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The Weekly Writ for June 1
An update to the Conservative Leadership Index, leadership news in Alberta and New Brunswick, and the CAQ is on course for a landslide
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, it is time to check in on the Conservative Leadership Index as Pierre Poilievre takes a bit of a hit. Then, it is off to New Brunswick and Alberta for the latest in leadership news and, of course, drama.
In the polls of the week, we see that four of five governments east of Ontario are in good stead with their constituents. Finally, we give a nod to Ontario’s election history and its first premier.
The demands of these last days of the Ontario election have led to this somewhat truncated version of the Weekly Writ. If you missed it, yesterday I chatted with Philippe J. Fournier about our expectations for Thursday’s results and you can expect my final analysis of the Ontario election in your inboxes tomorrow morning.
Let’s get to it!
IN THE NEWS
Poilievre's lead slips in the Index
Pierre Poilievre’s advantage in the Conservative Leadership Index (methodology) remains crushing, but the latest update has the Carleton MP inching further away from a first ballot victory.
The Index, which I believe continues to under-estimate Patrick Brown’s support in part because his fundraising got off to a later start, now has Poilievre at 45.2%.
Jean Charest trails in second with 28.2%, followed by Leslyn Lewis at 10.8%, Brown at 7.9%, Scott Aitchison at 5.1% and Roman Baber at 2.8%.
The recent down-tick for Poilievre and up-tick for Charest is largely driven by new polling from Abacus Data, which shows 44% of Conservative supporters (not necessarily members) saying Poilievre best reflects their values and ideals. That’s down four points since earlier in May, while Charest is up three points to 23%.
The survey, which showed the Conservatives and Liberals tied at 31% apiece, suggests the shine might be coming off of Poilievre in the eyes of some Conservative supporters. Those with a negative view of him increased by seven points to 14%, while those with a positive view decreased eight points to 42%.
Those are still good numbers, of course, but the trendline is not great for Poilievre.
The next big update of the Conservative Leadership Index is still a couple of months away as we look forward to the next dump of fundraising data at the end of July.
The big drama of small parties
Sometimes the political parties with the most drama are those that have the least at stake.
Case in point: the New Democrats and People’s Alliance in New Brunswick.
Start with the NDP, a party that has no seats in the provincial legislature and hasn’t won a seat in New Brunswick since the 2003 election. Their current leader, Mackenzie Thomason, became leader on an interim basis in 2019 and found himself taking the party into the 2020 provincial election.
After resigning following the poor showing for the New Democrats in that vote (less than 2%), Thomason re-emerged as leader late last year. Someone has to do it, I guess.
But now some members of the governing council of the New Brunswick NDP want Thomason gone (again) because, to quote one of them, he is on a “power high”.
One must not let a tiny amount of power go to one’s head.
He’ll face a leadership review in July.
Meanwhile, the People’s Alliance is coming back from the dead. Earlier this year, leader Kris Austin and only-caucus-mate Michelle Conroy crossed the floor to the governing Progressive Conservatives, announcing the party would be deregistered shortly thereafter.
Not so, say members of the party, and former MLA Rick DeSaulniers will take over as leader of the People’s Alliance and revive the populist party.
The first test is coming up quick, as there are two provincial byelections taking place in the Miramichi area on June 20. Is there a future for the People’s Alliance without the man who launched the party 12 years ago? We’ll soon find out.
Toews is the first one in (officially) for UCP leadership
Continuing in leadership news, we head to Alberta where the United Conservative Party is looking for a replacement for Jason Kenney after this month’s leadership review did not give the premier a good enough result for him to stick around.
First in the running is Travis Toews, the MLA for Grande Prairie–Wapiti and Kenney’s minister of finance.
Toews is likely to take the PC lane in this leadership against probable (but not yet official) rivals Brian Jean and Danielle Smith, two former leaders of the Wildrose Party.
If the list of candidates ends at these three, Toews might need a first ballot victory to come out on top. One imagines Smith and Jean’s supporters will rank the other as their number two.
The prize of the Alberta premiership is looking a lot better since Kenney has been pushed out of the picture. A survey from Léger suggests the UCP has gone from trailing the NDP to narrowly leading in voting intentions by two points.
Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid says the leadership vote will likely come in August or September, putting it smack dab in the middle of the federal Conservative leadership race, which comes to an end on September 10.
Members of both parties in Alberta are about to get bombarded with phone calls and emails for the next few months. Keep them in your thoughts.
THIS WEEK’S POLLS
CAQ cruisin’ to re-election in October
François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec remains on track for a big victory in the fall provincial election. And I mean big.
A new survey by Léger for Le Journal de Montréal gives the CAQ 46% support among decided voters and awards them a gaping 28-point lead over the Quebec Liberals.
The Quebec Conservatives and Québec Solidaire trailed with 14% and 13%, respectively, while the Parti Québécois brought up the rear with just 8%.
These numbers have been pretty consistent for awhile. The CAQ could win a massive majority with these levels of support, particularly since their lead among francophones is even bigger. With 53%, the CAQ is 39 points ahead of QS.
It makes Doug Ford’s lead of nine-ish points over the Ontario Liberals look like a neck-and-neck race by comparison.
Three out of four Atlantic premiers sitting pretty
Narrative Research is out with its quarterly report on how provincial governments in Atlantic Canada are faring.
In Nova Scotia, Tim Houston’s PCs are 15 points ahead of the opposition Liberals at 42% to 27% support. The NDP is in third with 25%.
In New Brunswick, the PCs and Liberals are tied at 34% apiece, followed by the Greens at 17%. Premier Blaine Higgs has only a one-point advantage over interim Liberal leader Roger Melanson on who New Brunswickers prefer as premier. The Liberals will name their permanent leader in August.
Things are going better for the sitting government on Prince Edward Island, where Dennis King’s PCs have the support of 50% of Islanders. The Greens come narrowly second here with 21%, while the Liberals follow with 20%.
Finally, in Newfoundland and Labrador, the governing Liberals have 48% support against 32% for the PCs and 17% for the NDP.
The next Atlantic province to head to the polls is P.E.I., which votes next year.
Catch up on your Ontario history
As I have been preparing to take part in the CBC’s election night special on Thursday night — I’m going to be the guy in front of the map! — I did not have time to do research on this week’s installment of the #EveryElectionProject.
But, that doesn’t mean you can’t brush up on a little Ontario electoral history to get you in the mood for the big show. If you missed it when it was originally posted, now’s the time to watch my Brief History of Elections in Ontario:
This video takes you all the way from the election of 1867 that made John Sandfield Macdonald the province’s first premier to the election of 2018 that made Doug Ford the province’s current premier.
And one more thing about John S.
While on the topic of a certain John Sandfield Macdonald, it is a bit of a shame that few Canadians know who was the first premier of their province. Honestly, I read more than I should on historical premiers and I don’t think I could name more than a few. Many of them, in fact, were rather transitory — holding their job only briefly before the new political dynamics of their young provinces cast them out.
John Sandfield Macdonald was one of those, as he governed for only a few years. He also suffers from having a name very similar to our first prime minister. But, unlike Sir John A., Sandfield (as he normally went by) was actually born in Canada, not Scotland, and the two were not related, though they were both Conservatives.
That brings us to today’s milestone, as we mark the 150th anniversary of his death on June 1, 1872 at the young age of 59.
According to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, after he was “confined to bed in March 1872, Sandfield blithely wrote Patteson that he secretly believed that he had “a touch of the horse distemper.” But in May doctors informed him that his heart was so “displaced and impaired” from previous illness that death was imminent; he took the news bravely and philosophically.”
John Sandfield Macdonald is more of a trivia answer than a transformative figure, but he was the first, and no one else in Ontario could say that.
That’s it for the Weekly Writ this week. Tune in on Thursday night starting at 8 PM ET for the CBC’s Ontario election special. And don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube Channel, where I post videos, livestreams and interviews from the podcast!