The sound of Jean Charest's election window closing - Macleans.ca

The sound of Jean Charest’s election window closing

Despite assorted travails, Charest may have had a shot at winning another term. No longer.

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Here at macleans.ca, we never comment on polls. Just kidding! Here’s one now.

It’s the monthly CROP poll for La Presse, and it’s just about all bad news for Jean Charest. He had a long shot at pulling off a quick, tricky re-election, despite assorted travails,  by going quickly: with the PQ mired in infighting, François Legault’s new made-up party high enough to do some serious vote-splitting (but weak enough to fade in the stretch), and a commission of inquiry into construction-industry shenanigans yet to begin its work, he might have hoped to benefit from opposition disarray and lock in victory, or at least non-catastrophic defeat, with a spring election.

All of that is slipping away now.

Marois’s PQ? Up nine points in a month, to a bare one-point lead in overall voter support, but a clearer lead among the francophone voters who dominate most ridings outside Montreal. Marois herself? Seen as best premier by 19% of respondents, up from 11% and nearly tied with Charest and Legault.

Legault’s handy vote-splitting party? The CAQ may not quite be experiencing the “descent into hell” La Presse‘s reporter describes, but it’s fallen 5 points in a month. The future of a new party is even harder to predict than, say, the future of the NDP was a year ago, but if the bottom fell out for the CAQ, Charest would face something more closely resembling a straight one-on-one fight with Marois, and he can’t survive that, not with a two-to-one deficit among francophone voters, not with voters twice as likely to say Quebec is on the wrong track as the right track.

And finally, the Charbonneau Commission seems to be moving briskly. It has already announced it will begin public sessions in May.

Charest has been a more formidable political scrapper as premier than many ever would have believed, but this morning Pauline Marois is looking like Quebec’s next minority-government premier. Among the questions that come to mind is: How would the Harper government deal with a PQ government in Quebec? I have hunches. We may soon find out.