The New Democrats remain the top choice of Quebecers, with almost double the support of their nearest rival in the province according to a new poll. But the survey also shows the NDP's lead in Quebec is not as solid as it could be.
The poll by CROP for La Presse, conducted October 17 - 22 and surveying 1,000 people via the firm's online panel, found the New Democrats under Thomas Mulcair have the support of 38 per cent of Quebecers. The Bloc Québécois, with 21 per cent support, is well behind. The Liberals and Conservatives, with 20 and 16 per cent, respectively, close out the list.
These numbers are not dissimilar from the results of the last election: the NDP is down five points, the Bloc is down two, the Conservatives are down one and the Liberals have made a six-point gain. Generally speaking, these are well in line with what other surveys have shown to be the case in Quebec. And with these sorts of numbers, the New Democrats would be well positioned to win 60 or so seats in the province once again.
The party's main advantage remains Mulcair, who is seen as the best option for prime minister by 33 per cent of Quebecers. Stephen Harper, at 15 per cent, trails at a distance and only narrowly edges out the "none of the above" option, selected by 13 per cent of respondents. Another eight per cent chose interim Liberal leader Bob Rae.
Good as these numbers are for the New Democrats, they seem to be a mile wide and an inch deep. After surveying the current voting intentions of Quebecers, CROP asked respondents how their vote would change if Justin Trudeau became leader of the Liberal Party. The effect was a steep drop in support for the NDP.
With Trudeau at the helm, the Liberals take 36 per cent of the vote in Quebec. That represents a gain of 16 points over their current level of support. Half of that comes directly from the NDP, which drops to 30 per cent in the province. The Bloc Québécois drops two points to 19 per cent while the Conservatives slip five points to only 11 per cent support.
Proportionately, Trudeau's arrival is actually more damaging to the Tories than it is to the NDP in the province. While one in five NDP voters in Quebec would jump ship to Trudeau, the Conservatives would lose almost one in three. That would undoubtedly reduce their already scant representation in the province considerably.
But there is a degree of hope for the NDP in this poll. Whereas Mulcair's personal numbers have looked more fragile outside of Quebec when Trudeau is included, he still has some drawing power in his home province. Though his support drops to 29 per cent on the question of who would make the best prime minister, that still puts him ahead of Trudeau, who manages 25 per cent. Considering Mulcair's long political history in the province as an MNA and cabinet minister for more than a decade, Quebec is the one place in Canada where Mulcair is probably better known than Trudeau. Nevertheless, his numbers take a hit.
The New Democrats know maintaining their dominance in Quebec is essential if the party is to form government. The Liberals also know that Quebec is key to their hopes for renewal. That makes the province an important political battleground as the next election slowly approaches.
Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers on most Tuesdays and Fridays. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls and electoral projections.