New polling data came out Wednesday in Canada. Let's take a look at what these numbers mean.
First, the Globe and Mail released its "poll of polls." According to this average of national polls, the Conservative Party is ahead at 37%, followed by the Liberal Party at 26% and the NDP at 18%. These numbers should bode well for Mr. Harper, as most analysts agree that 37% of the popular vote means that a majority government is within reach for the Conservatives. To get a majority government, the Tories would need to win at least 155 of the 308 seats in the House.
In addition, according to Ekos' polling data, the Conservatives are also within reach of a majority government with 37% of likely voters' support, followed by Mr. Dion's Liberals at 26%. Ekos projects that the Tories will get one more seat than necessary - 156 - for absolute majority in parliament.
But Ekos's projection model has weaknesses, especially when it's broken down regionally. In Quebec, Ekos reports that the Bloc remains ahead with 27%, followed by the Tories at 25% and the Liberal Party at 22%. It projects that out of Quebec's 75 seats, the Bloc would retain 33 seats while the Conservatives and Liberals would get 20 and 21 seats, respectively.
But I really have trouble believing that the Liberals would get more seats than the Tories in Quebec. It just makes no sense: Mr. Dion is widely unpopular among Quebec's francophones who make up 80% of the population. Also, the Liberal Party's support is below its 2006 level, so I really don't see how they could win 10 new seats in Quebec.
Before the House was dissolved, the Bloc had an overwhelming majority of Quebec's seats (50), followed by the Liberals and the Tories at 12 each. There are only two ridings in which the Liberal Party could make gains in Quebec: Outremont (a historical Liberal stronghold now represented by Quebec's only NDP MP, Thomas Mulcair) and Papineau, a riding in which the incumbent Bloc MP is being challenged by the Liberals' Justin Trudeau, the son of former prime minister Pierre-Elliot Trudeau.
The Tories remain out of the picture in Montreal, where the contest is really between the Bloc and the Liberals. Outside Montreal, though, the struggle is between the Bloc and the Tories. Even if he would never dare say it publicly, Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe hopes that the Liberal vote will not entirely collapse in Quebec.
Bloc strategists privately argue that if the Liberals remain around 20%, it will split the federalist vote between the Tories and the Liberals and therefor allow the Bloc to remain ahead. In any event, the race in Quebec remains higly competitive.