nationally with 33 per cent of decided voters, followed by the Liberals at 28 per cent and the Conservatives at 27.
Though the Tories were well within the margin of error of the second-place Liberals, the optics aren't good for a party seeking re-election. But the poll also hinted at where the Conservatives might actually be in a strong position to make gains: Quebec.
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Nowhere else in Canada are the Conservatives poised to win a greater number of seats than they took in 2011, according to the latest numbers from the CBC Poll Tracker.
The Poll Tracker's polling average currently awards the Tories 29.3 per cent of the vote and between 99 and 139 seats nationally, compared to 32.3 per cent and 110 to 139 seats for the first-place NDP. The Liberals, with 27.3 per cent support and a projected range of 77 to 110 seats, have a better chance of finishing second in the seat count than at any time since April.
But Conservative prospects for growth in Quebec are looking positive. After winning five seats there in 2011, the Tories are on track to win between seven and 10, considering their average of 18.4 per cent in the polls. Nevertheless, that does put them in fourth place behind the New Democrats (37.4 per cent), Liberals (22.8 per cent), and Bloc Québécois (18.8 per cent).
Support levels in the province have been holding generally stable for the Liberals and NDP over the last two months, with the Bloc recently slumping from a mini-surge after Gilles Duceppe announced his return to federal politics. For the Conservatives, their latest numbers are an improvement over where they were in June, though they are still below the 21 per cent they were averaging as recently as April.
Conservative islands in an orange tide
The Léger poll included a large sample of 866 decided voters in Quebec, allowing for a further breakdown of the province. This breakdown shows where the Conservatives are at their strongest.
The Conservatives continue to put up robust numbers in and around Quebec City. The Tories captured about 30 per cent of the vote in the region in 2011, 10 points behind the NDP, but were pushed out of Quebec City itself with seat wins only on the south shore of the St. Lawrence facing the capital. The latest sounding from Léger puts the Conservatives at 37 per cent in the area, with the NDP at 33 per cent. While the sample size is small enough that caution must be exercised before drawing any conclusions, it does bode well for the Conservatives' chances in Quebec City.
The samples were even smaller in central Quebec, but the Conservatives put up their second-best numbers there — good news for regional star candidates Pascale Déry and Alain Rayes in the region.
But the regional breakdown also had good news for the NDP, and especially in the Greater Montreal region. There, the NDP was up 10 points since Léger's last big poll in early June. The party leads with 42 per cent support, with the Liberals down seven points to just 24 per cent. Compared to other polls conducted in the region since the beginning of the year, those are very low numbers for the Liberals and high scores for the NDP. Liberal seat gains in the area, particularly off the island of Montreal, may prove very difficult if those numbers hold.
The New Democrats held wide leads in the poll in central and western Quebec, and look well-placed to retain almost all the seats they won in 2011.
One hiccup might be in eastern Quebec, where the Bloc held a big lead. The sample size was so small as to be only marginally instructive, but it may be a region to watch if more regional-level data is made available throughout the campaign. The only chance the Bloc has to win multiple seats is to concentrate its low-support levels in one part of Quebec.
CBC's Poll Tracker aggregates all publicly released polls, weighing them by sample size, date and the polling firm's accuracy record. Upper and lower ranges are based on how polls have performed in other recent elections. The seat projection model makes individual projections for all ridings in the country, based on regional shifts in support since the 2011 election and taking into account other factors such as incumbency. The projections are subject to the margins of error of the opinion polls included in the model, as well as the unpredictable nature of politics at the riding level. The polls included in the model vary in size, date and method, and have not been individually verified by the CBC. You can read the full methodology here.
The questions asked in the polls mentioned in this article were as follows:
Léger: "If FEDERAL elections were held today, for which political party would you be most likely to vote?"