The Weekly Writ for Sept. 14
How Poilievre's win stacks up to history, the latest in Quebec polls, and the defeat of Bowserism 106 years ago.
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.
On the one hand, I’m not entirely surprised that Pierre Poilievre managed to get 68% of the points and 71% of the votes in the Conservative leadership race. He was dominating in fundraising, polls and membership sign ups. A dominating result was thus always a possibility.
On the other hand, it is still a remarkable thing to see, especially in a contest that was supposed to be at least a bit competitive.
Winning all 13 provinces and territories and 330 of 338 ridings cements Poilievre’s hold on the party (see here for a detailed breakdown of the results). If he still has any opponents internally, they’ve just been shown to be a tiny minority — which is perhaps why Richmond–Arthabaska MP Alain Rayes announced yesterday he was going to leave the Conservative caucus and sit as an Independent. He said he no longer sees himself in this party.
Rayes definitely put a damper on Poilievre’s triumphant first days as leader, but it should act as a reminder that his party faithful remains an unrepresentative chunk of the Canadian population. Poilievre brought a new influx of members into the party, swamping whatever small factions still remained, but his success doesn’t necessarily translate to the broader population.
Instead, what we should marvel at is the organizational might needed to pull this win off. Granted, Jean Charest’s campaign always appeared a little old-fashioned and anemic, and it seems that the social conservative groups behind Leslyn Lewis might have put in a little less effort than in 2020 after seeing the writing on the wall, but winning this big and ensuring that some 300,000 people fill out and submit a rather complicated ballot is no small feat.
In fact, let’s put this into historical context. Below, I’ve ranked all of the first ballot results (of whatever system used at the time) for the eventual winner of every leadership race held by the Liberals, NDP and Conservatives (and their various predecessor parties). You can see just how highly Poilievre ranks:
No other Conservative leader has won a first ballot victory of this scale. George Drew nearly managed it in 1948 and John Diefenbaker also cleared 60% when he won in 1956, but every other Conservative fell well short of Poilievre’s mark.
Only Paul Martin (in a somewhat perfunctory 2003 contest against Sheila Copps), Justin Trudeau, Tommy Douglas, Lester Pearson and Louis St-Laurent have done better on a first ballot. Not bad company for Poilievre to keep, considering that out of these only Douglas failed to win an election and become prime minister.
With the exception of Martin’s win, Justin Trudeau is at the very top of this list. His victory in 2013 was greater than Poilievre’s, as he won 303 of 308 ridings (98.4%), slightly better than Poilievre’s 97.6% win rate. He also had more points and vote share than Poilievre.
But, with all due respect to Joyce Murray, who finished second to Trudeau in 2013, Trudeau did not face the same level of competition as Poilievre did.
So, what to take from this? It isn’t that Poilievre should be able to translate his big leadership victory into a big general election win. But it is that, like Trudeau, Poilievre faces no internal competition.
The Liberal Party has a long history of personality-driven infighting (Pierre Trudeau vs. John Turner, Jean Chrétien vs. Paul Martin) but Justin Trudeau has faced no serious challenge to his leadership over the last decade.
The Conservatives have a long history of infighting driven by ideology or region (Quebec vs. the West, moderates vs. right-wingers) but Poilievre won so big that any ideological or regional rivals in the party have been humiliated. We’ll see if others will follow Rayes in recognizing that the party has changed — and that it is now Poilievre’s party.
In case you missed it, I chatted with Philippe J. Fournier in the latest installment of our subscribers-only bonus episodes on the Quebec election. Listen here:
With that, let’s get to the Weekly Writ. We take a look at byelection results in British Columbia and a new leadership vacancy to be filled in the North.
Then, as I’ve been doing every week, I round-up the polls in the Quebec election campaign. I also take a peek at a municipal poll out of Vancouver and a UCP leadership poll out of Alberta.
Finally, I mark a milestone for a Green leader and tell the story of a B.C. election held over a century ago.