Liberal Party wins Historic Majority Government
In a historic result, the Liberal Party of Canada, which started the 78-day campaign in a distant third place and was focused on bouncing back from a landmark collapse in 2011, rebounded to a resounding majority victory in yesterday’s election. This marked the first time in Canadian history that a party had jumped from third to first place, and the gain of 150 seats marked the single largest seat increase in any federal election campaign.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau will become the 23rd Prime Minister of Canada, and will command the first Liberal majority since the 2000 election. The final popular vote totals were similar to those posted in 2011 for all three major parties, with roughly 39% being won by the first place parties (Liberals in 2015 and Conservatives in 2011), 32% by the Official Opposition (Conservatives in 2015 and NDP in 2011) and around 19% by the party in third place (NDP in 2015 and Liberals in 2011). Even the final seat totals were almost exactly the same in both majority situations, with the first place parties winning 55% of the available seats on Election Night.
For the Conservatives, the loss of government led to the announcement that Stephen Harper would be stepping down as the Leader of the Conservative Party. When that caucus meets for the first time in the coming weeks, its primary task will be to select a new interim Leader of the Opposition. The party will then determine the process for electing a new permanent leader.
With 44 seats, the NDP finished with their second best result in electoral history. Unfortunately, it came on the heels of the party’s best-ever finish in 2011, and an election campaign which the New Democrats led for almost all of the first six weeks. In addition to seeing the base of its Québec caucus reduced, the party lost significant bench strength in regions across the country.
Canadians flocked to the polls, with almost 69% of electors casting a ballot, the highest total since 1993. The 42nd Parliament will also seat a lot of new faces, with 63% MPs being rookies – again a 22 year high.
Each region tells a different story in this election. This is how it played out across the country on October 19.
As the first polls reporting, a clean sweep of red took over Atlantic Canada with all incumbent Conservative and NDP MPs losing their seats to Liberal Party. Among the casualties were several high-profile incumbents including Fisheries Minister Gail Shea, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt and NDP Deputy Leader Megan Leslie. The Liberals even captured Central Nova, the Nova Scotia riding formerly held by Peter MacKay, which, save for a 1993-97 respite, has elected a conservative politician in each federal election since 1968.
It is fair to assume that the lack of an opposition in Atlantic Canada means that there will be high expectations for the new government. People in the region will expect early action on key files such as employment insurance, veterans affairs and social infrastructure investment. There will also be an expectation for a quick demonstration of inter-governmental cooperation with the region’s Premiers.
• Liberal Ken McDonald was elected in Avalon, defeating Independent candidate Scott Andrews, the former Liberal MP who left that party’s caucus after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced in the last year.
• Conservative Peter Penashue, the former federal cabinet minister who resigned over fundraising problems in last federal election — lost to Liberal Yvonne Jones in Labrador.
• In a high-profile race, Megan Leslie, Deputy Leader of the NDP, lost to Liberal Andy Fillmore in Halifax.
• Bernard Valcourt, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development lost in Madawaska-Restigouche to Liberal Rene Arseneault.
• Rob Moore, Minister of State for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, was defeated by Alaina Lockhart in Fundy Royal, New Brunswick
• Former CTV personality Seamus O’Regan beat out NDP incumbent Ryan Cleary in St. John’s South-Mount Pearl, Newfoundland.
The 2011 “Orange Wave” that saw a majority of seats won by the NDP in Québec came to an end in yesterday’s election. The NDP lost over 40 seats in Québec, while the Liberals gained over 30, including in the Outaouais region and on the Island and South Shore of Montréal. These gains allowed the party to sail through to a majority government.
Former Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez, as well as Francis Scarpaleggia, Chair of the National Liberal Caucus, were both elected last night. Other well-known names in the Québec Liberal Caucus have been returned to Parliament, including former leader Stéphane Dion and former leadership contender Marc Garneau. It is likely that we will see the latter two names around the Trudeau Cabinet table.
Some interesting new faces in the province include former Côte Saint-Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather and star candidate Mélanie Joly. Joly is a lawyer, communications expert and was a runner-up in the latest mayoral race in Montréal. She beat out Maria Mourani, who was the incumbent NDP MP, as well as a former Bloc Québécois MP, Nicolas Bourdon. Joly could also be a member of Trudeau’s yet-to-be announced Cabinet (which he has already committed will strike a gender balance).
The Conservatives doubled their seat count, now at 12, in the Province of Québec. Not only did the party maintain their pre-election seats, they also won an additional 7 in the more right-leaning Québec City region. Star-candidate Gérard Deltell, former Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) Member of Québec’s National Assembly and interim party leader, won in Louis-St-Laurent, the riding of former cabinet minister Josée Verner. Two former Conservative MPs who lost in 2011 were also re-elected – Sylvie Boucher and Bernard Généreux.
Contrary to expectations, the NDP did not manage to maintain its previous Orange Wave hold on the province. However, the party still managed to hold seats in rural areas, notably Ruth Ellen Brosseau, who won in her previously-held riding of Berthier-Maskinongé, with over 40% of the vote. Brosseau famously won this riding in 2011 after having failed to step foot in the riding throughout that federal election campaign.
The NDP were less fortunate in other parts of the province. In the Gaspésie–Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine riding, where the Orange Wave first washed ashore in 2011 with Philip Toone’s win, Liberal candidate Diane Lebouthillier won by over 2,000 votes.
The Montréal area has far more red than orange now, with the NDP losing most of their MPs in the region, including Isabelle Morin, Hélène Laverdière, Jamie Nicholls and Sadia Groguhe. Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the night was NDP Leader Tom Mulcair’s riding of Outremont. While he won the riding, it was a very tight race with the Liberal candidate Rachel Bendayan, until the bitter end.
The Bloc Québécois won 10 seats in the province – more than expected, although not enough seats to give the party opposition status. While the former Bloc leader Mario Beaulieu was elected in his riding, the current Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe – who returned from retirement to lead the party – was defeated by NDP incumbent Hélène Laverdière.
The federal Liberal tide that swept across Toronto and its surrounding area more than replicated the Ontario provincial election results of last year, and reflects the strength of provincial party support of the Trudeau campaign. Metropolitan Toronto, including the 905 region, was solidly Liberal, with the party winning all but five seats in the region (Conservative incumbents Peter Kent in Thornhill, Lisa Raitt in Milton and Colin Carrie in Oshawa, as well as newcomer Bob Saroya in Markham-Unionville). This gives Justin Trudeau valuable Parliamentary bench strength. Bill Morneau, Marco Mendocino, Bill Blair and Navdeep Singh Bains join returning MPs Carolyn Bennett, Chrystia Freeland and Adam Vaughan as a rich talent pool.
The NDP lost significant MPs in downtown Toronto like Peggy Nash, the iconic Olivia Chow, and high-profile hopefuls like Linda McQuaig and Jennifer Hollett. The Conservatives lost key Toronto-area Cabinet members including Joe Oliver (Finance), Chris Alexander (Citizenship and Immigration), Julian Fantino (Associate Min National Defence) and Bal Gosal (Sport).
In southwestern Ontario, the Conservatives were able to hold onto a significant number of ridings, although they were shut out of all the urban regions (Windsor, London, Cambridge, Kitchener and Hamilton), where the gains were evenly split between the Liberals and NDP. The losses in Southwestern Ontario saw further Conservative Cabinet Ministers defeated, including Ed Holder (Science and Technology Minister) and Gary Goodyear (Fed Dev Southern Ontario Minister).
In Eastern Ontario, a region where the Conservatives held all but four seats prior to the election, the Liberals made significant gains, picking up seats in rural regions (Peterborough-Kawartha, Northumberland-Peterborough South, Hastings-Lennox and Addington, Bay of Quinte and Glengarry-Prescott Russell) as well as in the urban Ottawa core (Orleans, Ottawa West-Nepean, Kanata-Carleton, Nepean from the Conservatives and Ottawa Centre from the NDP). In Ottawa Centre, Catherine McKenna defeated the NDP’s Paul Dewar, while Retired Forces Lt-General Andrew Leslie adds significant depth from Orleans.
In Northern Ontario, the NDP were looking to pick up some ground at the expense of both the Liberals and Conservatives, however they were only able to maintain a hold on two seats (Carol Hughes in Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing and Charlie Angus in Timmins-James Bay). The Liberals were able to make gains in the region as well, picking up six seats in the North, including former Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bob Nault in Kenora, who defeated Conservative Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford.
The result across Canada’s Prairie Provinces was not unexpected, with the Conservatives taking a majority of seats in these provinces, and the Liberals and NDP competitive in some urban ridings. The Liberal wave that swept across the rest of Canada largely skipped the Prairies, which remain predominantly blue.
The biggest growth for the Liberals came in the Winnipeg area, where the party grew from Kevin Lamoureux’s lone seat at dissolution to seven seats as of last night. Key seat captures in Winnipeg included Jim Carr in Winnipeg South Centre; Robert-Falcon Ouelette defeating the NDP’s Pat Martin in Winnipeg Centre; and ER doctor Doug Eyolfson who beat former Conservative Minister Steven Fletcher. Carr, former Editor of the Winnipeg Free Press, is anticipated to be influential in the new Liberal government.
The Liberals also held Ralph Goodale’s Regina—Wascana riding and gained three ridings in Alberta. In the new riding of Calgary Skyview, former MLA Dharshan Kang defeated Conservative incumbent Devinder Shory. In Calgary Centre, Kent Kehr defeated Conservative Joan Crockatt in an extremely tight race. In Edmonton, the Liberals captured two seats: Edmonton—Mill Woods where Amarjeet Sohi defated former Minister Tim Uppal and in the new riding of Edmonton Centre, with Randy Boissonnault defeated Conservative James Cumming.
Across the Prairies, the Conservatives dominated rural ridings in all three provinces, returning incumbent Conservative MPs in each of them. At least 14 new MPs will join the Official Opposition from Alberta, while Saskatchewan will send 3 new MPs to Ottawa.
Interestingly, the NDP did make a breakthrough in Saskatchewan, winning three seats. Saskatoon West, one of the new urban ridings created in the most recent redistribution, went to Sheri Benson, CEO of the Saskatoon United Way. In Regina, the new Regina—Lewvan seat went to the NDP’s Erin Weir. In the Northern Saskatchewan riding of Desenthe—Missinippi—Churchill River, incumbent Conservative MP Rob Clarke was defeated by NDP Candidate and former mayor Georgina Jolibois. In Alberta, long-time MP Linda Duncan also held her Edmonton Strathcona seat for the NDP.
The biggest change, such as it is, for the Prairie Provinces is the shift of the majority of seats from the Government to the Opposition benches. The Liberals have representation in each province, which will be significant when it comes to building the Trudeau Cabinet. For the Conservatives, the resignation of Stephen Harper as party leader may create an opportunity within Conservative ranks to fill the leadership void, either on an interim basis or in the subsequent leadership race.
By the time polls closed last night in British Columbia, the only question left unanswered was: would the Liberals form a minority, or majority, government. Rural B.C. stuck to what it knows best – choosing Tory and NDP representatives. In contrast, urban B.C. did not deviate far from the national trend, trading in many incumbent Conservative MPs for new Liberal candidates.
Notably, Conservative stalwarts Kerry-Lynne Findlay (Delta), Andrew Saxton (North Vancouver), and John Weston (West Vancouver) all saw their ridings fall to Liberals (Carla Qualtrough, Jonathan Wilkinson, and Pamela Goldsmith-Jones respectively).
The swing-riding rich Vancouver suburb of Surrey went almost entirely from blue to red – the single exception being the city’s immensely-popular former mayor Dianne Watts, who nevertheless faced a much tougher battle than initially expected, and had supporters biting their nails well into the evening. In the new riding of Vancouver Granville, a down-to-the-wire race developed, as star Liberal candidate Jody Wilson-Raybould pulled out a victory, contrary to a controversial Lead Now endorsement of NDP candidate Mira Oreck – who ultimately came in a distant third place.
Liberal Terry Beech squeaked past his Conservative opponent in the new riding of Burnaby-North Seymour. The riding is home to Kinder Morgan’s operations in Vancouver – making it a focal point for anti-pipeline sentiment. Again, the Liberal win came in spite of a controversial endorsement for the NDP from anti-Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion activists. Nevertheless, Beech’s victory is arguably the product of strategic voting by progressive, environmentally-oriented voters who viewed the Liberals as a more viable option for defeating Stephen Harper than the NDP.
In rural B.C., the landscape remains a collage of orange and blue, with a few swaps throughout the province. Tellingly, the blue-collar riding of Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo voted overwhelmingly to elect Conservative MPs, despite an aggressive campaign push by the NDP. This trend corresponds well with the evolving values of working-class British Columbians, historically considered locked down New Democrats, but increasingly voting to the right of centre. Skeena-Bulkley Valley remained an NDP riding, re-electing rumoured New Democrat leadership hopeful Nathan Cullen. Cullen used his victory speech to call Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline project “dead”.
Vancouver Island remains a stronghold for the NDP. Despite some optimism from the Green Party that they may pick up additional seats in the region, they were limited to Elizabeth May’s win in Saanich-Gulf Islands.
Yesterday’s vote split the province more equally between the three main parties – Liberals: 17, New Democrats: 14 Conservatives: 10, and Green: 1. The numbers are historic, with the Liberal Party of Canada now holding the most seats it has had in B.C. in nearly 50 years. Prime Minister Elect Justin Trudeau has called Vancouver his “second home” in Canada. British Columbians, who often feel excluded from the centre of federal power in Ottawa, will be looking for proof of his declaration in the years to come.
As with the rest of the country, the territories were not immune to the Liberal red tide, with the party sweeping all three northern seats, after being shut out in 2011. Long-time former MP Larry Bagnell returns to the House of Commons, while Dennis Bevington, the NDP incumbent in the Northwest Territories, fell second place to the Liberals. In Nunavut, Conservative Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq finished a distant third to Liberal Hunter TooToo.
With the results of Canada’s election now clear, Global Public Affairs is concluding our election monitoring service and looking to the governance context for the 42nd Parliament.
How this government addresses issues like the economy, climate change, trade, intergovernmental dynamics and Canada’s place in an increasingly connected international market place are all key considerations for public affairs and advancing business drivers and objectives.
Clients of Global Public Affairs can expect additional insights and analysis over the coming days. Please contact us should you require any additional information on what lies ahead for Canada’s Parliament. You can find contact information for our team across the country here.