How did the votes get distributed on election night? Nationwide, the Liberal vote share declined by 5.6% compared to 2015, while Conservative vote share increased by 2.5%. NDP vote share decreased by 3.8%, while the Greens increased 3.1% (this is counter-narrative). The Bloc increased 3% nationally, translating to a 13.2% boost in Québec, and the Peoples Party, new to the scene, carved out 1.6%.
How the parties rose and fell varied on a regional basis. The Liberals went down in every region, in terms of popular vote. However, their losses were lowest in vote-rich Ontario and Québec. They suffered a decline in their popular vote by over 15% on the Prairies, where they only elected 5 seats in 2015. They also suffered an 18% decline in the Atlantic, but because they were so dominant in 2015, they had a buffer which allowed them to retake 26 of 32 seats.
Conservative gains were disproportionately higher in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where they already had a near dominant position. Significant gains were made in B.C. (4 point increase) which allowed for a six seat gain. A ten point gain in the Atlantic helped deliver four new seats but they were climbing out of a big hole and needed more in order to harvest bushels of seats. In Central Canada, Conservative popular vote declined, down 1.8% in Ontario and 0.7% in Québec. To get from opposition to government, you can’t give up ground in the two provinces that combine for 199 seats.
Therefore, for the Conservatives, seat gains were modest. Of the 22 newly acquired ridings, seventeen were west of Ontario: seven in B.C., four in Alberta, six in Saskatchewan-Manitoba. Of the remaining five pick-ups, four were in the Atlantic and three were in Ontario, offset by the loss of two seats in Québec.
Liberal losses were spread fairly evenly. They gave up 27 seats, compared to the 2015 election, but lost no more than six in any region (B.C. and Atlantic). The key to victory was only losing a net of one seat in Ontario, where they had a very strong showing in 2015. Their Québec losses were lower than what they gave up in the Atlantic.
The storyline as it relates to the Greens and the NDP is interesting. Much was made of NDP momentum and the Greens blown opportunity. And it’s true.
However, the NDP momentum was relative to their abysmal standing in the polls at the outset of the campaign. When it was all said and done, the NDP lost a significant share of its popular vote, based mainly on it being decimated in Québec. It made no headway in Ontario, where its leader is originally from and previously elected in the Ontario legislature. Wasn’t the business case for Jagmeet Singh that – to offset losses in Québec – he could win in the suburbs of Toronto and Vancouver and broaden the base in the rest of Canada? Didn’t happen. Outside Québec, Singh’s share of the vote (17.5%) was lower than Tom Mulcair’s (17.9%).
The Greens on the other hand can see some encouragement in the wake of a hollow election night. Yes, they had a golden opportunity on Vancouver Island, which passed them by. They did, however, make significant popular vote gains in B.C. and the Atlantic, far surpassing the NDP in New Brunswick and P.E.I. While the NDP went down 3.8% nationwide, the Greens went up 3.1%. Again, it was a disappointment based on expectations, but in the long-run, it is a step forward.
As these graphs show, there was really only one leader who excelled at regional math on election night: Yves-François Blanchet.