National Post (Latest Edition)

Liberals gained, but shed support in parts of country

Stronghold in Toronto gets a little bit softer

- Ryan Tumilty

OTTAWA • While the 2021 election did little to change the seat count in Parliament, the numbers show a lot changed below the surface as Conservati­ves faced a big dent in the west and the Liberals’ fortress Toronto became a little weaker.

A judicial recount this week gave the Liberals one more Quebec seat in Châteaugua­y-lacolle where the party won by just 12 votes, bringing their total to 160 seats, which includes Kevin Vuong in Spadina Fort York who ran under the party banner, but has already been removed from caucus. That gives the Liberals three more seats they had at the end of the 2019 election.

The Conservati­ves are at 119 seats, two down from 2019. The NDP picked up one to get to 25 and the Bloc Québécois stayed exactly the same at 32 seats.

But there were still big swings in the election and the largest was in the West, where Conservati­ve MPS saw their margins of victory cut in half. Portage-lisgar Conservati­ve MP Candice Bergen for example lost 27 percentage points off her 2019 margin of victory.

Bergen still comfortabl­y won reelection, with a margin of more than 30 points, but she was not alone among Conservati­ve MPS in losing support. In total, 16 Conservati­ve MPS in Western provinces lost more than 20 percentage votes from their margin of victory.

Much of that lost seems to have gone to the People’s Party of Canada, which finished second in six ridings this time after finishing second in only one riding in 2019. But generally, Conservati­ve voters seemed less enthusiast­ic in Western provinces. In Alberta on average, the party finished 13 per cent lower this election than it did when Andrew Scheer was leading the party.

Lakeland MP Shannon Stubbs voiced those concerns at a Conservati­ve caucus meeting on Wednesday. Stubbs who had one of the highest margins of victory in 2019, lost 19 per cent of that margin in this campaign.

“I believe there needs to be an accounting on how it is that we are going to maintain Conservati­ve voters maintain confidence among Conservati­ve voters and supporters,” she said.

Stubbs’ win is still one of the largest in the country, but she said she was concerned the vote share she lost reflected Conservati­ves who were uncomforta­ble with what the party had on offer.

“I certainly hear from my members and from my constituen­ts that they want to know exactly what path will be charted forward to continue to advocate for conservati­ve principles and values.”

The Conservati­ves weren’t alone in seeing weakening support. The Liberals hold on the Greater Toronto Area has been key to their support over the last three elections and it remains that way now with nearly a third of the party’s MPS coming from the region.

The Liberals picked up seats in the GTA this campaign, but many of their MPS faced tougher races. In Pickering Uxbridge, where the party won with a 21 per cent margin of victory in 2019, MP Jennifer O’connell won with a 10 per cent margin this time.

But the results for the Liberals were uneven. Some MPS like O’connell had tougher fights, but several are coming back to the House of Commons with even bigger wins than they racked up in 2019. On average, the party lost 0.1 per cent of its supports in the ridings inside and around Toronto, while the Conservati­ve vote climbed 0.6 per cent.

The Conservati­ves did make gains in Quebec, where the party got 2.3 per cent more in this campaign than it did in 2019, but the Liberals increased their support in Alberta by 1.5 per cent.

The Tories were closer to victory in some respects this time than they were in 2019. They finished second in 123 ridings in this campaign, up from the 112 ridings where they got the silver medal in 2019.

The Liberals share of those second place finishes declined to 93 races from 117 in 2019.

Shakir Chambers, a Conservati­ve strategist and principal at Earnscliff­e Strategy group, said he sees improvemen­t and the party’s leader Erin O’toole can make a case that the party is moving in the right direction.

“The vote share did go up, we need to do more to turn that into actual seats, but the vote share did go up,” he said. “Obviously, seat count wasn’t what we wanted it to be, but you can’t deny that there was progress made in the two most vote-rich provinces in Canada.”

Kate Harrison, vice chair with Summa Strategies, said she is not as concerned about the drop-off in the west, because the MPS still quite comfortabl­y hold their seats.

“I am far more encouraged by the narrowing of margins in the suburbs, than I am discourage­d or concerned by an Alberta MP only winning by 30,000 votes,” she said.

She said broadening the party’s appeal in Ontario and Quebec and running huge margins in Western Canada is likely not possible.

“If it could be done the Liberals would be doing it in the reverse. They would be winning with huge margins in the suburbs, and still making some interpret incrementa­l gains in the West.”

THE TORIES ARE AT 119 SEATS, TWO DOWN FROM 2019.

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