The past four and a half weeks have seen one of the more unusual election campaigns in Quebec history, and possibly Canadian history. The end result, with the Quebec Liberals and Parti Québécois stagnating, and the ADQ rising, is all but certain to produce Quebec's first real minority government.
Basically, the PLQ has a small lead right now due to its strength with anglophones, but has only a quarter of francophone support. The ADQ is slightly higher with them, while the PQ hold about a third of them; the remaining 14% is split between the newer Quebec Solidaire (a provincial version of the NDP, but with no link) and the Greens. No party is likely to get more than 55 seats out of 125, and the ADQ is the least likely to form a government, and if it did it could scarcely field a cabinet.
However, if bets had to be placed on one party, it would have to be the Liberals; they do lead, and they usually get a "ballot-box bonus", which could be worth 3-4% of the total vote, potentially giving them as many as 60 seats on a good night. The key for them will be to hold Laval and the Montérégie (South Shore of Montreal), and possibly pick off a very small handful of seats elesewhere (no more than 5). The ADQ will achieve official party status due to their strength in Quebec City and the Chaudière-Appalaches, knocking off at least 10 Liberals here alone while making a few gains elesewhere in Central Quebec and possibly Montérégie. However, they have limited organization in most areas compared to the PQ and PLQ GOTV machines (although higher expected turnout could work in their favour). The PQ has to pick up about 10 seats all over the province, which is very doable.
The end of the campaign centered around the reception of the federal budget and the 'national question'. In the former case, federal money was transfered to the provinces, especially Quebec; Charest announced a tax cut but this may be what does him in, as many have charged it suggests no more money is necessary and would hurt Quebec in future negotiations. The ADQ presented a fiscal platform but it is criticized as improvised. Otherwise, the 'national question' hurts the PQ right now. Finally, there have been strong attempts by the PQ and PLQ to discourage any minority government, suggesting it could weaken Quebec's voice in the federation (Charest).
Voting ends today at 8PM. Many ridings in the center of the province are three way affairs: the relative performance of QS and the Greens could be decisive, as pertains notably to the PQ vote. Here are some ridings to watch all over the province, from east to west:
- Kamouraska-Témiscouata: The ADQ is strong in the area near Rivière-du-Loup (Dumont's turf) and the Chaudière-Appalaches; they were second here last time; the fact that the (controversial) Environment Minister is here may either hurt or help him.
- Dubuc: This was almost PLQ riding number 77 last time. The PQ is not as strong in the Saguenay as usual, but the relative ADQ strength at the PLQ's expense could be enough.
- Chicoutimi: Former federal MP André Harvey is running here and giving the PQ incumbent a run for his money, according to polls.
- Jonquière: The incumbent has done a lot, but what a terrible minister. However, the PQ candidate has had serious knocks for his homsexuality. Then again, it gave him publicity...
- Roberval: The PLQ should never have won this, but they are favoured to keep it.
- Louis-Hébert (Quebec City): The three-way race of the area. The PQ and PLQ have some base. However, it's entirely located within the federal riding of the same name, which is Conservative, and it doesn't include posh and Liberal Sillery. And the incumbent was a weak minister.
- Frontenac: If the PLQ holds here, they will have had a good night - the incumbent mnister is popular but the region is the strongest ADQ area, possibly hitting an absolute majority.
- Mégantic-Compton: ADQ strength in the northeatern corner (next to Beauce) makes an upset quite possible in this seat where the incumbent was expelled from the Liberals for a criminal offence.
- Nicolet-Yamaska: Open PQ seat near Mauricie and the Chaudière-Appalaches. But the ADQ candidate is a convicted criminal.
- Shefford: This contrarian seat both provincially and federally has a three-way race here. The PLQ incumbent probably has an advantage while the ADQ has had strong results in the past.
- Saint-Jean: The classic barometer has a tiny ADQ lead in a recent poll; its tossup status reflects the provincial situation, with a PLQ disadvantage. A good chance exists this status will be lost.
- Mauricie: 4 of its 5 seats are two or three way tossups, with the ADQ making headway. Saint-Maurice is not the ADQ lock one may have thought considering the 2003 results.
- Chambly: Similar to Saint-Jean, but open and with the PQ at a disadvantage this time.
- Marguerite-d'Youville: This seat should have been a sure-fire PQ pickup but the lingering aftertaste of municipal mergers gives the ADQ a shocking chance.
- La Prairie: See above, but with the PLQ more likely to hold, over freeway construction.
- Beauharnois: Likely a PQ hold but the former Mulroney MP running for the PLQ makes this one unpredictable.
- Huntingdon: An ADQ gain in this riding bordering New York State means the PLQ may have hit third place - in any case, Charest will be done by then.
- Mercier: This is one of at most four ridings where QS can hope to win (all in Montreal) from the PQ. This is their best chance. Other parties are not a threat.
- Laurier-Dorion: If the PLQ gains one seat, this will almost certainly be it, as it was lost narrowly in a by-election when the PLQ were at their nadir. The PQ's only hope is Quebec Solidaire, who apparently is peeling away PLQ votes due to the candiate's prior flirtation with the ADQ.
- Laval: No change is likely here; a tight Liberal loss will end its barometer status, which may be threatened long-term as it becomes more allophone (and PLQ).
- Groulx: Usually a bellweather, ADQ strength - due to the candidate, for once - may let them snatch this one on the North Shore - the only one in the area.
- Abitibi-Est: This bellweather has an unpopular Natural Resources minister, and combined with the forestry crisis the riding depends on...
- Ungava: PQ should hold but the size of the riding, the lack of incumbent, and the strong "NO" vote of Natives in 1995 (who can vote for the PQ) make it worth keeping an eye here.