Beyond the Ballot: A Look at the Results Election 2019
Even though the Conservative Party of Canada and Andrew Scheer won the popular vote in yesterday’s federal election, the Liberals have been returned to power, securing a significant minority win and leading the second place Tories by more than 30 seats.
National Seat Totals
In a historic result, last night marked the first time in Canadian history that the winner of the election, in this case the Liberal Party of Canada, failed to secure the popular vote. While the Liberals only won 33.1% (compared with the 34.4% gained by the Conservatives), they have sufficient seats to form government. The party finished in a strong minority position, now only requiring the support of one other party to form a working majority in the House of Commons. With no Liberal MPs in Alberta or Saskatchewan, Prime Minister Trudeau will face significant challenges with Western Canadian representation when selecting his new Cabinet. This potentially debilitating divide in the country must be worked on and addressed.
For the Conservatives, winning the popular vote was a poor consolation prize. Unable to gain the seat results they needed in Ontario and Quebec, the Conservatives’ improvements were realized in Western Canada where limited seats gains were only possible to begin with. It remains unclear if the 20+ increase in seats from the last Parliament will allow Conservative leader Andrew Scheer to remain at the helm of the party. He will be subject to an automatic leadership review at its next national convention.
If there was a big winner last night, it was the Bloc Québécois. With its best electoral result in over a decade, the Bloc won a significant number of seats away from the NDP, Liberals and Conservatives, and will now hold a significant power base on Parliament Hill representing the third largest caucus in the House at 32 MPs.
With 25 seats, the NDP saw its seat totals almost halved again for the second straight election. The “Orange Wave” which swept Quebec eight years ago is now gone, with only one NDP MP remaining in the province. Despite a strong performance by Jagmeet Singh in both the English and French televised debates, the NDP did not make the gains in either Ontario or B.C. necessary to offset the 14 seats they lost in Quebec. The silver lining? They may hold the balance of power in the new Liberal minority landscape.
For the Green Party, another seat was added to the caucus – this time in New Brunswick – bringing 3 elected MPs to Ottawa for the first time. This was not the breakthough the party had been hoping for over the course of the campaign, as it saw polls showing 10-12% support being cut in half when the ballots were actually counted. This lack of upward momentum was evident half way through the campaign.
Electoral turnout yesterday was largely similar to 2015, with 64.9% of Canadians casting their ballot in this election.
For those engaging with this ‘new’ Liberal government, there are important considerations. One reality warrants reiterating which is that moving an issue or initiative through a minority Parliament is fundamentally different than a majority Parliament. As first covered in our Beyond the Ballot piece on minority governments last month, a minority scenario increases the influence of opposition caucuses and gives important voices to MPs other than those in the governing party. Cultivating these individuals as champions for any particular cause is critical. The Liberals will need to negotiate and compromise, possibly on a case-by-case basis. This dynamic puts all opposition parties aligned or misaligned with the Liberals’ directional mandate in play, and they should be a part of every stakeholder’s government affairs strategy moving forward.
With such a strong showing (now at 121 seats) and with the unpredictability of a minority government and how long it will survive, the Conservatives remain key players in the next Parliament and cannot be ignored.
Lastly, how the new minority government interfaces with the dynamic and frankly erratic Senate will be important to closely monitor and incorporate into strategy development.
Now moving into our post-election reality, expect a new Trudeau Cabinet in the coming 2-3 weeks and a new Speech from the Throne. Parliament will likely be recalled on November 18, still to be formally confirmed. Given their incumbency, while it will take time to brief and onboard new Ministers, restaff Ministers’ Offices, appoint Parliamentary Secretaries and Committee Chairs, amongst other important machinery of government issues, expect the Liberals to focus on getting back to business in short order.
The National Picture
To be sure, each region tells a different story in this election. Here is our take on how things played out across the country.
New Brunswick: (LPC – 6, CPC – 3, GREEN – 1)
Nova Scotia: (LPC – 10, CPC – 1)
Newfoundland & Labrador: (LPC – 6, NDP- 1)
Prince Edward Island: (LPC – 4)
All 5 incumbent Cabinet Ministers from the Atlantic region retained their seats. The Liberals lost four seats in New Brunswick, and one seat each in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, while holding onto all their seats on Prince Edward Island. The Conservatives are now represented in rural New Brunswick and one riding in rural Nova Scotia. The NDP regained its previously-held seat in Newfoundland thanks to Jack Harris’ win and the Greens, for the first time, have elected an MP in New Brunswick.
Some of the highest-profile results are:
- Conservative candidate Richard Bragdon won the seat for Tobique-Mactaquac following the departure of Liberal M.P. T.J. Harvey prior to the election.
- Former Conservative MP John Williamson won back the riding of New Brunswick-Southwest from one-term Liberal MP Karen Ludwig.
- Likewise, former Conservative Minister & MP Rob Moore reclaimed the seat he lost in 2015 tp Liberal MP Alaina Lockhart.
- Green candidate Jenica Atwin shocked the region with her defeat of Liberal MP Matt DeCourcey in Fredericton, reflecting Green Party support that was demonstrated in last year’s provincial election.
In Nova Scotia, Conservative Chris d’Entremont secured the sole seat for the party in the province, beating Liberal candidate Jason Deveau. d’Entremont is a high-profile former provincial politician with significant name recognition in the community.
In Newfoundland, former NDP MP Jack Harris reclaimed the seat of St. John’s East from first-time Liberal MP Nick Whalen.
The Atlantic region saw a number of incumbent MPs announce their intentions not to run for re-election prior to the writ, including veteran MPs Bill Casey, Rodger Cuzner and Scott Brison. With the Atlantic results being the first to report last night and providing valuable insight into the final result.
(LPC – 35, BLOC – 32, CPC – 10, NDP – 1)
In yesterday’s vote, Québec perfectly illustrated the old political adage that “campaigns matter.” The Liberals started the election campaign with a comfortable lead in the province, assuming that due to the NDP’s sliding fortunes, Québec would remain on their side. The unexpected and strong resurgence of the Bloc Québécois (BQ) prevented the Liberals from securing a second majority government. After only serving as leader of the Bloc Québécois for nine months, Yves-François Blanchet has seen the number of BQ MPs in the House of Commons triple, from 10 to 32. The BQ has regained official party status and been catapulted to the 3rd largest caucus in the House of Commons.
Yves-Francois Blanchet started the campaign as a relative unknown. His turning point was the first French debate on TVA, where Quebecers had the chance to really get to know the new leader (and to also witness Andrew Scheer’s inability to connect with Quebecers).
In his election night speech, Yves-François Blanchet stated that the BQ would collaborate with any party that puts forward enticing proposals for Québec. However, the Bloc leader made it clear that he would not work with any party that wants to impose a pipeline on Québec or that wants to interfere with the province’s controversial Bill 21. He further stated that the BQ’s job would not be to defend Canada’s federalism, but neither to seek to defeat Trudeau immediately. Blanchet expressed a strong willingness to find a way to work with the Liberals on an issue-by-issue basis.
As a result of Blanchet’s strong performance, coupled with increased discontent with all the other major parties, there will be more Bloc MPs in Québec than Liberal MPs. The Bloc picked up seats from all the political parties –most critically from the NDP. The party will go from 15 seats in Québec won in 2015 to only one seat in Montreal.
All incumbent Liberal Cabinet Ministers hailing from Québec were re-elected. However, the first poll of the evening from Québec (Gaspésie—Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine) showed BQ candidate Guy Bernatchez in a neck in neck race with MP and Minister Diane Lebouthillier in one of the closest races in the province. Ultimately, Mme. Lebouthillier kept her seat.
Results from Key Ridings:
- Beauce – Richard Lehoux, the Conservative candidate in the riding, won comfortably over Maxime Bernier in a riding he had held that seat since 2006. In a follow-up interview with Radio Canada, Bernier stated that he would continue to lead the People’s Party of Canada to continue its growth and that he would also run again in the next federal election in Beauce.
- Berthier—Maskinongé – Ruth Ellen Brosseau, a rising star in the NDP caucus, lost her seat to BQ candidate Yves Perron who served as the President of the BQ prior to running for the party.
- Laurier Sainte Marie – the Liberal’s star Quebec candidate, Steven Guilbeault, won with a comfortable vote lead over the runner-up candidate, the BQ’s Michel Duchesne. The riding was previously held by the NDP, who, despite recruiting a star candidate, ultimately placed third in yesterday’s vote.
- Beloeil—Chambly– Yves-François Blanchet handily won the riding over two-term NDP incumbent Matthew Dubé (who was part of the “McGill five orange wave” in 2011).
- Longueuil—Saint-Hubert – Pierre Nantel, former NDP MP, decided to switch parties during the campaign and run to become the Greens’ first MP in Québec. He ultimately came in third, with the Bloc’s Denis Trudel (a well-known comedian) sailing to victory.
- Rosemont—La Petite Patrie. Two-term MP Alexandre Boulerice easily won the riding but will find himself quite lonely as the only NDP MP returning to the House of Commons from Québec.
- Québec– In the heart of conservative Québec territory, Liberal cabinet minister Jean-Yves Duclos unexpectedly won this riding in 2015 and managed to hold onto it this time around despite intense Conservative and BQ ground efforts to turn the riding.
(LPC – 78, CPC – 37, NDP – 6)
The Liberals largely held in Ontario. Liberal candidates throughout Toronto, the 905 and Ottawa, among other locations, were virtually all re-elected. Further, every incumbent Liberal Cabinet Minister from the province held onto their seats.
Heading into the vote, the Liberal Party had concerns about a number of ridings, particularly in Southwestern Ontario and the Golden Horseshoe but ultimately these proved unfounded, as it finished only two seats behind the party’s total from 2015.
The Conservatives and NDP will be very disappointed with their results in the province, as the Conservatives had hoped to break through in the 905 and the NDP resurgence in the last couple of weeks had them hoping for gains in the province.
The biggest surprise of the evening in Ontario was likely the loss of Conservative Deputy Leader and former Minister Lisa Raitt to Liberal Adam van Koeverden in Milton. This loss is a snapshot of the Conservative Party’s results in Ontario. It also reflects the very significant efforts put forth by both Van Koeverden and the party itself in the riding over many months.
A Critical Result
The Liberal Party’s ability to hold their seat count in Ontario was key to its continuing grasp on government. Losses in other regions meant a majority was unlikely so a strong showing in Ontario was imperative to holding on to power.
(LPC – 4, CPC- 54, NDP – 4)
As expected, Canada’s Prairie provinces remain a Conservative stronghold, with the Tories taking 54 seats of a total of 62 seats between Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The “blue wave” swept across the region, unseating seven Liberal MPs and two NDP MPs. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was easily re-elected in his riding of Regina-Qu’Appelle.
Across the Prairies, the Conservatives held support from rural ridings and also captured key ridings in urban areas. No doubt their biggest win comes from unseating two Liberal Ministers: Ralph Goodale, who had represented Regina-Wascana (SK) since 1993 and acted as de facto Deputy Prime Minister to Justin Trudeau, holding the only Liberal seat in Saskatchewan, was defeated by computer scientist Michael Kram (who first ran against him in 2015).
Meanwhile, Conservative Tim Uppal, who represented the riding of Edmonton-Mill Woods (AB) from 2008-2015 before redistribution, reclaimed his seat from Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi.
Other key seat gains included Raquel Dancho reclaiming the historically Conservative-held Conservative riding of Kildonan-St. Paul (MB) from the Liberals; Conservative Marty Morantz defeating the Liberals in Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley (MB), and wins for Conservatives Greg Mclean in Calgary Centre (AB); Jagdeep Sahota in Calgary Skyview (AB); and James Cumming in Edmonton Centre (AB) – translating into no seat showings for the Liberals in Alberta or Saskatchewan.
The NDP held three of its previously five seats across the Prairies and made a gain in Manitoba. Liberal incumbent Robert-Falcon Ouellette from Winnipeg Centre (MB) was defeated by Indigenous human rights advocate Leah Gazan. Coming from the non-profit sector, Heather McPherson won in Edmonton Strathcona (AB), a riding held by the NDP since 2008; and, Niki Ashton and Daniel Blaikie were re-elected in Manitoba. The Conservatives defeated Jagmeet Singh’s party in Saskatchewan, where Gary Vidal won in Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, and Brad Redekopp in Saskatoon West.
(LPC – 11, CPC – 17, NDP- 11, GREEN – 2, Independent – 1)
As with federal elections of the past, the question upon the polls closing in British Columbia was “is it already over?” It would be fair to say that this time around, the answer was both yes and no.
On the former, both the CBC and CTV had already projected that the Liberals had done enough to maintain the majority of seats in the House of Commons based on strong numbers in Atlantic Canada, Ontario and Quebec. On the latter, based on those results, the question around B.C. instead turned to whether or not the province would determine if the Liberals were able to push past the threshold of 170 seats required to maintain a majority – evidently, to that end, they did not.
Instead, seats that the Liberals needed for majority – or at least a very strong minority – largely moved back to the blue column. Most notable races included:
- Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon – Brad Vis defeated incumbent Jati Sidhu
- South Surrey-White Rock – Kerry-Lynne Findlay defeated incumbent Gordie Hogg (previously the Liberals’ B.C. Caucus Chair)
- Kelowna-Lake Country – Tracy Gray defeated incumbent Stephen Fuhr
- Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge – Marc Dalton defeated incumbent Dan Ruimy
- Cloverdale-Langley City – Tamara Jansen defeated incumbent John Aldag
- Steveston-Richmond East – Kenny Chiu defeated incumbent Joe Peschisolido
- Port Moody-Coquitlam – Nelly Shin won the riding (previously held by the NDP)
Regardless, all was certainly not lost for the Liberals in Canada’s most westerly province. Terry Beech, long written off as unlikely to be re-elected in Burnaby North-Seymour as a result of the government’s unpopular acquisition of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, narrowly defeated his high-profile NDP challenger. Meanwhile, all four incumbent B.C. Cabinet Ministers will be returning to Ottawa: Carla Qualtrough (Delta); Jonathan Wilkinson (North Vancouver); Joyce Murray (Vancouver Quadra); and Harjit Sajjan (Vancouver South). This represented an important victory for the Liberals and we can expect to see a number of these individuals return to Cabinet when it is named in the coming weeks.
Another former Liberal Minister will also be returning to the House of Commons, this time as an Independent. In maybe the most closely-watched race of the entire election, Jody Wilson-Raybould was able to win back her riding of Vancouver Granville. The lead figure in the SNC-Lavalin affair, Wilson-Raybould’s personal profile proved strong enough to beat the Liberals back. As an independent, Wilson-Raybould will have the opportunity to work across party lines (especially in a minority government situation) on issues of importance to her and the riding.
Finally, Vancouver Island polls turned out largely as expected, although not with the increased Green result that some had been betting on. While party leader Elizabeth May and Paul Manly were able to win back their ridings, the island otherwise remains a sea of orange. Ridings such as Victoria, long held by NDP veteran Murray Rankin who retired earlier in the year and now will be served by his replacement, Laurel Collins, were thought to be in play for the Greens. Early indications were that they may have even been able to take the whole island. Now, with only three seats to across the country (the other being in Fredericton, NB), the question becomes whether or not May holds onto the leadership after fourteen years and little progress in seat count to show for it.
In all, while many pundits had predicted that this election may just come down to the final counts in B.C., that particular prediction did not come true. Nevertheless, the province produced surprises and no doubt some interesting individuals to track moving forward into the 43rd Parliament.
(LPC – 2, NDP- 1)
Had the election been as tight as many had predicted, the North could have played an unusually important role in the outcome of it – despite only representing a total of three seats in Parliament.
Indeed, while all indications had been that Nunavut would be a close race with former Conservative cabinet minister Leona Aglukkaq re-offering, many had written off the Northwest Territories and Yukon as solid red. While both did indeed remain Liberal, Larry Bagnell – who won his sixth term representing the Yukon – ended up only winning by less than 100 votes (expect a recount over the course of the next few days). Michael McLeod, on the other hand, was able to easily recapture the Northwest Territories.
Turning back to Nunavut, in a surprise win, the NDP will see first-time Mumilaaq Qaqqaq head to the House of Commons. The result is likely a vote split in the territory between the Conservatives – who were running their star candidate Aglukkaq – and the Liberals. A reminder that Hunter Tootoo won the riding in 2015 as a Liberal before resigning to sit as an Independent. The Liberals had hoped to reclaim the seat, with Justin Trudeau visiting the territory during the election campaign – the only leader to do so during the campaign.
One Big Thing
Despite multiple self-inflicted wounds that should have made this a winnable election for the Conservatives, Justin Trudeau is still Prime Minister. He has been put on notice that he has lessons to learn if he wants to live to fight another day, and he needs to accept his punishment. That said, his core brand won the day.
A Bad Thing
Despite the relief the Liberals must be feeling, there is a huge black cloud hanging over the new government. The West is out. Not a single government member from either Saskatchewan or Alberta. Central and Eastern Canadians may underestimate the frustration and anger felt in the West, but it’s powerful and real. The West is hurting and now they are isolated from federal power. The Liberals must address this, maybe by appointing Western Cabinet Ministers out of the Senate. Failing to do something meaningful will only stoke the nascent but growing movement known as Wexit: Western separation.
With a strong minority, Justin Trudeau will find he has a lot of room to manoeuvre. There will be no coalitions, no existential threats from the smaller parties, no dramatic showdowns, at least for a while.
Primarily because the Bloc announced last night that it has no intention of fighting another election within 18 months or longer. Their condition? That no pipelines be forced through Quebec, or that there be any challenge to Quebec’s Bill 21. Count on Trudeau to meet both conditions. The 32 Bloc votes are enough to give the Liberals a bullet proof majority without any formal deals.
The NDP are essentially broke and couldn’t afford another election anytime soon anyway, and the Conservatives will have to live through a leadership review, mandated by their own constitution.
That’s not to say Trudeau can govern as if he had a majority. He can’t. He will have to compromise on legislation and navigate hostile waters in committees he can’t control. Not to survive in the moment but to shape a government that can take on another election before long.
One big lesson for all parties
This will be the last election when a major party can wage a campaign without a serious climate change policy. The Conservatives especially will have to rethink their reluctance to embrace the clear action that Canadians want. It’s the only way to expand their base, and without an expansion, they can’t win. Similarly, the NDP and the Greens will have to re-examine the practicalities of their policies. A plan that is disconnected from economic reality is not a saleable plan, as the results demonstrated.
So where’s the Trans Mountain Pipeline now?
No change. There’s no legislation needed to proceed with the project, so no chance for the NDP or Greens to create a crisis in the House of Commons. With the Bloc effectively giving a hallway pass to the Liberals, opposition will have trouble finding any traction.
What about the leaders?
Elizabeth May gained one seat – which is hardly the breakthrough she was expecting. She’s shown signs before of wanting out as leader, and this may give her the opportunity.
Jagmeet Singh had high expectations and didn’t meet them. While he performed well as a leader throughout the campaign, he ultimately lost seats and was almost wiped out in Quebec. His late surge may convince the party to keep him around for another election, but Tom Mulcair thought he would have that too. At best, his future is undecided.
Andrew Scheer will face a leadership review because he has to. He should be allowed another outing. Afterall, he increased the Conservative popular vote by more than 2%. Regardless, the sharks are circling. Peter MacKay, Rona Ambrose, Erin O’Toole and possibly Jason Kenney have all been touted as potential successors. The real issue for Scheer though is policy. He couldn’t sell it this time, and without serious review, he won’t be able to next election either. Some in the party already feel that it’s time for a new face.
Trudeau survives, and that’s the word for it. He is, of course, safe. But how he conducts his government moving forward will determine whether he can close the deal next time.
A final word
The challenges ahead for every party are big. But the single most serious problem stemming from Election 43 is the deep division in this country and the isolation felt in the West. The resource issue needs to become a real national conversation and not a political wedge. Can our brand of politics achieve that?
We’ll see in the next two years, which is how long I expect this all to last. Let’s see where go from here!