Shifts in Ontario, Atlantic move the tipping point seats

Liberals' tipping point moves out of Quebec, Conservatives' into the east

Last week, I identified what the tipping point seats were for the four major parties. The concept is pretty simple: line-up all 338 ridings according to how likely a party is to win them, and the one that sits at the 170th spot is the tipping point seat needed for a majority government.

In that article, I went into more detail about where this concept comes from in American politics and how it can be applied in this country. In short, it gives us an idea of the kind of seat each party needs to win the election. How that seat shifts around gives us an indication of how the electoral map is shifting around.

Last week, the seats were all in Central Canada — and, more specifically, within the Toronto-to-Quebec City corridor. Now, the tipping point seats are stretching their legs a little bit into northern Ontario and Prince Edward Island.

These tipping point seats are based on the seat projection model used for the CBC Poll Tracker. For the Bloc Québécois, the tipping point is the 40th seat (which gives them a majority of those up for grabs in Quebec). I’ve also identified the tipping point seat that would give the Conservatives a plurality and would double the NDP’s caucus to 48.

Liberal tipping point: Sudbury

Last week, the Liberal tipping point was Shefford, a riding in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. This week, the tipping point is Sudbury — a riding the Liberals won by 12 points over the New Democrats in the 2019 federal election. That’s a bit of a problem for them.

The centre of the Liberal Party’s gravity when it comes to their majority government has shifted a little over to Ontario. This is because Quebec has gotten — relative to Ontario — more promising. Shefford has slipped up the rankings to 160th. It is an easier seat for the Liberals to win this week than it was last week.

This means the path to a majority government for the Liberals has changed. Before, holding what they had was the given — it was the gains in Quebec that would put them over the top. Now, gaining seats in Quebec looks more likely than holding the seats in Ontario that the New Democrats are targeting.

Sudbury itself has only moved up one seat in the rankings, but it has become more difficult to win. The Liberals are now estimated to lose it by 1.1 points, rather than win it by 1.4 points as was the case last week.

The Liberals have no incumbent in Sudbury as Paul Lefebvre isn’t running again. Viviane LaPointe is running in his place, with the NDP’s Nadia Verrelli her main competitor.

In Ontario as a whole, there has been a net swing of about two points from the Liberals to the New Democrats over the last week. In Quebec, by comparison, there has been a swing of about half a point from the Bloc to the Liberals. It isn’t much, but it means some seats in Quebec have gotten easier for the Liberals to gain while their seats in Ontario have gotten harder to keep.

If we expand the map a little to not just the 170th seat, but those ranked 165th to 175th, Quebec is still important for the Liberals: five of the 11 seats are in Quebec. The rest are scattered across the country, with Ontario and Nova Scotia at two apiece. The fulcrum for the Liberals is still Quebec, but that is based on holding seats in Ontario and elsewhere.

Conservative tipping point: Egmont

The tipping point seat for the Conservatives has shifted dramatically, moving from the Greater Toronto Area’s Vaughan–Woodbridge to the riding of Egmont in Prince Edward Island.

The Conservatives held Egmont during the Stephen Harper years, but lost it back in 2015. Bobby Morrissey is the Liberal incumbent, while Barry Balsom is the Conservative challenger this time. Morrissey won it by a margin of 5.4 points in 2019.

Things are looking up for the Conservatives in Atlantic Canada as a whole, and the upset victory by Tim Houston’s Nova Scotia Progressive Conservatives is not going to hurt. With a Liberal drop and a small Conservative gain, there’s been a net movement of 4.8 points towards the Conservatives in the region. That moved Egmont up from 187th on the list to 170th.

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Vaughan–Woodbridge, however, has slipped down to 177th as the polling numbers in Ontario remain pretty stagnant for the Conservatives. The margin has closed in the province, but the movement in Atlantic Canada means the Conservative path to a majority government includes more seats in that region than it did last week. Big gains in Ontario are comparatively less essential.

Of those seats hovering around the 170-seat mark, three are in Atlantic Canada. There are another three in British Columbia and two in Quebec.

To reach a plurality of seats, the Conservative tipping point is Newmarket–Aurora. It was Oakville last week. Not surprisingly, the Conservatives don’t win more seats than the Liberals without some gains in the Greater Toronto Area.

NDP tipping point: Newmarket–Aurora

I said it last week and I’ll say it again — the NDP is far from 170 seats. Nevertheless, their tipping point remains in the GTA. But it has moved from Brampton West (now 153rd) to Newmarket–Aurora (a riding playing double duty this week).

Indeed, six of the 165th to 175th seats for the New Democrats are in Ontario, with three in British Columbia. The NDP needs a breakthrough in Ontario to hope for a majority government (of course), but that their tipping point has moved from Brampton West to Newmarket–Aurora is notable.

Why? While the NDP remains very, very unlikely to win Brampton West, it isn’t a bad seat for the New Democrats. They had 18% of the vote there in 2019 and the Ontario NDP had 38% in 2018, nearly beating the PCs. It is friendlier NDP territory when the NDP is doing well.

But Newmarket–Aurora, a riding that is not nearly as diverse as Brampton West? The NDP captured 11% there in 2019 and the Ontario NDP was at just 24% in 2018. It is not exactly an NDP seat, to put it mildly, but this shows how the map is improving for the New Democrats in Ontario.

Liberal Tony Van Bynen is the incumbent in Newmarket–Aurora. Yvonne Kelly is the NDP’s candidate there.

More modestly, if the NDP wants to double its caucus to 48 seats then the tipping point is Ottawa Centre. This is a seat the New Democrats held under the late Paul Dewar but lost in 2015 and then again in 2019. Pitt Meadows–Maple Ridge, which was No. 48 last week, has fallen to 54th as the NDP takes a step backwards in B.C.

Bloc tipping point: Longueuil–Charles-LeMoyne

Things haven’t moved much for the Bloc Québécois, however, as their tipping point seat is unchanged from last week: Longueuil–Charles-LeMoyne, a riding in the Montreal suburbs south of the island.

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But whereas the Bloc was estimated to be 9.7 points back of Liberal incumbent Sherry Romanado last week, the Bloc’s Nathalie Boisclair is now estimated to be 10.3 points back.

So, the map hasn’t shifted much for the Bloc but it has gotten a little steeper. The road to 40 is a longer than it looked a week ago.

Stepping back a little, I think this shows a few things:

  • The Liberals need to play a little defense in some areas that should be safe for them, including Atlantic Canada and Ontario where the Conservatives and New Democrats, respectively, could challenge some of their incumbents.

  • There is no Liberal majority without gains in Quebec, and the province will become more important if Liberal support continues to slip in the rest of Canada.

  • This is still largely looking like a small-ball election, where gains for the various parties look incremental region-by-region rather than sweeping.

I’ll check in on the tipping point seats again next Saturday. Have a good weekend!