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Harper can lose out in Quebec

In 2008, 80%, minus a fraction, of the people voted against Harper in Quebec. The Bloc got close to 40% of the votes, followed by the Liberals (23%) and the NDP (12%). All in all, this global composition is unlikely to change in the forthcoming election. The Conservatives are seen by the vast majority of the Québécois as reactionary bigots and by and all, anti-Quebec.

The Conservatives, however, have a base in the Quebec-Appalachian region, that encompasses the national capital and the south shore in central Quebec, and which is traditionally on the right. Eight of the eleven Conservatives MPs in Quebec come from this particular region.

Harper's strategy is of course to maintain that base, and in particular, to keep Lawrence Cannon in Pontiac (near Ottawa) and two MPs in Saguenay. Conservatives also hope to make gains in two Anglophone districts on the western side of Montreal, where ex-Alouette coach and sport celebrity Larry Smith is running. Smith, however, recently put himself in hot water by demanding the withdrawal of the highly popular 101 law imposing French as the prominent language in Quebec. Even Anglophones are uneasy with this, having (in their majority) accepted the fact that the working language in this province should be the one spoken by over 80% of the population.

Harper's recent electoral announcements have not helped his cause, indicating that Quebec is really not part of his agenda. The agreement to fund new Newfoundland's hydro power lines is seen as anti-Quebec, because similar facilities in this province have not been subsidized in the past by Ottawa. Quebec Conservative cabinet Ministers Christian Paradis, Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Josée Vermer, Denis Lebel and even foreign minister Lawrence Cannon are considered by most people as well as by the national media as brainless flunkys.

National Quebec media conclude that Harper has "given up" on Quebec.

In sum, Harper will be happy to maintain his feeble base here. If the campaign turns in an unexpected way, he could lose some ridings although at the all-Canadian level, his crude calculation is that it will be more than compensated by additional votes from the Maritimes and Ontario.

A conservative defeat could happen in Quebec if opposition parties would make arrangements, i.e. not fight one another. It is unlikely, but not completely impossible.

The stakes are high particularly in the ridings of Beauport-Limoilou, Louis-St-Laurent, Portneuf-Jacques-Cartier and Montmagny-L'Islet-Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup, where Conservatives won the last election with a few hundred votes. The Bloc is far head of the Liberals in these districts. If the Liberals would decide to ... keep quiet, Bloc candidates would have a very good chance.

In other ridings especially in Montreal, there are three-way battles, with Liberals and Bloquistes running ahead, but where Conservatives could gain if the anti-Harper vote splits like in Jeanne-Le Ber, Brossard-La Prairie, Papineau and Ahuntsic, where a left-of-centre Bloquiste woman Maria Mourani has a good chance of being re-elected, especially if she retains the vote of the important Arab community in this riding.

In Outremont, the only NDP, MP Thomas Mulcair, battles against the big Liberal machine. NDP and Liberals are also head-to-head in Hull-Aylmer, where the NPD candidate is the former President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Nycole Turmel. The NDP in addition is hoping to steal the Gatineau riding represented by Bloquiste Richard Nadeau.

In its convention last month, Quebec Solidaire called on all Québécois to vote for the Bloc or the NDP.

It would indeed be extraordinary to see an implicit alliance that could avoid the vote splitting which has allowed the election of 11 Conservative MPs in the past. The difference could be symbolic showing Harper that he can expect lots of resistance to his future neo-con and neo-liberal onslaughts.

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