WELCOME TO OTTAWA PLAYBOOK. I’m your host, Nick Taylor-Vaisey. Start the clock on another Liberal minority government. Justin Trudeau’s midsummer gambit didn’t deliver the majority he hoped, but he shook off an early-campaign funk that appeared to threaten his prospects for re-election. There will be questions about the C$600 million election and plenty for each leader to answer for — within their party, and to Canadians. POLITICO’S ANDY BLATCHFORD and ZI-ANN LUM have early coverage of the results. Here’s how it all shook out.
SAME RESULT-ish — Election night started like they always do: interminable early polls reported with a mix of breathlessness and knowing humor. Soon enough, the first local winner emerged when Natural Resources Minister SEAMUS O’REGAN had built up a sufficient lead in St. John’s.
When most of Canada’s polls closed at 9:30 ET, LOUIS PLAMONDON was among Quebec’s first declared winners. Plamondon, an MP for the Bloc Québécois since 1984, is the dean of the House of Commons. He actually predates the Bloc, having won his first two campaigns under BRIAN MULRONEY‘s Progressive Conservative banner.
At 10:22 ET, CTV called the election for the Liberals. Two minutes later, CBC Radio beat its own television counterparts to the same conclusion. At 11:13, CBC called it a minority.
QUICK QUOTES — Liberal leader JUSTIN TRUDEAU was gracious. Conservative leader ERIN O’TOOLE warned that Liberals want to go back to the polls less than two years from now. NDP leader JAGMEET SINGH set himself up as the balance of power in the next House of Commons.
— Trudeau: “I hear you when you say you just want to get back to the things you love and not worry about this pandemic or about an election. Your members of Parliament of all stripes will have your back in this crisis and beyond. Canadians are able to get around any obstacle and that is exactly what we will continue to do.”
— O’Toole: “If Justin Trudeau thinks he can threaten Canadians with another election in 18 months, the Conservative Party will be ready. Whenever that day comes, I will be ready to lead Canada’s Conservatives. We worked hard, we made progress, but the job is not done yet.”
— Singh: “Friends, I want you to know that our fight will continue. I also want you to know that we are going to keep on fighting to make sure that the super wealthy pay their fair share.”
THE SEAT COUNT — When Governor General MARY MAY SIMON dissolved Parliament, the Liberals held 155 seats. When Trudeau took the stage after 1 ET this morning, his party stood to win 156 seats. The Tories left Ottawa with 119 seats, and could return with 119 — just shy of the number they won in 2019. The NDP were up one seat to 25. The Bloc was up two to 34.
Those numbers will likely change by the time all the votes are counted, but the nearly identical seat count left pundits wondering what it was all for. Former Conservative deputy leader LISA RAITT called the vote a “$600-million cabinet shuffle,” a reference to Elections Canada’s cost estimate for a campaign that will undoubtedly produce a new frontbench.
But surely there’s more to this election than that.
DIFFERENT POLITICS — The story of the 2021 campaign can be told in subtle shifts — a smattering of upsets and flipped ridings, the pivotal impact of smaller parties, the loss of cabinet ministers and elevation of at least one new Liberal voice on the prairies.
— Cabinet ministers gone down: At least two front benchers were defeated. Gender Equality Minister MARYAM MONSEF lost to Tory MICHELLE FERRERI in Peterborough-Kawartha, a rare instance in which that riding didn’t vote for the winning party. Ferreri, a newcomer to politics, made headlines for campaigning while partially vaccinated.
Fisheries Minister BERNADETTE JORDAN also fell to a Tory, RICK PERKINS, in Nova Scotia’s South Shore-St. Margarets. And a third cabmin, Minister for Seniors DEB SCHULTE in the 905 riding of King-Vaughan, was trailing when Playbook last checked. That’s three women at a cabinet table where gender parity is a priority for the prime minister.
— Key vote splits: Playbook was monitoring the potential rise of the People’s Party, the cratering of the Green Party vote, stubbornly strong Bloc Québécois support and potentially soft NDP support that could flee to the Liberals. Those splits did matter.
→ In Calgary Skyview, popular city councillor GEORGE CHAHAL pulled out a tight victory against Tory incumbent JAG SAHOTA, fulfilling his promise to Calgarians that he was their local ticket to government. The People’s Party vote surpassed Chahal’s margin of victory. He’ll almost certainly serve as a cabinet minister.
→ The Greens didn’t run candidates in 86 ridings, including key districts in B.C.’s Lower Mainland where they covered the margin of victory in 2019. The lack of a Green option combined with a modest People’s Party showing appears to have delivered Cloverdale-Langley City to JOHN ALDAG, the former Liberal MP who beat Tory TAMARA JANSEN in a rematch.
The same combo appears to have made the difference in the hotly contested 905 riding of Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill. Tory LEONA ALLESLEV, who was first elected as a Liberal in 2015, lost to LEAH TAYLOR ROY in another rematch. Trudeau visited that riding more than once this campaign.
— Kitchener surprise: Playbook paid a visit last week to MIKE MORRICE, the Green candidate in the tech-heavy city who was the talk of the networks on election night. Morrice finished a strong second in 2019, but surged after Liberal RAJ SAINI dropped out of the race (and still racked up 17 percent of votes because his name remained on the ballot).
The Greens had their most disappointing night in at least a decade. Party leader ANNAMIE PAUL finished fourth in her own riding, and PAUL MANLY was locked in a three-way fight on Vancouver Island. Morrice’s win was a bright spot.
— What didn’t matter: One of JAGMEET SINGH‘s greatest embarrassments on the campaign trail was an awkward moment in Winnipeg when regional First Nations leaders endorsed NDP incumbent NIKI ASHTON‘s Liberal opponent, SHIRLEY ROBINSON, in northern Manitoba. Ashton still won handily.
Quebec Premier FRANÇOIS LEGAULT dropped a bomb on English language debate day. He endorsed an O’Toole government over the Liberal alternative, dismissing Trudeau — and the NDP and Greens — as “dangerous” to Quebec’s interests. The boost didn’t show up at the polls. Tories won 10 seats in 2019, and are on track for 10 this time.
ALUPA CLARKE, one of O’Toole’s most trusted advisers in Quebec, lost a three-way fight in which Bloc incumbent JULIE VIGNOLA came out on top in Beauport—Limoilou.
— Failed rebellions: The number of People’s Party signs on private lawns, particularly in southwestern Ontario, stirred interest — might CHELSEA HILLIER, the daughter of Queen’s Park politician RANDY HILLIER, pull off an upset in Elgin-Middlesex-London? In the end, Tory KAREN VECCHIO won a third term with about half of all votes cast.
In Banff-Airdrie, Alberta, Ontario transplant and former Tory DEREK SLOAN hoped to send incumbent BLAKE RICHARDS a message by mounting an anti-establishment campaign that he said would culminate in a new political party. Sloan ended up with single-digit support. His wife, Jennifer, finished dead last in his former riding back east.
The People’s Party failed to win any seats. Leader MAXIME BERNIER lost in the Beauce, Que, riding where he served four terms as MP. But more than three-quarters of a million voters picked the right-wing populist upstart.
BIG CITY SWEEP — The big knock against ANDREW SCHEER‘s failed attempt to beat Trudeau two years ago was that he couldn’t crack the cluster of suburban ridings around two of Canada’s largest cities. O’Toole designed a sprawling platform, including a credible climate change plan, engineered to win where Scheer fell short.
— The 905: Tory COLIN CARRIE held Oshawa, and O’Toole himself came out on top in the 905’s eastern Durham Region flank. But the Conservatives lost at least two ridings to Liberals in the Greater Toronto Area: Alleslev’s seat and a Markham riding held by BOB SAROYA. They should still pick up Schulte’s riding in King-Vaughan, but veteran party operative MELISSA LANTSMAN‘s win in Thornhill is a rare spot of blue in a sea of red.
— The 604: Tories also lost at least two Lower Mainland seats to Liberals, a region where O’Toole held seven campaign events and hoped to make gains. Conservatives did manage to flip at least five Liberal ridings — all in rural areas.
TOO CLOSE TO CALL — A shrinking clutch of ridings were still up for grabs as the sun came up today: Brome-Missisquoi; Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame; Davenport; Edmonton Centre; Fredericton; Hamilton Mountain; King-Vaughan; Kitchener-Conestoga; Longueuil-Charles-LeMoyne; Nanaimo-Ladysmith; Niagara Centre; Parkdale-High Park; Richmond Centre; Sault Ste. Marie; Spadina-Fort York; Trois-Rivières; Vancouver Granville; and Vaughan-Woodbridge.
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STUDENT VOTE — CIVIX, a charity dedicated to fostering civic engagement among young Canadians, ran an adjacent federal election for students who weren’t eligible to vote in the real thing — 700,000 students at 5,000 schools across Canada. They also elected the Liberal party with a razor-thin minority — 117 seats — on the strength of just 24 percent of the vote.
The NDP finished second with 107 seats and 29 percent. The Tories won 91 seats with 25 percent. Now that’s a first-past-the-post result worthy of deep study in the classroom.
The students weren’t exactly a microcosm of the real election’s voting trends. Mail-in votes aside, the Liberals scored 32 percent on election night, behind the Tories at about 34. New Democrats trailed with just shy of 18 percent.
— Meanwhile, in Alberta: The Calgary Herald’s DON BRAID says Premier JASON KENNEY‘s performance of late is a “hotter topic” than any federal vote: “It’s hard to see how Kenney stays on for much longer, with the public bitterly angry and so many of his own people finally united — around the desire to see him out.”
What is happening? Questions about the results? Send them our way.
THE POLLSTERS — It’s way too early to grade pollsters on their predictions, because a little more than a million mail-in ballots — which appear to favor the Liberals and NDP — will only be counted starting today. Beware any hasty conclusions about polling hits and misses on social media. Playbook will report back after all the votes are in.
But we do have some early analysis from our friends at Abacus Data …
Since the start of this campaign, DAVID COLETTO from our polling partner Abacus Data has joined Playbook daily to share a data point on the 2021 federal election.
Today: Polling told us we were headed toward this “déjà vu election.”
Perhaps most striking, the Conservatives could not dent the Liberal fortress around Toronto. Despite a 4-point drop in Liberal vote share across Ontario, in the GTA, the vote split was almost exactly the same as in 2019.
As our polling has shown, the desire for change was almost exactly the same as in 2019. Mr. O’Toole and Mr. Singh effectively argued that this was an “unwanted election,” but they did not effectively create a desire for change.
Catch DAVID HERLE, SCOTT REID and JENNI BYRNE on an extended edition of the Curse of Politics podcast later this morning.
— On The Decibel podcast this morning, JOHN IBBITSON and KRISTY KIRKUP break down election results.
— The Big Story podcast takes on the question many are asking: Did this election matter.
— Over on his blog, STEPHEN SAIDEMAN explains why he has a problem with retired military officers making political endorsements.
If you are a Pro subscriber, catch our Canada PM newsletter: Priorities for Sept. 21: Covid and climate crisis.
In other news for Pros:
— What Trudeau’s win means for Canada-U.S. relations.
— Manufacturers urge Biden to drop vaccine IP waiver push.
— What Biden needs to prove in his speech to the U.N.
— Britain and other small island states call out big polluters.
— Boris Johnson defends ‘global warming skeptic’ trade minister.
— Hochul backs two major new transmission lines, including one from Canada, to bring clean energy into New York City.
Monday’s answer: Seven people have held the position of Chief Electoral Officer since it was established in 1920.
Props to ALYSON FAIR, MICHAEL MACDONALD, MICHAEL HORNAK and BOB GORDON.
Tuesday’s question: When is Canada’s next fixed election date?
Send your answers to [email protected]
Clarification: In all that talk about nothing in Monday’s newsletter, we included a Washington Post link from the 2019 federal election. For the record, here’s AMANDA COLETTA on the 2021 campaign.
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