11/22/2013 11:57 EST | Updated 11/22/2013 12:02 EST

Poll Suggests Trudeau Liberals On Rise In Battleground Quebec


A new poll suggests federal Liberals are making gains in Quebec, a key electoral battleground for both Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair in 2015.

The survey, conducted online by CROP for La Presse and interviewing 1,000 Quebecers between Nov. 13-17, shows Liberals have gained five points in the last month and sit atop the table with 36 per cent support. That is their best performance in CROP's polling since the summer.

As a result, New Democrats have dropped three points since the middle of October to sit at 28 per cent

The poll was conducted just before the latest flair-up between the NDP and Liberals over the Clarity Act, the federal law passed in 2000 that calls for an undefined "clear majority" to express support for a province seceding before the federal government will negotiate. But the debate has been simmering for many months, and it seems plausible it is registering in the electorate.

Before Trudeau's arrival on the scene, New Democrats were averaging around 30 per cent support among non-francophones in the province who take a hard-line against separation. But in the months since Trudeau became Liberal leader, the NDP's support among this demographic has been cut in half. The CROP poll gives just 14 per cent support to the NDP among non-francophones, compared to 57 per cent for the Liberals (and 19 per cent for Conservatives).

Mulcair is in line with his party's policy on the Clarity Act, settled in the Sherbrooke Declaration of 2005, that a majority of 50 per cent plus one is enough to begin Quebec secession talks. So, the NDP's position is nothing new and is shared by all parties at the National Assembly. It may be helping New Democrats among francophones, as their support among this demographic has held relatively stable at about one in three over the last few months.

But the Liberals seem to be making gains among French-speaking Quebecers again. CROP has the two parties tied among these voters at 31 per cent apiece, representing a six-point gain for Liberals over the last month. That puts Trudeau near the ceiling of his best performances among francophones in CROP's polling.

With the exception of a single June poll where the Liberals were at 36 per cent among francophones, the party has not done any better than 33 per cent and took a bit of a hit in September and October.

It all sets up an interesting contest in the province. The poll suggests New Democrats are still very competitive in the predominantly francophone regions of Quebec, and are better placed than the Liberals to win seats in Quebec City. However, Liberals are polling strongly in the Montreal area.

For Conservatives, their support is anaemic in most parts of the province but CROP gave them the lead (by a single point over the NDP) in the Quebec City region. This was the first poll to give them the advantage in the provincial capital since August. They were at 13 per cent throughout Quebec, three points behind the Bloc Québécois.

This electoral battleground will be hotly contested for the next two years. After the swing that took place in Quebec in the final weeks of the 2011 campaign, it is still anyone's guess who will come out on top.

In the short term, however, Liberals seem to have the upper-hand. We will get our first peek at how much of an advantage they enjoy as soon as Monday, when a byelection will be held in the Montreal riding of Bourassa.

Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers every week. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls and electoral projections.

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