News Canada

Charest's Liberals slump: Poll

QMI Agency
Jean Charest, August 16, 2012. (QMI Agency/MAXIME DELAND)

Jean Charest, August 16, 2012. (QMI Agency/MAXIME DELAND)


Separatists continue to widen their lead on Premier Jean Charest's Liberals, who for the first time have fallen into a statistical tie with the upstart centrist CAQ party, a Leger Marketing poll suggests.

The Parti Quebecois stood at 33% support in the Aug. 13-16 survey compared with 28% for the Liberals and 27% for the CAQ.

Regional data indicates the Liberals had fallen into third place behind the CAQ and the PQ in Quebec City, Montreal's north shore and Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean north of the provincial capital.

Since the beginning of the campaign, the Liberals have slipped three percentage points while the CAQ, a federalist-separatist coalition created earlier this year, has gained six points.

The CAQ - the Coalition for the Future of Quebec - is led by former PQ cabinet minister Francois Legault.

The millionaire businessman, who founded Air Transat in the 1980s, says he has now put sovereignty aside and wants to focus on jobs, health care and a streamlined civil service.

The Leger poll of 3,387 respondents is considered accurate to within 1.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The rise of the CAQ has come almost exclusively at the expense of the Liberals, according to pollster Jean-Marc Leger.

The premier's party has suffered its biggest losses among French speakers, who make up more than 80% of Quebec's population.

Just 19% of French-speaking Quebecers expressed support for the Grits.

Even the Liberals' normally-solid support among ethnic communities in Montreal has shrunk to 62% from 81% at the start of the campaign while the CAQ has seen ethnic support increase to 20% from 9%.

But while the political landscape could favour a PQ majority for the first time since the 1990s, the survey suggests voter intention is still fluid at the halfway point of the campaign.

A full one-quarter of those favouring the PQ said they could change their minds.

More than a third, or 35%, of Liberal-leaning voters said they could choose another party on Sept. 4.

Leger says the CAQ vote might be more solid than that of the others because it led the traditional parties on key issues including access to health care, fiscal responsibility and corruption.

Legault put himself firmly into the mix earlier this month when former anti-corruption czar and ex-Montreal police chief Jacques Duchesneau joined his team as a candidate north of Montreal.

Legault has since seen his personal approval rating take a jump.

The Leger survey suggests he has jumped five points on the question of who would make the best premier.

Charest, who has been in power for nine years, maintained a slight lead at 23% while PQ Leader Pauline Marois was at 22% and Legault stood at 21%.

With the margin of error factored in, the three leaders were virtually in a statistical tie.