Although the 2015 Federal Election is not expected until October 19, it is never too early to start analyzing trends in polling data.
At the national level, the Liberals, with a sole focus on rehabilitating the party since its disastrous performance in the last election, have spent the past four years tightening the polling distance with the incumbent Conservatives. Bridging this gap has come at the expense of the NDP, the Official Opposition, who have fallen back into their traditional third place position, but at a much stronger starting point then they were in 2011.
With Justin Trudeau in an extended honeymoon with the Canadian electorate there were 48 national polls undertaken throughout 2014, with the Liberals leading in 43, Conservatives three (two were tied).
Over the first half of 2015, however, we see a significant tightening of the numbers between the Liberals and the Conservatives. This trend can largely be attributed to the death of Captain Cirillo and the shooting on Parliament Hill on October 22, gallivanting support for the Prime Ministers’ national security agenda. The public responded strongly to the Prime Minister’s call to action and gave a lukewarm reception to Trudeau’s softer response. By the end of March, 24 national polls have been commissioned, with 13 favouring the Liberals and 11 tilting in favour of the Tories.
This rebalance is taking on an even more interesting shape is at the regional level, where a 5% increase in vote share could mean nothing, or could mean dozens of extra seats for the boosted party. Let’s look at each region of the country in greater detail.
The ultimate three-way battleground for seats in the next election will be found on the west coast. B.C. has 42 seats up for grabs, the third highest total in the country.
The first three months of 2015 kept the Tories, Liberals and NDP mostly within a 10 to 15% range, with the top slot being mainly a two horse race between the Conservatives and the Liberals. If the NDP can get their polling numbers up past the 25% plateau on a consistent basis, the NDP could make significant gains in a number of regions of the province, leading to a three way split of the available seats. The wild card is the Green Party, who have their only elected seat on Vancouver Island. If the Greens start polling into the high teens, there is a strong chance they can elect a second MP. If they get to 20%, then there could be up to a half dozen seats coming into play.
The 34 seats available in Alberta are a solid part of the Conservative base in every federal election, with only one non-Conservative candidate elected in 2011. This time around, the Tory numbers are on a sharp and steady decline from almost 60% support in mid-February to just above the 40% at the end of March. If their numbers stay around the lower end of that distribution, up to a dozen seats could end up going to both the Liberals and the NDP. The fact that the Liberals have been able to hold a consistent lead over the NDP since the beginning of the year should allow them to pick up most of the seats that would come into play as the result of the Conservative decline. It will be interesting to see what, if any, blowback the provincial election will have at the federal level, especially with the provincial NDP’s exceptional showings in public opinion polls to date.
Saskatchewan & Manitoba
Conservative support continues across the Prairies when you examine the 28 seats available in Saskatchewan and Manitoba (14 in each province), where the Tories hold all but four. The polling numbers in this region have stayed relatively consistent, with the Conservatives on top in a 10% range around the 40% mark, the Liberals primarily in second with the same band as the Tories, but around 30%, and the NDP in third with a range around the 20% level of support. These levels of support would allow the Conservatives to hold onto up to 20 of the seats in the region, with the Liberals numbers tracking towards a half dozen ridings for them, and the NDP picking up half.. It is important to note that in this region, any further drop in Conservative support, below 35%, would favour the NDP more than the Liberals, as a majority of the new ridings that would come into play would be in Saskatchewan where the NDP have significant support.
With over one-third of the total seats available in the 2015 election, Ontario will play a pivotal role in determining which party will form the government in
October. Early polling results between the Conservatives and Liberals look a little bit like a Tour de France cycling race, where one party takes the lead, then the other sprints ahead before dropping back. That scenario remains in the 35-40% range, however the net impact of being at the top or bottom of that range is significant. According to ThreehundredEight.com, if the Tories poll around 35%, they could secure 49 seats, while pushing up to 40% would raise their total seats to 65. For the Liberals, it’s the same type of range, from roughly 48 seats on the low end to 63 on the upper extreme. The NDP, who have remained in the 15-20% band for most of this year, would most likely receive a seat total in the high teens with those types of results. If there is a positive takeaway for the NDP, they are the only party that has shown upward momentum in 2015.
Going into 2015, the federal race in Quebec was primarily between the Liberals and NDP, with the Bloc Quebecois and Conservatives significantly behind. As we moved into the New Year, the race tightened up significantly, with the Tories and Bloc starting to cross into the lower end of the Liberal and NDP support spectrums. Although both the Liberals and NDP hit the 35% mark in recent months (a level that would allow the NDP to reap a significantly greater electoral reward, as their support is not as concentrated as the Liberals), the big story in the province is the rise of the Conservatives, a party that is consistently been polling above 20% this year, a number which would allow them to triple their seats in the province from five to around fifteen. Although the Bloc are in the same 20% range, their support is significantly spread out across the province, and they will be hard pressed to equal their 2011 showing of four seats.
Welcome to the Liberal version of Alberta – Atlantic Canada. Not only do the two regions have comparable numbers of seats (32 seats in Atlantic Canada
versus 34 in Alberta), the Liberals are reaching the same levels of outstanding support in the region (50-60%) that the Tories enjoy in Alberta. Although a clean-sweep of the region is unlikely, the Liberals will see seat totals in the low to mid-twenties, with significant representation in all four provinces. The Conservatives and NDP are in a dog-fight for second place, however the current seat distribution should allow the Tories to claim a handful of seats in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, while the NDP should remain strong in an around Halifax and St. John’s, Newfoundland. Even if one of these two parties took a significant lead over the other, there would not be too many more seats that would come into play unless they were able to push the Liberals down below the 40% mark.