Quebec election, 2014

Quebec’s general election will be 7 April. From my cursory reading of the news prior to the election call, I had the impression that a majority for the Parti Quebecois (PQ) was all but in the bag. (The PQ currently heads a minority government.) However, sometimes funny things happen during campaigns.

Looking at the projections at, which are based on aggregating and weighting polls, one can see that the Liberals are now ahead of the PQ in the vote projection. As of today, they are even ahead outside the projection tool’s estimated confidence intervals*, which range 41%-47% for Liberals and 32%-36% for the PQ.

Seat projections, however, remain closer: 61-76 for Liberals, 46-59 for PQ. If the race tightens even a little bit, the prospect of a plurality reversal becomes real, given the near overlap in project ranges for seats despite the existing minimum projected gap of five points in votes. If we convert the projections into advantage ratios (%s/%v)**, we get a range for the Liberals of 1.18 to 1.28, but for the PQ of 1.16 to 1.31. We can see that either party would benefit from the over-representation expected from a plurality electoral system, but the PQ benefits slightly more–from the model’s projections–when it is at the higher end of its vote range, even though its current maximum projection would not give it a plurality of the vote. Extrapolating from these figures, the PQ might be able to win a majority of the seats on only around 38% of the vote and with the Liberals still slightly ahead.

A reversal–and not the first in the province–happened as recently as 1998, when the Liberal party had 43.55% of the vote and 48 seats, while the PQ had 42.87% but 76 seats. Yes, 76, for a really large majority despite losing the province-wide vote.

I think I will start paying more attention to the Quebec campaign now.

* Taking the confidence interval to be the range from “low” to “high” rater than minimum-maximum.

** Using low-end or high-end projections for both seats and votes in all cases.

10 thoughts on “Quebec election, 2014

  1. It would be an understatement to say that the PQ has mismanaged the campaign. If they had run as a straightforward social-democratic party, I think they might have maintainted their lead and been returned with a majority. But instead they focussed so heavily on separation, another referendum, an us vs. them mentality with the Charter of Secular Values….and the result now is that even francophones are turning away from them in droves.

    The x-factor here, besides the more favorable distribution of voters for the PQ you already mentioned, are the third and fourth parties, the CAQ (soft nationalist, right wing) and QS (sovereigntist, left wing). Strategic voting may come into play in a big way, especially if the Liberals surge into a big lead in the polls ahead of the vote – this may prompt QS voters to switch to the PQ, though it may also encourage a flow of votes from the CAQ to the Liberals. Still, the overall picture looks very bad for the PQ, in a way I could not have imagined even a week ago.

    • I understand a more recent poll shows Liberals about 7 percentage points in the lead, and around 40% of the vote. That could give them 60% or more of the seats.

      We may be seeing strategic desertion of the CAQ to the Liberals.

  2. Will a reverse plurality lead to electoral reform? Does it have to happen twice in a row? It would be funny if Party Quebecois won a majority on a reverse plurality and thus would not have much of a mandate.

    It seems like Quebec’s Party system has fragmented to the point that perhaps no party will win a majority again producing perhaps strange results.

    • For what it’s worth, a plurality reversal nearly took place in Quebec’s 1994 general election, in which PQ won handily with 77 National Assembly seats to the PLQ’s 47 (the remaining seat going to ADQ), but the popular vote was extremely close: 44.75% for PQ to 44.4% for the Quebec Liberals (while ADQ polled 6.46%).

      Quebec’s 2012 general election was also closely fought, but PQ’s seat advantage over the Liberals (relative to the parties’ share of the vote) wasn’t nearly as lopsided as twenty years ago.

  3. I recently read an article that very plausibly explained the PQ’s apparent advantage as resulting from Liberal votes being hugely concentrated in Montreal, where two-thirds liberal majorities are not unusual. The article also mentioned a new electoral reform proposal – more about that later…

  4. I remember reading (in an electoral reform report by the defunct Law Commission of Canada) that Rene Levesque, the first PQ Premier, wanted to introduce some sort of PR, but was overruled by the (rest of the) party leadership. Beyond that, I vaguely remember some proposals made during the Charest years, but obviously nothing came to that.

    “I recently read an article that very plausibly explained the PQ’s apparent advantage as resulting from Liberal votes being hugely concentrated in Montreal, where two-thirds liberal majorities are not unusual”

    That’s sounds correct. Essentially, the (mostly) two-party organizes itself around the “national question” (i.e. will we or won’t we leave Canada) then typical left-right wing politics elsewhere (although to be fair, they are not completely unrelated; sovereigntists tend to be more left-wing and right-wingers tend to be more federalist). The anglophones (native English-speakers) and allophones (neither native English nor French speakers, i.e. recent immigrants) are overwhelming federalist, and they are concentrated in Montreal.

  5. Certainly Liberal votes are concentrated on the island of Montreal, which is another way of saying that that’s where the anglophones and the allophones live (also in the Outaouais, the region of Quebec directly opposite Ottawa). But of course the polls have been showing that the Liberals are even leading among francophones.

  6. As the race nears the finish line, today a poll registered a staggering 9 point increase in support of the CAQ, leading to all kinds of reactions even though the poll was 1) of francophones only and 2) commissioned by the CAQ. But journalists love this kind of poll because they can connect it to the perception that the leader of CAQ, having decided he had nothing to lose, has been coming across as feistier than the other leaders.

    In general, polling a 4-party election under FPTP is a nightmare because small changes in vote preference can lead to such disparate outcomes. That said, I’m more inclined to view this supposed CAQ blip as a mirage, and that we’re going to coast sleepily into a totally unexpected (but welcome) Liberal majority.

    • And CBC was right: here’s the summary of results from Quebec’s Chief Electoral Officer website.

      In addition, CAQ had a fairly good result in terms of seats for a third-placed party under FPTP: 17.6% of the parliamentary mandates (22 of 125) with 23.1% of the vote; Britain’s Liberal Democrats could only wish to get numbers like that across the pond.

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