The Weekly Writ for Nov. 2
New fundraising numbers; why Ontario is key to a Conservative seat plurality; and Peter Lougheed's last victory.
After a majority of subscribers last week said they would listen to a voiceover of articles from time to time, I’ve recorded one for this edition of the Weekly Writ.
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, we take a deep dive into the latest federal fundraising numbers that show the Conservatives continuing to lead the pack. We also get a glimpse of the gargantuan sums of money Pierre Poilievre’s leadership campaign was able to rake in, and compare that to the relatively piddling amounts being contributed to the Green Party’s leadership candidates.
I also take a look at the results in last week’s Winnipeg mayoral race that show the difficulty pollsters have in gauging municipal contests, and I break down the latest federal polling numbers.
The riding of the week takes us to the Calgary suburbs once again, a milestone is marked for the prime minister and the #EveryElectionProject zooms in on Peter Lougheed’s last ride in the 1982 Alberta election. Let’s get right to it.
IN THE NEWS
Conservatives raise most money for third consecutive quarter
The third quarter fundraising numbers are in and, while fundraising was down overall, a lot of money nevertheless made it into party war chests.
The Conservatives raised $3,925,000 from just over 30,000 contributions. On the face of it, that’s a poor showing for the party. It’s the worst third quarter since 2017.
But a lot of donors’ dollars were headed elsewhere, as $8,096,000 was raised by the party’s leadership contestants in the third quarter. That brings the total fundraising in the Conservative universe to about $12 million. Quite a haul — but it should be noted that because of processing issues not all of that was necessarily donated in the third quarter.
In terms of what it meant for the Conservative Party itself, about $1.9 million from leadership donations were re-directed to the party’s coffers.
That widens the gap the Conservatives enjoyed over the Liberals in Q3. The Liberals raised $3,196,000 from more than 28,000 contributions. That is down from the election-year third quarters of 2019 and 2021, but is more than the Liberals’ third quarter in 2020. Unlike the Conservatives or NDP, the Liberals raised more money in the third quarter this year than they did in the second quarter.
The New Democrats raised $1,175,000 from just over 16,000 individual contributions. This is the NDP’s worst third quarter since 2018, and their worst quarter overall since the beginning of 2020 when the onset of the pandemic closed donors’ wallets.
The Greens raised $348,000 from about 5,400 contributions, a rough quarter for the party. It’s the worst third quarter for the Greens since 2012. It’s also the first quarter in which the party failed to raise at least $400,000 in nine years.
The People’s Party raised $271,000 from about 4,100 contributions. The PPC only started reporting quarterly since the 2021 election, so this is their first third quarter on record. The party is up from the $200,000 it raised in the second quarter, but it raised more money in the first quarter of 2022 and the fourth quarter of 2021.
The links between the Bloc Québécois and its provincial cousin, the Parti Québécois, become apparent when we see that the Bloc raised just $109,000 this past quarter. That’s less than half what the Bloc raised in the second quarter and the worst three months of fundraising the Bloc has had since the third quarter of 2018.
What the third quarters of 2018 and 2022 have in common is a Quebec election, so it would appear that when a provincial campaign is looming the Bloc’s fundraising apparatus gets turned toward raising money for the PQ. As the two parties likely share a lot of donors, it’s not surprising that the Bloc would find itself playing second fiddle during a Quebec election campaign.
Conservative leadership contestants raised $18 million in 2022
Now that we have the third quarter results, we can take a last look at how the contestants for the Conservative leadership did in fundraising.
The answer? Pretty good!
Altogether, the leadership contestants (including the disqualified Patrick Brown, those who weren’t approved and those still paying off past debts) raised $18,160,000 in the first nine months of 2022 — an incredible amount that is twice what the NDP raised throughout 2021 and nearly matches what the Liberal Party of Canada raised last year.
Here’s how it broke down:
Pierre Poilievre: $9,115,000
Jean Charest: $3,408,000
Leslyn Lewis: $2,175,000
Roman Baber: $902,000
Scott Aitchison: $678,000
Of those who did not make it to the end of the contest, Brown was the fundraising leader with $862,000, followed by Grant Abraham at $213,000, Joseph Bourgault and Marc Dalton, who each raised $177,000, and Leona Alleslev at $82,000.
To put Poilievre’s fundraising into context, Peter MacKay, the fundraising leader of the 2020 leadership race, raised only $4.1 million. Maxime Bernier, 2017’s fundraising champion, took in just $2.5 million.
Of course, neither MacKay or Bernier ended up winning.
May/Pedneault ticket lead Green leadership fundraising
While the Conservative leadership candidates raised a boatload of money, the Greens are running a more budget-friendly campaign.
The leadership contestants, combined, raised less than $100,000 in the third quarter. The leading ticket appears to be the Elizabeth May-Jonathan Pedneault joint candidacy, as the pair together raised $59,000, split nearly evenly between the two.
Further back is the Anna Keenan/Chad Walcott combination, who raised $35,000 together. Keenan attracted 57% of those donations.
The other two candidates do not seem to have viable campaigns, or at least not ones that are well-funded. Simon Gnocchini-Messier reported $1,520 in contributions, while Sarah Gabrielle Baron had just $375 up to the end of September.
As a share of all money raised, the May-Pedneault ticket has taken in 61%, with Keenan-Walcott raising 37%. The good news for Keenan-Walcott, though, is that they have more contributors than May-Pedneault, by a margin of roughly 56 to 44.
Another polling surprise in Winnipeg’s mayoral vote
It’s been a week since the votes were cast, but it is still a little surprising that Scott Gillingham succeeded in his bid for the mayor’s office in Winnipeg. The former councillor took 27.5% of the vote, just edging out Glen Murray, who finished with 25.3%.
It isn’t exactly a towering mandate, as the vote was divided between nearly a dozen candidates. Kevin Klein and Shaun Loney each took 15% of the vote, while former Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouelette garnered 8% support.
Murray, who served as Winnipeg mayor from 1998 to 2004 and was also a cabinet minister in Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario Liberal government, appeared to be the front runner. The few polls published gave him a sizeable lead, but they were mostly conducted before the CBC reported allegations of harassment against Murray while he was at the Pembina Institute. Those allegations might have taken a little time to filter through to voters, but it does seem likely they were decisive in the outcome.
This round of municipal elections has had quite a few polling misses. But polling in municipal races has generally been more error-prone. My own observations of polling performances over the last decade suggests that the average polling error per candidate in a mayoral race is five percentage points, nearly twice the average error per party in a provincial election and almost three times the error in a federal contest.
There are a few reasons for this:
The number of undecideds in mayoral polls is often quite high, which means there are a lot of voters who could potentially move around and make their choice only at the last moment. It also means the sample size for decided voters can be small, increasing the margin of error.
Municipal elections also have very low turnout, which increases the chances that there will be significant turnout effects that benefits one candidate over another. The smaller the voting population is, the greater chances that errors will pop up in polls weighted against the general population.
Finally, there is simply very little partisan attachment in municipal contests — particularly open ones where there is no incumbent. So even decided voters are liable to swing around, as they are choosing between options they have never voted for before. It’s more difficult to move voters from a party they have backed in the past to a new one.
Mayoral polling should be taken perhaps more as a compass bearing than GPS co-ordinates — it’ll probably send you in the right direction but it might not get you exactly where you want to be.
THIS WEEK’S POLLS
Conservatives in minority territory in Research Co. poll
A new poll by Research Co. puts the Conservatives ahead of the Liberals by four points, broadly in line with what we’ve seen in other polls recently. But a lead for the Conservatives in Ontario changes the electoral math — and would probably be enough to give the party a plurality of seats.
The Conservatives had 35% support nationwide, followed by the Liberals at 31%, the NDP at 19%, the Bloc Québécois at 8% (32% in Quebec), the Greens at 4% and the PPC at 2%. That isn’t all that different from where things were on election night in 2021.
The key difference for the Conservatives is in Ontario, where Research Co. gives the party a lead of nine points over the Liberals. They are also ahead in British Columbia by a fair margin with 37% to 28% for the NDP and 20% for the Liberals.
Applying a simple swing model to these results, the Conservatives would emerge with 156 seats, 14 short of a majority government. The Liberals would win 119 seats, the NDP would take 31, the Bloc would hold 30 and the Greens would retain their two.
Support for the Conservatives in the poll wasn’t particularly high in Alberta or the Prairies, but high enough to deliver plenty of seats. While these results might just be a product of normal polling error, it does show how much of a difference it makes for the Conservatives to be polling well in Ontario. Drop the Conservatives into a tie in Ontario and re-distribute that lost support to the Conservatives in Alberta and the Prairies and the Liberals emerge with more seats than the Conservatives — without that four point national lead shifting.
Despite that lead in voting intentions, Research Co. finds Justin Trudeau ahead of Pierre Poilievre on preferred prime minister by six points. While it is a narrower margin, the latest numbers from Nanos Research also put Trudeau ahead on this question, with 31% to 29% for Poilievre.
Research Co. included a breakdown of approval ratings, which show both Trudeau and Poilievre at a net -7.
It’s worth noting how polarizing Trudeau and Poilievre are. Roughly the same number of Canadians strongly approve of them as they do Jagmeet Singh, but those who strongly disapprove of them is significantly higher. Yves-François Blanchet has the same effect in Quebec, with a lot of Quebecers strongly approving of him and just as many strongly disapproving of the Bloc leader.
RIDING OF THE WEEK
Calgary-North West (Alberta)
Our tour of the ridings that could decide the 2023 Alberta election — in other words, our tour of the Calgary suburbs — now brings us to the riding of Calgary-North West, a riding tucked, as one might imagine, at the northwestern limit of the city.
The United Conservatives won this seat in the 2019 election when Sonya Savage took 56.7% of the vote. The New Democrats finished well behind with 31.8%, though that did represent a gain of two points from their performance in 2015.
The Alberta Party finished in third with 9.1%.
The 25-point margin is at the very limits of what the New Democrats might hope to overturn in Calgary, at least according to a recent Léger poll. If the NDP is winning a riding like Calgary-North West, they are likely in range of a majority government.
It would be a bit of an upset, as the NDP wasn’t even able to win this seat when they did form a majority government in 2015. In that election (the boundaries were the same as they are today), the Progressive Conservatives held the riding thanks to a nearly perfect three-way split: Sandra Jansen took 33% of the vote, followed by the NDP at 30% and the Wildrose Party at 27%.
Jansen’s win continued the streak of PC victories in Calgary-North West going back to 1997.
But if we assume the New Democrats are going to have a tougher time winning seats outside of Edmonton and Calgary than they did in 2015, then an upset in Calgary-North West will likely be necessary to get the NDP to at least 44 seats.
Michael Lisboa-Smith, a teacher, will be the NDP candidate in the riding after he came out ahead in a contested nomination. He’ll be up against Sonya Savage, who is running for re-election. Savage was the co-chair of Travis Toews’s UCP leadership bid, but she was nevertheless named minister of the environment in Premier Danielle Smith’s new cabinet.
ON THIS DAY in the #EveryElectionProject
Lougheed’s last dominating victory
November 2, 1982
By 1982, the province of Alberta was already deep into its fourth political dynasty. The Progressive Conservatives had been in power since 1971, the turning point election that saw Social Credit’s long 36-year run in power come to an end.
In the decade that followed his victory, Lougheed coupled Alberta’s booming economic growth due to the expansion of the oil and gas industry with fights with the federal government led by Pierre Trudeau’s Liberals to produce huge majority wins. Under Lougheed, the PCs captured 69 of 75 seats in the 1975 election and 74 of 79 seats in 1979.
In the years running up to the 1982 election, Lougheed took part in the negotiations to repatriate Canada’s constitution and went to war against the federal government’s National Energy Program, which tried to centralize control over the country’s energy industry and oil prices — and cost Alberta billions in revenues.
The economy was starting to slow in the early 1980s and the NEP was despised in the province. Disputes with the government in Ottawa gave rise to separatism in Alberta and the emergence of the Western Canada Concept. This party shook Alberta politics when it scored a victory in a February 1982 byelection in the rural riding of Olds-Didsbury. Gordon Kesler, the WCC candidate, took away a seat that had previously been held by Social Credit.
When Lougheed launched the election in 1982, well ahead of the end of his term in office, he took aim at Kesler and the WCC, arguing that voting for a separatist party to stick it to Ottawa would only lead to disruption and chaos in Alberta.
But he still had a delicate balancing act to perform — he couldn’t go after the federal government as he might have in the past and risk pushing votes to the WCC.
Instead, the campaign largely focused on provincial issues. The PCs waged a relatively low-key campaign, with Lougheed turning down debates with opposition leaders and PC candidates keeping away from all-party forums. Even big rallies were shelved in order to avoid them being disrupted by small, but vocal, anti-government protesters.
Still, Lougheed faced little real opposition. Only two other parties ran a full (or nearly full) slate of candidates: the Western Canada Concept, and the New Democrats under Grant Notley (father of Rachel Notley, the current Alberta NDP leader).
Notley was the NDP’s only MLA at dissolution, but despite leading the party to just that single seat in the 1979 election Notley was nevertheless taking the NDP into its fourth election with him as leader.
The Liberals, under Nicholas Taylor since 1974, had been struggling for years under the shadow of the unpopular Trudeau government and didn’t run a candidate in a majority of ridings. Neither did the once mighty Social Credit, which was riven by internal feuding and on its way to oblivion.
But with 74 of 79 seats in the previous election, it seemed that the PCs had nowhere to go but down. The controversies and scandals that had piled up after 11 years in office had taken a bit of a toll and the party was expecting some losses. Unnamed observers cited by The Globe and Mail posited that the opposition parties might even be able to win as many as 18 to 25 seats, if the NDP made inroads in Edmonton and the WCC picked up enough of the Socred vote in southern Alberta.
Instead, in an election that featured considerably higher turnout than in 1979, the PCs won the biggest election victory they would ever win. The PCs picked up one seat, finishing with 75, and 62.3% of the province wide vote. That was up nearly five percentage points from three years earlier.
The PCs made two seat gains — they lost a seat to Ray Martin of the NDP in Edmonton — and one of those gains was Olds-Didsbury, the seat where Gordon Kesler and the WCC had made their byelection breakthrough.
While the NDP’s two seats and 18.8% of the vote might not have met the lofty expectations of some, it was still enough for Notley to become the leader of the opposition. The last time the party had accomplished that was under the old CCF banner.
Social Credit was wiped off the map, taking less than 1% of the vote. Two former Socred MLAs, Walter Buck and Raymond Speaker, decided to run as Independents and were successfully re-elected.
The Western Canada Concept was shut out of the seat count, but the party still captured 12% of the vote. This remains the best performance by any Western separatist party.
The Liberals were also shut out, but Taylor was philosophical on election night, recognizing the PC advantage and that “none of the kings and sheiks of the Middle East have been thrown out of power and as long as you have nature’s goodies to give out, you look pretty good to the electorate.”
While the pinnacle of their electoral careers, the 1982 election would be the last campaigns for both Lougheed and Notley. In 1984, still only 45 years old, Notley died in a plane crash near Slave Lake. Ray Martin, the party’s only other MLA, took over and led the NDP to a breakthrough and 16 seats in 1986.
Lougheed had stepped away by then. After the 1982 election, the Alberta premier would stay on for three more years until resigning in 1985 and being replaced by Don Getty. With more than 14 years in the job, Lougheed remains second on the list of longest-serving Alberta premiers — after Ernest Manning, the master of the political dynasty Lougheed’s PCs had put to an end.
Lucky #7 for Justin Trudeau
On Friday, Justin Trudeau will mark the seventh anniversary of his swearing in as the 23rd prime minister of Canada and the creation of this meme:
Feels like ages ago, doesn’t it?
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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!