From time to tine I will post comment and graphical images on the state of the Canadian horserace for 2019. Some of the comments will be on substantive aspects of current politics. Some will ponder the institutional and historical background, often in line with arguments in my 2017 book, The Canadian Party System: An Analytic History.
The 2019 Horserace
This comment is updated from time to time as new polls come in. See below. Details on data and estimations can be found here.
The 2015-19 Context (posted 13 August 2019)
As we have known for some time, the Liberals chances of retaining their parliamentary majority looks remote. Before we delve into the nitty gritty of the moment, however, let’s put their current predicament into context. Their chances of a majority have looked slim for a long time, and not just because of SNC-Lavalin or of ill-advised costume and public appearance choices in India.
The plot below goes back to the 2015 election and records the party’s post-election honeymoon, the 2016-2017 reversion to its October 2015 level of 40 percent, the further erosion to the mid- to high-30s, bottoming-out in the low 30s, and now a small recovery. The party’s majority was in trouble by early 2017. If there is any single culprit, it was the abrupt dismissal of the report by Electoral Reform committee. There was, of course, low politics all around the event and little evidence of popular hunger for a change to the electoral system. But the promise that 2015 would be the last election fought under First Past the Post was explicit–and explicitly broken. The incident probably was critical to unravelling trust in the Prime Minister.
Graphical smoothing makes it appear as there was a further slide over the course of 2017, but there also is a localization of poor results in early 2018. This probably reflects the bad publicity over the India trip. The impact, if it was that, is modest, and may have been mitigated by a slight improvement in late 2018.
The impact of SNC-Lavalin is unmistakeable, and in the short run almost certainly understated by the smoothed line. For a stretch in late winter-early spring, almost all the poll readings lie below the smoothed line! This reflects the relentlessly negative coverage visited upon the government, registered by some firms giving the Liberals shares below 30 percent. The smoothed line, in contrast, registers the episodic nature of those readings. Although the Liberals lost ground that they have not yet recovered, and may never recover, the medium-term impact of the affair was to anchor the share in the low 30s. It seems to be recovering but so far the recovery is weak.
The main beneficiary is the Conservative party. The Conservatives have led the Liberals since March and only now are seeing their lead erode. The Conservative advantage did not reflect gains in their own share. All the movement involved flight from the Liberals. There is the merest hint of a Conservative downturn in the last few weeks.