Updated: Sep 21
Like a television redemption arc, liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has recovered his party’s performance in the polls from an embarrassing defeat, to being neck and neck in the polls with the Conservative Party who previously held a ten-point lead. In the 2019 Canadian Election, the Conservatives won the popular vote but didn’t get the plurality of seats in Parliament like the Liberals did.
It looks like the 2021 election is going to be a direct copy+paste of 2019 with minor changes in the vote share and seats for the two major parties, but reasonable gains for the left-wing NDP (National Democratic Party) and right-wing CPP (Canadian People’s Party). Possibly making this the most pointless election in Canadian history.
Looking at the data from 338Canada, we can see that the Liberals are by far the favourites to win; this is very far from the situation we saw at the beginning of September. By far, the most likely scenario is that the Liberals will return with another minority Government.
Luckily, 338Canada can aggregate polls and develop a collective federal vote projection for us to use, which gives the Liberals a 0.7% lead; this is very, very tight. But anyone who knows parliamentary elections will understand that the popular vote isn’t needed to win, as Canada’s 2019 election demonstrated.
The seat projection shows the Liberals with 147 seats (down ten seats from the last election) and the Conservatives with 127 seats (up six seats from the last election), essentially changing nothing and continuing the existing minority Liberal Government.
Despite this embarrassment, after Trudeau called this election looking for a majority – we can’t deny that the Liberals have stopped the bleeding from the grave situation they were in earlier this month. So, how has this happened?
Erin O’Toole went into this campaign with a centrist/moderate message, which is very different to his Conservative predecessors. And for most of the campaign, this paid off. O’Toole went from a complete political unknown to a ten point lead in a matter of weeks. His centrist movement made it very difficult to use the same attack lines that the Liberals weaponize themselves with, targeting the hard-right agenda to privatise health care and give every Canadian above the age of six an AR-15!
But O’Toole’s moderate campaign may have gone too far for many members of Canada’s right, when he has revealed himself to be pro-choice and in favour of a Carbon Tax and LGBT Rights. In conjunction with continued COVID-19 restrictions, this has led to a noticeable rise in the right-wing Canadian People’s Party, which has chipped away support from the Conservatives.
"A turbulent election that saw many predicting a short and sweet path to a liberal victory, has actually ended with them having to claw their way back into minority territory."
This newly empowered and energised right has helped Justin Trudeau finally have his right-wing bogey-men. As he was (wrongly) pelted with gravel on the campaign trail and constantly harassed on the campaign trail by people protesting COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine passports. The ferocity of the protesters has allowed a line to be drawn, where the Liberals can declare that you can be with us, or them. After all, who wants to be on the team of angry shouty violent people?
Let’s have another look at 338Canada’s Seat Projection and focus on the data from the 8th of September (the day after the gravel pelting).
This day was also quickly followed by two debates, which saw a swing in the polls towards the Conservatives, but the Liberals are now on their unstoppable path upwards. The Liberals made vaccination mandates a key election issue; the Conservatives not forcing their candidates to be vaccinated, where the Liberals making it a requirement. This allowed the Liberals to paint the Conservatives with the same brush as the anti-vaxxers and suddenly made the Conservatives an unappealing choice for moderate voters.
A turbulent election, that saw many predicting a short and sweet path to a liberal victory, has ended with them having to claw their way back into minority territory. I could pontificate and chew over details all day. But I think the result of the upcoming election is highly likely to be similar to that of 2019, with a neck and neck popular vote and the Liberals still holding the plurality of seats, but overall short of a majority. After this however, the Conservatives will have to do some soul searching. How they get so close, yet so far from winning - if they can’t win with their most moderate campaign ever, what do they need to try next?
George is a conservative councillor and deputy chairman of Dartford Conservatives. He co-founded the Young Conservative Network and has a career in financial technology. George has a passion for foreign affairs, particularly American politics and enjoys reading and walking his dogs.
Disclaimer: All views expressed in this piece belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views of Demographica Limited as a company.