In the run-up to the second French leaders’ debate, to be hosted by the Federal Debates Consortium, the spotlight is on Yves-François Blanchet, Leader of the Bloc Québécois, following a solid performance in the French debate hosted by TVA and an overall good showing in the English Leaders Debate. The Bloc Leader’s performance in this debate, the last of the campaign, could add fuel to a trend that seems to have been taking hold since the start of the election campaign: increasing voter support for the Bloc Québécois. While it can’t be called a wave just yet, the trend is clear.

In the latest projections by polling aggregator 338Canada, updated on October 8, the Bloc Québécois (24.5%) has solidified its position as the second choice of Quebecers, moving six points ahead of the Conservative party who are polling at 18.6%. The Liberal Party of Canada continues to lead in Quebec with 35.5% support, while the NDP has fallen to 11.6% support. The Green Party is at 7.1% in Quebec, while Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party is at 2.2%.

Overview of the situation in Quebec

Party 2015 results for Quebec Support as of October 8, 2019
Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) 35.7% 35.5%
Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) 16.7% 18.6%
New Democratic Party (NDP) 25.4% 11.6%
Bloc Québécois (BQ) 19.4% 24.5%
Green Party (GP) 2.3% 7.1%
People’s Party of Canada (PPC) N/A 2.2%

Experts estimate that the “payoff zone” for the Bloc Québécois starts at 22%. Each percentage point gained from that point on can be translated into seats in the House of Commons. So, if the Bloc’s polling numbers bear out in the vote, the party could be able to significantly boost its presence in Ottawa. That’s why Yves-François Blanchet’s performance will be so critical in the debate on October 10, particularly if a considerable number of Quebecers remain undecided on who they’ll support on October 21st.

The Bloc’s platform, like that of several other parties, focuses on the popular issues of the day, including the environment and green energy. However, it also mirrors some of the issues taken up by the CAQ in the last provincial elections, such as the vitality of the regions and the importance of protecting the French language and secular values. Considering the results of the provincial elections in October 2018, it is not surprising to see this discourse resonating in Quebec.

Based on 338Canada projections, it would appear that Bloc Québécois gains have largely come at the expense of the Conservatives and the Liberals. Since September 17, when the Bloc were at their lowest levels of support during the writ period, we have seen them rise from 19.1% to 24.5% (+5.4%). In that same period, the Conservatives have dropped from 22.3% to 18.6% (-3.7%), while the Liberals have dropped from 37.8% to 35.5% (-2.3%).

Suppose that Yves-François Blanchet performs well in the leaders’ debate and the Bloc Québécois goes up in the polls, it will be interesting to see where the votes would come from. Would Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives be able to stymie recent trends and avoid falling further? Would they come from the NPD, which is already looking vulnerable? Or from Justin Trudeau’s Liberals? The answer to this question could have a significant impact on the outcome of the election. Notably, whether the next government will be Liberal or Conservative, and whether it will be a minority or a majority.