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Should lefties thank the Bloc?

If the preliminary results remain as they are, it's a status quo, with the Liberals gaining one seat, the Bloc losing one. It was not supposed to be that way.

Stéphane Dion was supposed to be a catastrophe for the Liberals in Québec. Thanks to a good performance at the French debate, it didn't turn out that way. He did better than expected, though it won't necessarily result in more seats.

Harper had built his first term as a prime minister on his openness toward Quebec. He recognized the Quebecois as a nation and solved the so-called fiscal imbalance between the federal government and the provinces. Prior to the election, he was in a very good position to gain several seats. The province was supposed to give him a majority.

Recent pollsters, though, expected the Conservatives to lose four or even five of their 10 seats (out of 75) in La Belle Province. As the preliminary results show, it didn't happen:

Bloc: 50
Liberals: 14
Conservatives: 10
NDP: 1
Independent: 1

What went wrong?

Many analysts from Quebec agreed on the weakness of the Conservative ministers from Quebec (Maxime Bernier, Lawrence Cannon, Jean-Pierre Blackburn and Josée Verner, to name a few). It might have played a role in their overall result in the province, but didn't prevent them from being reelected.

Harper's federal campaign in Quebec, however, has been a succession of mistakes.

His Quebec lieutenant, Michael Fortier, managed to insult voters by questioning the cost of the Bloc (and the right of Quebeckers to vote for a separatist party). And Stephen Harper managed to create a massive movement against him with comments about artists (note to Harper: never underestimate the impact of artists in a province so sensitive about its own culture). Moreover, none of his candidates participated in debates or presented a platform. As a result, the party managed to create a rarely seen consensus against them.

But it's interesting to see how the "Anything But Conservative" movement was successful in Quebec and Newfoundland, but no where else. And it's interesting to see how the Bloc was the only party that managed to capitalize on this protest movement. Gilles Duceppe successfully framed this election as a choice between two opposed visions of Canada: the right and the left. To quote an American president: "You're either with us or against us."

And by doing so, the Bloc managed to become the only obstacle to a Conservative majority, gaining support among federalist voters as well. The Bloc as an acceptable option for liberal federalist voters?

Who knew?

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