Canada election preview: Trudeau looks to hold off Conservatives
Majority probably out of reach barring Election Day surprise
Due to the big back-to-back elections in Canada and Germany, the next few weeks will be all international elections! I’ll return to my regular format in October.
Last month, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for an early election for Sept. 20 in an attempt to win back a majority for his centrist Liberal Party in Parliament, which for the last two years has depended on the support of the left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP). After a month of campaigning, however, that majority is probably out of reach as the Liberals are now trying to hold off their resurgent Conservative rivals and continue as a minority government.
When the election was called, the Liberals had seen polling leads ranging from 5-15 points, which would have likely delivered them a majority government. Almost immediately after the election began, though, that lead evaporated as swing voters rebelled against what they saw as an unnecessary election during a pandemic, while Conservative-leaning voters came home.
For about two weeks, the Conservatives even led in the polls, but the numbers have since stabilized, putting the Liberals either neck-and-neck or slightly ahead. That makes another Liberal minority government the most likely outcome, particularly as the Liberals won more seats despite narrowly losing the popular vote in 2019, though a Liberal majority or a Conservative minority are still real possibilities.
The election has largely been fought over the government’s response to the pandemic, including the degree to which vaccines should be mandated and how to restart the economy. Climate change, housing affordability, and issues regarding Indigenous peoples have also been spotlighted. Below I take a look at each of the notable parties in this election and what they’re trying to achieve.
Liberals: Trudeau's Liberals at this point would be thrilled to outperform their polls and get to 170 seats and a majority, but it’s more likely they’ll end up around 140-150. Matching or exceeding their 2019 result of 157 seats should be considered a success, but they’ll take any victory. The Liberals dominate in Atlantic Canada1 and do well in the populous provinces of Quebec and Ontario, which gives them a strong base to start from. If they narrowly fail to win the most seats, it will be interesting to see whether Trudeau attempts to stay in power, probably with a more formal coalition with the NDP.
Conservatives: In late August, a Conservative minority government was the most likely outcome, as polling put them up as many as 6 points, which probably would have been enough to give them more seats than the Liberals. However, as the Conservatives have fallen back, they'd now need to outperform their polls to become the largest party. The Conservatives roll up high margins in the western prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, which make their votes relatively inefficient and means they need to outperform the Liberals by around 3-5 points to win the most seats.
Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole has largely run a competent campaign and has in some ways tried to outflank the Liberals to the left, but he's struggled to compete with the star power of Trudeau. He's also suffered late hits for praising the disastrous handling of the pandemic by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, a fellow Conservative (you can think of Kenney as something like a Ron DeSantis of Canada).
New Democratic Party (NDP): The NDP sits firmly to the left of the Liberals but has long-suffered as the third most popular party in a first-past-the-post system. With the exception of the 2011 election in which the NDP shockingly outperformed the Liberals and won 103 seats, the party has always come in far behind the Liberals and Conservatives in terms of winning seats. In 2019, the party won just 24 seats (7% of the total) on 16% of the nationwide vote. The NDP is currently polling at around 20% and is looking to gain at least 10-15 seats, with optimistic goals of doubling its current seat count. With the Liberals likely to fall short of a majority, the NDP will probably retain its ability to push Liberal legislation in a more progressive direction.
Bloc Quebecois (BQ): BQ is a separatist political party that advocates for the independence of Quebec from the rest of Canada, similar to the Scottish National Party in the United Kingdom. The party only runs candidates in the 78 seats (called “ridings” in Canada) in Quebec and none in the other 260 constituencies in the rest of the country. After very poor results in both 2011 (four seats) and 2015 (10 seats), it rebounded in 2019 with 32 seats. Polling just slightly below its 2019 results, it’s looking to hold on to its current seat total.
Green Party: However much the NDP suffers from Canada’s voting system, the Green Party suffers even more. In 2015, 4% of the national vote netted the party just a single seat in Parliament, while in 2019, a 6.5% share was enough for only three seats. The party does have a few areas where its support is concentrated enough to genuinely contest seats, particularly on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, where two of its current members are located. However, the Greens have seen a downturn in the past year and lost one of their three members to a party switch to the Liberals. It’s polling back in the 3-4% range, so holding on to its two seats on Vancouver Island and potentially snagging a third somewhere will be the best the Greens can hope for.
People’s Party of Canada (PPC): The People's Party are the new kids on the block, having been formed in 2018 by former Conservative MP Maxime Bernier after he narrowly lost the party’s leadership election in 2017. The party has a distinct Trump-esque flavor, clearly influenced by the direction of the GOP in recent years, and has been campaigning against lockdowns and mandatory vaccinations. Bernier lost his seat in 2019 and the party won just 1.6% of the overall vote that year, but the PPC has remained active since then and is now polling at around 6%.
Despite the rise in its polling, it’s still difficult to know where the PPC might actually win a seat, outside of maybe Bernier’s old riding of Beauce in Quebec where he’s running again. The party has pulled some votes from the Conservatives (though polling shows only about 60% of PPC voters voted Conservative in 2019), so depending on how close the race is between the top two parties, this could certainly be a factor.
The vast majority of votes will be counted on election night itself, so we should have a pretty good idea of who’s won by the end of it, but one group of votes will not be counted until Tuesday morning. About one million vote-by-mail ballots will be counted the next morning to ensure no one voted both on Election Day and by mail. To place that in context, over 18 million Canadians voted in 2019, so we’re looking at about 5% of the vote that won't get tallied Monday night. Voting by mail has been particularly popular in British Columbia, where a provincial election last year saw widespread use of the practice for the first time.
Polls close first at 7 PM ET in Newfoundland, which the Liberals dominate, holding six of the province's seven seats. Two ridings worth watching are Bonavista-Burin-Trinity, the closest Liberal seat in 2019, won by 6 points over the Conservatives, and St. John’s East, the sole NDP-held seat. The NDP incumbent is retiring, so the Liberals are moderately favored to retake the seat, but it should be competitive. A Conservative win in Bonavista or an NDP win in St. John’s East could portend well for those parties, while Liberals will be looking for a clean sweep.
At 7:30 PM ET, polls close in the rest of Atlantic Canada: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, all of which are Liberal strongholds like Newfoundland. These should be largely straight Liberal/Conservative battles, along with a couple of Liberal/NDP face-offs. Cumberland-Colchester, held by the Conservatives, and West Nova, held by the Liberals, should both be tight between the top parties, while the NDP will look to spring an upset over the Liberals in Halifax.
At 9:30 PM ET, polls close in the vast majority of the country, including Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. There will be too many seats to keep track of at this point, so it’ll be better to focus on general trends. The Montreal suburbs will be a major Liberal/BQ arena while the Toronto suburbs will be a corresponding Liberal/Conservative battleground. The NDP will look to build on its strength in both cities and rural areas in Ontario and cement itself as the second-most popular party in the three western provinces behind the Conservatives.
Finally at 10:00 PM ET, polls close in British Columbia, where the NDP will be looking to build on a good night or be rescued from a poor one. Some provincial-level polls have shown the NDP leading in B.C., so they'll be looking to gain multiple seats. Meanwhile the Liberals and Conservatives will be looking to refine their overall seat projections and the Green will hope to hold on to their two Vancouver seats.
You can join me on Monday night as I help liveblog the results over at Daily Kos Elections. And I’ll recap the results of a potentially very exciting election night next week!
Results: Norway’s left comfortably wins expected victory
Norway’s election closely tracked its pre-election polling, so there were few surprises. The left and center left parties won 100 seats, well past the right and center-right parties’ 68 seats. One seat was won by the hyper-local Patient Focus party, which advocates for expanding the Alta Hospital in Finnmark in Northern Norway.
The big question on the night was coalition formation and Labour’s preferred coalition of themselves, the Socialist Left and the Centre Party did win a majority of seats, needing 85 and taking 89. That means that Labour won’t need to rely on the far-left Red Party or the Greens to form a government or pass legislation. Coalition talks will be tricky, as they always in multi-party systems, but I would be surprised if Labour don’t get the coalition they want in the end.
The English-speaking part of Canada east of Quebec.