The Weekly Writ for June 8
Conservative membership numbers, who's in for the UCP leadership and how our predictions for the Ontario election went.
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, there’s more leadership news out of the Conservative Party as it prepares to announce a gargantuan membership number. But does it mean Pierre Poilievre is on track for a first ballot victory?
Also, the list of candidates for the United Conservative Party leadership is growing, there was a byelection in Manitoba and I update the standings in our 2022 Politics Predictions contest.
Then, the poll of the week looks at how Canadians feel about the Liberal-NDP deal in Ottawa, I determine what the tipping point riding in the Ontario election actually turned out to be and mark a milestone from the results. Finally, this week’s segment in the #EveryElectionProject looks at the 1938 Saskatchewan election that pitted the old vs. the new.
IN THE NEWS
Conservative membership balloons
Reports are that the membership rolls of the Conservative Party could grow to some 600,000, smashing previous records at more than twice the number of members eligible to vote in the 2017 or 2020 contests.
The deadline to be eligible to vote passed on Friday, and Pierre Poilievre’s campaign is claiming 312,000 sign-ups, though the number is impossible to verify if the Conservative Party itself doesn’t confirm it. (And not everyone signing up through a candidate’s website is necessarily supportive of that candidate, though one imagines the vast majority are.)
The Patrick Brown campaign says they have signed up 150,000 members, while Jean Charest only says they have signed up enough to give them a path to victory:
Assuming these numbers are correct (a BIG assumption, I’m not putting it past any of these campaigns to fudge the numbers), this would suggest that Poilievre is in a very good position, as he likely has strong support among the pre-existing base of members, too. Combined, he very well might have enough to win on the first ballot.
But this race will be decided on points, not votes, and it is possible that Poilievre’s number is bigger than it looks. According to the campaign, it has signed up 119,000 members in Ontario and 72,000 in Alberta, but just 25,000 in Quebec.
With only 34 ridings — remember, each riding is worth up to 100 points regardless of how many members it has — Alberta will be providing only 10% of the points on offer, while Quebec’s 78 ridings will be worth 23%. But Poilievre’s Alberta sign-ups represent 23% of his total, with just 8% from Quebec.
It’s plausible that Brown’s 150,000 are disproportionately from Ontario and Charest’s are disproportionately from Quebec, giving these two camps more combined points in the two provinces than Poilievre, whose vote is inefficiently concentrated in Alberta and B.C.
That would be the path for a Brown/Charest victory. But we can’t discount Leslyn Lewis’s sign-ups. She hasn’t said how many she has, but she had 43,000 votes in her favour on the first ballot and 60,000 on the second in 2020. Even if she does no better this time, that could still represent a significant chunk of the vote — and while it won’t all go to Poilievre, a lot of it probably will. Her vote went predominantly to Erin O’Toole in 2020.
You can certainly win on points without having the votes, but you can’t push it too far. Lewis, for example, had 35% of the votes on the second ballot but just 30% of the points and was eliminated, despite having more votes than either Erin O’Toole or Peter MacKay. Doug Ford had only 48% of the votes against Christine Elliott in the 2018 Ontario PC leadership, but won because he had 51% of the points.
I’d be surprised, though, to see a much bigger spread than that. The Brown/Charest combo probably needs to be within at least five percentage points of Poilievre’s vote total to have a hope of winning on points. A more lopsided points-to-votes divide seems unlikely.
(Yesterday was a bad day for Brown’s campaign, as two MPs, Dan Muys and Kyle Seeback, switched their endorsements from Brown to Poilievre)
We’ll see if more numbers get released and what the official tally will be from the party. It’s an impressive number — but these leadership contests seem to be more about selling memberships than recruiting real members. How many of these 600,000 are going to be future party donors and local volunteers who get involved at the riding level, particularly if their candidate doesn’t win?
That number will be much smaller than 600,000.