Much like the shocking majority victory for the PQ back in the 1976 provincial election, crazy things are happening electorally in Quebec.
Should the current NDP numbers hold, some are predicting that the NDP could win 30 seats... in Quebec alone.
A few years ago, in a post I wrote about the underacheivements of NDP, I noted that since 1979, the NDP had won 74 different ridings in general elections. Since then, they've won a few more. Throw in 30 from Quebec and you could theoretically see over 100 seats for the Dippers.
That sounds crazy, and it probably won't happen, but crazier things have happened. No one saw the NDP winning 19 seats in Nova Scotia in 1998, and no one saw them forming a government in Ontario in 1990. No one saw the BQ winning 54 seats in Quebec in 1993, or the Tories falling to 2 nationally in that same election.
So what does this all mean for New Brunswick? I was surprised to note that Jack Layton made an appearance in Saint John today.
The NDP got only 16% of the vote there in each of the past two elections. And their high water mark was 19% in 2004. However, Rob Moir grew the vote in neighbouring Fundy-Royal from 16 to 21 and finally to 24% and second place in 2008. He is now running in Saint John. Moreover, 2 of the 3 provincial ridings to ever elect NDP members are in the Port City. Does Layton think that his surge in Quebec will spill across the country and could then translate into winning these sorts of ridings that have never before been on their radar?
If so, Fredericton is probably another possibility. The Liberals didn't nominate a candidate until 10 days into the writ and his signs (and other activities) were very slow in going up as a result. The NDP broke 20% here in 2006, and has often done the same in provincial elections in Fredericton-area ridings.
All this seems to suggest the NDP is on the cusp of a major breakthrough. But one must remember that the NDP could just as easily be the victim of what is called "inefficient vote." This is what happened to the PCs in the 1993, 1997 and 2000 elections. The NDP could suffer from this phenomenon especially in Quebec.
If the NDP were to win 25% of the vote in every single riding in the country, they would walk away with somewhere between 0 and a handful of seats. Apply this to Quebec and the same logic holds. They need to raise their national vote to higher levels, or ensure that their vote is concentrated in specific seats that they win.
In 1997 for instance, we saw some great examples of efficient vs. inefficient vote. Working down the scale we see the BQ getting 4.1 seats for every percentage point of the national popular vote, Reform got 3.1, the NDP got 1.9, and the PCs got only 1.1. In fact, though the PCs had nearly twice the popular votes of the NDP, they actually won 1 seat less.
So, an NDP government still seems impossible. But winning 80-100 seats seemed impossible a week ago.
Neither may happen, but it is certainly something that bears watching.
UPDATE: 308dotcom has more on the possibilities of inefficient NDP votes in Quebec.