It was bad news today for the Liberal Party of Quebec (PLQ). A new poll by Léger shows they continue to slump in second place. Halfway through the long election campaign it looks like the current ruling party’s plan to have a long incumbency is backfiring on them. They are polling at a measly 29%.

This is miles away from the 41% they were polling throughout the last election, as well as the high confidence they maintained through the first few years of Couillard’s term. They are right back to where they were at the start of this campaign, showing that even the slight bump they had in the polls in the last few weeks was only a blip.

It’s claimed that Couillard wanted a longer campaign itself, on the basis that Legault and his CAQ would slip up badly while speaking publicly, enough so that the PLQ would be the only rational non-separatist party to vote for. Unfortunately for the Liberals their plan of “We are the least worst party” doesn’t seem to be resonating with voters as the CAQ continue to be in the lead.

At current polling the PLQ are set to lose their majority and come in at second place. If these poll numbers are still true come election day the Liberals could lose anywhere from 20 to 40 seats; middle estimates put them at 41 seats, the lowest since 1976 and one less than 1981. This means the last time the Liberal party did this badly, René Lévesque was in power.

It’s not just that the PLQ are hemorrhaging votes but that the CAQ are picking them up. A Mainstreet poll a year ago (September 14, 2017) put the Coalition at 26% neck and neck with the PQ, however they have seen a surge in the last year. The latest polls puts the CAQ on 35% and while it’s a few points down from what they were posting in late August, it’s still nearly enough to gain an overall majority in the National assembly with around 65 seats predicted at current polling.

Party Quebec have rebounded from their lows of 15% in August to 21% today. There are two important things to note about this. Firstly this brings them within 8 points of the PLQ, whereas less than a month ago a CROP poll had them at a 21 point deficit of the Liberal Party. Lastly, this surge by the nationalist PQ can explain why the CAQ and Legault have in recent weeks seemed to take on a more nationalist, pro-Francophone approach.

It seems that Legault now sees the PQ as its main sparring partner. With three weeks to go, the CAQ could be forgiven to think that they have managed to bury the incumbent liberals and now have to look to defend themselves against the nationalist threat. Policy announcements such as reducing immigration and mandating people to learn French in 3 years are sure signs that the CAQ feel that the Francophone vote is now for the taking.

The Liberals are still polling well with the Anglophone community at around 70% to the CAQ’s 11%. Within the much larger the Francophone community however the Liberal Party post a measly 17% to the CAQ’s 42%. The PQ and QS are posting 25% and 12% respectively. Legault knows now that it’s the Francophone vote he needs to hold to gain power, so don’t be surprised if he announces more nationalistic rhetoric or pro-Francophone policy in the coming weeks.

It’s important not to forget that the leadership debates are not far off and that things could change. However for now the CAQ look to be taking power in 3 weeks save for a continued nationalist surge. If Legault can do well in the debates he could seal a majority, if he slips up then the race could get messy.