OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s New Democratic Party, once leading in the race to replace the Conservatives in Oct. 19 elections, could come in third nationally and lose one-third of its seats in its Quebec stronghold, a projection published on Friday showed.
A Leger poll in the Journal de Montreal shows the party trailing the Conservatives and Liberals nationally by four and six points respectively. But it is the numbers in the French-speaking province of Quebec that are the most striking.
There it showed the NDP only at 28 percent, just four points ahead of the Liberal Party, its main rival on the left, and the separatist Bloc Quebecois; and seven points ahead of the Conservatives of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
A projection by political scientist Pierre Martin for the Journal de Montreal showed the NDP taking only 37 of the 78 Quebec seats in the House of Commons, down from the 54 it currently has.
It was bad news for NDP leader Thomas Mulcair as he prepared for the final debate of the campaign, a French-language encounter on Friday night in Quebec which was bound to feature prominently the question of whether Muslim women should be allowed to veil their faces fully during citizenship ceremonies.
Mulcair has come under fire, especially in Quebec, for taking the position that that would be acceptable as long as she had lifted the veil, or niqab, ahead of time for identification purposes.
Some commentators have noted the NDP’s pledge of cheap daycare has not resonated in Quebec, since it already has that, and his balanced budget promise went down badly in a province that was weary of austerity.
The Journal de Montreal projection showed the Bloc Quebecois taking 14 seats, an enormous jump from other projections that it would stay around its current level of two seats.
A resurgent Bloc leaves open the possibility that the Conservatives could retain power in a minority Parliament without having to rely on the NDP or the Liberals, both of whom have said they would vote against the Conservatives.
However, the Conservatives would be nowhere close to retaining power if the Journal de Montreal projection holds true, because of the Liberals’ relative strength.
It sees the Conservatives getting only 119 of the 338 seats in the new House, well short of the 170 needed for a majority. It puts the Liberals at 117 seats and the NDP at 87.
Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by James Dalgleish