Stephen Harper campaigns this morning in the region of Quebec best placed to give his party some new seats come Monday — the province’s capital.
But Quebec Conservatives attending a rally for Stephen Harper Thursday night hedged their bets on how many seats that could mean.
It is important to remember, said one of the party’s star candidates from Quebec City, they are starting from a position of having no seats in the city itself at all.
“We started from scratch, we started far away,” said Gerard Deltell, a popular provincial politician now running for the Conservatives in the riding of Louise-Saint-Laurent.
“But now we are working hard and things are going well.”
Initially, strategists had suggested the plan for this election was to sweep possibly as many as a dozen seats in the province altogether for their best run ever. The Conservatives won 10 seats in 2006, held those in 2008 and then lost five in 2011.
The target for the campaign was seats around and down from Quebec City and perhaps some in the area of Montreal, including the riding being vacated by longtime Liberal MP Irwin Cotler.
A resurgent Liberal party may keep their hold on that one and while support for the NDP is dropping, polls suggest, some of those votes will go to the Bloc and not the Conservatives.
Conservative Christian Paradis, who isn’t running for re-election in his riding of Megantic-L’Erable, said he is feeling optimistic, but wouldn’t venture a guess on how well his party could do.
“I’m out of the campaign,” he said Thursday night at Harper’s rally in his riding.
“I don’t want to speculate, but we’ll improve for sure.”
Paradis said he remains confident the Conservatives will hold his seat. But the NDP are coming calling — leader Tom Mulcair will be there Friday.
Deltell said he doesn’t think voters in the province will vote en masse for one party like they did in 2011, but at the same time also says there’s still time for things to shift.
There are three days left in the campaign before Monday’s vote.
“At the end of the day, let the people decide,” he said.
The Conservatives are largely looking to bleed support from the New Democrats, who won 59 seats in Quebec in 2011. Harper has insisted Quebecers will respond to his party’s platform on crime and on the economy, but he added some fuel to the electoral fire ahead of the campaign by introducing a law to ban niqabs at citizenship ceremonies.
The issue gained added traction thanks to a Federal Court of Appeal decision that came in September, striking down as unlawful the existing rule banning the practice.
The Conservatives are hoping the Supreme Court will hear the case.
The ban is a popular in Quebec but the NDP oppose it, one of the reasons cited for a drop in their Quebec support.
After the morning rally in Quebec City, Harper heads to Fredricton, N.B., but is expected expected to return for one last visit to Quebec on Saturday before flying to Toronto for an evening rally there.
Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press