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Tory Majority? Try For A Harper Redux
Poilievre Can Win A Majority Government, Just Don't Count On Quebec.
Don’t Count On An Early Election
The Conservatives have been polling quite well of late, but we are in the dog days of summer when polls can get weird and many Canadians aren’t paying attention. Do I think the Conservatives are 10-points ahead? Not particularly. They’re definitely ahead of the Liberals, there’s no doubt about that, but I don’t believe it’s by 9-10 points.
Regardless, let’s say this trend continues for the foreseeable future. I would be hard-pressed to see the Liberals calling an election if they’re that far behind in the polls, especially given the cost-of-living crises we have on our hands. The NDP also won’t be likely to pull the plug on the government unless the Liberals are failing so hard that LPC voters start flocking to them in the polls.
Given the environment and barring an upswing across the board for the Liberals, I think they’ll hold onto their informal coalition with the NDP for as long as they can manage.
But let’s say this lead for the Conservatives keeps up to election day, what could we expect?
Tory Majority? More Likely Than You Think (For Now)
Recent polling has been favourable for the Conservatives, so much so that the 338Canada model has recently put them as close as 1 seat away from the majority line. So, let’s say this keeps up until October 2025.
If a general election were held this week, the Conservatives would undoubtedly be the largest party in terms of seats, but would it be a majority government? There are three regions the Conservatives need to win in order to reach that majority threshold.
First off, the most obvious: The Greater Toronto Area.
If the Conservatives are going to ignore Quebec (on which I’ll comment below) then they will have to rely on Ontario. This isn’t anything new, and has historically been a safer bet. Ontario has always been more friendly to the Conservatives than Quebec has been and is the most seat-rich region to boot.
Where the Tories need to focus is the GTHA. There are several ridings in the region that have been close contests in recent elections and plenty that would be on the verge of flipping if current numbers were to hold (Think along the lake shore between Hamilton and Toronto for example).
Not only would the Liberals be weakened in suburban areas by a dip in their own popularity and a rise in the Tories, but they’d also have to worry about those close NDP-Liberal seats in Toronto like Davenport and Spadina-Fort York. You can quickly see why the Liberals enter a dangerous territory in Ontario if their fortunes begin to slip.
Secondly, British Columbia’s Lower Mainland.
Recent polling has shown a surprisingly strong showing for the Conservatives in British Columbia which has allowed them to flip both Liberal seats in Metro Vancouver as well as NDP seats in the Lower Mainland more broadly in the recent 338 model.
In the 2021 election, B.C. was evenly divided between the three main parties with the Liberals winning 15 seats and the Conservatives and NDP both winning 13. The latest iteration of the model now has the Conservatives at 25 seats and the Liberals and NDP both at 8, both of which are holding onto seats in Metro Vancouver and the Island.
There are few seats in British Columbia that would remain safe for the Liberals or NDP in this case, and nearly all of them are in the heart of Vancouver.
Finally, the Atlantic Provinces.
While Atlantic Canada doesn’t amount to a lot of seats, it’s a region where Conservatives could nab more than a few from the Liberals. Already the model has the CPC favoured in 15 seats against 17 for the Liberals — a far cry from 2015 when the Liberals swept the entire region.
Now, polling in the Atlantic provinces (given their size) can be a little wonky. Overall, the Tories appeared to have made gains, but this is a region that will remain “swingy” regardless of how national numbers fluctuate.
What About Quebec?
The elephant in the room is Quebec.
The Conservatives have seen their fortunes modestly rise in Quebec in the polls, but not enough to make a dent in the seat projection. The Liberals and the Bloc are still dominant and in a two-way fight with one another in the province. If one falters, the other one will gain from their demise in an election (Unless both of them suddenly implode, but I find that unlikely).
It’s entirely possible that a Conservative majority government won’t have any representation in Canada’s second largest city, Montreal. Almost all Conservative representation in the province will come from the regions within and south of Quebec City.
I call this Conservative majority strategy a ‘Harper Redux’ because it would be a similar strategy that led the last Conservative majority government into power.
Harper only won 6% of the seats in Quebec (5 of 75), but made up for it by winning a chunk of the Lower Mainland, splitting the Atlantic provinces, and winning the GTHA outside of downtown Toronto. Poilievre would have the benefit of having a few more seats in Quebec that he could hold onto (at least 9, perhaps as much as 12) that would reduce how many of those Toronto-area seats he needs to pick up.
But the story is the same. Like Harper, Poilievre needs to juice his margins in regions outside of Quebec if he wants to win government given Quebecers, at least as of recent polling and previous electoral results, aren’t fond of Poilievre’s version of the CPC. Only difference is Harper won with a majority of 11 seats and the current model, which is quite good for Poilievre as it is, still has him short by 1 seat for a majority.
You can win government as a Conservative without Quebec; you just make your job that much harder by doing so.
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