Celine Houde, a trade union activist and sovereignist, is the BQ candidate in the Roberval--Lac-Saint-Jean by-election. She is in for the fight of her life against a Tory mayor and a right-wing Liberal.
The riding has been in the BQ camp since 1993, however the Tories almost took it from the Bloc in 2006.
The Tories are running Denis Lebel, the mayor of Roberval. The Liberals are running Louise Boulanger, a businesswoman.
The NDP candidate, Eric Dubois, is an anti-war and social justice activist, but the Mulcair effect is not likely to extend to this corner of the province where the NDP has no local organization or strong electoral history.
Former BQ Leader Michel Gauthier, served as MP for this riding from 1993-2007. He had a string local following and a high profile within the party. The lower profile Houde will be in for a tougher fight, especially since the Tories have attracted a very credible candidate in Lebel.
Public opinion polls have seen a decrease in BQ support since the election, however the Tories have failed to capitalize on this decrease. In addition, the PQ was able to hold onto seats in this region in the 2007 Quebec election, and therefore predictions of a sovereignist meltdown are likely exaggerated. That said, this race should be very tight.
And more importantly, progressives have a lot to lose if this BQ seat falls to the Tories. Expect the Bloc to abandon Outremont and channel its resources into this riding for the remainder of the campaign.