Is Justin Trudeau’s summer snap election in Canada turning into a mistake? (&/or for Old Ontario residents will it just be Bland Bill Davis in 1977 all over again?)

Aug 21st, 2021 | By | Category: In Brief
“What the Walrus Said” by Michael Seward, August 2021.

COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS : 2021 CANADIAN ELECTION REPORT, I. SAT 21 AUG 2021, 7PM EDT. EAST BEACHES, TORONTO. [UPDATED AUGUST 22]. The first week of what amounts to a five-week campaign in the snap federal election Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called this past Sunday for Monday, September 20, 2021 is almost over.

It’s still early days and many voters will not start paying attention until after Labour Day, etc. But so far the latest available opinion polling numbers do suggest that PM Trudeau may finally have made the same mistake in 2021 that the recently sadly departed Ontario Premier William Grenville Davis made some 44 years ago, in 1977.

What’s Election 2021 really all about?

“Nightscape” by Michael Seward, August 2021.

The real political point of the September 20 election (as in the case of recent provincial elections won by Conservatives in New Brunswick and New Democrats in BC) is to give the current minority-governing Trudeau Liberals a majority of seats in parliament.

This majority, the argument goes, is needed to ensure the strong and effective government required to meet the ongoing challenges of the global pandemic, and whatever kind of accompanying broader social and economic recovery may be possible over the next four years.

Note as well that even with a majority government there will still be a so-called “fixed date” election four years hence. But with minority governments such fixed date elections can never be altogether final in Canada’s kind of “Westminster” parliamentary democracy (as in the Constitution Act, 1867).

More exactly, in our kind of parliamentary democratic minority government, the ability of the cabinet (or “executive council”) to manage effectively can be recurrently complicated by the fractious politics of winning enough opposition support to sustain a parliamentary majority for, just to start with, the government’s annual budget.

Some early Election 2021 polling numbers (for those who like such things)

”Through the Ages” by Michael Seward, August 2021.

Here are some key numerical examples of the latest available opinion polling evidence (or at least data) for Campaign Canada 2021.

As crucial background, in the current 338-member Canadian House of Commons a bare majority is 170 seats.

Most public opinion polls showed the Trudeau Liberals close to and/or just over this mark a month or so ago, when the minority government’s decision to call a “snap election” may have been made. Things are different for the Liberals now, however, and seem to be getting worse.

According to Éric Grenier’s CBC Poll Tracker, as last updated Aug 21, 2021, 11:39AM, if the election were held right now the Liberals would take 160 seats with 34.2% of the Canada-wide vote. Conservatives would have 111 seats with 30.1%, NDP 39 with 19.9%, Bloc Québécois 27 with 6.2%, and the Greens 1 seat with 4.7%.

Philippe Fournier’s 338Canada poll aggregation projections, as last updated August 20, 2021 are if anything a little worse for the prime minister’s party. They give the Liberals only 156 seats with 34.3% of the cross-Canada vote, Conservatives 116 seats with 30.4%, NDP 36 with 20%, BQ 27 with 6.6%, and the Greens 2 seats with 5%.

It may also be worth noting that 338Canada is now giving Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives a 10.1% chance of “winning the most seats” – up from only 2% just before the election was called.

Moreover, the no doubt highly rational 338Canada mathematical calculations were only giving the Progressive Conservatives who unexpectedly just won the Nova Scotia election on August 17 a 14.1% chance beforehand. We see this as a sign of just how interestingly irrational and “human” democratic politics can be in our time, not as any fault of pollsters or poll aggregators. But …

Finally as disclosed by one eminent pollster: “According to the latest nightly tracking ending Friday [August 20] … support for the Conservative Party has increased by 3.9 per cent between Aug. 12 and Aug. 20, during the timeframe that saw leaders begin pitching their platform pledges to Canadians … ‘It’s gone from a double-digit advantage to a single-digit advantage to now a horse race between the Conservatives and the Liberals,” Nik Nanos, founder and chief data scientist at Nanos Research, told CTV News Channel on Saturday.”

A few Ontario voters may still remember Bill Davis in 1977 ??

Linda Ronstadt at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Saturday, August 19, 1978 – almost exactly 43 years ago from today, and a year and change after the 1977 Ontario election.

So … what happened to Bill “Bland-Works” Davis in 1977 in “Canada’s most populous province” that may be relevant for Canada at large in 2021?

Davis and his (more or less seriously) Progressive Conservatives won a majority government in the 1971 Ontario general election. Then in 1975 they could only manage a minority government.

In 1977 on the advice of some seasoned and even brilliant political professionals Davis called what we might now call a snap election, in an effort to win a second majority government. For whatever reasons, it didn’t work. In 1977 the Davis PCs won a few more seats than in 1975, but still not enough for a majority in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

The minority-governing Davis PC s then contrived to carry on until 1981, when they finally did win a majority government again. And William Grenville Davis from Brampton and the old Ontario Progressive Conservative dynasty born in 1943 went out in a last great blaze of glory – ultimately succeeded by the Liberal-NDP Accord of David Peterson and Bob Rae in 1985.

Some last thoughts at the end of week one

What the first week of Campaign Canada 2021 (or as many seem to be saying “election season”) has left us wondering is :

Will something similar to this Premier William Davis career trajectory of the 1970s and 1980s soon be the best future that Justin Trudeau from Montreal, Ottawa, and Vancouver can envision for his prime ministerial career from 2015 to who knows just when?

Of course the worst prospect for both the Liberals and their increasingly strong New Democrat “rival partners” would be an actual victory by Erin O’Toole’s Conservative Party of Canada (minority or even majority as in Nova Scotia ????) – under pressure from all the usual suspects, and even in some false rhetorical update of the Progressive Conservative past of William Davis in Ontario (1971—1985) and Peter Lougheed in Alberta (1971—1985).

So far the opinion polls are not quite predicting that … just yet!

UPDATE AUGUST 22 : A Mainstreet poll dated August 19 showed Liberals and Conservatives tied in cross-Canada popular vote : LPC: 33%, CPC: 33%, NDP: 20%, BQ: 5%, GPC: 4% , PPC: 4% . An EKOS poll dated August 21 has actually shown Conservatives slightly ahead of Liberals : CPC: 33%, LPC: 32% (-1), NDP: 17%, BQ: 6% , PPC: 6%, GPC: 5%.

A factor in both polls is unexpected new strength for Maxime Bernier’s conservative People’s Party of Canada. (PPC – and just as M. Bernier has been excluded from the French and English leaders’ TV debates on September 8 and 9 respectively.)

Lest anyone get too worked up just yet, remember that the Conservatives also did slightly better in Canada-wide popular vote than the Liberals in the 2019 Canadian election (CPC 34%, LPC 33%, NDP 16%, BQ 8%, GRN 7%, PPC 2%).

At the same time, in 2019 the Trudeau Liberals also won more seats than any other party and their current minority government (LPC 157 seats, CPC 121, BQ 32, NDP 24, GPC 3, PPC 0). The latest CBC Poll Tracker and 338Canada projections are still showing the Liberals with the most seats and another minority government. But who knows what the week ahead might bring??

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