The 2007 Elections in Quebec and the Future of the Provincial Party System

By Allan, James P.; Vengroff, Richard | Quebec Studies, Spring-Summer 2009 | Go to article overview

The 2007 Elections in Quebec and the Future of the Provincial Party System


Allan, James P., Vengroff, Richard, Quebec Studies


Introduction

The 2007 general election continued a pattern of electoral change in Quebec. The previous three elections in Quebec had signaled a progressive incremental change in Quebec's party system (Vengroff and Fisher 1995; Allan, O'Reilly, and Vengroff 2001; Allan and Vengroff 2004). Those changes, manifested in increasing voter de-alignment and volatility in party support, were destined to play themselves out even more in the Provincial elections of 2007, and this turned out to be the case. As argued by Belanger and Stephenson (2007) partisanship in Canadian federal parties, including the Bloc Quebecois, is associated with three key variables that get at voter attachment: "stability, intensity and loyalty" (8-9). Although they argue that the systems of loyalty may differ significantly at federal and provincial levels, even within parties with the same name, the three factors still come into play. Based on those criteria, polling data, and the experience of the last four elections in Quebec we hypothesize:

[H.sub.1] All three major Quebec Provincial parties, the Parti Liberal du Quebec (PLQ), the Parti Quebecois (PQ) and Action Democratique du Quebec (ADQ) will manifesta form of weak partisanship among significant numbers of their traditional supporters.

In American parlance, over the years we expect a growing number of individual voters to have moved from strong to weak party identifiers and even truly de-aligned independents. This condition of partisanship has contributed, and we expect will continue to contribute, to the dramatic change in the party system in Quebec. Furthermore, consistent with H1:

[H.sub.1.2] We expect to see an increase in voter support for new but less competitive parties such as the Greens and Quebec Solidaire (QS).

In addition to the changing nature of partisanship, in 2007 Quebecers were confronted with the possibility of experiencing something hot seen in a hundred years, a minority government. Could this well-based sense that a minority government was likely to result from the 2007 elections have influenced Quebec voters to cast strategic rotes in the hope of producing a majority government? There is very little evidence to support that proposition. In fact, a recent study of attitudes toward minority government and strategic voting at the federal level suggests that it is rare for Canadians, regardless of region or native language, to vote on the basis of their preferences regarding minority versus majority government. Based on their analysis of data from the 2006 Canadian election study, Blais et al. (5) conclude "that views about minority governments do not have an independent effect on vote choice, once voters' preferences are taken into account." We will test this proposition at the provincial level.

[H.sub.2] If Quebec voters express a preference for majority governments, we expect that to be manifested in strategic voting that will favor the traditional majority parties, the PLQ and the PQ.

In the 2007 election Jean Charest's Parti Liberal du Quebec (PLQ) was returned to office, but only as a minority administration. Even more dramatically, the separatist Parti Quebecois (PQ), for some time composed of a group of strong party identifiers, was relegated to third place in terms of votes and National Assembly seats, behind the PLQ and Mario Dumont's Action Democratique du Quebec (ADQ). The ADQ enjoyed by far its most successful general election to date, drawing on the growing pool of weak identifiers from the PLQ, PQ, and independents for support. The emergence of a set of new parties in the drama contributed to the further erosion of what had been a very stable two or two and a half party system since the 1970s. The impact of partisan de-alignment and to a much lesser extent, the prospects for a minority government on the elections of 2007, and where we expect these changes to lead us in the coming years is the main focus of this paper. …

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