The Weekly Writ for Apr. 6
Lewis gets a jump on her rivals, a party disappears and more bad news for Jason Kenney.
Welcome to the Weekly Writ, a round-up of the latest federal and provincial polls, election news and political history that lands in your inbox every Wednesday morning.
In this edition of the Weekly Writ, I take a look at the latest news from the Conservative leadership race, what the disappearance of the People’s Alliance of New Brunswick means for politics in the province and run down some other provincial political tidbits.
Then, I take a look at two new polls that seem to bode well for Doug Ford’s re-election chances in June, a round of new polls that seem to bode ill for Jason Kenney’s chances of survival in May and the latest opinions Canadians have about the Conservative leadership contenders and the Liberal-NDP deal.
Finally, I profile a Vancouver riding that will be going to the polls soon, recount the story of an election landslide in Newfoundland and Labrador and mark a milestone for the premier of P.E.I.
Let’s get to it.
IN THE NEWS
Lewis is first on the ballot
Last week, I went down the list of those candidates for the Conservative leadership who are currently approved by the party — meaning they have plunked down their initial $50,000 fee and have been given the greenlight by the party brass.
Oddly, Patrick Brown’s name wasn’t on the list last week (and, as of Tuesday, still wasn’t).
But one candidate has gotten past the next threshold.
Candidates have until April 29 to get all their members’ signatures in order and their $300,000 paid to the party. On Monday, Leslyn Lewis announced she was the first to get this done.
Raising this amount of money in a short amount of time is nothing to sneeze at, though we don’t really know if other candidates haven’t already raised that much (or more) but simply haven’t gotten around to submitting the paperwork and cash to the party. There isn’t a huge incentive to do that right away if it means you can spend some of that money now, but this is nevertheless a statement by the Lewis campaign that they aren’t to be taken lightly.
Pierre Poilievre has been taking a slightly more traditional route (blockchain chatter aside), showing off the large crowds that are attending his events. He’ll have to make sure those people actually sign up to become members and cast a ballot, though, and it’s not clear that they are all doing that, according to some reporting by the Toronto Star’s Stephanie Levitz.
Jean Charest, meanwhile, seems to be getting his elbows up a little bit (a teeny tiny bit). When he announced his new defence policy this week, he tweeted that “our armed forces and veterans are the real freedom fighters.” Perhaps a dig at the Poilievre campaign’s repeated messaging about freedom — and its apparent support among the Freedom Convoy and those sympathetic with it?
People’s Alliance disappears
It isn’t often that a party decides to throw in the towel and dissolve itself into another, but that is what happened last week when Kris Austin, leader of the People’s Alliance of New Brunswick, announced he and his fellow caucus member, Michele Conroy, were joining the governing Progressive Conservatives and deregistering the party that Austin formed in 2010.
Austin and Conroy said they could better serve their constituents as members of the government.
A populist outfit that ran to the right of the PCs (and was notably opposed to some elements of the province’s official bilingualism), the People’s Alliance was a small fringe element in both the 2010 and 2014 provincial elections, when the party captured only a small share of the vote.
But it broke through in 2018 when Austin led the People’s Alliance to nearly 13% of ballots cast and won it three seats — including his own. In a minority legislature, Austin was able to leverage his influence to prop-up the PCs under Blaine Higgs.
The party took a bit of a hit in 2020 when it fell to about 9% of the vote and retained only two seats. The PCs were able to secure a majority in that election.
This move definitely takes some pressure off the PCs, as the People’s Alliance had peeled off some of their support in anglophone southern New Brunswick. It could cause some (more) problems for Higgs among francophones, but the party showed in 2020 that it could win a majority without any significant support among French-speaking New Brunswickers.
Now, the New Brunswick Liberals need to think about how they can appeal to voters in the south, as they can’t count on the People’s Alliance splitting the vote.
We’ll get our first taste of the new political reality in a pair of byelections scheduled for June 20 in Miramichi Bay-Neguac and Southwest Miramichi-Bay du Vin. The PANB had 11% in the former and 28% in the latter back in 2020. Assuming most of that vote goes to the PCs, the party should have no trouble holding Southwest Miramichi-Bay du Vin, and could even wrest away Miramichi Bay-Neguac from the Liberals.
IN OTHER NEWS
What’s old is new again in Alberta politics, as former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith announces she is getting back into politics and running for the United Conservative Party nomination in the riding of Livingstone-Macleod. Along with Brian Jean, Smith is the second former Wildrose leader hoping to replace Jason Kenney as leader of the UCP from the inside.
There will be byelections in British Columbia, as Premier John Horgan has announced a vote to be held in Vancouver-Quilchena on April 30 (see my riding profile below). There will have to be another byelection held in the next six months, as B.C. Liberal MLA Stephanie Cadieux has resigned her Surrey South seat to become Canada’s first chief accessibility officer.
Éric Duhaime, leader of the Quebec Conservative Party that has lately been placing second in the polls behind the Coalition Avenir Québec, will be running in the riding of Chauveau in the October provincial election. The CAQ won this riding in the suburbs north of Quebec City with 47% of the vote in 2018. Adrien Pouliot, Duhaime’s predecessor as Conservative leader, took 9% of the vote here.
THIS WEEK’S POLLS
Ontario PCs hold their lead
Léger, the more recent of the two, gives the PCs a 14-point lead over the Liberals, who trail in second with 25%. The NDP is not far behind at 24%, followed by the Greens and New Blues at 5% apiece. That score for the New Blues, a party running to the right of the PCs, is quite high.
The ARI poll gives the PCs a more modest eight-point lead over the NDP, who stand in second with 29%, followed by the Liberals at 25% and the Greens at 4%. ARI only had an “other” option for supporters of smaller parties.
The trend lines for these two polls aren’t identical. Compared to when they were both in the field in January, the PCs are up (+4 according to ARI, +2 according to Léger), while the NDP is down (-7 according to ARI, -1 according to Léger). The Liberal numbers, though, headed in opposite directions (+6 ARI, -1 Léger). So, the least we can say is that the PC position has probably improved since the beginning of the year.
Inputting these numbers into a simple swing model would result in 72 to 80 seats for the PCs, 28 to 35 seats for the NDP and 15 to 16 seats for the Liberals, with one going to the Greens. The PCs continue to be aided by a divided Liberal-NDP vote, though at 37% or 39% the PCs are in majority territory regardless of who is in second.
Kenney continues to struggle
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is still behind the 8-ball when it comes to his support in the province, and that could prove damaging to his chances of holding on to the leadership of the United Conservative Party.
In addition to an older Angus Reid Institute survey, which put the UCP two points behind the Alberta New Democrats, new polls from Mainstreet Research and ThinkHQ have also put the UCP in second place (by three points according to Mainstreet, by 12 points according to ThinkHQ).
According to the ARI, only 30% of Albertans have a favourable view of Kenney, compared to 68% who have an unfavourable view. The ThinkHQ numbers were nearly identical at 29% approval to 69% disapproval (as might be expected, considering as ThinkHQ also uses the Angus Reid Forum for its surveys).
Twisting the knife, the Mainstreet poll suggests that Kenney-challenger Brian Jean changes the UCP’s standing from a two-point deficit to a two-point lead, similar to a recent Léger poll. And ThinkHQ finds that 54% of Albertans who voted for the UCP in 2019 would be more likely to vote for the party again if they changed leader, while only 11% would be less likely. If they don’t change leader, 42% of 2019 UCP voters say they would be less likely to vote UCP again, and only 21% say they would be more likely.
So, does that mean Kenney is cooked? Mainstreet broke down the results of its poll by current UCP membership, and found that 48% of UCP members are opposed to Kenney’s continued leadership, compared to 47% who say they support it. That’s tight.
These polls won’t help, especially if one of the motivating factors for UCP members opposed to Kenney’s leadership is the notion that someone else would have a better shot at defeating the NDP in the next election.
The leadership review process is currently scheduled to drag on for another few weeks, with UCP members now being able to vote by mail until May 11. It’ll take a week after that for the counting to be over, and for Kenney’s fate (at least, for now) to be revealed.
The Angus Reid Institute put out its quarterly round-up of provincial political standings. Leading comfortably in the polls are the B.C. New Democrats, the Saskatchewan Party, the Ontario PCs, the Coalition Avenir Québec and the Nova Scotia PCs. The races are tighter between the Alberta NDP and UCP and the Manitoba NDP and PCs, and between the provincial PCs and Liberals in both New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador. (As usual, ARI does not publish results for P.E.I.)
When it comes to the Liberal-NDP deal, partisanship seems to be the biggest driver of support or opposition, according to an Ipsos/Global News poll. At least 90% of Liberal and NDP voters support the deal while 76% of Conservatives oppose it. At least 75% of Liberal/NDP voters think it will lead to better policies and programs, while 81% of Conservatives think it won’t. At least 76% of Liberal/NDP voters disagree the deal is a betrayal of people who voted for those two parties (less than 10% strongly agreed), while 80% of Conservatives think it is a betrayal. Nothing shocking in that, though one interesting finding is that 45% of NDP voters think this deal signifies that the NDP has given up on ever forming government.
According to Abacus Data, both Pierre Poilievre and Jean Charest have improved their personal ratings among Conservative voters. With 45% of current Conservative supporters saying they hold a positive impression of Poilievre, he is up 15 points since the beginning of the month. Charest is up 13 points, but still trails at 30%. Charest continues to have negativity issues, though, as 21% of Conservative voters don’t like him, compared to just 7% for Poilievre.
In case you missed the podcast last week, Tim and Chad were back to break down the latest in the Conservative leadership race:
RIDING OF THE WEEK
Vancouver-Quilchena (British Columbia)
Taking a break from profiling Ontario’s battleground ridings this week, let’s head out to British Columbia where that byelection campaign has just started.
On April 30, voters in the B.C. provincial riding of Vancouver-Quilchena will be heading to the polls to fill the seat vacated by Andrew Wilkinson, the former B.C. Liberal leader who announced he’d be stepping down after his 2020 defeat. The front runner to fill that seat is current B.C. Liberal leader Kevin Falcon, who won the leadership in February despite not having a seat in the legislature.
It seems like a pretty solid bet that Falcon will now get a seat.
In the last provincial election, Wilkinson won Vancouver-Quilchena by a wide margin, capturing 56% of the vote against 28.6% for the B.C. New Democrats and 15.4% for the B.C. Greens.
It was the strongest Liberal result anywhere in the Lower Mainland and one of only two Vancouver seats won by the party. It was also a nearly identical result to what Wilkinson managed in the 2017 election, when he wasn’t leader of the B.C. Liberals.
One of the wealthiest ridings in the Vancouver area, Vancouver-Quilchena has been a Liberal stronghold since the party first won it in 1991. With the exception of that election, when the party finished just shy of 50%, the B.C. Liberals have secured a majority of ballots cast in Vancouver-Quilchena ever since.
Prior to 1991, the area that is now Vancouver-Quilchena was part of the two-member Vancouver-Point Grey district, which was generally safe Social Credit territory going back to 1975. That means it has consistently been a pretty conservative part of the city.
It also has a long history of sending Liberal leaders to Victoria. Gordon Campbell won the riding when he needed a seat in 1994 when he took over the B.C. Liberal Party, and former B.C. Liberal leaders Arthur Laing and Pat McGeer also represented the area.
Federally, Vancouver-Quilchena straddles two Liberal-held ridings, though the Conservatives do well in the area that makes up the provincial seat.
There’ll be no leaders’ courtesy here for Kevin Falcon, as he’ll be facing off against Jeanette Ashe of the NDP. Ashe is the political science chair at Douglas College and happens to be the wife of Vancouver mayor and former NDP MP Kennedy Stewart.
The Greens are also putting up a candidate: emergency management expert Wendy Hayko.
The deadline for candidacies is on April 9. Of note, this will be the first election in B.C. held using electronic tabulators. According to Elections BC, “the new technology will make the voting process easier for voters, and allow Elections BC to report results faster on election night.”
Good news for those of us who will be waiting for results in other time zones!
ON THIS DAY in the #EveryElectionProject
Peckford wins big for the PCs
April 6, 1982
In 1982, the era of Liberal rule under Joey Smallwood was already a decade in Newfoundland’s past. The Progressive Conservatives had governed the province since Smallwood’s defeat and had already changed leaders once after a 36-year-old Brian Peckford succeeded Frank Moores shortly before the 1979 provincial election.
But after less than three years in office, Peckford was still struggling with a sluggish economy and disputes with the federal government over offshore resource development.
So, in a television address Peckford announced he was calling an election to be held just three weeks later in order to send a message to Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal government.
“What I need now, he said, “is a clear mandate which will show Ottawa that you do support my administration and the stand we are taking.”
The federal government was claiming full control over offshore resource development. Instead, Peckford proposed revenue-sharing between St. John’s and Ottawa and said he would make it the one issue of the election.
With every incumbent PC MHA running again in a quick campaign, the Progressive Conservatives held all the advantages. Nevertheless, Peckford had to defend his decision to call an early election only 2.5 years after the last one.
Len Stirling, the Liberal leader, charged that the issue for voters wasn’t the control of offshore resources but whether Newfoundlanders wanted to “go to war or go to work.” He accused the PCs of ignoring more immediate issues like the fate of the inshore fishery or the mining industry on the island, and proposed a less confrontational approach with the feds.
The opposition, which included the New Democrats under Peter Fenwick, tried to make the campaign about other issues and faced off with Peckford in a televised debate that got less than rave reviews — The Daily News editorial had only this to say: “Blah.”
But attempts to make the campaign about the immediate joblessness scourging the province rather than the resources that would only start paying off years down the road were largely unsuccessful, especially when Peckford announced his own measures late in the campaign to try to support the fishery.
The anti-Ottawa sabre-rattling was very effective, and on April 6, 1982 the Progressive Conservatives won what was their biggest victory at the time, and one that has only since been surpassed once (by Danny Williams in 2007).
With turnout jumping to 78%, the PCs secured 44 seats, a gain of 11 over their performance in the 1979 election, entirely at the expense of the Liberals outside the Avalon Peninsula, which the PCs had already swept the last time. The party was also up 11 points in its vote share, capturing 61% of ballots cast.
The Liberals suffered their worst defeat up to that time, dropping 11 seats to just eight and falling six percentage points to only 35% support. Stirling was one of the defeated Liberals, and he announced his intention to resign.
Fenwick’s New Democrats ran less than half of the slate of candidates as they had in 1979 and accordingly saw their share of the vote drop by four points to 4%. The NDP placed second in only two ridings, and in neither case were they even close to winning.
It was a big, sweeping victory for Peckford which, he argued, gave him the powerful mandate he needed in his negotiations with the federal government.
“Newfoundland speaks with one voice,” he said on election night, “when we say that one day the sun will shine and have-not will be no more.”
But Peckford would have no success in renegotiating its deal with Quebec over revenues from power generation in the Upper Churchill, and the cod stocks would collapse a few years after his departure as premier. The strong mandate voters gave him in 1982 did nothing to help him with the Trudeau-Turner Liberals, and he would have to wait until the arrival of Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative government in 1984 for Canada and Newfoundland to sign an agreement that made the two levels of government joint partners in developing the oil and gas fields off the coast.
And it was not until 1997 that oil would begin to flow at Hibernia, 15 years after the “one-issue” Newfoundland election of 1982.
Dennis King cracks the Top 20
On Saturday, Dennis King will pass Lemuel Owen as the 20th longest-serving premier in Prince Edward Island’s history.
Owen was the second premier of P.E.I. and the first to come to office after the province entered Confederation in July 1873, serving from September of that year until 1876. A Conservative originally opposed to Confederation, Owen changed his views and was appointed premier because “most of the available talent of the day … had headed off for Ottawa after the Island electors had put their seal of approval on confederation and Owen was the most acceptable figure among those who were left.”
King is still working his way through his first term as P.E.I. premier and if he lasts until the 2023 provincial election he will rise to 15th in the rankings — and thereby surpass Wade MacLauchlan, the man he defeated in 2019 to get the top job on the island.
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That’s it for the Weekly Writ this week. The next episode of The Writ Podcast will be dropping on Friday. As always, the episode will land in your inbox but you can also find it on Apple Podcasts and other podcasting apps. And don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube Channel, where I post videos, livestreams and interviews from the podcast!