With the recent elections, we now have 7 out of 10 provinces (might be 8 soon depending on how Newfoundland votes on May 16th) with over 80% of the Canadian population with small c conservative governments. By contrast only 2 provinces (could be down to one soon) and one territory representing less than 5% of the population with Liberal governments. Some have suggested this foreshadows a Conservative majority this fall. My thoughts are you cannot dismiss this, but it not a guarantee of a Conservative win this fall either. For starters there is great variance amongst the so called small c conservative premiers. The CAQ in Quebec may be on a similar spot on the political spectrum as the federal Tories but their policies and ideology have some notable differences. While federal Tories are like you typical English speaking country centre-right party, the CAQ is more in line with your traditional centre-right parties in Continental Europe. If Canada were an EU member, Tories elsewhere would be a member of the NCR group while CAQ likely part of the EPP. Likewise the PEI PCs are still your traditional Red Tories similar to what their federal counterparts and provincial counterparts elsewhere were like in the 70s. Its unlikely Jason Kenney, Doug Ford, or Andrew Scheer would have won in PEI last week and likewise its unlikely someone as moderate as Dennis King could win leadership (he is to the left of Michael Chong who was the reddest of the Tory candidates in 2017) of the Tories federally or in most provinces. Still even excluding those two, you do have 5 conservative leaders representing over 60% of the population. Some of the defeats were due to fatigue of long standing governments so wins in Manitoba, Ontario, and PEI you could chalk up to this. Even in Quebec, although CAQ defeated a one term government, the PLQ only split 18 months out of the last 15 years in opposition so you could argue that wasn’t a long enough break from power to totally renew them. However, both New Brunswick and Alberta were conservatives defeating one term governments. I am sort of two minds here:
- Since Canadians are fairly centrist, we like to balance things out so one ideology federally and one provincially so mostly right wing governments provincially offsets the left wing one we have federally but also re-electing the Liberals would keep this balance
- We live in a more polarized world with few swing voters and it is more which side can get their vote out so most who are voting conservative provincially will federally too.
In my lifetime, there have been five cases where the federal government mostly faced provincial premiers of the opposite ideology and in the previous four, three resulted in a change of government, while one did not. In the early 80s, 8 out of 10 provinces had small c conservative governments, while no Liberal ones and in 1984 it was a PC landslide with Liberals suffering a humiliating defeat. In the early 90s again, we had a federal PC government with only two provinces governed by them (Alberta and Manitoba) while it was Liberals in all five provinces east of the Ottawa River, while NDP in BC, Saskatchewan, and Ontario. This resulted in a massive PC defeat in 1993, however the NDP who was at their nader in terms of provincial support suffered their worst election since CCF was renamed NDP. Going into the 2000 election, Newfoundland & Labrador was the only province with a Liberal government although it was a mix of PC, NDP, and PQ elsewhere. Despite this Chretien successfully won his third majority so in this case having few provincial allies didn’t seem to hurt the Liberals. Going into 2015, you had mostly progressive minded governments with only one government with conservative in its name (Newfoundland & Labrador and they were defeated a month later) and two other small c conservative ones (British Columbia and Saskatchewan). More importantly, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Alberta elections all saw parties that ran on running bigger deficits and taxing the rich more win, much the same what happened federally in 2015 so it did seem the public was very much in the mood for a more left wing activist government. So while you can isolate each election to unique local circumstances, I don’t think Trudeau can or should ignore the overall trend. At the same time Tories should not assume this favourable provincial trend will necessarily spill over. It shows there are enough Canadians out there open to voting Conservative that they can win a majority, but people being open to voting Conservative is much different than actually voting for them. Also another bigger trend is people are voting for non-traditional numbers in bigger numbers. Green Party may not be in government anywhere, but in BC, Ontario, New Brunswick, and PEI, they all made strong gains. Likewise in last Quebec election, the two main parties for the last 50 years suffered worst showings in over 50 years while two newer ones (Quebec Solidaire and CAQ) made big gains. In addition there does seem to be a trend of turfing governments as since the last federal election, there have been 11 provincial elections (if we include the Yukon). In 9 of the 11, the incumbent government went down to defeat so if anything this shows Canadians are restless and hungry for change so even if Conservatives win this fall, if they don’t deliver change and improvement to people’s lives, they could risk also being defeated in 2023. Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia were the only two provincial governments successfully re-elected, while BC, Manitoba, Ontario, PEI, and Yukon involved turfing those who had been in power for more than a decade, but Alberta, Quebec, and New Brunswick turfed one term ones. Either way it is clear there is a lot of dissatisfaction amongst the public although unclear what solutions there are, but until someone finds a way to deal with those, this could become the norm. Ironically enough, its pretty tough to fix problems in one term, usually one needs at least two.