The Canadian Elections: What We Learned

Over the past few weeks, analysts and policy advisers have told me over and over again that Monday’s vote, which cost Cdn $ 600 million to hold, would produce a Parliament that looked roughly like the one the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau disbanded in August.

[Read: Trudeau Will Remain Prime Minister, but Falls Short of a Majority]

It was an incredibly accurate forecast. At the time of this writing, some votes were still in progress and many more have not been counted. But Trudeau’s Liberals held 156 seats on Monday – one less than they won in 2019 – while the Conservative Party had 121 seats, the same as before.

The ranking may change slightly. But given that Mr. Trudeau had called for a vote to regain the majority in the House of Commons that he lost in 2019 – without ever saying it explicitly in those terms – it was a vote that is going nowhere.

Here are some immediate lessons from the result.

Erin O’Toole, who became the Conservative leader just over a year ago, has taken the party in a new, more moderate direction to broaden its appeal. He rejected a number of once-fundamental conservative positions, including opposition to carbon taxes. And during the campaign, he overturned, with one condition, a high-profile promise to repeal Mr. Trudeau’s ban on 1,500 military-style assault rifles.

His campaign was noticeably better organized and more disciplined than that led by Andrew Scheer, the former party leader, in 2019. Yet it brought no gains.

On Tuesday morning, Mr. O’Toole devoted much of his concession speech to describing how he will face the Liberals in the next election. But Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University in Calgary, told me that before that Mr. O’Toole will have to sell himself to his party.

“He couldn’t get into 905 in Ontario,” said Professor Bratt, referring to the area code for the suburbs of Toronto. “As a person from a riding in that area, he said he could win there.”

Mr O’Toole, Professor Bratt said, will most likely argue that there is an advantage in keeping him as leader for the next vote – something the history of successful Conservatives in the past has shown. But it can be a tough sell.

“Is there any advantage in giving him a second race? ” he said. “I think voters might like this. I just don’t know the Conservative Party; it’s a difficult party.

After Mr. Trudeau has led his party to two consecutive minority governments, will the Liberals begin to doubt the worth of their leader, who unexpectedly brought them to power with a strong majority in 2015? Not likely, Lori Turnbull, a political scientist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, told me last night.

“There is really something about the argument that Trudeau has made the Liberal Party his own,” she said. “And loyalty to the party is really loyalty to it. When everyone’s loyalty is to the leader, then it’s almost like the leader can’t do anything wrong and people rally around him.

Professor Turnbull said she struggled to remember another time an early vote by a government that smelled of political gambling persisted throughout the campaign.

It is also difficult to remember an election that sparked general jubilation in Canada. But Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant, professor of political science at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., Said in an email that while Canada was not a land of election haters, there was definitely a “pushback. Against early votes.

“From a political science perspective, voters want accountability and ‘voice’, so it seems a little strange not to take these opportunities to exercise them,” she wrote. “Even though the result is relatively similar to the 2019 federal election, rather than asking ‘what was the election for?’ we could also choose to see it as an endorsement of the path we are on.

Allan Tupper, from the Department of Political Science at the University of British Columbia, told me this morning that there is no clear sign that the large regional voting patterns seen in the last two elections are going to change.

“The model of support is strong enough,” he said. “It will take a major set of changes in political problems, political issues, political values ​​to get Canadians out of these patterns. “

Until that happens, Professor Tupper said, we will likely see more elections like this, in which the main parties swap a small number of seats without substantially changing their positions relative to each other. .

“It just means that the elections become a thumbs-up,” he said.


A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported on Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.


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