The Weekly Writ for Aug. 16: Liberals try to shore up their Atlantic flank
Plus, why the Saskatchewan byelection results should set off alarm bells, Conservative poll-lead holds and a potential tipping point in Manitoba.
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.
Next week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet will be trekking out to Prince Edward Island for a retreat in Charlottetown.
P.E.I. in the summer is a lovely place to be — and maybe there’s nothing more to it than that. But Atlantic Canada is increasingly a difficult place for the Liberals to be regardless of the weather, so the extra attention being paid to the region might not be a coincidence.
The Liberals probably shouldn’t be too worried about their four seats in Prince Edward Island. They won three of them by at least 15 points and the closest contest (a nine-point win in Malpeque) was where they didn’t have an incumbent in 2021. The most-recent federal polling available for P.E.I. showed that Liberal support there was higher than anywhere else in the country.
But in the rest of Atlantic Canada, things are looking rockier.
Over the last week, numbers published by Abacus Data and the Angus Reid Institute have showed a tight race in the region. Abacus put the Conservatives seven points ahead, while the ARI put the Liberals ahead by six points. While that’s a big spread, samples in Atlantic Canada are smaller and so the margin of error is higher. What’s clear is that we’ve now seen multiple surveys pointing at Conservative gains in a region the Liberals won by 12 points in the last election.
That shift could put several Liberal seats in danger. On the island of Newfoundland, the Conservatives came close in Bonavista–Burin–Trinity and Long Range Mountains last time and could flip them next time. The Liberals could lose their seats in Cape Breton and perhaps another on the Nova Scotia mainland, while in New Brunswick they have ridings that could be flipped in Fredericton and Saint John.
Altogether, that could be a half-dozen seats or more the Liberals could lose in Atlantic Canada if they don’t turn these numbers around. And this isn’t just about polling — the Nova Scotia PCs’ recent byelection victory in Preston was due in part to their campaigning against the federal carbon tax. It’s a potent issue that could easily be translated into Conservative victories for Pierre Poilievre. We’ve seen Atlantic Canada turn on single issues before, such as when employment insurance reform cost Jean Chrétien’s Liberals a lot of Atlantic seats in the 1997 election.
Do the Liberals have as much at stake in Atlantic Canada as they do in Quebec or the Greater Toronto Area? Perhaps not. But these three regions have made for solid seat pillars for the Liberals in each of the last three elections. Losing one of those pillars could topple the whole structure. Whether or not a cabinet retreat will do the trick, a little bit of extra love for the region couldn’t hurt.
Now, to what is in this week’s instalment of the Weekly Writ:
News on what happened in last week’s Saskatchewan byelections and why it should set off some alarm bells for Premier Scott Moe. Plus a controversial Conservative candidate is nominated.
Polls show the Conservatives still leading, but a negative trend for the Liberals isn’t so clear.
Pierre Poilievre would inch closer to, but is still short of, the majority threshold if the election were held today.
Riding profile of what could prove to be the tipping point seat in Manitoba’s upcoming election.
The Alberta PCs try to choose the next premier in the #EveryElectionProject.