, 08.12.2019 07:01 AM

My latest: Trudeau is likelier to win

Dief’s jowls jiggled. His brows bristled.

“I’ve always been fond of dogs,” the Conservative leader declared, and the assembled media throng — the ones who had just informed him that Gallup had him losing, badly, to the Liberals — leaned ever closer.

“And they are the one animal that knows the proper treatment to give to poles.”

The ink-stained wretches burst out laughing, and scribbled away in their notebooks. Dief the Chief had conjured a political quote for the ages.

He was sort-of right, too, about the polls (and poles). Diefenbaker would go on to win, big time, shocking the pollsters and the pundits alike. And 1957 would become one of the biggest upsets in Canadian political history, with the Tories ending nearly a quarter-century of Grit rule.

In the intervening years, plenty of politicos have repeated Dief’s quotable quote, or offered up a variation on it: “The only poll that matters is the one on Election Day.”

And both bromides are true: some pollsters get it wrong. Often. Nowadays, with voters getting harder and harder to reach — because many of them use only cellphones, and cellphone numbers aren’t readily found in directories, like landlines used to be — pollsters are making mistakes. Sometimes big ones.

Remember that 2012 National Post headline, declaring: “PQ headed to comfortable majority,” based on Forum’s numbers? The one just before voting day? It was wrong.

Remember BC in 2013, when pollsters said the NDP was nearly ten points ahead of the BC Liberals? Well, they weren’t. On election night, the BC Liberals were five points ahead of their rivals — and won.

How about the time the Angus Reid Group issued a news release flatly stating the fledgling Wildrose Party would form a majority government in 2014? Remember that? Well, they didn’t. The Alberta PCs did. Handily.

And so on, and so on. Brexit: no one really saw it coming. Trump: ditto. Prime Minister Tom Mulcair, what happened?

The definition of insanity, goes the cliche, is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result. And here we all go again, with the commentariat eyeballing the polling entrails, and declaring that Justin Trudeau’s Liberals and Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives are in a so-called dead heat, with Scheer slightly ahead. No party is likely to form a majority in 2019, sayeth the punditocracy.

But are they really in a dead heat? And is a majority truly out of reach?

This writer is not so sure. As much as it pains me to say so, a Trudeau win — minority and maybe even majority — presently seems likely. Here’s why: it’s math.

Even though Trudeau may be behind Scheer by a few points — and even though he’s far less popular than he was in 2015, and he has both the Greens and the NDP working busily to steal away votes — Trudeau remains relatively popular where it counts most: seat-rich Central Canada.

Aggregates of several recent polls indicate Trudeau is comfortably in the lead in Ontario and Québec. Based upon those two provinces alone, the Grits may claim as many as 120 seats. Add in Atlantic Canada, where Trudeau has been dominant for months, and the Grit seat count could easily grow to 145 seats.

Could Trudeau win 10 seats in British Columbia? He certainly could. That gets him to 155. Throw in a few territorial and prairie seats — say, eight — and he’s at 163 seats. That’s short of the 170 he’d need to form a majority, true.

But with Green Party leader Elizabeth May openly admitting that she’d be willing to prop up a second Trudeau government, the Liberals may well get all that they need. At that point, all of Andrew Scheer’s dominance in the West won’t matter — because the places where Scheer dominates simply have fewer seats.

If John Diefenbaker was still here, he’d likely admit that polls do, in fact, sometimes matter. But campaigns matter way more.

In ’57, Dief simply campaigned better in those final days. And that’s why he won big.

Polls or no poles.

21 Comments

  1. Douglas W says:

    163 seats, sounds about right for the Libs.

  2. Seats are allocated by population and the notional polls are by population. Scheer’s problem is he is way ahead in the West and a little behind in Central Canada. Because of first past the post, that means his vote doesn’t translate well into seats.

  3. Robert White says:

    I have to fully agree here that the math looks positively great for a second term for Trudeau Liberals. Moreover, the Wild Rose Party leader allowed herself to be coopted when she could have stood strong in opposition and won at the polls.
    Frankly, the Wild Rose Party was one of the biggest political gaffs in Canadian political history.

    I feel sorry for Andrew Scheer this time round. He is a nice person & Con leader. Whereas I did not like Steven Harper one bit I do like Scheer.

    RW

  4. Steve T says:

    You are probably right (unfortunately). If the margin is close, and if there are CPC candidates who lose by the number of votes that went to the PPC in that riding, I am going to shove Trudeau’s picture in the face of every idiot PPC supporter for the next 4 years.

  5. Gord says:

    Yep. I’ve been telling my Tory friends for a while that the math just isn’t there for them, especially since Scheer would need, at the bare minimum, 160 seats to form a government.

    The collapse of the NDP in Quebec will only help the Grits there. Any Bloc gains will, I suspect, come at the expense of the Tories in large degree. Trudeau won’t repeat the clean sweep of Atlantic Canada but I doubt Scheer can count on much more than maybe 7 or 8 seats there. And since suburban and urban Ontario are currently pissed at Doug Ford, there’s little chance of cracking the 905 and zero chance at the 416.

    The Tories need to be much further ahead in the popular vote than they are now. Unless the Grits botch the campaign Wizard-style and Scheer walks on water, I don’t see it happening.

    • Douglas W says:

      Justin needs to stay on the offensive, for the entire campaign. He’s not good at defending the brand; gets flustered; has brain farts. If he finds himself in a rope-a-dope position, he’s in trouble. He’s no Ali.

  6. IF the polls are right — and consistent — mid-sixty+ percent of respondents have identified this as a change election. That means votes translating over to the CPC, the only likely alternative at forming government. I doubt the NDP will come from third place to win. But it has been done before.

    The Liberals are already softening in Quebec. I expect the Scheer likability factor to work in their favour. Hence, I’m sticking with my prediction for a CPC majority. (Nobody liked Harper in 2006 and he still managed a minority.)

    • Douglas W says:

      A CPC majority? Well, that’ll mean the Conservatives will come out of Quebec with 30 seats, and garner 60 from Ontario. Very very unlikely.

      • Douglas,

        They got a minority in 2006 with only 10 Quebec seats and a majority in 2011 with half that amount.

        Redistribution is not the Liberals’ friend.

        • Fred from BC says:

          “They got a minority in 2006 with only 10 Quebec seats and a majority in 2011 with half that amount.”

          To me, that is Stephen Harper’s true legacy. He was the first PM to disprove the ‘conventional wisdom’ that you *must* win in Quebec to form government.

    • Derek Pearce says:

      Lol what “Scheer likability factor”? Bland can work, but don’t call him likeable. I don’t see him getting votes in Quebec because of his personality but because Quebeckers are canny and will see what he promises them. Is the CPC still saying they’re just going to hand over all taxation to the province and wait for the crumbs to be passed upward? Stuff like that…

      • Derek,

        What a huge laugh to see English Canada all out of joint over that one. Funny how that same gang couldn’t give two-shits about royally shafting Quebec in 1982.

        To that bunch I say well, have at it. But remember that decentralization is the card to play in Quebec cause it wins elections — not to mention otherwise unobtainable votes. The top CPC Quebec strategist is not far short of a genius. He or she KNOWS Quebec very well. I tip my hat to that person.

      • Walter says:

        Liberals know the Canada formula.

        1) Take Power from the West and Atlantic, and give to Ontario and Quebec.
        2) Take money from Ontario and the West and give to Quebec and Atlantic.
        3) 3 of the 4 Regions are happy with this arrangement.
        4) Screw the remaining 4th Region.

  7. Gord Tulk says:

    This is potentially THE most consequential election in Canadian history. Yet probably 70% of Canadians don’t know it.

    An LPC minority or majority means Bill 69 and the tanker ban remain in place. And of course the LPC will abandon the trans mountain expansion when the protesters in BC start to block it.

    And no change to Equalization.

    • Gord,

      The doomsday clock is ticking. People haven’t a clue that once Alberta decides to walk, they’ll do it long before we do. No Alberta government, of any stripe, will put up with the EF as is, period. So, the federal parties better get it in gear fast before Alberta walks.

      As for the tanker ban, the CPC will fail Alberta. They like far too much the idea of AB and BC seats. However, if Horgan gets voted out, then watch for sudden CPC flexibility.

      • Gord Tulk says:

        We will certainly be significantly closer to dissolution if the LPC wins. Many I converse with are understandably skeptical if not downright contemptuous of the possibility.

        I would point out that whatever happens won’t gapoen overnight. It took 18 years for the American Revolution to reach its end.

        • How many booms and busts does Alberta go through in a typical 18 year period?

          • Gord Tulk says:

            This downturn is entirely the government’s doing. That’s the difference between it and all the other downturns except when PET and Lalonde brought in the NEP in order to guarantee central Canada below market prices fir Alberta oil at the expense of Alberta.

            And that downturn was greatly exacerbated by a crash in oil prices not long after the NEP was installed and a huge spike in interest rates that accelerated the contraction of the economy. Were it not for unprecedented low rates these days the damage to the AB and SK economies would have been far more sudden and immediate than it has been.

            Those who either work in or rely on the O&G industry are okay with a downturn in prices and opportunities due to global phenomenon. This downturn is 100% due to feckless, cowardly, and/or contemptible actions by politicians whose franchise was given to them by others.

  8. Walter says:

    I fear you are correct in your prediction.

    $1.2B to get CBC support.
    $0.6B to get remaining media support.
    $4.0B in pre-election funding announcements
    while passing law to prevent opposition from using their own money to campaign.

    With all of this, I doubt anyone would have had a chance.
    It’s sad what became of our democracy in such a short time.

  9. Remember how Dad took that walk in the snow? Well, the PM strolled down Saint-Denis on Saturday. I’ll bet the stark, foreboding nature of political reality really hit home.

    • Douglas W says:

      Mr. O’Dowd, what happened, this past Saturday on Saint-Denis? I saw no news reports of the PM, running into trouble. Libs are poised to take all of the seats, in and around Montreal. 25 of them. A nice haul, without barely lifting a finger.

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