In free fall in Quebec, Andrew Scheer needs a good performance tonight at the English debate

Finally, the leaders' debate with everybody, including Justin Trudeau! Tonight at 7PM Eastern time.  Beyond the obvious entertainment value for political nerds like me (or you, admit it), this debate is incredibly important for the Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

Recent projections (note: I'll update soon) have the following situation: it's super close in votes but the Liberals likely have the edge in seats, mostly thanks to Quebec and Ontario. The Tories aren't far behind. A "simple" swing of a few points in the GTA could well be enough for them to finish first.

So why is this debate so important? Well first of all because Scheer definitely blew it in the French debate last week (the face à face TVA). Readers of my blog and Twitter feed clearly put Blanchet as winner with Trudeau close second (once you correct for the fact that my audience seems to be predominantly Bloc voters). A poll from Abacus yesterday confirmed those findings.

Scheer's performance was absolutely horrible. Yes the early topics weren't helping and yes French is (very clearly) not his first language (side note: I personally believe Scheer is not bilingual enough to be Prime Minister of this country, but whatever), but it doesn't excuse his performance.

We haven't had many polls in Quebec since the debate but we can look at the two daily trackers of Nanos and Mainstreet. Both had numbers yesterday that were collected entirely after the debate, numbers that can be compared to the polls right before.

Nanos has the CPC going from 20.88% to 11.99%! It's obviously based on small sample sizes but still. Mainstreet saw a decline from 19.3% to 15.3% (and that's with more decent sample sizes). Choose your term: collapse, free fall, etc.

The graph below will show you how dire the situation has become for the Tories in Quebec.

While dropping in Quebec is not the end of the world for the Conservatives (their few seats are fairly safe and they always had limited possible gains), they are starting to poll low enough that they should start being worried in a couple of safe seats. Also, it goes without saying that any hope for the Tories to make some very useful gains in Quebec are likely gone. Jonquière will be tough and Bernier would likely win in Beauce also.

The good news for Scheer is that the Bloc is rising. And rising fast according to some. Mainstreet had this party at 29% yesterday, barely behind the Liberals. Given the francophone votes, that would likely put the Bloc in first position in seats. So the Bloc is giving Scheer a gigantic gift by taking a ton of seats away from the Liberals (in the 450 and elsewhere). Now the Conservative leader needs to do his part: increase in Ontario. Major gains in other provinces seem fairly safe at this point (there could even be a lot from the Maritimes depending on vote efficiency) but Ontario is still lagging. It's absolutely stable but negative for the CPC. Scheer has no chance of becoming PM if his party continues to poll behind the LPC by 5 points or more in Canada's biggest province. So tonight's debate is maybe the last chance he'll have to change this situation.

Also, as a conclusion to this blog post. here are the voting intentions for the entire country over the last month. It's super stable! I understand the Nanos numbers have moved in favour of the Liberals in the last few days but those are based on small sample sizes. The reality is that there has been no upward or downward trend for the main two parties. Please keep this in mind and don't fall for the swing of one or two polls (yes I myself sometimes write about such changes, I'm aware of this). And yes, if you use a polynomial trend, you do see a small dip of the CPC in the last few days. This is entirely driven by the decline in Quebec.

The only two long term trends we have observed over the last months are:

-Bloc rising
-NDP rising (although IVR polls don't agree with online ones)

Enjoy the debate tonight! Remember to follow me on Twitter.