Your tipping points election watch list

Maybe we will have to wait for British Columbia after all

We made it! The last Saturday of this election campaign means the last tipping points analysis — at least until we have some results we can use to identify the actual tipping points.

The purpose of this exercise has always been to see how the electoral map was changing for each of the parties. But now that we’re approaching election day, we can actually use the tipping points as a guide for understanding the results as they come in, and perhaps providing us with clues as to what the final outcome will be.

What is The Writ?

By now, you probably know the drill. But if not, the tipping point seat is the seat that gets a party to 170 and a majority government. If you lined up all 338 ridings by a party’s chances of winning them, the one that sits at No. 170 would be the tipping point.

So, without further ado, and for the last time, let’s get to it.

Liberal tipping point: Burnaby North–Seymour

For the first time, the Liberal tipping point is all the way out in British Columbia, as their numbers there get a little worse and the B.C. seats turn out to be the ones that could make all the difference.

Last week, Burnaby North–Seymour was 149th on the list, part of a re-elected minority government but one that was expected to fall in their column well before they get to majority territory. But the NDP has been rising in B.C. and the Liberals have fallen back, so holding their seats here is looking like a challenge.

Ontario, on the other hand, has gotten a lot better. As the Liberals open up a lead over the Conservatives, a riding like Aurora–Oak Ridges–Richmond Hill, 170th last week, has moved up to 153rd.

But to give you a longer list of ridings to watch, I’ve identified below 10 ridings that straddle the 170-seat mark for the Liberals. This means that if the Liberals are leading in most of these ridings as the votes are being counted on election night, they might be able to get to majority status when the counting is over.

Only three provinces make the list: B.C., Ontario and Quebec. All four of the Quebec ridings are Bloc-Liberal contests and three of them are in the suburbs around the island of Montreal. The three Ontario ridings aren’t in the GTA — the Liberals already hold most of what they need there — but instead in small cities and semi-rural areas, just the kind of ridings the Liberals need to get them from a minority to a majority government.

The three B.C. ridings are all in the Greater Vancouver region. This means we might have to wait up to see if the Liberals are winning these.

Now, some of these seats were won by the Liberals in 2019, so it isn’t all about making gains. But gains in some parts of the country might be easier to come by than holds in other parts. If the Liberals are winning most of these, 170 could be in sight.

Conservative tipping point: Labrador

Gains in Atlantic Canada remain a key part of a Conservative majority government. Labrador, after all, was one of the seats the Conservatives won back in 2011 when they secured their only majority victory since 1988. It hasn’t moved around much, as it was 173rd last week. Nepean, which was 170th last week, is now 171st. The map hasn’t shifted a great deal for the Conservatives.

While Labrador is the one that landed at 170, Ontario and British Columbia remain the most important provinces for the Conservatives. Of the 11 seats ranked 165th to 175th, 10 of them are in those two provinces and five are in the Greater Toronto and Vancouver areas.

The seat that tips the Conservatives into plurality status this week is Fleetwood–Port Kells.

But let’s delve into this in more detail. As with the Liberals above, here are the seats that hover around the plurality threshold for both the Liberals and Conservatives. Whoever is winning most of these will probably come out ahead in the seat count:

Here, the list is dominated by Nova Scotia, Ontario and B.C. The Conservatives need to pick-off some of those Atlantic seats to be able to take a run at the Liberals in the seat count, so if the Conservatives are under-performing in the region early in the evening it might be a sign they won’t be able to pull ahead later on.

In Ontario, the Conservatives need to be breaking into the Greater Toronto Area in a seat like Newmarket–Aurora, but also winning in some of the smaller cities and urban centres like Sault Ste. Marie and Niagara Centre. Then, in B.C., it is about those suburban ridings in the Lower Mainland, as well as Vancouver Granville, a riding they would have won under Stephen Harper with the current boundaries. Again, B.C. could make us wait.

If five or more of these are tinged blue on election night, we could be in for a long one. If the Liberals are ahead instead, they are probably on track for another plurality — especially once the mail ballots start getting counted on Tuesday.

NDP tipping point: Brampton West

The Writ Decision Desk is ready to make a call: the New Democrats will not form a majority government. If they were, Brampton West would be the one that ticks them over to 170 seats.

Interestingly, Brampton West was the NDP’s tipping point on the first day of the election. Plus ça change…

Doubling the caucus to 48 seats looks like it could be a challenge. But the seat that would get them to 48 is now Toronto–Danforth, the former riding of Jack Layton.

Two weeks ago, No. 48 for the NDP was Parkdale–High Park. It shows that winning in Toronto beyond a single seat, such as Davenport, is likely a sign the NDP is off to the races for a very strong result. But winning multiple seats in Toronto won’t be easy, particularly considering that every poll I have seen showing results in the city have not been very strong for the New Democrats.

Bloc tipping point: Gaspésie–Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine

Buoyed by the fallout from the English-language debate, as one expects for the leader of the Bloc Québécois, the Bloc’s path to 40 seats looks a little easier than it did a couple weeks ago. But the riding that puts it at 40 is the one that put it at 40 earlier on in the campaign: Gaspésie–Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

If I’m going by my gut, however, I can see Gaspésie–Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine falling to the Bloc much earlier than 40th. It was a close race last time and is the kind of riding where local dynamics will be important.

And there is probably a reason that Yves-François Blanchet decided to spend a few days in the riding during the last week of the campaign. The Bloc might see it as more winnable than the cold numbers do.

Vote efficiency and what to expect this weekend

Finally, the vote efficiency tallies for the Liberals and Conservatives have not shifted much. The Liberals would need a lead of 5.2 percentage points nationally to be in majority territory — more than last week’s implausibly low 2.1 points — and the Conservatives would need to be ahead by 4.7 points to be favoured in the seat count.

Currently, the polls are showing a tie. It would not be surprising or unusual for them to be off by one, two or even three points. But to be off by five points would be quite a miss — so I think for either a Liberal majority or a Conservative plurality we would need to see a combination of a polling miss and some very beneficial vote splits.

Or, we would need momentum to swing dramatically over the weekend.

We can’t rule that out, so watch the polls over the next few days.

The Writ
Episode #12 - Qui sait, qui sait, who knows?
Listen now (71 min) | This week on The Writ podcast, Philippe J. Fournier of 338Canada joins me to pore over the electoral map with only a few days to go before the votes are cast and the ballots are counted. We take a cross-country tour of all the country’s battlegrounds…
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I’ll be helping with that. I’ll have my usual daily update to the CBC Poll Tracker on Saturday and I’ll be updating multiple times on Sunday, with a final update likely to be posted shortly after midnight.

I’ll have an article on The Writ up at some point on Sunday giving an overview of where the race stands and what to watch for on election night. Then, after my final Poll Tracker update is live, I’ll have a bonus podcast episode that will be exclusive to subscribers. There, I’ll give my last take on the final polls of the campaign.

Finally, on Monday night I hope you’ll join me for my 2021 Federal Election Livestream special on YouTube (you can bookmark it here). It’ll start shortly after 6:30 PM ET and the party will keep going all night. Some friends and special guests will be stopping by throughout the show. Be there AND be square!