Robert Martin is the founder of LeanTossup, which is an election model predictor that received recognition for its projection of the 2019 Canadian election.
Goldsmith: Whats the current picture and what are the factors leading to this?
Martin: Right now, the Liberals are in the lead, and are on the doorstep of a possible majority. This is powered by regaining their strength in Ontario, and newfound strength in the west and BC. However, they are being stopped short of a majority by a resurgent Bloc in Quebec. The problem for the Liberals is many seats are still very close, and even a small shift to the Conservatives could result in a much closer seat count. The trends this week will determine if the Liberals get a majority or close to it, or if they will have to work with other parties much more in the next parliament.
Goldsmith: Who were the biggest winners and losers in the debates and what impact do you think the debates actually have had?
Martin: There doesn’t appear to be a biggest winner/loser in the conventional sense. The impact of the debate seems to be Liberal gains across the board, and a Bloc resurgence in Quebec, getting them back to roughly their 2019 levels of support. Many have speculated that due to questions from the debate moderators, many Quebec voters felt attacked as being racist due to their religious symbol law, and as such the Bloc got a rally around the flag effect. The question will be if this will hold over the next week. Additionally, the Liberals have made gains, but they were also making gains before the debate, so it’s unclear if those are correlated.
Goldsmith: What have been the driving factors that have decimated the Conservative lead?
Martin: Mostly just Liberals regaining strength, particularly in Ontario, BC and the Atlantic provinces. It appears that anger at Trudeau over calling the election has faded, and that it’s possible voters do not trust O’Toole over his promises, or that parts of his base don’t like this new leftward looking Conservative party, and are now voting PPC, which is hurting them.
Goldsmith: What do the Conservatives have to do to regain momentum?
Martin: It’s hard to say. Honestly, I cannot point to a specific thing they should be doing that they aren’t. They made the correct play by moving leftward to match the Canadian electorate, but it just doesn’t seem to be working anymore like it was two weeks ago. It really seems like they caught lightning in the bottle over the election call, but it’s gone now.
Goldsmith: What chance do you rate the Liberals getting a majority?
Martin: It’s definitely possible, but the path is difficult. The Bloc gaining in Quebec really hurts them, and cuts off their path. There are seats on the table in Ontario, but not that many, only really at max five more than 2019, and even that is stretching it. However, if we start to see the Bloc reced in Quebec, the door becomes wide open.
Goldsmith: If the Liberals get a majority, how likely will it be that Trudeau becomes the first Prime Minister to get a fourth term?
Martin: I’m still iffy on Trudeau long-term. If he wins this, that would be two huge comebacks (he was vulnerable at one point in 2019 during the SNC-Lavalin scandal). I think it’s far more likely another scandal or two (which is likely for any government over a period of four years) becomes the straw that breaks the camel’s back, and he is replaced as Liberal leader before the (as a majority would suggest) 2025 election.
Goldsmith: With the Liberals on a rise, does this mean that the NDP progress is less likely to actually translate into seats?
Martin: Yes. As a matter of fact, they are really hurting right now. Many gains that they were expected to make seem distant now. If you subscribe to the iPolitics/Mainstreet package, you can really see them hurting in the most recent riding polls. We still have a lot of riding polls this week, so it’s still worth it to subscribe.
Goldsmith: If the NDP fails to make substantial gains, what will this tell us about Singh’s ability to have a meaningful impact on the electoral map despite his personal popularity?
Martin: The NDP almost always faces these questions. They have strong popularity numbers, but many people don’t vote for them, especially in environments where the Conservatives are stronger because they do not want to risk a Conservative government. However, the NDP usually uses a benchmark of “Did the leader gain seats?” of which Singh is expected to clear, which means he probably stays on as leader.
Goldsmith: The People’s Party are currently having a surge, with some polls putting them in 4th place, despite not featuring in the debate. Due to First-past-the-post, what is the best-case scenario for them if the polls come to fruition?
Martin: The best case for them is that they punch through in a rural riding that nobody is paying attention to. Where you have a Conservative candidate that is caught sleeping, and the demographics are right for. In this case, they can steal a seat or two. If not, they risk broad support across a ton of seats, but not enough in any given seat to win it. Very similar to UKIP in the UK in 2015 election
Goldsmith: How will a strong People’s Party result impact the future of the right, as usually they rally behind one party to stop split voting?
Martin: I think it could have a huge impact. If rural Conservative voters see a party that they identify more with that has a chance in their area, they will abandon the Conservative party, as the national Conservative party has to try to appeal to urban and suburban voters. The PPC doesn’t have to care about that at all. Their goal is to win any number of seats, not get a majority. The Conservative Party’s goal is to win enough seats to govern, which relies on taking many of those rural seats and voters for granted. If they start facing legitimate competition for those voters, huge cracks start opening up.
Goldsmith: The Green Party is in turmoil right now, but with many praising Paul’s performance in the debate, are we seeing a change in fortune for them?
Martin: Although Annamie Paul got high marks for the debate performance, there are many questions about whether it is enough. The Greens are still at less than half of their 2019 support, which was enough to only win four seats, and only come close on one or two more. While Kitchener centre might be on the board for them, it’s very hard to see any other seats that they can compete in, which includes Toronto Centre, the leaders riding.
Goldsmith: Who do you think is the person that will be able to rally the Greens together, as a united party for the future?
Martin: Any other federal MP they elect, other than Elizabeth May, the former leader.
Goldsmith: What if the outcome of no other Federal MP is elected?
Martin: *insert Burning Elmo gif here*
Seriously, it’s chaos though. I don’t even know what would happen. Anything from a party split to her stepping down as leader and letting the new leader run in her seat.
Goldsmith: What needs to happen in order for the Bloc to improve their seat change or did Trudeau’s good performance in the French-language debate make that it that much harder?
Martin: At this point, the Bloc seem to be gaining due to the backlash from the questions in the English debate. It’s very odd, but it doesn’t seem like Trudeau’s performance in any debate has impacted this result.
Goldsmith: How many seats does the Bloc have to be on before they start considering a leadership change?
Martin: If the Bloc lose double digit seats, which seems unlikely at this point, but could still happen, I think they will look at a leadership change.
Goldsmith: The latest LeanTossup government chances rates the chances of a Liberal minority to 49.1%, and a Liberal majority to 29.3%. What percent do you think the Liberals need to be to secure a majority? Could they lower the threshold to get a majority?
Martin: I think they are closer than people think. All it would take is reversion to what Quebec looked like a few weeks ago, and they could even lose ground in the West and they would be in good shape. Also, if the Bloc lose ground to the Conservatives in Quebec then the Liberals wouldn’t even have to gain ground, they would could hold their level of support in Quebec and watch the Bloc fall.
While we’re not at a majority Liberal government yet. The pieces are there, and a path to it is pretty clear. It’s going to come down to what can turn out to be very small shifts in the coming days to see if they can pull it off or not.