MONTREAL — Come federal election time in Quebec, it's all about the bloc. In almost every federal election for the last 100 years, one party — be it the Liberals, the Bloc Quebecois, the NDP or the Progressive Conservatives — has won a large majority of the province's seats. The NDP had its turn in 2011, winning 59 of Quebec's 75 ridings, propelling the party to official Opposition status for the first time. Indeed, the voting habits of Quebecers are an example of a "group consciousness" that is similar to those of other minority groups in countries such as Spain, Britain and Germany, said Jon Pammett, a political science professor at Ottawa's Carleton University. "There is a desire often to search for the alternative where that group consciousness can be expressed to its maximum impact, whatever that is," said Pammett, co-editor of "The Canadian Federal Election of 2011," a compendium of academic articles on the vote from four years ago. The beneficiary of that desire in Quebec has changed over the years. In almost every election between 1917 and 1984, the Liberals dominated Quebec's seat total. Quebecers turned sharply in the 1980s to Brian Mulroney's PCs, giving them huge seat totals in the 1984 and 1988 elections. The vote swung once more, in 1993, to the newly created Bloc Quebecois, allowing it to win 54 ridings. The Bloc remained the largest seat-winner in Quebec until 2011. Only once, in 2000, was the seat total almost evenly split between two parties, the Liberals and Bloc. Quebecers chose to send 59 NDPers to Ottawa in 2011 because "it was the last party we hadn't tried yet," said Michel Seymour, a philosophy professor at Universite de Montreal. He said while Quebec independence is "not on the horizon" with the provincial Liberals having won a majority mandate in 2014, sovereigntists and "a large number" of federalists have similar grievances. They want Quebec to be recognized as a nation in the Constitution and desire what's commonly refered to as an "asymmetrical" federal model that allows the province to opt out of federal programs, instead receiving funding to offer the same services provincially. That pretty much sums up the NDP's official policy on Quebec, called the "Sherbrooke Declaration." "If the NDP can expel the Conservatives from power, keep the Liberals from taking it and have the Sherbrooke Declaration implemented, it'll be a real windfall for Quebec," Seymour said. Polls suggest the NDP continues to lead in Quebec, although it appears to have been hurt by its position on the niqab issue. Tory support remains strong around Quebec City and the party looks competitive in ridings up to 200 kilometres north and south of the provincial capital, making for interesting three-way races among the Conservatives, the NDP and the Bloc. The Liberals are not considered competitive outside the Montreal region but are hoping to win more than the seven seats they did in 2011. The Bloc lost official party status after they were decimated by the NDP four years ago.
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