Quebec is a wasteland for Tories

Quebec is a wasteland for Tories

Of more than 170,000 Conservatives who cast a ballot, fewer than 8,000 were from Quebec

On his way to winning the Conservative leadership, Erin O’Toole decisively beat his rivals in Quebec. But their battle was fought in a field of ruins.

In the big picture, the campaign in Quebec to succeed Andrew Scheer took place in closed circuit, at a potentially unbridgeable distance from the province’s political mainstream.

Year in and year out, more than 90 per cent of Quebecers tell pollsters that fluency in French and English is an essential requirement for anyone seeking a position of national leadership.

The consensus on the need for a division between church and state is stronger in Quebec than anywhere else in Canada.

Against that backdrop, the combined first-ballot showing in Quebec of 20 per cent support for Leslyn Lewis and Derek Sloan, both unilingual and both backed by the anti-abortion lobby, speaks volumes about the disconnect between the flagging Quebec wing that O’Toole has inherited and the province’s electorate.

The singularity of the results did not prevent veteran MP Pierre Poilievre from suggesting that a blue wave could be in the making in Quebec.

If only because his Ottawa seat is geographically close to the action in the province next door, he should know better. One can only hope Poilievre – in his current role as finance critic – brings more rigour to his analysis of Canada’s fiscal outlook.

Of more than 170,000 Conservative party members who cast a ballot in last week’s election, fewer than 8,000 were from Quebec. And while the party added thousands of members in the rest of the country over the course of the race, the opposite happened in Canada’s second-largest province.

The number of Quebec members who cast a ballot shrank by 21 per cent between the vote for a successor to Stephen Harper in 2017 and the latest leadership tally.

There is more at play here than the absence of a native son candidate from the 2020 lineup.

Between the last two Conservative leadership campaigns, the Bloc Quebecois has risen from the ashes. By all appearances, its return to relative strength last fall was not a one-election wonder.

In a federal election this fall, polls show that the Quebec battle would be a two-way fight between the Liberals and the BQ.

In the last Leger sounding this week, the Conservatives had 16 per cent support, lagging 16 points behind their sovereigntist rivals and less than a handful of points ahead of the New Democrats.

When the Bloc does well, the Liberals tend to do better in Quebec than the Conservatives and the New Democrats. That dynamic has been in evidence for much of the sovereigntist party’s 30-year existence.

It’s particularly true in the case of the Conservatives, whose modest zones of influence in Quebec are all located outside Montreal, in Bloc-friendly francophone territory.

As often as not, the BQ helps keep the Liberals’ rivals for federal power at bay. And that is just fine in the eye of the many Bloc supporters, who deserted the party for the NDP and the Liberals in 2011 and 2015 primarily in an attempt to oust Harper’s Conservatives from power.

In a federal election that could take place as early as this year, the path to power for O’Toole is unlikely to run through Quebec.

At the same time, national polls and the leadership vote results suggest there is not an easily available alternative route through Ontario, or at least not absent a stronger NDP.

In the past, Conservative victories have often come hand-in-hand with a healthy showing for the New Democrats, at the Liberals’ expense. It is not a coincidence that Quebec’s orange wave in 2011 came in tandem with a Conservative majority government.

As O’Toole takes command of the official Opposition, the stars are far from aligned in favour of his party. And the challenging arithmetic involved in achieving a Conservative victory, let alone a majority, has consequences that go beyond the vote count on election night.

For instance, more than a few Conservatives believe O’Toole needs to reach beyond the confines of his caucus for star economic candidates. Some argue that would make it easier to exploit incoming finance minister Chrystia Freeland’s lack of corporate credentials.

Others simply feel no one in the current Conservative caucus inspires the level of confidence that would bolster the party’s case that it is best placed to navigate the troubled fiscal waters of the post-pandemic era.

But here’s the rub: The men and women who could make up a high-profile Conservative economic dream team to attract voters in Ontario and Quebec are more likely to be found in the Conservative electoral wasteland of Toronto and Montreal, where they risk being unelectable, than in the party’s heartland.

Chantal Hebert is a columnist with Torstar Syndication Services.

Opinion

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Torrington School music program is one of 95 beneficiaries across the country of grants from MusiCounts, Canada’s music education charity. (Black Press file photo).
Torrington music program gets grant to purchase instruments

A Torrington school will be able to replace worn out band instruments… Continue reading

Paul Harris, owner of Tribe restaurant downtown, said a lot of the blame for the latest restrictions that will close outdoor patios on Sunday can be blamed on those not obeying health regulations and the government for failing to enforce the rules.
Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff
Restaurant owners frustrated by patio shutdowns

Outdoor patios must stop serving by midnight Sunday to stem rising COVID infections

The City of Red Deer said Wednesday that some outdoor activity rentals will be available starting Monday for households only. (Advocate File Photo)
City of Red Deer outlines activities available as new provincial COVID-19 restrictions set in

There will be limited recreation activities available across the City of Red… Continue reading

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta reports 2,271 new COVID-19 cases, Red Deer cases rise slightly

Across Alberta, there are 666 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 146 in the ICU

‘Love, Oran’ is a documentary feature made by Red Deer-raised filmmaker Colin Scheyen. It’s about hidden letters, found in a Woodlea home after 70 years, revealing a family secret. (Screenshot by Advocate staff).
Hidden letters reveal secrets of Red Deer family in a new documentary film

‘Love, Oran,’ by filmmaker Colin Scheyen is showing at Edmonton’s NorthwestFest

LtE bug
Letter: Restrictions are a crime against humanity

I was distressed to note the seemingly superficial understanding of the holocaust… Continue reading

LtE bug
Letter: Follow restrictions so pandemic can be behind us

From one who feels that COVID could have been overcome long ago… Continue reading

LtE bug
Letter: Westerner needs help now

I have spent the last few days sifting through many pieces of… Continue reading

Jets beat Flames 4-0 to snap seven-game losing streak and clinch playoff spot

Jets beat Flames 4-0 to snap seven-game losing streak and clinch playoff spot

Team Canada skip Kerri Einarson, left, directs her teammates, lead Briane Meilleur, right, and second Shannon Birchard, against Estonia at the Women's World Curling Championship in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, May 5, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canada’s Einarson extends win streak to four games at world curling playdowns

Canada’s Einarson extends win streak to four games at world curling playdowns

CF Montreal head coach Wilfried Nancy, left, talks with midfielder Lassi Lappalainen during the second half of an MLS soccer match against Columbus Crew, Saturday, May 1, 2021, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The game ended in a 0-0 tie. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Canadian MLS teams try to make best of relocation

Canadian MLS teams try to make best of relocation

Damian Warner, of Canada bronze, smiles during the medal ceremony for the decathlon at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, Friday, Oct. 4, 2019.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Nariman El-Mofty
Decathlete Damian Warner says being a dad has brought balance and new perspective

Decathlete Damian Warner says being a dad has brought balance and new perspective

Toronto Blue Jays' Vladimir Guerrero Jr. gestures rounding third base after hitting his third home run against the Washington Nationals during the seventh inning of a baseball game Thursday, April 27, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Blue Jays shuffling back to Buffalo starting June 1

Blue Jays shuffling back to Buffalo starting June 1

Most Read