Maclean Kay looks at the major parties’ best- and worst-case scenarios tonight…or whenever all the ballots are counted.
Best case: It would take some luck, some unhappy voters holding their noses, and a disproportionate number of tight races falling their way. But if the “anyone but Conservative” vote coalesces around the Liberals, there is a narrow, winding path towards a majority government here. In other words: Justin Trudeau’s early election gamble pays off. Big.
Worst case: Gambled and lost. Voter enthusiasm is muted, Jagmeet Singh charms juuuuuust enough centre-left voters, Erin O’Toole doesn’t seem risky in the suburbs, and the Liberals somehow find themselves having forced an early election to seek a majority, only to lose everything. Justin Trudeau wouldn’t survive this, and the Liberals are forced into another early vote: for a new leader.
Most likely: The next parliament looks rather like the last one, with a Liberal government – but just a minority government, and real questions start popping up about who leads the party into the next election. Even if he’s still prime minister, Justin Trudeau looks less and less like an electoral asset.
Best case: One of two parties with a realistic chance of forming government – although polls show it’s a considerably smaller chance. That said, Conservative support does tend to underpoll and overdeliver rather than vice versa, if only because their voters more reliably vote. There’s almost zero chance of a Tory majority, but a minority government under Prime Minister Erin O’Toole – backed by the Bloc – is a possibility.
Worst case: Erin O’Toole’s play for regions and demographics that have shunned Conservatives not only doesn’t work, but backfires. The PPC bleeds off enough support to cost a few swing seats the Tories can’t afford to lose, and efforts to drop Alberta’s pandemic response in O’Toole’s lap mean a few shocking losses in places like downtown Calgary. Whether O’Toole gets another shot, or becomes the next one-and-done CPC leader becomes an open question. After all, Andrew Scheer was pushed out after adding 26 seats.
Most likely: As recently as two weeks ago, the Conservatives looked very much like the next government. But their campaign seemed to sputter over the past few days, staying mostly silent and taking far more hits than they dished out. Another term as Official Opposition seems most likely.
Best case: TikTok the Vote works, and Jagmeet Singh’s efforts to convince younger voters to actually show up pays off. But we should be realistic here: even doubling the NDP’s seat count only brings them to 48. If you squint, and with a generous dollop of luck, the NDP could around 10 seats. The NDP’s real best case scenario is less about the number of seats, but another Liberal minority government, where they can resume taking credit for the good things while disavowing the bad things.
Worst case: Singh’s appeal to younger voters doesn’t work, and more importantly, the Liberals successfully spook would-be NDP voters with apocalyptic visions of a Conservative government, and somehow, the NDP find themselves with Canada’s most popular leader – who has lost seats in his only two elections. In the end, the most important factor in NDP success or failure is mostly beyond their control: they do best when the wind seems to be blowing towards a clear Liberal or Conservative majority. That’s not the case in 2021.
Most likely: More of the same. Jagmeet Singh remains one of Canada’s most interesting, and in some ways, confounding political figures: everyone agrees he’s popular, but in his only election as leader before today, he lost 15 seats and almost 4 percentage points.
This isn’t a contradiction; the trick isn’t getting people to like you, but vote for you. All that said, there’s no wipeout in the cards; Singh almost certainly leaves tonight with at least as many seats as he had, and probably one or two more – but still seems likely to be leading Canada’s fourth party.
Best case: The Bloc are playing a different game than the other parties. In 2019, they more than tripled the number of their seats, going from 10 to 32. That’s impossible to duplicate (they’re only running candidates in Quebec’s 78 ridings) but the Bloc have had a successful campaign, managing to turn a 100% legitimate question in the English leaders’ debate into yet another national humiliation.
Perhaps somewhat counterintuitively, the best case for the Bloc might be a minority Conservative government. A Liberal minority might need their votes, but not their legitimacy and presence in Quebec; a Tory minority would rely on both. For a party explicitly focused on influence and autonomy for Quebec, and literally nothing else, it wouldn’t get much better.
Worst case: Of all the parties listed here, the Bloc have the softest worst-case landing. Along with Jagmeet Singh, Yves-Francois Blanchet is absolutely guaranteed to keep his job; even a disaster likely means keeping some 30 seats.
Most likely: Something rather like status quo, perhaps with three or four more seats – and a crucial role to play in a minority government.
Best case: Survival. After what can only be described as an insurrection against their own leader, the Greens entered this campaign broke, spent, and divided. But Annamie Paul somehow wins a tight four-way race in Toronto with something like 29% of the vote, and the party squeaks out one or two surprises elsewhere. But five seats seems like the absolute outer limits of probability.
Worst case: On first glance, the worse case could be a complete wipeout – which is very much in play. But the worst case scenario might be losing everywhere but Saanich – Gulf Islands, and Elizabeth May becomes the de facto and, in all probability, actual leader. Why is this the worst case scenario? We’ve seen this movie five times before, and it always ends the same way. For the Greens to grow beyond Vancouver Island, they need a new leader – who is supported by what little party apparatus exists.
Most likely: I can’t see Annamie Paul winning her seat, or continuing as leader without one. The Greens likely hold both their Vancouver Island seats, and pray those two votes are crucial in a minority government.
Best case: The polls are real. The PPC capitalizes on fear, frustration, and a desire to stick it to…someone results in 10% of the vote, and as many as two seats. The real win here isn’t two seats, but the veneer of legitimacy, forcing themselves into the national conversation, political coverage, and the next round of leaders’ debates.
Worst case: The polls are a mirage. The habitual non-voters flirting with the PPC go back to being non-voters, and/or the polls reflected general heat-of-the-moment anger and frustration, more than an actual, considered decision to vote PPC. There are a few ridings where the PPC are vaguely competitive, and a few more analyzed by political scientists for their favourite subject, vote splitting. But no seats.
Most likely: I can see Maxime Bernier potentially winning his seat, and there could be one or two surprises. But the PPC seems destined to be a counterpoint to proportional representation boosters, blithely convinced that system could only ever boost fringe parties on the left.
Maclean Kay is Editor-in-Chief of The Orca
- Maclean Kay offered best- and worst-case scenario the last time we did this federal election thing, waaaaaay back in…right, just two years ago.
- He also tried to survey the landscape after the results were in. Was he right?
- It’s kinda an Orca tradition now – the best and worst case predictions from last year’s provincial election.