October 22, 2019

Surprising Canadian Election Results

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won re-election last night, winning an election he had no business being close to winning given all of his scandals (not to mention his glaring, drama teacher phoniness).  But the polls between the Liberals and Conservative Party of Canada were within fractions of a percentage point of each other, and it could have gone either way.  So the result is not a shock, but there are some very interesting takeaways nonetheless.

It's worth noting that the Liberals won a minority government.  That means a snap election could be called at any time if a non-confidence motion is agreed to by the other parties.  Typically minority governments last less than two years.

But the results are interesting for two specific reasons. Here are the results as of this morning:

The first reason that this is unusual is clear: the Conservative party won the largest vote share but not the most seats in parliament.  People in the United States who are familiar with the popular vote versus the electoral college results will be familiar with the phenomenon.  There are groups in Canada, mainly far-left-leaning who will take the opportunity to point out that our voting system is not fair.  It's not in the Conservative Party's interest to join this fight.  Parties in Canada rarely garner 40% of the popular vote.  The Liberals (socialist lite) and New Democrats (socialist) would form coalition governments in Canada forever if there was some form of proportional representation.

Besides which, these results are rare:
It marks only the second time in Canada’s history that a governing party will take power with such a low share of the vote. David Moscrop, a political theorist at the University of Ottawa, tweeted that “the last and only time a party has formed government with less than 35 percent of the national popular vote was John A. Macdonald in 1867—with 34.8 percent.”

...Even more unusual in Monday night’s vote, it appeared the Liberals were not even the first place party in terms of absolute number of votes.
Elections Canada official website pointed out how rare this is:
...A party forming a government may receive a smaller share of the popular vote but still win more seats than its principal competing party. This has happened three times since Confederation: in 1957, 1962, and 1979. In 1925, the Liberal government continued in office although it won both fewer seats and fewer votes than the Conservatives.
There's another interesting result.  Party support is highly regionalized.  The Atlantic provinces are predominantly Liberal (though less so than in the last election).  Quebec is predominantly  Bloc Quebecois (a regional party focused mostly on provincial issues).  Ontario, the most populous and central geographically province,  is typically split between conservative (suburban and rural) and liberal (urban) voters and is the real battleground.  It's also where the socialist NDP find support.

The West is predominantly very conservative except right on the coast where there is socialist and liberal support.  The far north has very little representation in parliament but it is split between liberal and socialist support.

The regionalization has been a growing trend over the last decades and it might have reached the point where Ontario becomes the battleground province and the focus of elections going forward.  Again this is similar to typical U.S. elections where battleground states garner the majority of election efforts to the detriment of other areas.

The short term takeaways are obvious for the Conservative Party of Canada - it has grown voter share but not efficiently.  It needs to focus on growing support in suburban Ontario. It can take some comfort in the fact that it won a plurality of the vote, beating the liberals in that regard.  It must look for openings to work with other parties to force another election sooner rather than later (the caveat being it's got to build it's regional support smartly in the meantime).

More Trudeau is not a good thing for Canada, but it looks like we will have to deal with it for a while.

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