Weekly Writ for Jan. 31: Liberal brand fatigue in the provinces?
Dates set for federal byelection and Alberta NDP leadership race, plus the latest polls
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 been a little lonely for Liberals in the halls of power of late.
And even for the sole Liberal provincial government in the country, it might not be lonely enough.
In the byelection that took place yesterday in the Newfoundland and Labrador riding of Conception Bay East-Bell Island, the Liberal candidate downplayed his connection to the federal Liberal brand. Not much of a trace of red on his lawn signs, nor a big Liberal logo. The name of the Liberal premier, Andrew Furey, yes, but only in hues of the provincial flag.
And he won. It might have helped that Fred Hutton is a well-known broadcaster.
But since Iain Rankin’s Liberals were defeated in the 2021 provincial election in Nova Scotia, Furey’s Liberals have been the only provincial Liberals forming government anywhere in Canada. (The Liberals run a territorial government in Yukon.)
That the prime minister has so few friends around the premiers’ table is actually a pretty rare occurrence.
Stephen Harper always had at least two friendly governments sitting in provincial capitals during his tenure, as did Paul Martin.
Jean Chrétien had only one unabashed Liberal government among the provinces between 2000 and 2002, though it is debatable whether the B.C. Liberals counted as a second one after they came to power in 2001. This might have been cyclical more than anything else — the federal Liberals were popular at the time.
Before Chrétien, the only other examples I could find were Pierre Trudeau, who could find no Liberal premiers between 1979 and 1984, and R.B. Bennett, who was briefly the only governing Conservative in Canada before he went down to defeat himself in 1935.
There aren’t necessarily any sweeping conclusions to draw here as not all of these examples are the same, but it does show the wear-and-tear that a party brand can take, especially when that brand is governing in Ottawa. When Justin Trudeau was elected in 2015, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island all had Liberal premiers (plus B.C., if we count those Liberals) and Newfoundland and Labrador was shortly to follow. Now, Andrew Furey is the last Liberal standing (and even he is a replacement for Dwight Ball, who won his election about a month after Trudeau came to power).
When Jean Chrétien became prime minister in 1993, there were five Liberal premiers across the country. Pierre Trudeau won his sweeping election in 1968, there were four Liberal premiers in office. When R.B. Bennett took over in 1930, the Conservatives governed five provinces.
Perhaps this is just the natural way of things. But it also suggests that Justin Trudeau likely can’t hold on in such small company indefinitely.
Now, to what is in this week’s instalment of the Weekly Writ:
News on an upset Liberal win in Newfoundland and Labrador, a federal byelection is finally scheduled in Durham and a leadership date is set for the Alberta NDP. Plus, two resignations from the House of Commons and Queen’s Park.
Four new polls on national voting intentions, plus some polling on the Emergencies Act, the U.S. election and the carbon tax. We also have some new numbers out of Ontario and Quebec.
A small PQ majority if the election were held today.
A riding profile for Durham, the next election on the calendar.
The 1890 election in Prince Edward Island in the #EveryElectionProject, in which I have to double-check my sources.
Two beleaguered party leaders mark a milestone.