Are Quebec Conservatives about to go extinct?

Increasingly, it seems that Stephen Harper has given up on the province. In the end, it may be a realistic assessment of his electoral chances in Quebec, especially considering that both leaders of the main opposition parties are now Quebecers.

A poll conducted earlier this month by CROP for La Presse found support for the Conservatives has fallen to only 9 per cent in the province, putting the party back to where it had been prior to their breakthrough in 2006. Conservatives had the support of only 8 per cent of francophone Quebecers in the poll, while just 10 per cent of non-francophones in the province said they would vote for the Tories.

Similarly, Conservatives were polling in single-digits on the island of Montreal, in the surrounding suburbs, and in the regions of Quebec. Only in and around Quebec City did Tories have any life, but at 21 per cent, the party was pegged in a distant third behind the Liberals and New Democrats.

Only five Conservative MPs represent ridings in Quebec and none are considered leading figures within the party. But because of their rarity, all hold either ministerial or parliamentary secretary positions. Aside from Denis Lebel, there is some question as to whether any of them would be given these roles if the prime minister had more Quebecers from which to choose.

Unless the trends are reversed, his options will probably diminish. With Conservative support tanking in Quebec, the re-election of all five MPs would be in doubt come 2015. Only Lebel and Maxime Bernier probably boast enough local support to have reasonable expectations of victory, but with Liberals surging and the NDP not going away even they would have to put in a good effort to be re-elected.

They are certainly not helped by the national party. One local Tory organizer in Quebec recently and publicly slammed the door on the Conservatives due to a perceived lack of interest from national headquarters.

Recent Tory attacks leveled against Justin Trudeau for seemingly favouring Quebec over the rest of Canada — by exploiting an out-of-context quote in which he paraphrased his father and remarks on Senate seats — have criticized the Liberal leader as pitting one region against another. Though it is the sort of comment that would go on unnoticed in the rest of Canada (and the attacks have been almost entirely in English), it is a departure from the Conservatives’ initial support for the designation of Quebec as a nation. The sort of soft nationalist support Tories have relied upon in the recent past in Quebec might bristle against the implication the province is just one region in Canada among others.

And revealingly, the prime minister responded most fiercely in English to nearly all of the questions from NDP leader Thomas Mulcair in Wednesday’s question period. Even when Mulcair asked his questions on the Wright-Duffy affair in French, Harper moved from French to English to criticize the opposition leader for not immediately telling police about an alleged bribe attempt by former Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt in the 1990s. Despite the issue’s relevance to Quebecers, Harper repeatedly switched over to English to level the broadside at Mulcair. He only tried it once in French, and it fell flat.

The Conservatives may be dispassionately calculating that the effort needed to win or even hold seats in Quebec is not worth the return. And it does seem that Tories are being crowded out of Quebec as Trudeau’s Liberals and Mulcair’s NDP jostle for position, not to mention the Bloc Québécois. Conservatives did not need their five MPs in Quebec to win a majority government in 2011, but with his party dropping below 30 per cent support nationwide, can Harper afford to surrender any seats to the opposition?

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.

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Stephen Harper and wife Laureen in 2011. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8472663517/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>

  • Beer Me!

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper gets behind the bar at the Victoria pub in Montreal Friday, March 16, 2012 where he stopped in to meet some supporters and have a drink for St. Patricks Day.

  • You Eat Half, And I'll Eat Half

    Conservative leader Stephen Harper and Laureen Harper stand next to a tray of hot cross buns at a bakery in Mississauga, on April 23, 2011.

  • Cuddle Time!

    Stephen Harper with wife Laureen and their chinchilla Charlie. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8425819048/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>

  • Easy Rider

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper waves after going for an ATV ride as he visits a farm for a campaign event in Wainfleet Ont., on Monday, April 4, 2011.

  • Nom Nom Nom

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper eats maple taffy as he visits a sugar shack in Norbertville, Quebec on Tuesday, April 5, 2011.

  • Muahhh

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper gives his wife Laureen a kiss following a day of G-20 meetings in Toronto. June 27, 2010. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=938&media_category_typ_id=6#cont" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>

  • Can I Keep Them?

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper plays with foster kittens at 24 Sussex. May 1, 2010. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=900&media_category_typ_id=6&media_id=5512" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>

  • Incoming!

    Conservative Leader Stephen Harper throws a small snowball at photographers after talking with reporters at a campaign stop in Guelph, Ontario Saturday, Jan. 21, 2006.

  • Thank God You're Not Wearing Overalls

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper gives Taylor Swift the book "Maple Leaf Forever" before her concert at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa. May 20, 2010. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=900&media_category_typ_id=6&media_id=5512" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>

  • Wedding Crasher

    Stephen Harper <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/10/23/harper-wedding-photos-ottawa_n_2006374.html" target="_blank">surprises an Ottawa couple on their wedding day</a> in 2012.

  • Yep, Definitely A Cat Person

    Laureen Harper laughs as she holds a husky dog with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper as they tour Caribou Crossing, Yukon, south of Whitehorse Monday August 20, 2012.

  • Harper Road

    Stephen Harper, his children Ben and Rachel, and wife Laureen cross Abbey Road in 2009. Source: <a href="http://on.fb.me/12OfGXN" target="_blank">Facebook</a>

  • Bonjour, Bonhomme

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper hams it up with Bonhomme Carnaval in the Prime Minister's Centre Block Office. November 25, 2010. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=1238&media_category_typ_id=6#cont" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>

  • Trendsetter

    Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, far left, watches a third round match between Agnieszka Radwanska, of Poland, and Serbia's Jelena Jankovic with his children Rachel, center, and Benjamin, right, at the 2012 US Open tennis tournament, Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012, in New York.

  • Psst! I Like Your Hat

    Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, speaks with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper during Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on July 1, 2011.

  • Whoops, How Did This Get In Here...

    Part of a painting of Prime Minister Stephen Harper fully nude, by Kingston artist Maggie Sutherland, is shown at the Central Kingston public library in Kingston, Ont. on May 18, 2012.

  • Giggle Fit!

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his son Ben watch a bloopers show while attending the Calgary Flames NHL hockey game against the Edmonton Oilers in Calgary, Saturday, April 11, 2009.

  • In The Key Of C Major

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper practices a few chords after arriving at home from work. February 19, 2011. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=1457&media_category_typ_id=6#cont" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>

  • Love You, Mom

    Conservative leader Stephen Harper gets a hug from his mother Margaret during a visit to his campaign office in Calgary, Saturday May 29, 2004.

  • We Can't All Grow A Pirate 'Stache Like Trudeau

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper holds up a moustache scarf to kick off the start of ‘Movember’, November 1, 2012 Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8146161138/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>

  • The Sweet Side Of Politics

    Senior Legislative Assistant, Katherine Locke, left, and Government House Leader Special Assistant, Zoe Lawson, show off their House of Commons gingerbread house to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in his office on Dec. 16, 2010. The gingerbread house was filled with rows of gummi bears as members of Parliament. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=1355&media_category_typ_id=6#cont" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>

  • Beach Boy

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper waves to tourists as he walks on the beach after the closing of the VI Summit of the Americas on April 15, 2012 in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.

  • Game Face

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper plays a game of table tennis with Team Canada's Mo Zhang at Canada House in London on Tuesday, June 5, 2012.

  • Whaddya Mean It Doesn't Fit?

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper tries on an old hockey helmet at he tours the Yukon's Hockey History exhibit at the McBride Museum in Whitehorse, Yukon on Thursday, August 25, 2011.

  • Goooaaaaallll!

    Stephen Harper, his son Ben, and Wayne Gretzky watch the men's ice hockey team's gold medal game at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8457917081/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>

  • Who Said Politics Can't Be Fun?

    Stephen Harper and his son Ben hit balloons into the crowd after his speech at the party's three-day policy convention in Montreal on Friday March 18, 2005.

  • Jam Sesh

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Jamie Robinson (guitar) play along with Blue Rodeo's front man Jim Cuddy, and recording artist Jimmy Rankin as they belt out a tune during a Juno Awards reception at 24, Sussex March 31, 2012. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=2099&media_category_typ_id=6#cont" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>

  • Party Politics

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper, looks up from dishing out pancakes at Stampede breakfast in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, July 10, 2011.

  • I Spy Something Cute

    Stephen Harper welcomes two Chinese pandas at Toronto's Pearson Airport on March 25, 2013. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8588948719/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>

  • Flashback

    A young Stephen Harper.

  • Just Smile And Back Away Slowly

    Clowns ham it up with Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Moncton, New Brunswick. July 19, 2010. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=1037&media_category_typ_id=6#cont" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>

  • Hats Off

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper, left, throws Senator Gerry St. Germain's cowboy hat into the crowd after presenting him with a new one as his wife Margaret St. Germain, right, laughs during a barbecue at St. Germain's ranch in Surrey, B.C., on Monday August 6, 2012.

  • Thumbs Up, Up And Away

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper gives the thumbs up from the cockpit of his campaign plane as he arrives in Ottawa,Tuesday May 3, 2011.

  • He's A Belieber

    Stephen Harper presents Justin Bieber with a Diamond Jubilee Medal on Nov. 23, 2012. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8212520594/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>

  • I'm With Him

    Stephen Harper and Wayne Gretzky, joined by students on an outdoor ice rink in Saskatoon on Feb. 5, 2010. Source: <a href="http://on.fb.me/ZTlKy6" target="_blank"> Facebook</a>

  • Shhh... This Is The Best Part

    Stephen Harper, wife Laureen and Suraksha, Grade 10, visit an IMAX theatre in Bangalore, India on Nov. 8, 2012.

  • Umm... This Is My Costume

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper poses for a photograph with Halloween trick-or-treaters at his official residence in Ottawa, Wednesday, October 31, 2012.

  • Is It Cold, Or Is It Just Me?

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper bundles up in a parka as he tours Frobisher Bay in Iqaluit, Nunavut on Thursday, February 23, 2012.

  • One Of Harper's Many Hats

    Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper adjusts his hat prior to the arrival of Britain's Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, for the official start of the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Alberta, July 8, 2011.

  • D'awww

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen play with some furry friends at the official opening of the new Ottawa Humane Society facility on July 6, 2011. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=1724&media_category_typ_id=6#cont" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>

  • Omigod, So Cute

    Met Batisse X, official mascot of the Royal 22nd Regiment, prior to welcoming French PM Jean-Marc Ayrault to Ottawa. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8554783327/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>

  • I Can Totally Take You

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper receives a cricket lesson from Ankur Biswas, cricket team captain, at the Bishop Cotton Boys School. Source: <a href="http://on.fb.me/12OffwT" target="_blank">Facebook</a>

  • Mush!

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper drives a dog sled after meeting mushing teams at the Arctic Winter Games in Yellowknife, N.W.T., Monday, March 10, 2008.

  • A Very Harper Holiday

  • Hanging With The Golden Girls

    Stephen Harper meets Canada's women's hockey team, gold medal winners at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Source: <a href="http://on.fb.me/17v6qKa" target="_blank">Facebook</a>

  • Tough Cookie

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen, left, make cookies with 10-year-old brain cancer survivor Baxton Wacholtz, right, and his mom Michelle, of Telkwa, B.C., during a photo opportunity at Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday August 7, 2012.

  • Does This Mean I'm In The Band?

    Canadian musician Jens Lindemann visits Stephen Harper before a concert. "His blue trumpet reminded me of Sgt. Pepper," according to Harper. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8519328992/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>

  • Stanley's Not Going To Be Happy About This

    Met with Constable Dan Allen of the Child at Risk Response Team (and Cagney the dog) while in Calgary. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8640427193/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>

  • Say, 'Happy Halloween!'

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper points out the camera to baby Grayson, dressed up as a giraffe, during his first time trick-or-treating at 24 Sussex. Source: <a href="http://on.fb.me/10ppG5w" target="_blank">Facebook</a>

  • Bear Hug

    Stephen Harper hugs his daughter Rachel Hugging Rachel as results come in after the 2011 election. Source: <a href="http://on.fb.me/15WI2TY" target="_blank">Facebook</a>