Over the past couple of months, rumours abounded that Quebec Premier Pauline Marois was contemplating pulling the plug on her minority government.
Granted, the polls don't indicate that Marois can win a majority: the latest Crop poll — released on Tuesday — had the Liberals at 38 per cent and the PQ at 34 per cent.
Here's the Montreal Gazette's Don Macpherson's overview and analysis of the poll:
In the CROP poll, conducted Thursday through Monday, the PQ led the Liberals in popularity among the French-speaking voters who decide Quebec elections, and in the regions outside of Montreal where they’re usually decided.
And for “best premier,” Marois was about as popular as Liberal leader Philippe Couillard among all voters, meaning she was more popular among French-speaking ones.
The problem for Marois and the PQ, however, is that they weren’t popular enough to overcome a high level of dissatisfaction with the government and win a majority in a general election.
CROP vice-president Youri Rivest said the PQ had little growth potential and only “a very slim chance” of winning a majority, and might even lose outright.
That's the bad news — the glass half empty scenario, if you will — for the PQ.
The good news is that Marois has a couple of good old fashion 'wedge issues' to use to her advantage over the next few weeks.
The first one is Bill 99 — provincial legislation that states Quebec could separate from Canada based on a simple majority vote in a referendum of 50 per cent plus one. Last week, the Harper government announced that they would intervene on a court challenge to the bill.
On Monday, Marois tried to make hay of the federal Tories' interference.
"I’m very surprised. The Quebec people have the right to self-determination. Only they have the power to choose their destiny," Marois told reporters on Monday, according to the Gazette.
Marois continued, claiming that the the federal government’s decision to intervene in the case reveals the 'true face of federalism.'
"It’s obvious the mask is off," she said.
"Now, unfortunately, we can recognize federalism as it has been practised for decades."
The other issue the PQ can exploit in their favour is the controversial Values Charter.
On Tuesday, Quebec's Minister of Democratic Bernard Drainville announced that they would toughen the proposed bill that would essentially ban public employees from wearing religious symbols in public institutions.
Drainville told reporters that 68 per cent of the 26,000 comments posted online during a public consultation process were "mostly" in favour of the charter.
Montreal-based political scientist Bruce Hicks says that if he was a betting man, he would wager on Marois forcing a December election.
"If an election were held today it would mean a PQ minority government again. The one difference is that the Coalition Avenir Quebec would come close to being wiped off the electoral map. Is it in Marois interest to get rid of the CAQ and have a much larger minority government? That is her worse case scenario," Hicks told Yahoo Canada News referencing the Crop poll.
"Her best case scenario is that she can use issues like the values charter and the federal government intervening in the legal case concerning Bill 99 to win over more Francophone voters and get a majority."
If there is vote, Quebec-based pundits say that December 9th would be election day.
(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)
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