Time was a federal vote in most Quebec ridings would have meant one of three things:
1) A shoo-in for the Bloc Québecois.
2) A shoo-in for the Liberal Party.
or 3) A tight battle between the two of them.
That’s all changed over the last three or four years, to the point where four different parties have a chance to win by-elections in at least one of the three ridings in play today. And there’s a credible chance that a different party will triumph in each riding.
The ridings are listed here.
And below is a scorecard you can check back on tomorrow to see who outperformed expectations (and may be doing what they can to provoke a federal election over the next while) and who flopped (and will try to keep the minority Parliament going and going and going):
Best case scenario: Wins in the longtime Bloc strongholds of Roberval-Lac-Saint-Jean and Saint-Hyacinthe–Bagot (The former seems quite possible and the latter would be an upset), and a respectable showing (third place, say, above the Bloc) in Outremont. This would tell Stephen Harper his 2006 gains in Quebec weren’t flukes, Afghanistan may not be a ballot-box question in Quebec, and the time may be ripe to try to win a majority government
Worst case scenario: No gains at all – second place in Roberval, distant second in Saint-Hyacinthe and fourth place obscurity in Outremont, which would underline the party’s lack of support on the Island of Montreal and make embarrassingly obvious the reason why unelected-but-wants-to-run-sometime-soon cabinet minister Michael Fortier, who lives in the riding, didn’t throw his hat in the ring this time.
Best case scenario: Retain Roberval and Saint-Hyacinthe, and a respectable third-place – or even second-place – finish in Outremont. Such a scenario could inspire Gilles Duceppe to make good on a threat to bring down the government over the Afghanistan war.
Worst case scenario: Shut out of all three seats, losing Roberval and Saint-Hyacinthe to the Tories, finishing below the radar in Outremont, continuing the long, slow decline of the party.
New Democratic Party
Best case scenario: A historic win in Outremont, which would become the first-ever seat held by the NDP on the Island of Montreal and the second-ever held in the province of Quebec, and would show that Jack Layton’s native-son status there can win over both star candidates and left-leaning voters.
Worst case scenario: A distant second or third in Outremont, which would throw cold water on any hope for an NDP breakthrough in the province. A very close loss probably wouldn’t be too discouraging, though – when you ain’t got nothing, you ain’t got nothing to lose…
Best case scenario: Any signs of life in Roberval and Saint-Hyacinthe, coupled with a convincing win by Stéphane Dion’s handpicked candidate in Outremont would calm some of the party’s nervous nellies worried about the leader’s… well… leadership.
Worst case scenario: Flatlining in both ridings outside of the Island of Montreal and losing the once-impenetrable Liberal bastion of Outremont, after Dion spent considerable political capital and time campaigning there, would most certainly not calm any of the party’s nervous nellies, one of whom said the following to me on the day Dion won the party leadership last year: “This is our Joe Clark moment”. Reports out of Outremont (which many Liberals from outside the riding – most prominently, Ken Dryden and Justin Trudeau – invaded this past weekend to help get out the vote) stress bubbling tensions between Dionistas and Ignatieff… istas? … IggyPopsters? … you know, Liberals who supported the other guy…
So, there’s your scorecard. Clip and save. And have it with you tomorrow when we regroup for the post-mortem.