Liberal Party slowly shedding the ghosts of the sponsorship scandal

·Politics Reporter

It’s been said that time heals all wounds.

In Quebec, it appears the wound-healing formula includes Justin Trudeau.

According to a Leger poll commissioned for the Montreal Gazette, if an election were held today, 28 per cent of Quebecers would vote for the federal Liberals. If Justin Trudeau was leader that number would jump to 32 per cent — placing them as the top party in the province in terms of popular vote.

[ Related: Do you think Justin Trudeau would make a good leader? ]

Liberal Party: 32 per cent

NDP: 25 per cent

Bloc Quebecois: 25 per cent

Conservative Party: 12 per cent

Green Party: 2 per cent

The poll is quite remarkable considering how poorly the Liberals have fared in seat-rich Quebec since the sponsorship scandal made news in 2004.

The federal sponsorship program, with a budget of $ 332 million, was launched by the Jean Chretien Liberals after the 1995 sovereignty referendum to increase the visibility of the federal government at public events in Quebec. Unfortunately, it was learned that some of the money had been diverted by advertising agencies and in some cases redirected to Liberal party staffers.

Most analysts agree that Liberal demise in Quebec — and subsequently in the rest of the country — was directly related to the fall-out from sponsorship scandal

The Liberal Party’s popular vote in Quebec:

1997 election: 36.7 per cent

2000 election: 44.2 per cent

2004 election: 33.9 per cent

2006 election: 20.8 per cent

2008 election: 23.7 per cent

2011 election: 14.2 per cent

2013 poll: 28 per cent; 32 per cent (with Trudeau)

The Liberals aren't completely out of the woods yet. As recently chronicled by the Globe and Mail, the Liberal leadership membership and supporter drive in Quebec hasn't been as fruitful as the party might have hoped.

"More than half of the eligible voters in the race are in Ontario (125,000) and B.C. (40,000)...while Quebec and the three Prairie provinces are clearly under-represented," notes the Globe article.

"Of the 27 ridings that have fewer than 200 eligible voters, 16 are in Quebec."

Bur for the Liberals, the new poll numbers should be seen as a positive sign of renewal.

[ Related: What is Bob Rae's legacy? ]

During the last election campaign an Abacus Data poll showed 53 per cent of Quebec respondents agreed they haven't yet forgiven the Liberals for their past scandals.

Just two years later, in 2013, it appears that Quebecers are starting to forgive.

Are you a politics junkie?
Follow @politicalpoints on Twitter!