Francophone voters in Quebec to play key role in election outcome

The NDP needs to keep them, the Bloc wants them back, and the Liberals and Conservatives are keen to woo them to their side. Which seats are up for grabs?

Conservatives, Liberals and Bloc look to make inroads where NDP dominated in 2011

Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe, left to right, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, journalist Pierre Bruneau, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair pose for photos before the start of the French-language debate in Montreal on Oct. 2. (Joël Lemay/Pool/Canadian Press)

This is the eighth in a series that will run until the end of the campaign, taking an in-depth look at where the polls stand in every region of the country and which seats are up for grabs. Check out the last instalment, where the spotlight was on Toronto.

At the outset of the election campaign, the New Democrats all but had the French-speaking parts of Quebec in the bag. But that bag has now been torn open, and all four parties are scrambling to grab what they can.

The NDP dominated Quebec outside the Montreal region in 2011. Apart from five seats won by the Conservatives and three by the Bloc Québécois, the NDP swept all before them. The party won every seat in Quebec City, in the Montérégie, and in western and northern Quebec. Only in eastern and central Quebec did the NDP fail to keep the other parties off the board outside of Montreal.

The New Democrats were poised to repeat the feat earlier in the campaign, when they were polling at between 48 and 51 per cent among francophones. The Bloc Québécois was in distant second with 19 to 23 per cent, followed by the Liberals at 13 to 15 per cent and the Conservatives at 12 per cent.

But the latest polls have suggested a big swing in voting intentions among francophone Quebecers. Numbers from the last two weeks from Quebec-based Léger put the NDP at between 27 and 31 per cent, in a tie with the Bloc, which is posting 28 to 30 per cent support. The Conservatives have edged up to 20 to 22 per cent, and the Liberals to between 18 and 20 per cent.

At these levels of support, a lot of seats could swing in the régions of Quebec. The NDP could win between 15 and 25 seats, the Conservatives between 12 and 17, the Bloc between one and six, and the Liberals between one and five. But with the shifts we've seen in the province over the last month, and with over a week to go in the campaign, this is only the tip of the iceberg.

The New Democrats are playing defence in francophone Quebec, a region they had targeted for gains only weeks ago. Their focus will have to be on holding the seats they won by wide margins in 2011, particularly in the Outaouais, the Laurentides, the Eastern Townships and in eastern Quebec.

A good night in Quebec would see the NDP holding off the Conservatives in Quebec City and the Saguenay, but the prospects of pushing the Conservatives and Bloc entirely off the map now seem dim. Instead, the best chance for NDP gains come in the ridings in which their MPs, in one way or another, found themselves outside the party caucus.

The following is a list of ridings that each of the parties could pick up on election night. Favourable gains are those in which there is a good chance of the party winning, potential gains are those in which the results may be close and marginal gains are seats in which the party has an outside chance.

Favourable NDP gains: 

  • Montcalm.

Potential NDP gains:

  • Saint-Maurice-Champlain.

Marginal NDP gains:

  • Bécancour-Nicolet–Saurel.
  • Jonquière.

For the Conservatives, Quebec is the only province where they stand a good chance of making any gains at the expense of other parties, and not just because of the new seats added to the electoral map.

At a minimum, the party would now be looking to win some of the seats in Quebec City and the Saguenay that they had won in earlier elections, as well as seeing star candidates like Gérard Deltell and Alain Rayes elected. A better night would see them breaking out of these traditional areas of support into central and eastern Quebec.

Favourable Conservative gains:

  • Charlesbourg–Haute-Saint-Charles.
  • Chicoutimi-Le Fjord.
  • Jonquière.
  • Louis-Saint-Laurent.
  • Portneuf-Jacques Cartier.
  • Richmond-Arthabaska.

Potential Conservative gains:

  • Abitibi–Baie-James–Nunavik–Eeyou.
  • Beauport–Côte-de-Beaupré–Île d'Orléans–Charlevoix.
  • Beauport-Limoilou.
  • Louis-Hébert.
  • Pontiac.
  • Saint-Maurice–Champlain.

Marginal Conservative gains:

  • Argenteuil–La-Petite-Nation.
  • Bécancour–Nicolet–Saurel.
  • Gaspésie–Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine.
  • Québec.
  • Rimouski-Neigette–Témiscouata–Les Basques.
  • Saint-Hyacinthe–Bagot.
  • Shefford.

The area outside of Montreal was always fertile ground for the Bloc Québécois, and it's where the party is likely to make most of its gains in this election. The party is still polling below where it was in 2011, but can benefit from a divided federalist vote in a number of ridings. Depending on how that division works for it, that number could be very small, or big enough (12 or more) to give the Bloc official party status once again.

Potential Bloc gains:

  • Gaspésie–Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine.
  • Joliette.
  • Laurentides-Labelle.
  • Saint-Maurice–Champlain.
  • Sherbrooke.

Marginal Bloc gains:

  • Abitibi-Témiscamingue.
  • Avignon–La Mitis–Matane–Matapédia.
  • Beauport–Côte-de-Beaupré–Île d'Orléans–Charlevoix.
  • Berthier–Maskinongé.
  • Chicoutimi–Le Fjord.
  • Louis-Hébert.
  • Manicouagan.
  • Mirabel.
  • Montcalm.
  • Québec.
  • Rimouski-Neigette–Témiscouata–Les Basques.

One of the biggest challenges for the Liberals will be breaking into francophone Quebec on election night. And to have a good chance of forming government, they will need more seats from the Island of Montreal.

Their best chances are in eastern Quebec in the Gaspésie, as well as in the Eastern Townships and their former strongholds in the Outaouais. A very good night would see them going beyond the seats they won in the past in these regions, and toppling some of the NDP MPs that won with comfortable margins in 2011.

Favourable Liberal gains:

  • Brome–Missisquoi.

Potential Liberal gains:

  • Argenteuil–La-Petite-Nation.
  • Avignon–La Mitis–Matane–Matapédia.
  • Gaspésie–Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine.
  • Pontiac.

Marginal Liberal gains:

  • Berthier–Maskinongé.
  • Compton–Stanstead.
  • Hull–Aylmer.
  • Laurentides–Labelle.
  • Louis-Hébert.
  • Saint-Maurice–Champlain.

French Quebecers could play a decisive role in this election campaign. By sticking with the NDP, they give the party a chance to form government if the New Democrats can win in the rest of the country. If the Conservatives can pick up seats they have not won in Quebec in the past, they may make up for seats they are likely to lose elsewhere and keep themselves ahead of their rivals. And if the Liberals break through among francophones, they will have at least one foot in the door of 24 Sussex.

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.


Éric Grenier

Politics and polls

Éric Grenier is a senior writer and the CBC's polls analyst. He was the founder of ThreeHundredEight.com and has written for The Globe and Mail, Huffington Post Canada, The Hill Times, Le Devoir, and L’actualité.


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