Separatists losing ground to Conservatives

Wed Sep 24, 2008 9:54am EDT
 
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By Randall Palmer

TROIS RIVIERES, Quebec (Reuters) - Vital Rioux might abandon the Quebec separatists in next month's federal election and become one of tens of thousands of Quebecers who will vote for the ruling Conservatives this time.

Rioux voted for the separatist Bloc Quebecois in the 2006 election, when the party won 51 of Quebec's 75 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons. But that could change.

"They've done a good job but maybe it's time to have somebody stronger," Rioux said of the Bloc, pausing next to his car after shopping at the local Canadian Tire store.

The Bloc was founded in 1990 to work toward independence for French-speaking Quebec. But with that goal now seen as an unlikely dream, opinion polls point to a shrinking Bloc vote in the October 14 election as Rioux and others wonder if it is better to have a member of Parliament in government than one in opposition.

The Conservatives held only a minority of seats in the outgoing Parliament, but likely gains in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia should translate into a substantially stronger minority or even a majority.

Most analysts say they could add 5 or 10 seats to the 11 Quebec seats they now hold, but they are competitive in so many districts that they could pick up as many as 25 more.

WHITHER THE SEPARATISTS?

The Bloc has spent much of this election campaign justifying its existence, with slogans that scream: "Present! Pour le Quebec" -- "There for Quebec!" -- without explaining just what the party is there for.   Continued...