Is Duceppe handing the election to Harper?

If Harper wins the election in the fall, his Western supporters may well have the returning Bloc leader to thank.


Gilles Duceppe and Stephen Harper, 2007

If Stephen Harper wins the next federal election, his Western support base may well have Gilles Duceppe to thank.  The former Bloc Québécois leader announced yesterday that he is stepping back into his old role in a bid to save the pro-sovereignty party from oblivion.

Most of the seats the party could win this October would likely come at the expense of the NDP, and that could once more hand Harper the keys to 24 Sussex Drive.

With current projections suggesting a tight race between the Tories, Liberals and NDP, a Bloc resurgence could be enough to put Harper back in power with a minority or even a majority, depending on the strength of the Bloc support.

Even a modest Bloc increase over its 2012 showing could be enough to split the opposition vote in Quebec and keep the Tories in power, says one analyst.

Oddly enough, putting Harper back in office just might strengthen the sovereignist cause, especially if the party performs poorly in Quebec. He currently has the support of just 14 per cent of Quebecers and his tarsands/pipeline agenda isn’t very popular here either. Harper’s vision of Canada is a hard sell chez nous and reinforces the view that Quebec and the ROC have very different social values.

This is, after all, the government that killed the gun registry. It also slashed Radio-Canada/CBC budgets, made a laughing stock out of the census, muzzled scientists, ignored calls for an inquiry into the murders of native women, attacked left-wing charities through Revenue Canada, eroded civil liberties with its so-called anti-terror law, destroyed Canada’s reputation as peacekeepers and honest brokers in international affairs, adopted a “law-and-order” agenda that has been overruled repeatedly by the Supreme Court, etc.

The possibility of another five years of the Tories can’t help but improve the prospects for Quebec separation.

Hell, a lot of Quebec anglos might even vote Yes if it’s the only way to get rid of Harper.


Perhaps voters will see the Bloc’s move to switch leaders a few months before the vote as the desperate move of a party on its last legs. Internal polls showed that the party with Duceppe as leader would be three times more popular than under its outgoing leader, Mario Beaulieu. Will that theoretical support hold up as voters weigh the consequences of splitting the vote? We will no doubt see the first indications of that shortly as Quebec media rush to commission new polls.

Meanwhile, Canadians who were hoping that the recent NDP surge in polling would mean a change in Ottawa are holding their breath.

And Stephen Harper is chuckling as his old sovereignist nemesis returns to the political game just as the PM’s fortunes were starting to look as bleak as his political agenda. ■

Peter Wheeland is a Montreal journalist. His sardonic observations about the city and province appear on Cult MTL every week. You can contact him by Email or follow him on Twitter.