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The Weekly Writ for Oct. 5
Quebec's election results, how Alberta's next premier could move the polls and a leadership race that picked another future premier in New Brunswick.
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 installment of the Weekly Writ, I’ve gone back over the results of the Quebec election and grade how the pollsters did. (Spoiler: not bad at all!)
In Alberta, the United Conservatives are about to choose a new leader. What impact might that have on the polls?
And what of the pending leadership change in British Columbia?
I also go over what happened in the Quebec ridings I’ve profiled over the last few months, as well as mark a milestone for P.E.I. Premier Dennis King. And the #EveryElectionProject this week brings us to 1930s New Brunswick.
Let’s get to it.
IN THE NEWS
CAQ wins majority, as expected
The results of Monday’s election in Quebec had few surprises, with François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec securing 90 seats and 41% of the vote, a gain of 16 seats and 3.6 percentage points over the results of the 2018. It is Quebec’s first re-elected government since 2008.
Legault is also the first Quebec premier to win two consecutive majority governments since Robert Bourassa and the Liberals did it in 1989.
Now under Dominique Anglade, the Quebec Liberals lost 10 seats and 10.5 points, retaining the official opposition role with 21 seats but just 14.4% of the vote, only enough to finish fourth. Second in the province wide vote was Québec Solidaire with 15.4% but just 11 seats, representing a net gain of one seat but a small loss of 0.7 points.
The Parti Québécois finished third in the vote with 14.6% but fourth in seats with just three, down seven seats and 2.5 points from the last election. Finally, the Quebec Conservatives gained 11.5 points to finish with 12.9%, but came up short and were shutout of the National Assembly.
The distortions caused by first-past-the-post here are pretty extreme, as three parties with between 14.4% and 15.4% of the vote won drastically different numbers of seats. Only 34,000 more votes gave QS nearly four times the seats of the PQ, while 9,500 fewer votes gave the Liberals seven times the PQ’s seats. And 12.9% got the Conservatives nothing, the most support a party in Quebec has ever received without winning a single seat.
There are some other historic results in these numbers. Of course, this is the best the CAQ has ever done, while QS has never won more seats. The Liberals, on the other hand, took their lowest share of the vote in their long history and the PQ had its worst result, both in votes and seats, ever.
You wouldn’t suspect this from the five leaders’ speeches, though. Everyone was happy! Legault, of course, had reason to be. But Anglade took her retention of official opposition as a big win, despite the poor showing of the Liberals off the island of Montreal.
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois of QS was very happy to make a net seat gain of one and could reasonably argue (as he did) that QS was the only party to “resist” the “CAQ wave”.
Paul St-Pierre Plamondon looked emotional after winning his seat in Camille-Laurin, and seemed to have the longest election-night, upbeat speech even though the PQ was handed a historic defeat. Éric Duhaime also seemed pleased with his party’s vote share and second-place finishes, even if there won’t be a Conservative in the National Assembly.
But don’t be fooled — this was a big win for the CAQ and a pretty big defeat for everyone else. With turnout holding steady and the CAQ picking up an extra 173,000 raw votes, it isn’t a win-by-default, either.
The CAQ was able to take seats away from every party. From the Liberals, the CAQ gained Fabre, Vimont and Laval-des-Rapides in Laval, Anjou-Louis-Riel in Montreal, Laporte on the south shore and Hull in the Outaouais.
Legault might have done better on the island of Montreal if he hadn’t (repeatedly) stepped in it on the issue of immigration. The CAQ finished third in the vote in Montreal with about as much support as in 2018. Had the CAQ done better, they could have taken more advantage of the Liberal slide of about seven points on the island. The gains in Laval only happened because the Liberals dropped behind — the CAQ didn’t make any inroads in vote share across the city.
From the Parti Québécois, the CAQ picked off incumbent-less seats in Joliette and Jonquière and ate away at the PQ’s last eastern redoubts by gaining Duplessis and René-Lévesque in the Côte-Nord and Bonaventure, Gaspé and Rimouski in the Bas-Saint-Laurent and Gaspésie.
The CAQ can thank the collapse of the Liberal vote for some of these pick-ups. In the Gaspésie, the PQ took around 36%, about the same as in 2018. But the CAQ surged 27 points from the last election, much of that apparently coming from the Liberals’ 23-point drop.
Finally, from QS the CAQ was able to take Rouyn-Noranda–Témiscamingue, suggesting the controversy over the Horne foundry did not hurt the CAQ.
Legault’s party only lost a single riding, and that was to St-Pierre Plamondon in the Montreal seat of Camille-Laurin. Considering the profile the PQ leader got during the campaign and the contest’s special circumstances (the QS candidate withdrew), that is hardly a rebuke.
The only other party to gain seats was Québec Solidaire, taking Verdun and Maurice-Richard in Montreal away from the Liberals.
The Conservatives came close in the two Beauce ridings, but Duhaime was pretty far back in Chauveau, where he was running. The party didn’t do as well as expected in the Quebec City region, with only around 21% of the vote.
The CAQ either met or beat its polls, likely due to the CAQ’s disproportionate support among older voters and the effect that would have on turnout. The Liberals and Conservatives were over-estimated.
Segma Recherche came closest to the mark, but its poll was conducted about two weeks before election day so they get a bit of an asterisk.
Among the pollsters who published surveys in the last days of the campaign, Léger was closest, and with very accurate regional numbers to boot. By comparison, Mainstreet Research had the CAQ winning on the island of Montreal with over 30% of the vote (they actually earned less than 20%) and Forum Research had the Conservatives ahead in Quebec City (rather than about 20 points behind).
As suspected, Mainstreet was over-estimating the Conservatives and under-estimating Québec Solidaire. Léger under-estimated the CAQ to the benefit of the Liberals, which is what also happened in 2018. As in that election, I suspect the lower turnout in predominantly anglophone ridings might be behind some of this.
So, what’s next for Quebec?
Legault has a broad mandate from Quebecers, one that he can point to in dealings with the federal government. And his victory is emphatic enough that it might quiet down some of the chatter that this was Legault’s last campaign as CAQ leader.
Both Québec Solidaire and the Parti Québécois will be looking to be awarded official party status in the National Assembly, which is only recognized by agreement with the other parties in the legislature if a party fails to win at least 12 seats or 20% of the vote. They got that recognition in 2018. We’ll see if they both get it in 2022.
And it would appear that every leader is going to stay in his or her post for at least the immediate future, though Anglade will likely face the most pressure to step aside. She marginally beat the very low expectations the party had heading into election day, but the Liberals are not headed in the right direction after two consecutive historic-worst results. A party registering less than 10% among francophones needs to take a hard look at itself if it wants to ever contend for government.
Prediction contest update
With the Quebec election in the books, it’s time to update the 2022 Prediction Contest. Contestants had given their prediction for the election some 10 months ago, and it seems the outcome was indeed predictable — not a single person guessed the CAQ would lose.
No one had a perfect prediction for seats (contestants needed to get within one seat for each party for a perfect score), but with the average guess being 88 CAQ, 22 Liberals, 10 QS, and five PQ seats, many people were off for only one of the parties. Good job, everyone!
Here are the current standings:
25 points: Ryan Vienneau
21 points: Brian Bimm, Larry Savage
19 points: Alan Siaroff
18 points: Éric Grenier, Rod
17 points: Imran, Ali, Jonathon, Felix
16 points: Cam Chamberlain, John Orr, Rye, Gerard Kennedy
15 points: Ali Ege Gursoy, Leonard H.
14 points: Bob W., Dan, Jason Young
13 points: Brian Lowry
12 points: Bill D., WilliamOC
11 points: Hamish Gilleland
10 points: Adam P. MacDonald
8 points: Hugh Wright
Ryan continues to school the rest of us, though he just missed out on a few extra points with his guess (in January!) of 93 CAQ, 20 Liberals, eight QS and four PQ seats.
There are only three more chances for contestants to score points: choosing the leader of the Greens, predicting the winner of the U.S. midterms and whether or not any one of Justin Trudeau, Jagmeet Singh or Yves-François Blanchet resign by year’s end.
United Conservatives choose a premier tomorrow
By this time on Friday morning, we’ll know both the new leader of the United Conservative Party and the next premier of Alberta.
So you better strap yourself in.
Though there has been little reliable polling of the UCP leadership race — the closest we might have is this Mainstreet Research polling that seems to echo some of the conveniently leaked internal polling we’ve seen in the campaign — everyone seems to agree that Danielle Smith is by far the favourite to win.
The former leader of the Wildrose Party, Smith has led in the polls that have been released that purport to be surveying UCP members, who number some 124,000. Most tellingly, though, is that every other candidate in the race has been treating Smith like the front runner.
She’s well behind former finance minister Travis Toews, who has about half of the caucus behind him, in endorsements, but that is not necessarily a problem in a one-member, one-vote leadership contest for a party whose membership is not exactly always onside with their MLAs.
The growth in membership since Jason Kenney’s leadership review has been impressive and, as was broken down by the CBC’s Jason Markusoff in August, the ridings in southern and central Alberta where Smith is likely to be strongest have some of the highest numbers of eligible voters in the province.
Assuming Smith does emerge as the leader and next premier, a lot of focus will turn to her proposed Alberta Sovereignty Act. (The problems with her proposal were explained by Martin Olszynski on The Writ Podcast earlier this summer.) It could flare-up as an issue both in Alberta and at the federal level.
And all this in the context of a provincial election looming in May 2023. Like I said, buckle up.
THIS WEEK’S POLLS
Could Danielle Smith drag the UCP down?
A new survey by the Angus Reid Institute shows that Danielle Smith could sap the support for the United Conservatives that has been ticking up over the last year.
The poll found that 44% of Albertans who voted for the UCP in 2019 find Smith to be the most appealing candidate for the party leadership, followed by Brian Jean (36%) and Toews (23%).
Among the general population, though, only 32% of Albertans say Smith winning the UCP leadership and becoming premier would be a great or good thing for Alberta. That compares to 54% who say it would be a bad or terrible thing — including 42% who say terrible.
That net -22 is worse than how a Toews (-5) or Jean (-9) victory would be perceived and puts a pretty hard ceiling on Smith’s support. By comparison, only 21% said a Jean premiership would be “terrible”.
That doesn’t mean clear sailing for Rachel Notley and the New Democrats, though. The poll found 45% of Albertans think a return to power for the NDP would be “terrible”, putting an even lower ceiling on Notley’s support than Smith has. However, 42% say it would be great or good for Alberta, a better base from which to work.
The ARI found that the UCP has moved six points ahead of the NDP in voting intentions as support for the Wildrose Independence Party slides. The NDP has been stuck for a little while, as support for the party hasn’t shifted beyond the 38% to 43% range since September 2020. That range might have been good enough to win in 2019 when there were three major parties, but the NDP needs to have more support than that if the next election is a one-on-one fight with the UCP.
It’s difficult to say how much of these voting intentions are already baking-in a Danielle Smith victory tomorrow. But if we exclude the undecideds from the question on whether Smith would be good for Alberta, the share saying good or great is only 37% — 10 points below where the UCP stands in voting intentions.
By comparison, Notley’s ratings on this question are four points higher than the NDP’s support among decided voters. So, the net effect could be that Smith will force those UCP numbers down.
Eby’s NDP would lead by six
The Angus Reid Institute (expect to hear more from them as they trickle out their quarterly polling for each province) finds that the B.C. New Democrats under leadership front runner David Eby would have 40% support, six points ahead of the B.C. Liberals (soon to be re-branded as BC United) under Kevin Falcon.
The Greens under Sonia Furstenau trail in third with 17%.
This would represent a fairly sizable eight-point slide for the NDP compared to the 2020 election, with no gains for the Liberals. The Greens would be up two, with the rest going to “other” parties.
The ARI found that 21% of British Columbians have a favourable view of Falcon, while another 44% have an unfavourable view. Not great.
When it comes to Eby, 30% say that what they’ve seen so far mark him out as an appealing future premier, compared to 36% who say he isn’t appealing. Eby clearly has some big shoes to fill and might be found wanting compared to the man currently in the job: John Horgan has an approval rating of 53%.
ANOTHER CONSERVATIVE LEAD - Last Wednesday, Ipsos released a national new survey showing the Conservatives ahead with 35% support. The Liberals followed with 30% and the NDP with 20%. This matches nearly exactly the average of post-Poilievre polls that had previously been published and represents a three-point jump for the Conservatives compared to a survey done by Ipsos in June. That also aligns with the kind of bump we’ve seen from other polls since Pierre Poilievre won the Conservative leadership on September 10.
RIDINGS OF THE PAST FEW WEEKS
How our profiled seats fared
Throughout the summer, I profiled ridings that were expected to be tight or interesting races in Monday’s Quebec election. Here’s what happened in them:
Bonaventure: The CAQ’s Catherine Blouin won this seat away from the PQ with 44% of the vote. Alexis Deschênes, running in the place of former PQ MNA Sylvain Roy, captured just 30% of the vote, down eight points. The CAQ surged by 28 points.
Chauveau: Conservative leader Éric Duhaime got just 32% of the vote, losing to CAQ incumbent Sylvain Lévesque, who had 47%. That matched Lévesque’s 2018 performance.
Chutes-de-la-Chaudière: Former Radio-Canada journalist Martine Biron was elected with 47% against 27% for Mario Fortier of the Conservatives. Worth noting, though, is that Biron did 13 points worse than her CAQ predecessor.
Gaspé: Méganne Perry Mélançon fell just short of holding this seat for the PQ, taking 37.5% of the vote, an increase of four points since 2018. Stéphane Sainte-Croix of the CAQ won with 41%, up 21 points.
Hull: Québec Solidaire didn’t pull off an upset in Hull, as Mathieu Perron-Dufour captured just 21% of the vote. Instead, the CAQ won this seat with 35% for Suzanne Tremblay, up nine points since 2018. The Liberals’ Maryse Gaudreault lost her seat with 26%, down eight points. The Liberals had held this without interruption since 1981.
Îles-de-la-Madeleine: Joël Arseneau held on here for the PQ with 46%, a gain of seven points, beating out CAQ candidate and former mayor Jonathan Lapierre, who took 40%, up 31 points.
Jean-Lesage: Sol Zanetti of Québec Solidaire won re-election in this Quebec City riding with 38%, followed by Christiane Gamache of the CAQ with 31%.
Marquette: The anglophone vote held firm here for the Liberals, as Enrico Ciccone won re-election easily with 47%, up four points since 2018. The CAQ was second with 22%.
Rouyn-Noranda–Témiscamingue: A painful defeat for QS as Émilise Lessard-Therrien lost here to Daniel Bernard of the CAQ. He had 45% to her 31%, which was down a point.
Saint-Henri–Sainte-Anne: In the end, Dominique Anglade won re-election in her own seat fairly easily with 36% support against 28% for Guillaume Cliche-Rivard of QS. Anglade dropped only two points compared to 2018.
ON THIS DAY in the #EveryElectionProject
Twice interim, Dysart made permanent leader of the NB Liberals
October 5, 1932
On a fall day in 1932, some 600 Liberals made their way to the Fredericton Opera House to attend their provincial party’s convention. At issue was who would lead the New Brunswick Liberals into the next election — and potentially back into power.
“The majority of the Liberal delegates arrived in the capital by auto,” reported the Fredericton Daily Mail, and “the convention which began shortly after two o’clock was one of the most enthusiastic ever held in this city.”
New Brunswick, like the rest of Canada, was in the grips of the Great Depression. The challenge had sparked rumours that the Liberals would enter into a coalition with the governing Conservatives. It was something those gathered at the convention strongly and clearly opposed.
The goal was to kick the Conservatives out of office, regaining what the Liberals had lost in 1925. At the convention, a wire from Mackenzie King was read to the delegates, in which the Liberal opposition leader in Ottawa called for a “Liberal united determination to win back New Brunswick.”
The choice for leader came down to two men. There was John B. McNair, a lawyer from Fredericton who had long been active in party circles. But the favourite was Allison Dysart, the party’s acting leader in the Legislative Assembly.
Dysart had sat in the assembly as the member for Kent since 1917 and had even been interim leader before. After the Liberals’ defeat in 1925, Dysart took over leadership duties after the resignation of Peter Veniot. But as the 1930 provincial election approached, the party urged Dysart to step side. He was a Catholic, after all, and Veniot’s Catholicism (and Acadian heritage) was blamed for the party’s defeat.
The change to a Protestant leader didn’t have the desired outcome, and the Liberals (as well as leader Wendell Jones in his own riding) were defeated in 1930. Leaderless on the opposition benches, Dysart took over the job once again.
This time, though, Liberal delegates were set on keeping Dysart in his post for good and, according to the Moncton Transcript, Dysart prevailed by 459 votes to 97 for McNair.
In his victory speech, Dysart “levelled a barrage of vituperation against the expenditures of the present [Conservative] government,” according to the Daily Mail. As a consolation prize, McNair was elected as president of the party.
An editorial in the Daily Mail welcomed Dysart’s victory.
“From east, west, north and south came sturdy delegates determined to square the account by restoring Mr. Dysart to the position from which he was cruelly ousted just prior to the election of 1930, lop away the mouldering branches and make some effort to restore the old party to the position, which it held in New Brunswick before it fell upon evil days, largely as the result of kindergarten leadership.”
Dysart would eventually lead the Liberals to a sweeping victory in 1935. Among those appointed to his cabinet would be John B. McNair, the new attorney general. While Dysart would only govern New Brunswick until 1940, McNair would step in and continue the Liberal run in power for another 12 years.
Little did those delegates know that the two men they chose from in 1932 would govern the province for most of the next two decades.
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Dennis King moves up the rankings
On Friday, Dennis King will surpass Donald Farquharson as the 18th longest-serving premier of Prince Edward Island.
Farquharson served as premier from 1898 to 1901, replacing Alexander Bannerman Warburton upon his resignation. Farquharson later stepped down to run for the federal Liberals in a byelection after his short tenure in the premier’s office, but he did lead his provincial Liberals into a single successful election campaign in 1900 and subsequently implemented prohibition in P.E.I., which remained in place until after the Second World War.
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!