The writing isn't quite on the wall yet for Mario Dumont, but if his numbers get any worse, they could give a whole new meaning to phrase "exit poll."
Yesterday, a Léger Marketing/Le Devoir poll confirmed the extent of the Action démocratique's woes. Since last September, it has plunged from 30 per cent to 18 per cent - the same number that nearly sent Dumont into early retirement in the 2003 general election.
Though the ADQ is the official opposition, 52 per cent of respondents consider the Parti Québécois to be a more effective opposition. Dumont's party is also stuck in third place among francophone voters at 20 per cent.
The harsh fact is that since the fall session of the National Assembly, both CROP and Léger Marketing have shown a steady decline of support for the ADQ and its leader in all language groups and in most of the regions it conquered in 2007.
Dumont is no longer seen as the premier in waiting and most voters see the ADQ as patently unprepared to govern. None of this bodes well for the ADQ with three by-elections coming up on May 12, nor will this help it recruit the quality candidates it desperately needs for the next general election.
The factors in this downfall are well known: a weak caucus, the arrival of Marois, the resurrection of Charest, the weathervane label, the return of disappointed Liberals to Charest, and so on.
Charest's smile, on the other hand, just keeps getting wider. Now standing at 37 per cent, the Liberal Party has gained 11 points since September. Its satisfaction rate also keeps rising.
As for Marois, while her own popularity is fairly high, PQ support hasn't moved an inch since the fall. On Aug. 29, a CROP/La Presse poll showed the PQ peaking at 38 per cent after André Boisclair quit and while Marois was running for election in the Charlevoix riding. That was a 10-point gain since the general election.
But in September, PQ numbers went down. They've been hovering between 30 and 34 per cent ever since. Yesterday's poll put the PQ at 33 per cent - the same percentage that yanked it from power in 2003.
This means that nothing Marois has done since the fall has boosted PQ support. Not the shelving of the referendum, not her focusing on identity, not her big "nous," not even the bills she tabled for a new Quebec constitution and citizenship. In fact, while Liberals keep harvesting former ADQ supporters, the PQ has failed so far to recapture that nationalist vote. It hasn't even benefitted from the government's chaotic handling of the language file.
In other words, Marois's decision to take a more classic, autonomist stance hasn't worked for the PQ. But she seems intent on continuing down that path, even when it comes to what's happening at TQS, whose future owners want to axe national and local news programming.
Yesterday, surrounded by her caucus at a press conference held in front of the National Assembly, she asked Charest to reopen the constitution. Without saying a word about sovereignty being the best way to ensure Quebec's powers in the field of broadcasting and communications, she asked Charest to repatriate from Ottawa the power to create Quebec's own CRTC.
During question period, she took it further. Uniting with the ADQ, she tabled a motion demanding just that.
Of course, the reality is that no one in Ottawa wants to utter the C-word. And even if Stephen Harper were to be miraculously struck with the need to reopen the constitution (just kidding), this would do nothing to remedy TQS's very short-term hardships.
But what Marois's sortie confirms is that she still doesn't get what the polls keep telling her - that dressing up the PQ in autonomist clothes hasn't helped her party one bit.
It's not working, Pauline
Polls show that PQ leader Pauline Marois's soft-nationalist strategy is failing