The Weekly Writ for Aug. 17
Poilievre and the PPC, party seeks willing human to be leader, and how the Union Nationale first came to power.
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.
There are two groups of voters who particularly like Pierre Poilievre: Conservatives, and supporters of the People’s Party.
A poll released last week by Léger suggested that Poilievre at the helm of the Conservatives would make 49% of PPC voters more likely to vote Conservative, with just 13% saying it would make them less likely. That was the best result for Poilievre among any party’s voters — including the Conservatives.
It’s clear that Poilievre is fishing in a pond partly occupied by Maxime Bernier and the PPC. It isn’t his only target group, but it is one that he’s courting that Jean Charest isn’t. It’s also a group that Erin O’Toole didn’t bother with too much back in 2021.
Did that cost the Conservatives a lot of votes? Possibly. But it didn’t cost them a lot of seats.
I wrote about the impact of the PPC on the Conservative vote in my post-mortem of the People’s Party’s election performance last year. You can read that piece here. Here’s the relevant bits when it comes to whether the PPC cost the Conservatives any seats:
There were 22 seats across the country in which the PPC vote was bigger than the Conservatives’ margin of defeat. These were particularly concentrated in northern and southwestern Ontario and in British Columbia.
But it is extremely unlikely that every vote for the PPC was a vote that would have otherwise gone to the Conservatives.
The Léger exit poll suggested only 20% of PPC voters were primarily motivated by their dissatisfaction with the Conservative option. And polls during the campaign suggested the chunk of the PPC vote that had supported the Conservatives in 2019 was nowhere near 100%, and instead more in the 25% to 50% range.
In only seven seats was 50% of the PPC vote still greater than the Conservatives’ margin of defeat. At the 25% mark, we’re only talking about three seats.
Those three seats were Trois-Rivières in Quebec (because the Conservatives were so close, not because the PPC was so high) and Sault Ste. Marie and Kitchener–Conestoga in Ontario. At the 50% mark, the extra four seats are Edmonton Centre, Nanaimo–Ladysmith, Kitchener South–Hespeler and Niagara Centre.
Beyond these seven, an increasingly implausible share of the PPC vote needs to go to the Conservatives to win them the seat. Yes, the PPC probably cost the Conservatives a few seats. Maybe even a dozen if we’re being very generous.
But the PPC didn’t cost the Conservatives the election.
It’s important to point this out because I’ve seen a few references to the PPC having cost the Conservatives around 20 seats. A recent article in The Hill Times repeated that claim, but I don’t think it stands up to scrutiny. The true number is perhaps half that or even less. The Conservatives don’t win the next election if all they gain are some PPC votes.
Is that Poilievre’s strategy? I’m sure they’d say it isn’t — perhaps instead they are hoping to get some of those PPC voters back, to activate disengaged non-voters and maybe rally some mildly right-of-centrists who have reluctantly voted Liberal (or stayed home) in the last few elections, while taking advantage of a depressed Liberal vote.
That would be a plausible strategy (and makes the most sense based on what we’ve seen from Poilievre so far). It would be risky, though. Poilievre can get some PPCers back in the fold, but there aren’t that many of them. Non-voters could turnout, but they aren’t a very reliable group. Swing voters have proven skittish when it comes to being scared off voting Conservative and the prospect of a Poilievre government might prevent the Liberal vote from staying home.
Do I see a path that ends in a Poilievre victory in the next election? Sure. But I also see a path in which it doesn’t go very well for the Conservatives. I’m just not convinced that the strategy I see being laid out by Poilievre and his campaign is one that shows the right lessons have been learned from the party’s 2019 and 2021 defeats.
Time will tell, I suppose.
That being said, let’s get to today’s Weekly Writ.
We start with news about yet another former party leader running for mayor and how one party would love to have a leader, any leader, willing to run for them.
Then, we take a look at a poll showing concerns over inflation have dropped and another on how the federal parties stack up.
We then close with a profile of a B.C. riding that is in the midst of a byelection campaign, a milestone for the premier of Manitoba and the story of the rise of the Union Nationale.