Friday, December 2, 2011

Bonaventure provincial by-election analysis and preview

Poll by poll map of Bonaventure, 2008 provincial election
Click to enlarge. Credit: MaxQue from the US Elections Atlas Forum.

There will by a provincial by-election in the riding of Bonaventure, Quebec on Monday. With the major shifts in the Quebec political landscape lately, the race could prove to be an important bellwether for the province- or not.

Bonaventure is located in Quebec's Gaspesie peninsula. It is, by most measures a safe Liberal (PLQ) riding in Quebec's National Assembly. The area, which bounds New Brunswick, is somewhat federalist. A slight majority of voters voted against separation in the 1995 independence referendum. The Liberals have held the seat for most of its history. Since 1956, it only voted for the separatist Parti Quebecois twice- both times in 1994, the year before the referendum where there was both a by-election and a general election.

The seat has been held by Nathalie Normandeau, a Liberal since she won it back for the Liberals in 1998 in a close race. Since then, she faced little opposition, winning each of her elections by large margins. She won 64% of the vote in the 2008 general election, nearly 6000 votes more than the PQ candidate. She resigned her seat in the National Assembly in September citing personal reasons.

Location of Bonaventure

One of the reasons the riding is as pro-Liberal as it is, is its somewhat high Anglo population. 15% of residents are Anglophones, which is a high number for that part of the province. The riding can be found on the north coast of Chaleur Bay in Eastern Quebec. It extends from the community of Gascons in the east to L'Ascension-de-Patapedia in the west.

In 2008, the Liberals swept nearly every corner of this riding. Only one corner of the riding voted for the PQ, really. The community of Gascons in the east of the riding had all three of its polls voting for them. The PQ won only two other polls in the entire riding. One was in Saint-Omer and the other in Paspebiac. The Liberals on the other hand won all of the remaining polls. They had their highest concentrations in the region between the towns of New Richmond and New Carlsile.

1) Clarence Hamilton (PLQ), 1867-1871
2) Theodore Robitaille (Cons.), 1871-1874
3) P.-C. Beauchesne (Cons.), 1874-1876
4) J. I. Tarte (Cons.), 1877-1881
5) L.-J. Riopel (Cons.), 1881-1882
6) H.-J. Martin (Cons.), 1882-1890
7) Honore Mercier (PLQ), 1890-1894
8) F.-X. Lemieux (PLQ), 1894-1897
9) W. H. Clapperton (PLQ), 1897-1904
10) J. H. Kelly (PLQ), 1904-1914
11) J.-F. Bugeaud (PLQ), 1914-1924
12) P.-E. Cote (PLQ), 1924-1936
13) Henri Jolicoeur (UN), 1936-1939
14) P.-E. Cote (PLQ), 1939-1944, 2nd time
15) Henri Jolicoeur (UN), 1944-1956, 2nd time
16) G. D. Levesque (PLQ), 1956-1994
17) Marcel Landry (PQ), 1994-1998
18) Ms. Nathalie Normandeau (PLQ), 1998-2011

Map of the riding. Source: Le Directeur general des elections du Quebec

Federal history 
 The provincial riding of Bonaventure can be found wholly in the federal riding of Gaspesie—Iles-de-la-Madeleine. That riding is held by the NDP's Daniel Toone. His narrow victory came much to the thanks of this part of the federal riding. Bonaventure was the most pro-NDP part of Gaspesie—Iles-de-la-Madeleine. The NDP dominated the region, except for the area east of New Carlisle, which was divided amongst the other three parties. The BQ won the town of Gascons (where the PQ did well), the Tories won the heavily Anglo towns of New Carlisle and Hope, while the Liberals won Port-Daniel. The NDP won most of the rest of the area, winning all but a couple of polls west of New Carlisle. Their strongest poll was the Indian reserve of Listuguj where they won 81% of the votes.

List of MPs from the area:
1) Theodore Robitaille (Cons), 1867-1879
2) P.-C. Beauchesne (Cons), 1879-1882
3) L.-J. Riopel (Cons), 1882-1891

4) W. L. Fauvel (Lib), 1891-1897
5) J.-F. Guite (Lib), 1897-1900
6) Chas. Marcil (Lib), 1900-1937
7) P.-E. Cote (Lib), 1937-1940
8) J. A. Poirier (Lib), 1940-1945

9) Bona Arsenault (Ind), 1945-1949; (Lib), 1949-1957
10) Neree Arsenault (PC), 1957-1958
11) Lucien Grenier (PC), 1958-1962

12) Albert Bechard (Lib), 1962-1979
13) J. R. R. Bujold (Lib), 1979-1984

14) D. L. Gray (PC), 1984-1993
15) P. C. Gagnon (Lib), 1993-1997
16) Yvan Bernier (BQ), 1997-2000
17) Georges Farrah (Lib), 2000-2004
18) Raynald Blais (BQ), 2004-2011
19) Philip Toone (NDP), 2011-present

By-election Preview
The four main candidates
The Liberals have nominated Damien Arsenault to be their candidate. He is the mayor of St-Elzear, in the riding's eastern end. Riding polls have suggested that he is the safe bet to continue the Liberal dominance in the riding. A recent Segma poll suggests he would win 49% of the vote. This is down quite a bit since 2008. However, considering some recent polls have the Liberals down 20 points province wide from their 2008 mark, it's not that bad. And he still leads the other parties considerably. His closest challenger will be the PQ's candidate, Sylvain Roy. He was at 35% in that Segma poll. That would be up from the 29% the PQ got here in 2008. This mark would be great news for the beleaguered Pequistes, who are 15% lower in the polls these days than they received in the 2008 election. The left wing Quebec Solidaire candidate, Patricia Chartier was in a distant third in the poll at 9%. She is an aid to the area's MP, Philip Toone. She ran for the QS in 2008, getting just 3% of the vote. The right wing ADQ is running Georges Painchaud, a former Liberal candidate was at 4% in the poll, and the Green candidate, Jean Cloutier received 3%.

With the PQ tanking in the polls recently, any improvement on 2008 has to be a big win for their leader Pauline Marois. She has seen a slew of defections over the last few months, and with the collapse of the federal BQ back in May, is being threatened by the separatists movement going into long hibernation. Getting a good result for QS will be a big boost for a party that hopes to emulate the breakthrough that the NDP got in May. Keeping on the electoral radar would be a win for the ADQ, which is at this point in merger discussions with the brand new Coalition pour l'avenir du Quebec (CAQ). The CAQ, led by popular former Pequiste Francois Legault has been leading all the province-wide polls as of late. They are however, not running a candidate in this by-election. Maybe for the best, as that Segma poll also asked if voters would vote for a CAQ candidate in this by-election. Only 15% said they would.

So, what to expect Monday night? A Liberal win, of course. But the question remains, what will the fallout be, if any?


  1. Great overview! A small factual correction: the referendum was in 1995, not 1994.

  2. Ahh, silly me. I should've known better. Thanks very much.