Bloc popularity could determine whether Canadians get a majority government: strategists
OTTAWA – Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet and his supporters are shifting the campaign dynamic eight days out from the election, putting some parties at risk of losing third-party status or gaining enough seats to win a majority government, political insiders say.
Appearing on CTV’s Question Period, Liberal, Conservative, and NDP strategists said that "debate week" did little to surge or deflate popularity among the front-runners in the campaign, but instead saw an impressive performances by the "disrupters," notably the Bloc.
"In Quebec, you see the Bloc Quebecois coming on like gangbusters. Between TVA and the two commissioned debates, I think Blanchet probably had the best performance of all six leaders," said Scott Reid, former advisor to prime minister Paul Martin.
NDP strategist and former press secretary to Jack Layton, Karl Bélanger, agrees, adding that the dimensions of the campaign look a lot different now than they did six weeks ago.
"We have a different campaign. There were a lot of assumptions at the beginning of the campaign like the NDP were dead in the water and separatism was dead too, well guess what it’s not,” said Bélanger. "So right now, the Bloc Quebecois is in a position not to get 20 or 30 seats, but maybe 40 or 50 seats."
Right now, he said, the two front-runners aren’t in a position to form majority governments, something he doesn’t see changing during the final stretch.
"It’s Thanksgiving weekend, the opinions are crystalizing during this weekend as people talk over pumpkin pie and turkey and we’re going to end up with a minority government, I just don’t know what colour it will be."
The Bloc’s surging popularity, which the polls show isn’t slowing down, will impact the overall electoral math on election night especially as it involves the second largest province in Canada.
Ballot box issue still up for grabs
All three pundits conceded that no single issue has come out on top as the key defining indicator that could tip the scale in favour of one party over another.
"There isn’t one right now, and that’s a problem for Justin Trudeau," said Bélanger.
He said the incumbent Liberal leader’s message will instead likely be fear-based.
"Forget blackface, forget Aga Khan, forget SNC, and vote to prevent the barbarians from getting in," Bélanger said.
Reid predicts the Liberals will make the ballot box issue one of comparison, positing their base beside the Doug Ford and Andrew Scheer camps focused on spending “cuts.”
"This is a different campaign for the next eight days, particularly for the Liberals. The best thing, probably the only thing they can do, is scare the living hell out of NDP and Green voters and say 'There’s a real possibility of a Scheer prime ministership. If you want to stop that, get on board with me.'"
The Conservatives released their costed platform on Friday with a priority to balance the budget by 2024-25, which would require – as laid out in the plan – stripping back on measures like business subsidies, foreign aid, and the carbon tax.
Tory strategist and former campaign director for Stephen Harper, Jenni Byrne, said while no single issue has made a serious impact on party popularity thus far, “polarization” will likely dictate the tone of the remaining days.
She added that Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s base would be wise to keep intensifying their ground game, heading into the final stretch to capture the votes of Canadians whose opinions aren’t yet solidified.
"Thanksgiving weekend the last election saw a record number of people went out to the advanced polls,” said Byrne. “You should be reaching out to those current undecideds and pulling them into the polling station."