The Weekly Writ for Aug. 3
Conservatives lead in fundraising, Elizabeth May eyes a comeback and some big mayoral races have their front runners
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 today’s edition of the Weekly Writ, we take a look at the federal fundraising numbers for the second quarter that put the Conservatives in the lead — and that’s even before we add the huge amount of fundraising from the party’s leadership contestants to the pile. We also get a peek at how many members are going to decide who the next Conservative leader will be.
The Greens, meanwhile, might opt for a former leader to make a comeback. Speaking of which, new polls are out for mayoral races in Ottawa, Hamilton and Winnipeg where various politicians are trying to make comebacks of their own. We’ve also got some federal polling data that isn’t great for the federal Liberals and provincial data that’s pretty good for the B.C. New Democrats.
Finally, in this week’s instalment of the #EveryElectionProject we look at the old story of a new party deciding on a new name and choosing a new leader for a new age.
Let’s get right to it.
IN THE NEWS
Conservatives lead fundraising in second quarter
Some parties struggled with fundraising in the second quarter of 2022, but the Conservatives continued to pull in the most money — and got a boost from their leadership contestants, too.
If you missed it yesterday, here’s my detailed breakdown of the Conservative leadership fundraising race, if you can call it a race:
The Conservatives raised $4,431,000 from 36,589 contributions between April and June, putting them well ahead of the other parties. The Conservatives have led the Liberals in both quarters so far this year and have raised $9.4 million to date. Still, with the exception of the second quarter of 2020, when fundraising dropped for all parties due to the pandemic, this is the worst second quarter for the party since 2017.
That is, if you ignore the $8 million or so raised by the contestants (official, disqualified and those who didn’t make it). Altogether, the Conservative Party and its candidates raised $12.7 million in the second quarter, a gargantuan sum that is more than the Conservative Party has raised on its own in any quarter — including during elections. While most of that money went to the leadership candidates’ campaigns, the Conservatives did skim some $1.5 million off the top for their own coffers.
The Conservatives had so much money coming in that they still haven’t processed some $2.5 million that went to leadership contestants in the month of June, according to a spokesperson. When that is finally tallied, Conservative party and contestant fundraising for the second quarter could total over $15 million.
The Liberals raised $2,761,000 in the second quarter from 27,936 contributions. With the exception of 2020, this is the worst second quarter for the Liberals since 2012 — the last second quarter before Justin Trudeau became party leader.
With $1,182,000 raised from 15,925 contributions, the New Democrats had their worst second quarter since 2018.
The Greens raised $438,000, the only party to have a better second quarter than first quarter in 2022. That’s just a silver lining, though, as this is the lowest second quarter for the party since 2013.
The Bloc Québécois raised $248,000, down from last year’s second quarter. But this represents the Bloc’s best non-election year second quarter on record.
Finally, the People’s Party took in just under $200,000. By my estimates (the PPC only started filing quarterly after the last election), this is the worst quarter for the party since the third quarter of 2020. It’s also a big drop from the $409,000 raised in the first quarter of this year. That decrease of more than 50% is bigger than what any other party suffered.
We’ve seen polls that suggest Pierre Poilievre is popular among PPC voters, so I don’t think it is a stretch to link this drop in PPC fundraising with Poilievre’s leadership campaign. The disappearance of most COVID-19 measures might also be a contributing factor that is taking some of the energy out of the party.
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Elizabeth May, Green leader once more?
While the list of potential entrants into the Green leadership race is quite long, we won’t know the final list until the end of the month. But there could be at least one (and, at this rate, maybe only one) familiar name on it: Elizabeth May.
Yes, the Green leader from 2006 to 2019 is contemplating a comeback, though this time maybe as part of a joint ticket with Jonathan Pedneault. Green parties in other countries use this model and we’ve seen it here in Canada with Québec Solidaire. In the case of QS, though, one leader always takes the spotlight. It was Amir Khadir in 2008, Françoise David in 2012 and 2014, Manon Massé in 2018 and it will be Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois in October.
If even Québec Solidaire can’t do it in practice, maybe we’re just not ready for joint leaders.
May’s return is an odd move for a party that seems to be in desperate need for something new. May resigned as leader to give the party that opportunity, but it was alleged that her influence remained too important within the party’s organization. Whether or not that is true, an attempted return does not seem to argue against the notion that the Greens haven’t yet moved on from Elizabeth May.
She did bring the party to new heights in the 2019 election with three MPs, but the Greens started that campaign with roughly twice as much support as it ended up with. The prospect of surpassing the NDP was real in that election, but instead Jagmeet Singh ran a good campaign and Elizabeth May faltered in the first weeks, never being able to turn things around.
We’ll see how this plays out. The Greens only have two MPs and Mike Morrice, the one that isn’t Elizabeth May, isn’t interested in the job. Being on the outside of the House of Commons didn’t help Annamie Paul, so the Greens’ options at the moment aren’t terrific.
678,708 Conservative members eligible to vote
Last week, the Conservative Party announced that 678,708 members would be eligible to vote in the party’s leadership race.
It’s a big, big number. The party broke it down by province and provided some historical context, showing just how much growth the membership has seen. There were 262,000 members at the time of the 2020 leadership race and only 170,000 at the end of 2021. So, the addition of over 500,000 members in this contest is rather huge.
Alberta continues to punch above its weight with 19% of the party’s membership but only around 11% of the country’s population. Quebec, by contrast, boasts only 9% of the membership while representing about 23% of the Canadian population. This is better than in 2020, though, when Quebec only represented 5% of the party’s membership.
Of note is how membership has dropped after each leadership race. By the end of 2018, the party’s membership was 26% lower than it had been at the end of the 2017 leadership. Between 2020 and 2021, the party shed 35% of the members it had at the time of the 2020 contest.
Based on that precedent, the party could lose between 176,000 and 238,000 of the 679,000 members currently eligible to vote. Even in the upper band, though, the Conservatives would still have over 400,000 members — an impressive number by any measure.
THIS WEEK’S POLLS
Early front runners emerge in trio of mayoral races
Polls for three big mayoral races were released in the last week, and they all show one front runner way ahead of the rest.
We’ll start in the nation’s capital, where Mayor Jim Watson is not running for re-election. A poll by Mainstreet Research puts councilor Catherine McKenney well ahead of the rest of the field with 34% support. Journalist Mark Sutcliffe placed second with 15%, while former mayor Bob Chiarelli was third with 6.5%. A huge chunk (38%) remain undecided — and I can’t help but wonder if Catherine McKenney gets a bit of a boost from the fact their name sounds a lot like former Ottawa Centre MP and cabinet minister Catherine McKenna.
Sticking to Ontario, former Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath is definitely getting some name recognition help as she leads another poll by Mainstreet with 37% support, compared to 14% for Keanin Loomis and 13% for past mayor and former Liberal MP Bob Bratina. Here again, undecideds were high at 35%.
Finally, and in contrast with Ottawa and Hamilton, in Winnipeg a former mayor is in a good position to make a comeback. Probe Research finds Glen Murray (mayor from 1998 to 2004, Ontario Liberal MPP from 2010 to 2017 and contestant for the federal Green leadership in 2020) is in first with 44% support. Behind him is councilor Scott Gillingham (16%) and former Liberal MP Robert Falcon-Ouellette (13%). No other candidate cleared double-digits, while 23% were undecided.
Liberals slumping in Abacus survey
A new poll by Abacus Data had rough news for the federal Liberals, with the party trailing the Conservatives in voting intentions by five points (35% to 30%). Justin Trudeau registered positive and negative impression scores of 31% and 51% respectively, the worst both ratings have been in Abacus’s tracking since Trudeau became prime minister in 2015.
Despite these numbers, you couldn’t rule the Liberals out in this scenario. As bad as they are, the numbers could still keep the Liberals competitive as they were tied with the Conservatives in Ontario, narrowly ahead of the Bloc Québécois in Quebec and still dominating Atlantic Canada.
Nevertheless, more polls like this will only fuel more chatter about whether Trudeau has to take a long walk in the snow (or along a Costa Rican beach) sooner or later. How Trudeau stacks up against Poilievre in fall polling and in the House will be something to watch.
B.C. NDP still in the driver’s seat
A new poll by Léger for Postmedia gives the B.C. New Democrats a solid lead over the opposition B.C. Liberals at 44% to 28%. The B.C. Greens were tied for third with the B.C. Conservatives at 12% apiece.
The Conservatives, who are really only a minor party in B.C. provincial politics, tend to poll significantly higher between campaigns than their actual support in elections. So, the race is likely much closer as a lot of that 12% for the B.C. Conservatives would shift to the B.C. Liberals in the midst of a campaign.
But the NDP is in a good spot after five years in power and with the leadership of the party (and province) about to be handed over from John Horgan to his successor, likely to be David Eby.
ON THIS DAY in the #EveryElectionProject
Tommy Douglas takes over the new NDP
August 3, 1961
When about 1,800 delegates headed to the Ottawa Coliseum in early August 1961, their task was not only to found a new party but to determine who should lead it.
This new party would be the successor to the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, originally founded in the 1932. The CCF was steeped in the Prairie socialism and social gospel that emerged between the world wars, but by the 1960s it was seen as a little dated.
The results of the 1958 election made that clear.
Though the CCF once enjoyed a surge in the polls during the Second World War and had managed to form government in Saskatchewan since 1944, it was unable to make a breakthrough at the federal level. In its last election under M.J. Coldwell, the CCF was reduced to just eight seats when John Diefenbaker’s Progressive Conservatives won their landslide victory in 1958.
Saskatchewan, the heartland of the CCF, elected only a single CCF MP — and it was Hazen Argue, not M.J. Coldwell.
It punctuated what was already a lively discussion within CCF circles: it was time to create a new party that would unite the western, farmer base of the CCF with the urban energy (and financial resources) of the labour movement. The CCF and the Canadian Labour Congress decided to get the ball rolling in that direction to create this new party of the left for the modern age.
But who would lead it? Some thought it should be David Lewis, an influential behind-the-scenes figure within the CCF. But to prevent the traditionalists in the CCF from believing they were being swamped and taken over by the labour movement in Central and Eastern Canada, Lewis felt it couldn’t be him. It had to be T.C. Douglas, Saskatchewan premier and the CCF’s most successful politician in the country.
Tommy Douglas wasn’t so sure, though. The Saskatchewan CCF had done just fine without close affiliations with the labour movement. Linking itself with unions could cost the CCF its rural support in his home province. Douglas thought the national CCF and the CLC were moving a little too quickly for his taste.
But plans to create the new party — candidates were already starting to contest byelections under the “New Party” banner — went ahead. Coldwell, seatless and aging, couldn’t lead this new party. Hazen Argue had taken over the small rump CCF caucus in the House of Commons and with its backing (but against the wishes of the party organizers) was named the national CCF leader.
So, Douglas had to throw his hat into the ring if it meant blocking Argue who, according to Carl Hamilton, the CCF’s national secretary, “was a totally conscienceless man.”
Writing for The Globe and Mail, Walter Gray called Argue “a restless, aggressive man, [he] always seems to be in a hurry, either on the platform or in a quiet conversation. His suits are rumpled, his thick, black hair brushed carelessly back, his black moustache short and bristled.”
Douglas waited only a month before the founding convention of the new party to announce his intentions to run after he received letters of advice from his Saskatchewan cabinet. All but two had suggested he make the jump to federal politics.
It wasn’t much of a fair fight. At the convention — which narrowly settled on the name “New Democratic Party” over the “New Party”, while “Social Democratic Party” and “Canadian Democratic Party” were less popular — Douglas was the conquering hero from Saskatchewan who had put the CCF into power and proven it could govern responsibly. Argue had his small caucus behind him, but not much else.
When the voting was finished, Douglas had the support of 1,391 delegates to just 380 for Argue, representing 78.5% of ballots cast.
Argue was crushed, but said that “no matter what my role in the years ahead, I shall speak for you, I shall work for you, I shall never let you down.” Six months later, Argue crossed the floor to the Liberals.
While Douglas would not bring the New Democrats to new heights — he never won more than 22 seats, while Coldwell had beaten that mark as leader of the CCF in 1945, 1953 and 1957 — he would leave his mark on federal politics, particularly during the Pearson minority governments.
Argue, meanwhile, has been effectively written out of the history of the New Democratic Party. At NDP headquarters, in the line of portraits of past CCF and NDP leaders one finds M.J. Coldwell and Tommy Douglas next to each other, with no other portrait in between.
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!