How deep a hole did the Liberals dig?

The numbers paint an ugly picture for the federal Liberals

Eric Grenier tries to put the Liberal party’s current standing in perspective.

When Canada last had a change of government, the Conservatives under Mr. Harper had turned a vote-share deficit of 7.1 percentage points in 2004 into a 6.1-point lead. But overcoming that 7.1-point margin in 2006 paled in comparison to the two previous changes in government. The Liberals had placed 11.1 points behind the Progressive Conservatives in 1988 before winning in 1993, while under Brian Mulroney the Tories had overcome an 11.9-point margin between the 1980 and 1984 elections.

But with 18.9 per cent support in the last election, Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals finished 20.7 points behind the victorious Conservatives. If the Liberals overcame such a margin in 2015, it would be the greatest comeback in a federal election in Canada’s history.

The numbers underneath are maybe even less encouraging. The Liberals finished first, second or a strong third in just 114 ridings in the last election. By comparison, the NDP managed to finish first, second or a strong third in 232 ridings, the Conservatives did so in 240.

Or consider the splits on ridings in which the party’s vote increased in 2011 versus ridings in which the party’s vote decreased. The Liberals went up in 20 and down in 287 last May. (The NDP, by comparison, went up in 289, down in 19. The Conservatives improved in 208, fell in 99.) And the Liberals finished on the negative side of this split in each of the three previous elections, mirroring a steady decline in the popular vote that has seen the party go from 40.9% to 36.7% to 30.2% to 26.3% to 18.9%.

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