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The Weekly Writ for Oct. 4: NDP win in Manitoba
Early thoughts on the results, plus what happened in the Jean-Talon byelection and a former fortress that is crumbling for the Liberals.
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.
Wab Kinew and the New Democrats won yesterday’s election in Manitoba, ending the tenure of a two-term PC government and giving Canada its first First Nations provincial premier. It’s a historic result both for Manitoba and the country as a whole.
In the end, the result was a little tighter than expected — the NDP’s margin of victory over the PCs was only a few percentage points. But the party’s seat margin was more comfortable, thanks to the NDP’s strong performance in Winnipeg. The party’s gains outside of the city weren’t as significant as seemed possible, suggesting that Manitoba’s urban-rural divide is accentuating.
But before getting into the results, a comment about what the election means for Canadians outside of Manitoba. Two points are worth considering.
First, Kinew’s victory marks the first time since 2017 that the make-up of those of around the provincial premiers’ table has become less conservative — meaning one less potential opponent for Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government to have to tackle, one less voice speaking out against Liberal policies like the carbon tax. That doesn’t mean it is the start of a trend, but Canada has turned to conservative parties of one stripe or another in many provincial elections over the last few cycles. This is either a speed bump on or a reversal of that trend.
Second, the PCs’ controversial campaign strategy did not work. While it is always possible that the PCs could have done even worse had they not adopted the negative, divisive tactics of this campaign, the results do not suggest that an appeal to “parental rights” is necessarily a vote-winner — it isn’t a secret weapon that parties can use to energize and activate an otherwise silent and unenthusiastic voting bloc. The dog whistles of the “stand firm” ads regarding the landfill search and the bizarre “vote like nobody is watching” message do not appear to have delivered the PCs the seats they needed to win this election.
Will conservative parties in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick — granted, very different provinces from Manitoba but not entirely unique — see these results as a warning that these sorts of tactics can fail to deliver right-leaning votes while potentially succeeding in activating progressive voters? It’s no secret that Blaine Higgs is considering a snap election call a year ahead of time as gender issues become the hot button topic in his province, and Scott Moe has moved in that direction as well. Will the PCs’ defeat in Manitoba give them second thoughts?
I’m a big believer that provincial politics have an under-appreciated role in our national politics. Yes, the jurisdictions are different. Yes, you can’t necessarily equate the politics of one level of government to the politics of the other — the parties are different.
But they aren’t entirely different. A win for the Manitoba NDP is good news for the federal NDP. It doesn’t mean that Jagmeet Singh can expect to win 45% of the vote in Manitoba in the next federal election, but it does mean that the New Democratic brand is just a little stronger than it was before this election. It means that a whole new cohort of New Democratic staffers and politicians get a chance to be on a bigger stage than they were before, and that can only benefit the national party.
So, yesterday was a big night for the New Democrats, both in Manitoba and federally. While the provincial Liberals suffered a big blow, there’s no doubt that Trudeau would prefer to have Wab Kinew at the premier’s table over seeing Stefanson and a few more provincial Liberals re-elected. The Conservatives lose a fellow-traveller and all the resources and benefits that come from having a friendly government in office, but they might gain a few lessons of what not do to on the campaign trail.
All in all, a not altogether surprising result — but an interesting night nonetheless.
Now, to what is in this week’s instalment of the Weekly Writ:
My hot take on the results in Manitoba and a more gently-warmed take on the Jean-Talon provincial byelection in Quebec, plus news on the new federal riding map, a new Speaker, a candidate withdrawal in the OLP leadership and a new paper on the effectiveness of lawn signs.
Polls show the Liberals (federal and provincial) down in Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as the state of affairs in the broader federal scene as well as in Ontario and Quebec.
The Conservatives would be back in majority territory if the election were held today while the Ontario PCs and N.L. Liberals flirt with minority status.
How past ridings of the week fared last night.
The Quebec Conservatives choose their last leader in the #EveryElectionProject.
A milestone for Doug Ford.
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IN THE NEWS
A deeper urban-rural divide in Manitoba
Elections Manitoba was slow in the counting, so I am writing this when there are only incomplete results some four hours after the polls close.
But the election turned out to be relatively tight, with the popular vote margin being closer than most polls had suggested. That doesn’t seem to have impacted the NDP’s ability to win seats in Winnipeg, where their vote share increased by at least double-digits. But it does seem to have limited their ability to make gains outside of Winnipeg — making only one or two gains outside the provincial capital rather than the three or four that seemed possible.
With the possible exception of Dauphin, which was still close as time of writing, the map looks pretty stark. The NDP held northern Manitoba with its high Indigenous population and managed to flip a seat in the small city of Brandon, but apart from that all the NDP’s gains came in Winnipeg. The rest of rural southern Manitoba stuck with the PCs.
But a win is a win, regardless of how it comes about. The NDP succeeded in swinging the Winnipeg suburbs, pushing the PCs to the western outskirts. The gains they needed in the northeast and in the south came about, and the collapse of the Liberal vote helped flip River Heights and Saint-Boniface, too.
That makes this a very rough election for the Liberals, who now count only a single MLA. Cindy Lamoureux, who ran against Dougald Lamont in the party’s last leadership campaign, would appear to be the obvious successor as Lamont went down to defeat (as did long-time MLA Jon Gerrard). But being the leader of a caucus of one is not much of a prize.
The drop of the Liberals and the complete non-relevance of the Greens helped the New Democrats quite a bit. The streak of the NDP winning government every time it takes at least 40% of the vote, which began in 1973, continues here — which is another point of failure for the PCs. Their vote is rather solid, as their floor since the 1950s has been about 36% of the vote. But if they fail to keep the NDP below 40%, then they are cooked — their rural base is simply not big enough to win a government if the NDP is able to get enough of the vote in Winnipeg to push them over the 40% mark.
The results here are not entirely surprising as the NDP led in nearly all the polls conducted in Manitoba for more than two years. The final polls of the campaign appear to have under-estimated the PCs by one to three points, but that was expected considering the difference in voting intentions between older and younger Manitobans. The NDP was over-estimated by as much as three points, an altogether respectable call by the polls. But, in the end, the NDP’s advantage in Winnipeg was simply too big for a marginal error like this to overturn the NDP majority the polls were pointing toward.
Still, with the NDP proving unable to break into the rural south (barring a few seat flips after I write these words), their margin for manoeuvre is smaller than it used to be in the Gary Doer or Greg Selinger years. The suburbs delivered the NDP a victory this time, but a swing of just five or six of the closest seats on the outskirts of Winnipeg would be all that it takes to make Kinew a one-term premier. He has to hug the suburbs over the next four years — or find a way to broaden the playing field outside of the provincial capital.
PQ wins big in Jean-Talon
The polls suggested that the Parti Québécois was on the upswing in the Quebec City region, but could they really pull off a win in a seat like Jean-Talon, a riding the PQ has never held in its history?
Not only did the PQ win this seat, but they beat the governing (and incumbent) CAQ by nearly 23 percentage points.
The PQ’s Pascal Paradis captured 44.1% of the vote, a gain of 25.4 points over the performance of the PQ candidate in the 2022 Quebec election. It was an historic win — the PQ last cleared 40% of the vote in Jean-Talon 25 years ago in 1998. And it wasn’t just a question of turnout, which was an impressive 55%, as Paradis received 11,327 votes, a gain of just over 4,900. The PQ was the only major party to get more votes in this byelection than it did in the 2022 general election, an indication that it converted some supporters of other parties as well as ensuring its own base came out to vote.
The CAQ’s Marie-Anik Shoiry took just 21.3% of the vote, down 11.2 points from the last election. That’s the kind of vote share the CAQ took in Jean-Talon back in its first elections in 2012 and 2014 when it was the third party.
Olivier Bolduc of Québec Solidaire captured 17.5%, down 6.3 points from his own performance here last year and only slightly better than he did in the 2019 byelection in Jean-Talon.
The slide of the Quebec Liberals continued, as Élise Avard Bernier took 8.8% of the vote, down 4.7 points. The Conservatives were also down about four points to 6.1% of the vote.
It’s clear that the other parties got marginalized by the polarization of the race between the PQ and the CAQ, but the extent to which the CAQ’s vote fell apart and the PQ scooped up most of it is remarkable. Paradis becomes just the fourth PQ MNA in the National Assembly — a member of a party that is hardly poised to take power. And yet the PQ was able to not only beat the CAQ but to trounce it.
PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon should take a breath before he starts planning the next referendum, however. Polls have suggested that the CAQ’s drop in support is almost entirely concentrated in the Quebec City region, where the government’s decision to reverse itself on the construction of the so-called ‘third link’ has especially hit hard. Whether or not the link itself was popular in Jean-Talon, the breach of trust that it represented is likely what has hurt the CAQ the most. But that opens up the question of whether this result was pro-PQ or anti-CAQ. If it’s the latter, then the Parti Québécois can’t assume that this positive trend in the Quebec City area will be replicated in the regions or in the Montreal suburbs, the key areas in which the PQ needs to return to in order to have a shot at contending for power again.
Nevertheless, alarm bells should be going off at CAQ HQ. Their sheen of invincibility has been ruined. But it isn’t necessarily policy that is going to right this ship — making the CAQ more like the PQ is probably not the answer here. Rather it is the re-establishment of trust that has to be François Legault’s goal.
For the other parties, the result must be a disappointing one. Québec Solidaire hasn’t established itself as the alternative to the government, even where it was the second-place party in the last election. The Liberals continue to be in freefall with no end in sight, though that is no surprise. And the Conservatives risk becoming irrelevant again as voters move on from the pandemic.
The next set of polls out of Quebec will be fascinating to see. People like a winner. Will the PQ get a public opinion boost out of this where it needs it most?
From the Ivory Tower: Do candidate lawn signs work?
As a believer and user of polls, I’m often dismissive of the assessments of a campaign’s strength based on the anecdotal reports of how many lawns signs it has.
But can we take an analytical lens to those lawn signs to try to predict electoral outcomes — and understand whether or not lawn signs have an impact on people’s vote?
Their study was based on lawn-sign data provided by the federal, Manitoba and Ontario Greens drawn from six different ridings, as well as the results of four provincial and federal elections in those ridings between 2015 and 2019. Focusing on lawn signs rather than on signs placed in public spaces, the researchers compared the voting results in individual neighbourhoods to the number of signs the Greens were able to place in those neighbourhoods.
The results showed “strong evidence that household signs are associated with a political party’s vote share” and that “the presence of signs is associated with increased vote share and that the amount of household signs can positively predict vote share in a Canadian context.”
According to the paper, there was a 1.5 to 3.4 percentage point difference between areas where lawn signs were present compared to those without signs. The trend wasn’t consistent, though, so it wasn’t the case that the more signs a party placed in a neighbourhood, the more vote it received. There was a case of diminishing returns once more lawn signs were present in an area, but they theorize that “at lower levels of competitiveness, signs were able to increase the local-level viability of the party, having a dynamic effect on the effect of signs themselves, and vote share correspondingly showed a strong increase”.
Of course, there is still the thorny question of correlation vs. causation, which the researchers admit cannot be answered without some randomized tests. It’s possible that the presence of lawn signs is merely a reflection of support in an area rather than something that causes a party’s support to rise, but it is nevertheless interesting that the paper does find a link between lawn signs and voting results. Perhaps reports of lawn signs aren’t useless “anecdata” after all.
ELECTION NEWS BRIEFS
Set your calendar! Elections Canada said in a release last week that it is getting to work on preparing to use the new federal riding map for the next election — but only if that election is called after April 22, 2024. If the Liberal government fell this fall or, say, over the budget next spring, the election would use the current map and its 338 ridings, rather than the new map, which will boost the total number of seats to 343.
Greg Fergus, the Liberal MP for Hull–Aylmer, was elected yesterday to be the new Speaker of the House of Commons. Fergus was first elected in 2015 and, as demonstrated on an episode of The Writ Podcast a few weeks ago, seems like a very nice guy. Congratulations to him!
Toronto MPP Adil Shamji dropped out of the Ontario Liberal leadership race and opted to endorse Mississauga mayor Bonnie Crombie. That leaves four contestants still in the running. In addition to Crombie, there are Liberal MPs Nate Erskine-Smith and Yasir Naqvi and Liberal MPP Ted Hsu. Shamji had been the laggard in fundraising, suggesting he had little chance of finishing on top (or, to be frank, anywhere but last).
THIS WEEK’S POLLS
Liberal struggles in Newfoundland and Labrador
The federal Liberals are in trouble in Newfoundland and Labrador according to new polling by Abacus Data. The provincial Liberals are also in some peril — but not as much as their federal cousins.
At the federal level, the Conservatives lead in the province with 42%, a gain of nine points over the last election. The Liberals have slipped 15 points to 33% while the NDP is up six points to 23%. That’s a lot of swinging around.
The seat implications could be significant for the Liberals. They won five of seven seats in the province in 2021 but would be hard-pressed to hold more than one with these kinds of swings. Abacus is recording a net swing of 24 points between the Conservatives and the Liberals, but the Liberals won Avalon, Bonavista–Burin–Trinity, Labrador and Long Range Mountains by margins much smaller than 24 points. The biggest gap was 16 points in Avalon, so theoretically all four of these seats could swing from the Liberals to the Conservatives if these poll numbers are replicated in the next election.
Between the Liberals and the NDP, the net swing is about 21 points. That would put St. John’s East, which the Liberals won by 11 points, within range of the New Democrats. Only St. John’s South–Mount Pearl, occupied by Liberal MP and cabinet minister Seamus O’Regan, was won by a large enough margin (33 points over the NDP) to withstand these massive swings.
The sub-regional samples, which have large margins of error, suggest the Liberals have their strongest support in Labrador and western Newfoundland, which might suggest they could hold Labrador and/or Long Range Mountains. But if that’s the case, then the swing against them would be disproportionately located in the rest of Newfoundland, including on the Avalon Peninsula — perhaps enough so that not even O’Regan would be safe.
So, worrying numbers all around for Justin Trudeau. While it doesn’t matter in terms of the final outcome, remember that election night starts first in Newfoundland and Labrador. If the Liberals are already down four seats when the night begins, that will make for a long night indeed for the Liberals.
At the provincial level, Abacus finds that Andrew Furey’s Liberals have also taken a hit, but not nearly as big of one as the Trudeau Liberals have. The N.L. Liberals narrowly led in the poll with 40%, a drop of eight points. The Progressive Conservatives were second with 38%, virtually unchanged from the last election, while the NDP was up 13 points to 21%.
That big number for the NDP does raise some eyebrows and perhaps makes things better for the Liberals than they appear at first glance, as the N.L. NDP rarely matches its between-election poll numbers. And, when an election does happen, the party doesn’t always run a full slate.
There is some overlap between the federal and provincial numbers, as the Furey Liberals are strongest in Labrador and western Newfoundland and also hold a lead (narrowly) on the Avalon Peninsula. That is probably good enough to secure re-election, but it could return the Liberals to minority territory.
In contrast to Trudeau, Furey’s numbers are decent enough — government approval is a net +2 rather than a net -23 for Trudeau. The premier has a net +5 positive rating whereas the prime minister is a net -20. But the top issues (housing affordability and cost of living) are the same, and the provincial government is getting the same poor marks on handling them as is the federal government.
But the blame is landing more at Trudeau’s feet than Furey’s. While 70% partially blame Trudeau and the feds for the rising cost of living, only 50% blame Furey’s government closer to home.
The PCs will name their new leader later this month, and Abacus finds that Tony Wakeham is the favourite of PC voters by a margin of 29% to 16% over Eugene Manning, with Lloyd Parrot in third at 7%. It’s unlikely that a new leader will immediately give the PCs a boost as Wakeham, the best known candidate, is still largely unknown to 71% of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
POLLING NEWS BRIEFS
More federal polling means more good numbers for the Conservatives and bad numbers for the Liberals. Léger puts the Conservatives at 39%, with the Liberals at 27% and the NDP at 18%. The Conservatives have a big lead in Ontario, but B.C. is a three-way contest. We also got the full release from EKOS Research that was partially tweeted out the week before, this one putting the Conservatives at 42% to 23% for the Liberals and 18% for the NDP. And Nanos Research joins the double-digit-lead chorus, pegging the Conservatives at 38% to 27% for the Liberals and 21% for the NDP.
If the Jean-Talon byelection didn’t make it clear enough, new polling out of Quebec shows the CAQ has lost some support, primarily in the Quebec City region. Both Léger and Pallas Data put the CAQ at 34% across the province, with the PQ trailing in second with 22% or 19% and Québec Solidaire in third with 17% or 15%.
And in Ontario, Pallas Data puts the PCs at 33%, followed by both the Liberals and New Democrats at 27% apiece. Pallas finds that Bonnie Crombie would give the Liberals the biggest boost, shrinking the PC-OLP margin to just two points. Among Liberal voters, Crombie is the preferred choice of 49.5%, followed at length by Erskine-Smith and Hsu at 12% apiece.
It’s all in the framing: a new survey by Léger shows that “polluter pay” policies (like, one might say, the carbon tax) are quite popular! When asked if Canadians are in favour of “the principle that individuals who pollute more should pay more (in taxes or other charges from governments) in order to tackle behaviors that are a cause of climate change”, a whopping 74% said they do favour that those individuals pay more. The problem is that people don’t want to be those individuals — a carbon tax for thee, but not for me!
IF THE ELECTION WERE HELD TODAY
The Conservatives move back into majority territory thanks to some strong numbers in Ontario, while the Bloc falls back in Quebec — somewhat mitigating the Liberals’ losses in the neighbouring province.
Doug Ford’s PCs slip to just above the majority threshold, as the opposition (primarily the Liberals) move up.
In Quebec, the Parti Québécois and, to a lesser extent, the Conservatives take advantage of the CAQ’s weakness in the Quebec City region, though the CAQ is still comfortably in majority territory.
Finally, in Newfoundland and Labrador the Liberals fall into minority territory, similar to where things stood after the 2019 provincial election.
The following seat estimates are derived from a uniform swing model that is based on trends in recent polls as well as minor tweaks and adjustments. Rather than the product of a statistical model, these estimates are my best guess of what an election held today would produce, based both on the data and my own experience observing dozens of elections since 2008.
Changes are compared to last week. Parties are ordered according to their finish in the previous election (with some exceptions for minor parties).
RIDING OF THE WEEK
What happened in Manitoba’s profiled ridings
(Note, all of these results are as of 1 AM ET)
David Pankratz of the NDP was leading outgoing immigration minister Jon Reyes by 109 votes in Waverley, one of the most diverse ridings in all of Manitoba, with only one more poll to report.
In Selkirk, the head-to-head match-up between the PCs and NDP was being won by the PCs’ Richard Perchotte by 500 votes with two more polls to report.
The NDP’s Jennifer Chen had a double-digit lead over the PCs in Fort Richmond and was declared elected by the CBC’s Decision Desk.
A close riding for most of the night, Kildonan-River East went to the NDP’s Rachelle Schott by a small margin.
And in Seine River, the NDP’s Billie Cross defeated PC cabinet minister Janice Morely-Lecomte by more than 1,000 votes.
ON THIS DAY in the #EveryElectionProject
Duplessis becomes Conservative leader
October 4, 1933
Over the first decades of the 20th century, Quebec was a Liberal province. The party had come to power in 1897 and by the early 1930s it was still there.
The Conservative opposition had some hope that under firebrand Camillien Houde they could topple the Liberal dynasty in 1931, but Houde went down to defeat against the patrician Louis-Alexandre Taschereau, who deemed Houde “a bit of a rascal.”
While Houde suffered personal defeat, the Conservatives did manage to elect a small opposition caucus — including Maurice Duplessis, who had been singled out by no less than Taschereau as a potential successor to Houde and one that he would much prefer to see in the job.
Houde stayed on as Conservative leader despite not having a seat in the Legislative Assembly, but his caucus was restless. Open revolt occurred when he named an anglophone MLA as his parliamentary leader. The choice was rejected by other Conservative MLAs who instead chose Duplessis to lead them in the assembly. Having completely lost his sway over his caucus, Houde resigned.
Duplessis, first elected in Trois-Rivières in the 1927 election, was not the unanimous choice. Houde opposed him, as did a few MLAs. But the bulk of caucus backed him and there was expectation that they would forego the formality of a convention in order to give Duplessis the permanent job. But with a disunited party, Duplessis wanted to solidify his leadership with a convention — though, as the date for the convention approached, it seemed likely that Duplessis would be acclaimed anyway.
Not so. In a surprise move, Conservative MP Onésime Gagnon put his name forward as a challenger to Duplessis. It was a reversal for Gagnon, who only a few weeks earlier had invited Conservatives to rally behind Duplessis.
But Gagnon was preaching unity, which the Conservative Party did not have in Quebec at the time. Ever since the conscription crisis in 1917, the federal and provincial wings of the Conservatives were divided. Gagnon wanted to see closer ties between the two parties and for Quebec Conservatives to get solidly behind R.B. Bennett’s government in Ottawa. There was talk of third parties being formed in Quebec that would split the anti-Liberal vote and ensure another win for Taschereau.
Despite being a member of Bennett’s caucus in Ottawa, Gagnon had little support from his fellow MPs. They wanted to keep the peace between Duplessis and the federal party, and Gagnon had to dismiss reports that he was being pressed to withdraw by his colleagues, saying “I am in the contest to the finish.”
The convention was held in Sherbrooke and featured speeches by supporters of both Duplessis and Gagnon, as well as an address by the two contenders. Gagnon stressed unity, while Duplessis dismissed the notion that the party was disunited — and spelled out how he was more concerned with provincial than federal affairs.
The betting money was on an easy Duplessis win, but Gagnon put up more of a fight. Duplessis won a solid majority of 61% of the 550 delegates who voted, but Gagnon’s 39% was better than most had expected.
According to the correspondent for the Montreal Gazette, “the fight over, the great gathering broke in a tumult of applause. The rancor which has been engendered was forgotten and Mr. Duplessis and Mr. Gagnon came together on the platform with a hearty grip of the hand, and an exchange of mutual goodwill that told of their years of sincere friendship.”
Gagnon would return to Ottawa and suffer defeat, as most Conservatives did, in the 1935 federal election. Duplessis, too, would fail to dislodge the Quebec Liberals in the 1935 provincial election as a third party, the Action libérale nationale, split the vote. But Gagnon would make good on his promise of friendship to Duplessis, running under the new Union nationale banner in 1936 and sitting in Duplessis’s cabinets until he was rewarded with a posting to the lieutenant-governor’s job in 1958.
Doug Ford cracks the Top Dozen
Tomorrow, Doug Ford will surpass David Peterson as the 12th longest serving premier of Ontario.
Peterson is probably most remembered for two things. Firstly, with the help of Bob Rae’s New Democrats he brought down the 42-year PC dynasty when his Liberals and the NDP teamed up to defeat Frank Miller’s PC minority government in 1985.
Secondly, and again with Bob Rae playing an important role, he disastrously called a snap election in 1990, lost his lead in the polls and saw himself replaced by Ontario’s one (and only) NDP government.
To date, Ford has avoided losing a provincial election. But, like Peterson, he’s showed the capacity to make some really bad political decisions — which might one day see him suffering the same fate.
That’s it for the Weekly Writ this week. The next episode of The Numbers will be dropping on Friday. The episode will land in your inbox but you can also find it on Apple Podcasts and other podcasting apps. If you want to get it early on Thursday, become a Patron here!