May 30, 2008 / 12:31 AM / in 10 years

Federal Liberals sliding in Quebec

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Liberal Party has slipped to a shaky fourth place in Quebec, the country’s second most populous province, a new poll revealed on Thursday.

The Liberals have held off defeating the minority Conservative federal government partly because of consistent showings in national polls that put them a close second.

However, the latest CROP survey in La Presse newspaper gives them little reason for optimism.

It showed the Liberals trailing the separatist Bloc Quebecois, the Conservatives and now even the New Democratic Party across the largely French-speaking province.

The Liberals also trail the Conservatives in Montreal, which had been considered the their stronghold.

“Nothing is working for (leader) Stephane Dion’s Liberals in Quebec,” La Presse commented.

Quebec has nearly a quarter of the 308 seats in the House of Commons and is key to any party’s hopes to win a majority in the next federal election.

The poll gave the Bloc, the only separatist party in the federal Parliament, 31 percent support, up three points in the past month. It put the Conservatives up one point at 28 percent, the New Democrats down one point at 16 percent and the Liberals down five points at 15 percent.

In Montreal, where the Liberals have most of their 11 Quebec seats, they now stand at 17 percent, against the Conservatives’ 25 percent and the Bloc’s 31 percent.

Canada must hold a general election by October 2009, but the minority government depends on the support of at least one opposition party to remain in power and could be toppled at almost any time.

One silver lining for the Liberals is that the poll, taken from May 15-26, did not span the fallout from this week’s resignation of Conservative Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier for having left classified documents at the home of an ex-girlfriend who had had close ties to organized crime.

The survey also found the level of dissatisfaction with the federal government had climbed in the past three months to 48 percent from 40 percent.

Regionally, the poll showed extraordinary strength for Quebec Premier Jean Charest, the leading provincial politician opposing independence for Quebec.

The provincial Liberals now completely dominate the provincial scene and would probably win a majority in the legislature if an election were held now.

Charest’s party moved up three points to 41 percent support, while the separatist Parti Quebecois gained by the same margin to 32 percent. The provincial Liberals’ main rival for the anti-separation vote, the upstart Action Democratique du Quebec, lost a further three points to 14 percent.

The poll also found 59 percent were opposed to Quebec’s separation from Canada.

CROP surveyed 1,000 people, with the poll holding a margin of error of three percentage points, 19 times out of 20, with higher margins for sub-samples.

Editing by Rob Wilson

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