Election 2019: Bloc set to take 37 of Quebecs 78 seats, poll suggests – Montreal Gazette

Election 2019: Bloc set to take 37 of Quebec\s 78 seats, poll suggests - Montreal Gazette
Scheer says modern convention means Trudeau must quit if he doesnt win the most seats
A year after being perceived as a political train wreck torn by internal strife, the Bloc Québécois is poised to win 37 of Quebec’s 78 seats in the House of Commons and condemn the Trudeau Liberals to a minority government, a poll by Forum Research suggests.

The telephone survey, conducted on Wednesday with 1,028 randomly selected respondents across the country, found the Liberals enjoyed 32 per cent support among the 130 poll respondents in Quebec, just four points ahead of the Bloc led by Yves-François Blanchet, who was acclaimed to the leadership of the sovereignist party just 10 months ago.

Asked Thursday by a Global News reporter if the Liberals were engaged in the spread of disinformation just like they had accused the Conservatives of doing, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said: “We have made the commitment to ban military-style assault weapons across this country. (Conservative Leader) Andrew Scheer has clearly said he will not. Indeed, he wants to reverse some of the changes we made to render it easier for people to access weapons.”

The New Democratic Party was supported by 20 per cent of Quebec respondents while Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives were supported by 13 per cent.

But Conservative party spokesman Simon Jefferies said the ad was “nothing but more lies.” He went on to outline Scheer’s plans to tackle violent crime and gun crime, including ending automatic bail for gang members, ensuring prison time for possessing a smuggled firearm and creating stronger background checks for gun licences. He did not, however, say anything about the party’s plans to change access to guns themselves.

Only three per cent of Quebecers gave the nod to Elizabeth May’s Green party, one point more than the support received by Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada.

Why Obama might look north and feel empathy for Trudeau

The survey projects those numbers would translate into 37 Quebec seats for the Bloc — 27 more than it held when the federal election was called.

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That would limit the number of seats the Liberals could win nationally to 133 — well under the threshold needed to win a majority in the 338-seat House of Commons.

One ad on Facebook featured an image of someone using a razor blade to cut white powder. “Previously, Trudeau legalized marijuana, and now he plans to legalize hard drugs!” the caption read. A similar ad also reportedly appeared on the popular Chinese-language messaging platform WeChat.

Nationally the survey places the Liberals at 30 per cent, just one percentage point ahead of the Conservatives, while the NDP polled 20 per cent — an increase of seven points since Oct. 8 — while eight per cent said they supported the Greens, a drop of four points since Oct. 8.

“What for me is astounding is the fact that Canadian politicians have so little respect for the intelligence of our ethnic communities that they think they can dupe them with fake claims about their opponents’ platforms. And that is a crime against democracy in my view.”

The poll’s seat projection nationally places the Liberals at 133, the Conservatives at 121, the NDP at 46, the Bloc at 37 and the Green party at one.

The Liberals said at the time that the Conservatives were stealing from the “American right-wing playbook” by “spreading false information to scare and mislead voters.” Trudeau has previously stated he has no plans to pursue further decriminalization of drugs.

The Forum survey seems to buttress speculation that a coalition or working relationship might be hammered out between the Liberals and the NDP, and that NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh would be far from a junior partner in such an arrangement.

While Trudeau’s approval rating nationally stands at 39 per cent in the survey, Singh’s approval has skyrocketed 17 points since Oct. 2 to stand at 52 per cent — six points ahead head of the Green party’s Elizabeth May.

The perception of who would be the best prime minister sees Singh’s stock drop somewhat, with the NDP leader polling at 24 per cent — in third place after Scheer (27 per cent) and Trudeau (28 per cent).

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau expressed similar views during the 2015 campaign, telling the CBC that whoever gets the most seats gets the first shot at trying to command the confidence of the House. However, in the same interview, he also said that the incumbent Prime Minister absolutely has the first shot at forming government in a minority Parliament.

The Forum Research poll finds a national split over where Canadians think their country is headed. Half of respondents said they feel the country is doing better, with 19 per cent of them saying it is doing much better. However, the remaining 50 per cent said they feel Canada is doing worse, with 30 per cent of them saying it is doing much worse.

The last time an incumbent prime minister failed to win the most seats in the House of Commons, but retained power, took place in 1925, according to Prof. Adams. Back then, Mackenzie King continued to govern even though the Conservatives had more seats, because King was able to win the confidence of the House with the support of another party.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer today called on Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau to resign as prime minister if his party does not win the most seats on election day, saying that practice has become a "modern convention in Canadian politics."

During a campaign stop in Brampton, Ont., Mr. Scheer told reporters, It is clear that in modern Canadian history, the party with the most seats forms the government and that a prime minister who comes out of an election with fewer seats than another party, resigns.” Mr. Scheer was Speaker of the House from 2011 to 2015.

Scheer said that if Trudeau's Liberals slip to second place in the seat count after Monday's vote, he should step aside rather than try to pursue an arrangement with the NDP to hang on to power.

"It is quite clear that Justin Trudeau will try to do anything to stay in power," Scheer said at a campaign stop in Brampton, Ont.

"But what I'm saying is that the party that wins the most seats should be able to form the government and the other convention in modern Canadian politics is that a prime minister who enters into an election and comes out of that election with fewer seats than another party, resigns. That is a modern convention in Canadian politics."

Thursdays daily tracking survey from Nanos Research had the Conservatives at 33 per cent support of respondents and the Liberals at 32 per cent. The New Democrats were at 19 per cent, the Greens at 9 per cent, the Bloc Québécois at 6 per cent and the Peoples Party at 2 per cent.

Former prime minister Paul Martin resigned after the 2006 election handed Opposition leader Stephen Harper and his Conservatives a plurality of seats — but not a majority — in the House of Commons.

Pierre Elliott Trudeau also promptly resigned as prime minister after Joe Clark's Progressive Conservative party won a plurality of seats in 1979 election. Trudeau then rescinded his resignation as Liberal Party leader after Clark's government fell on a confidence vote about nine months later.

When asked in 2015 if the party with the most number of seats should have the right to try and govern, Justin Trudeau said yes.

The Liberals — while pursuing a broadly Obama-esque agenda focused on the "middle class" and climate change — can stress that one of either Trudeau or Scheer will be prime minister. But there's also Elizabeth May and Jagmeet Singh. Maybe neither of those leaders are likely to end up prime minister, but you can vote for an NDP or Green candidate and hope to end up with orange or green representation.

"That's the way it's always been," Trudeau said in an interview with CBC News. "Whoever commands the most seats gets the first shot at governing. Whoever gets the most seats gets the first shot at trying to command the confidence of the House."

Obama has now endorsed the G7's three most-prominent centre-left multilateralists, a trio that stands in opposition to the populist and nationalist leaders elsewhere. But progressive and centre-left leaders have not been abundant in the three years since Obama left office. And both Macron and Trudeau have struggled to maintain public support (while Merkel will not be seeking re-election).

However, confusingly, in the same interview, Trudeau then said "absolutely" the "outgoing prime minister" should have the first crack at testing the confidence of the Commons.

The talk of resignation comes as the Liberal and Conservative parties are locked in a battle for front-runner status. The CBC's Poll Tracker is projecting that neither party will secure a majority government on Oct. 21.

Trudeau's senior advisors are well-acquainted with some of the key strategists behind Obama and the Liberal campaign of 2019 has sought to emulate the idea that an election is a choice. Particularly in the closing stages of this federal election, "choice" is a word that Trudeau has emphasized, insisting that the race is between himself and Andrew Scheer.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has said he'd consider working with a Liberal minority government. Trudeau has only said he wants to secure the most seats.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said Thursday it is "astonishing" that party leaders "don't seem to understand our system."

She said Scheer is knowingly "misleading" Canadians about the country's parliamentary traditions.

"The convention is quite the opposite of what Mr. Scheer is telling people. I'm not advocating it. I'm explaining what the rules are. The convention is the party that held power before the election has first crack at seeing if they can hold the confidence of the House … Mr. Trudeau, gets first crack at it," she said. "We elect 338 MPs and they have a right to decide who should form government at the end of an election."

In Canada's system of Westminster parliamentary democracy, the prime minister and the cabinet must answer to the House of Commons and they must enjoy the support and the confidence of a majority of the members of the chamber to remain in office.

The sitting prime minister is given the first chance to test the confidence of the Commons after an election — even if that PM's party does not command a majority of seats.

"These barriers prevent the free flow of people, goods and services across provincial borders. They make it more expensive to run a business. They hurt consumers with higher prices and less competition and they discourage and frustrate big dreaming innovators who want to change the world," Scheer said during a campaign stop in Quebec City. "It should not be easier to trade with other countries than between Canadian provinces. We are one free country. We should have one free market."

For example, recent elections in B.C. and New Brunswick produced very close results, with the two main parties all but tied for first place in the seat count. The sitting premiers tested the confidence of the provincial chambers to see if they could secure enough votes to pass a throne speech.

Liberalizing the trade of alcoholic beverages was something the provinces tried — and failed — to do during the negotiations for the 2017 deal. And they've been working on the problem ever since. Ottawa removed the final federal barrier to the cross-country trade of booze in last spring's budget. But so far, the only measurable progress from the provinces has been the unveiling of an "action plan" which promises to establish working groups and an online information hub. 

In both cases, the government failed to win the required support from provincial legislators and was defeated by a vote of non-confidence.

Charlebois cites the barriers against interprovincial trade of alcohol as an example of the obstacles in Scheer's chosen path. Wineries and craft brewers from B.C. to Nova Scotia would love to be able to compete against each other in the open market and ship their products directly to consumers across the country. But each province sets its own rules for distribution, often requiring producers to use Crown liquor agencies as a middleman. 

According to convention, in such a scenario the premier must either resign or call for the dissolution of the chamber to allow for a new election. The same is true for a prime minister at the federal level.

On Tuesday, the Conservative leader offered a preview of what he hopes to accomplish during his first 100 days in office — should he win the Oct. 21 election. And at the head of the list is a vow to broker a new, internal free-trade agreement that would eliminate all interprovincial barriers.

However, in both B.C. and New Brunswick, the non-confidence vote came quite soon after an election. So the lieutenant-governors in those provinces turned instead to other party leaders to ask them to assemble enough votes to pass a throne speech.

In B.C., the Green Party agreed to support the governing NDP. In New Brunswick, the Progressive Conservative party has relied on support from the People's Alliance.

Stephen Harper paid lip service to internal Canadian free trade, but could hardly bring himself to attend first ministers meetings during his just-short-of-a-decade in power. Justin Trudeau has taken a friendlier tack, but has made little progress on the national trade file. 

Asked by reporters Sunday whether he'd work with other parties, including Trudeau's Liberals, Singh replied, "Oh absolutely, because we're not going to support a Conservative government."

"We're going to fight a Conservative government, gonna fight it all the way," the NDP leader said at a rally with supporters in Surrey, B.C. "So we're ready to do whatever it takes."

Trudeau has been asked repeatedly about Singh's comments but, so far, he hasn't publicly said he supports the idea of a coalition government or of governing as a minority with New Democrat support.

"Our focus is on electing a progressive government, not a progressive opposition, and ensuring that we stop Conservative cuts," Trudeau said.

John Paul (J.P.) Tasker is a reporter in the CBC's Parliamentary bureau in Ottawa. He can be reached at [email protected]

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