The Weekly Writ for Jul. 19: What to watch in Monday's byelection
What's at stake in Calgary Heritage, poll shows Liberals sliding in key battlegrounds, and the last time the B.C. Conservatives won.
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.
Monday’s byelection in Calgary Heritage is not exactly going to be a nail-biter.
Before Conservative MP Bob Benzen himself won this seat in a byelection, it had been occupied by such stalwarts of the movement as Stephen Harper and Preston Manning. It’s been half a century since anyone other than a conservative (of one stripe or another) has represented the riding.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some things to watch.
The main pitch that Pierre Poilievre had when he won the leadership was that he’d bring all the true Conservatives back into the fold. He’d energize the base again and make sure everyone on that side of the political spectrum votes Conservative, rather than having some of them flirt with the People’s Party or stay home because they don’t want to vote for a “Liberal Lite” option.
We already saw a test of this in the byelections in June. The Conservative vote jumped in Portage–Lisgar, ground-zero for the bleeding to the PPC the Conservatives experienced back in 2021.
Calgary Heritage is another good test of Poilievre’s ability to consolidate the base.
Benzen took 58% of the vote in this riding under Erin O’Toole’s leadership, representing a slide of 13 points compared to how the party did here in 2019 when Andrew Scheer was at the helm. That result was also six points below Harper’s last ride in 2015, when support for the Conservatives across the country hit its lowest point since 2004.
The PPC garnered 5% of the vote, so it wasn’t just a case of losing support to the right flank. Benzen lost just over 9,900 votes between 2019 and 2021, more than the 1,600 or so that was gained by the PPC. The Liberals and New Democrats picked up some new voters, but turnout in the riding dipped by about 4,200. It’s reasonable to assume that many of those might have been past Conservative voters.
So, the score that Shuv Majumdar puts up will be worth watching. Turnout in the byelection will undoubtedly be low, but will the Conservative vote share increase? And will this be another poor showing by the PPC after a series of bad results in last month’s byelections?
This isn’t much of a test for the NDP and Liberals, of course. But the Liberals have shown an ability to keep their numbers respectable in byelections, so it will be interesting to see if that trend continues here.
As I’ve written before, the New Democrats tend to do poorly in byelections. But, I’m less inclined to give them a pass here. The NDP finished second with 17.4% of the vote in Calgary Heritage in 2021, part of a trend that saw the party’s vote jump significantly across the city. While the provincial and federal wings of the NDP are hardly close-knit, it was less than two months ago that the Alberta New Democrats won Calgary. Will any of that rub off on the federal party, or will the NDP’s support collapse again?
There’s always something to keep an eye on in byelections and Calgary Heritage will be no different. Drama, though, isn’t exactly on deck.
Now, to what is in this week’s instalment of the Weekly Writ:
News on upcoming byelections in Saskatchewan and who is raising the dough in the OLP leadership.
Polls on the federal horserace, how things look in B.C. and what Canadians think of Bill C-18.
No Liberal-NDP majority if the election were held today.
A potential three-way race in this week’s riding profile.
The B.C. Conservatives’ last win ever in the #EveryElectionProject.
Mo’ milestones for Moe.