This week’s 338Canada projection: All bets are off

Philippe J. Fournier: The Conservatives’ slide in Ontario proves costly in the overall seat projection—now a dead heat between the two main parties

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Trudeau attends a pancake breakfast in Calgary on July 13, 2019. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)

Fresh new data was published last week, and it should certainly concern Conservative strategists, as it appears that the Liberal slump from the SNC-Lavalin story and the CPC as the election-favourite narrative have all but vanished.

Two new national polls were published last week from Nanos and Mainstreet Research, as well as a local Forum Research poll for the city of Toronto. Here is a brief recap:

  • In its latest weekly update, Nanos measured yet another drop for the Conservatives. The CPC falls to 30 per cent nationally, a drop of four points compared to one month ago. The Liberals climb to 35 per cent, up four points in the same period. According to Nanos, the Liberals lead in Quebec, Ontario and B.C. and are in close second to the CPC in the Atlantic provinces.
  • Last Tuesday, Mainstreet Research published its latest numbers—the firm’s first poll since late March. Mainstreet has the Liberals stable at 35 per cent nationally, and the Conservatives at 33 per cent, down four points since it was last on the field. However, the most important discrepancy between Mainstreet and Nanos is the national NDP support: Nanos has 18 per cent and Mainstreet, 10 per cent. There is a world of difference between those two numbers: at 18 per cent, the NDP could potentially salvage several of its strongholds in Ontario and Western Canada; at 10 per cent, the NDP could find itself struggling to obtain official party status (the threshold is set at 12 seats).
  • Finally, the Toronto Star published a Toronto poll from Forum Research. Unsurprisingly, the Liberals remain in first place in the city with a 20-point lead in front of the Conservatives. However, the most surprising number from this poll was once again the NDP, whose support was measured at only 12 per cent. The NDP was shutout of Toronto seat-wise in 2015, but still received close to 18 per cent of the popular vote. Should this drop in NDP support from Torontonians be confirmed in the ballot box in October, it would be virtually impossible for the NDP to regain any seat in the city.

We add these latest polls in the 338Canada model, and present today this federal projection update.

Popular Vote Projection

The Conservatives and Liberals now stand about two points apart in the popular vote projection, with the Conservatives at an average of 34.6 per cent and the Liberals, 32.4 per cent. However, considering the margin of error of this projection, this result should be considered a statistical tie between the two parties, with a slight edge going towards the CPC.

(The graph above depicts this week’s projection with the latest national polls; MS: Mainstreet; NR: Nanos Research.)

The NDP stands at an average of 14.4 per cent, but, as you can see from the graph above, the latest polls disagree on where the NDP stands nationally. The 338 projection falls almost right in the middle of last week’s diverging numbers.

The Green Party of Canada remains stable at 10.5 per cent. In Québec, the Bloc stands at an average of 19.3 per cent (4.5 per cent nationally).

Finally, Maxime Bernier’s PPC receives an average support of 2.9 per cent.

Seat Projection

Even though the Conservative Party still holds a slight edge in the national popular vote, its recent slide in Ontario has proven costly in the seat projection (both Nanos and Mainstreet have the Liberals in front of the CPC in Ontario by nine and 10 points, respectively).

Consequently, the seat projection this week is, quite literally, a dead heat between the two main parties:

The Conservatives win an average of 148 seats and the Liberals, 147. Considering that the margin between the parties is significantly smaller than the projection’s uncertainty, we have—according to current data—a true toss-up.

The following graph is the seat projection probability density for the LPC and CPC:

These two curves overlap almost perfectly. Needless to point out that the most likely scenario, with these numbers, would be a minority government—led by whichever party that would manage to win the confidence of the House of Commons.

Here is the probability density of the seat difference between Liberals and Conservatives:

As we enter the middle of summer, Canadian pollsters will probably take a much-needed break before the fall campaign, and so unless a major and unforeseeable event should occur, we expect these numbers to remain mostly stable for the next few weeks. But then again, we never know.

Current Members of Parliament and candidates of all stripes for this fall will tirelessly tour their constituencies in the next month hoping to convince Canadians that they, and their respective team, are the best positioned/most qualified to lead Canada’s government for the next four years (or less).

Federal Conservatives will try to feed off the momentum from various provincial conservative parties of the past years. In 2015 when Justin Trudeau was elected Prime Minister, New Brunswick, P.E.I, Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia were all led by provincial Liberals. Alberta and Manitoba were led by NDP premiers. Since then the pendulum has swung the other way: as of this writing, all of these provinces except B.C. voted right wing or centre-right leaning parties to power.

And the Liberals? Unlike during the 2015 campaign, Trudeau and his team will have a record to defend, which is no easy task for incumbents of any party.

Has the figurative pendulum swung all the way just in time for Andrew Scheer? With today’s numbers in hand, we can only conclude that all bets are off.