Historically, the riding of Outremont has not been very receptive to sovereignist politics. However, in every election since 1993, the BQ has managed to win at least 28% of the vote. Heading into a by-election against four federalist parties, 28% doesn't look so bad - especially when recent polls suggest that the Liberal vote is being threatened from both the left and the right and that Jack Layton is the most popular federal leader in Montreal.
Most pundits interested in the Outremont by-election have shown great interest in the NDP candidacy of Thomas Mulcair. Some have even suggested that he is the hands on favourite to win. There is no question that Mulcair changes the dynamic in Outremont, but will he win the day, or simply divide the federalist vote? So what are the chances of BQ candidate Jean-Paul Gilson? (You can watch a video of the candidate here).
If sovereignist voters back Gilson en masse, there is a real possibility that the BQ could win the day, even by taking only a third of the votes. If Mulcair eats into the Liberal vote total from 2006 enough to increase the NDP share of the vote to 27%, the party would still fall short of the BQ's lowest vote total ever in Outremont. Of course, the Bloc is unlikely to win over 37% of the vote like it did in 1993, but BQ support isn't totally crumbling either. At worst, the party should be able to rely on a core vote of 25% (made up almost entirely of convinced sovereignists).
A possible BQ victory in Outremont could look like this:
I wouldn't be surprised if the Liberals are busy cooking up a strategic voting angle for their own campaign, designed to scare federalists interested in Mulcair's candidacy into voting Liberal for the sake of federalism. I certainly anticipate a post from Jason Cherniak headlined "A vote for the NDP in Outremont is a vote for the Bloc." Of course, the NDP and the Bloc are two very different parties - but either party would be a better option than the Liberals for progressive voters in Outremont.
It is too early to tell how this by-election will play itself out. However, the Liberals, New Democrats, and BQ all have a fighting chance.