The Weekly Writ for Nov. 9
A federal byelection is called; Doug Ford backs down in Ontario; and Alberta goes to the polls for the very first time.
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.
It’s possible that by the time you’re reading this, the results of the U.S. midterm elections have been clear enough to say whether or not the Democrats have retained control of at least one of the two chambers in Congress.
In 2020, it took until the weekend following Tuesday’s election before the networks could call the presidency for Joe Biden. For days, the country — and the democratic world — was in limbo.
But it wasn’t that the results changed. The results of the election were no different at the time the polls closed to the time the networks called the result. It just took a long time to realize what those results were. The narrative, however, shifted over that time.
I’ve covered a lot of elections over the last 14 years, and I’ve often witnessed the same problem happen again and again. Our perception of the results get set early, and it can be hard for us to change our minds. The counting of ballots gives us the impression of movement and momentum, but that impression is artificial.
If I ask you to think about the results of the 2020 presidential election, I would wager that a lot of you recall that it was quite close.
But it wasn’t as close as you might remember.
After all the votes had been counted, Biden had won the popular vote by a margin of 4.5 percentage points. With the exception of Barack Obama’s big victory in the 2008 election over John McCain and Sarah Palin, that was the widest popular vote margin since 1996.
I’ve been involved in many election night specials where the narrative gets set early — too early — that this or that party is under-performing or that the polls were wrong, only for the final count to show that the results weren’t so shocking after all. In the United States, where there is such a big difference between people who vote early or by mail and those who vote on election day, the danger of a narrative being set early and erroneously is acute, and it probably helped fuel some of the “election steal” rhetoric that came out of 2020.
So, that’s my little word of warning this morning and on any future election night. Be patient before jumping to conclusions.
And now let’s get to the Weekly Writ.
We start with a federal byelection that will be a key test for both Pierre Poilievre and Justin Trudeau, the news that the Quebec Liberal leader is resigning and what came out of P.E.I.’s municipal elections on Monday.
In the polls this week, we take a look at Ontario, a potential NDP majority in Alberta, what a merger could do in Quebec and who is ahead nationwide.
Mississauga–Lakeshore, the scene of that upcoming byelection, is profiled as our Riding of the Week, a milestone is marked for the Ontario Green leader and the #EveryElectionProject goes back in time to the first election in Alberta.
Let’s get to it.
IN THE NEWS
Federal byelection on December 12
On Sunday, the Liberal government called a byelection in the Ontario riding of Mississauga–Lakeshore for Monday, December 12. This will mark the first byelection contest since the 2021 federal election.