Electoral Wipe-Outs and the Aftermath

Ontario Liberals are looking into the abyss.  This isn’t news.  Premier Kathleen Wynne said as much already when she conceded defeat, a rare admission by a campaigning incumbent Premier.

But how bad will it be?  And then what?

Screen Shot 2018-06-06 at 2.38.14 PM.png

It’s just politics.  Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell on Election Night, 1993.

We’ll know Thursday night where the Liberals will stand, but they stand to face drastic losses.  Reaching 10 seats at this point will be a triumph.  Our numbers at Pollara Strategic Insights, applied to a seat model, indicate there is a greater likelihood that they will be reduced to five or less seats.

Canadian politics provides us with several examples of tsunami elections where incumbent governments were literally washed away:

  • 1987 New Brunswick (58 Liberal, 0 PC).  Premier Richard Hatfield had governed uninterrupted since 1971, but by the mid 1980s, his government had lost its way, not to mention Hatfield’s own personal scandals.  Upstart Liberal leader Frank McKenna mobilized the electorate behind his active, youthful leadership.
  • 1993 Canada (PC’s reduced from 169 seats to 2 seats).  After two successive majority PC governments, the fallout of the Charlottetown Accord defeat, rise of Preston Manning’s Reform Party, and imposition of GST had dealt fatal blows to the Mulroney government.  Despite leadership change and the first and only female prime minister in Canadian history, the PCs were obliterated.  The Liberals had been dealt a hobbling blow themselves in 1984 -their worst outcome since Confederation.  Not only did they return with a majority under Jean Chretien in 1993, a key part of three successive wins was their utter domination of Ontario.
  • 2001 BC (77 BC Liberals, 2 NDP).  The BC NDP pulled a rabbit out of the hat in 1996 when incumbent NDP Premier Mike Harcourt gave way to one of his ministers, Glen Clark.  Clark won a majority by a thin margin.  However, Clark’s government was quickly under siege early and never recovered.  Clark resigned and Ujjal Dosanjh led the NDP into an electoral clearcut.  Gordon Campbell’s BC Liberals won the largest majority in the province’s history.

Screen Shot 2018-06-06 at 9.15.50 PM.png

There are examples where governing parties have been rendered extinct – the BC Social Credit, United Farmers of Alberta, Alberta Social Credit, Saskatchewan PCs, and Union Nationale come to mind.

The Ontario Liberals look to finish well below Richard Hatfield’s PCs and Ujjal Dosanjh’s NDP in terms of popular vote.  They have fallen below the “pitchfork line” – my newly coined phrase that I am marketing to Canada’s political science professors. It’s that line where – once crossed – a government will never recover because a critical mass of voters is so angry that the incumbent government cannot overcome that passion and intensity.

It’s hard to believe that the Ontario Liberals will become a political DoDo bird.  It’s more likely they will rise again, in due course.  Among the stages of recovery:

  • Mourning
  • Walk of humility
  • The professional class gives way to the true believers and new believers
  • New governments eventually screw up, therefore, opportunity
  • Momentum builds for a comeback
  • Time passes, change is inevitable

1987 New Brunswick – the PCs came back and won the first election after the retirement of McKenna.  It took a while to rebuild and the flash-in-the-pan Confederation of Regions Party supplanted the PCs briefly during that period.  But eventually, voters stopped punishing the PCs and Bernard Lord’s PCs returned to power in 1999. (12 year recovery)

1993 Canada – From two seats, the PCs climbed to official party status, then the merger with the Canadian Alliance, which had evolved itself from the Reform Party.  After forcing a minority in 2004, Stephen Harper won the 2006 election and governed for nine years. (13 year recovery)

2001 BC – the NDP were reduced to two of 79 seats.  They roared back in 2005 almost upsetting the Campbell government, and for the next three elections, there was a 4-point standoff between the governing BC Liberals and NDP.  After 16 years, in 2017, the NDP returned to power, with support from the Green Party.  While missing their chance at the 12 year mark, they are there now. (16 year recovery)

Whatever happens on June 7th, the Liberals will not be dead, they will just be resting.  In all likelihood, they will be back some day.  The three-party system is well-established in Ontario. Maybe it will be the 12 to 16 year range like the examples above.  Or maybe the volatility of today’s politics will expedite that process.

I will draw from my own personal experience.  My first campaign was in 1984 when as a Liberal in the Mission-Port Moody riding, I saw the pitchforks first-hand.  Voters were very angry with the Pierre Trudeau government and weren’t buying the change that John Turner offered as his replacement.  While burma-shaving on the Lougheed Highway in that summer campaign, the rage emanating from the commuters was hotter than the pavement we were standing on.  We were clobbered, going from government to 40 seats – the most humiliating defeat for the Liberal Party since Confederation.  Yet, the Party rebuilt, made a hard charge during the 1988 election, and then won a decisive majority in 1993.  A nine year recovery.

In 1988, I was on hand for Liberal Sharon Carstairs’ amazing breakthrough from one to 20 seats in Manitoba, only a few seats from governing.  Then again in 1991, for BC Liberal Gordon Wilson’s rise to Official Opposition from zero seats.  Turnarounds can be faster than people expect, especially in the social media age.  I mean, six months ago, did anyone – anyone – expect Doug Ford would be the next Premier of Ontario?  Anything can happen.

Ontario Liberals can learn from the 2011 federal election and events thereafter.  It was a humiliating loss for Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals and many touted a Liberal-NDP merger, with the NDP having the strong hand.  Until halfway through the 2015 election campaign, it looked like Tom Mulcair’s NDP were the primary opposition to Harper.  Justin Trudeau turned the tables and governs today, taking his party from third to first in probably the most dramatic comeback in Canadian political history.

A huge loss can be a good loss.  It allows for new growth and regeneration.  The Liberals will shake off “government-itis” in the face of the obvious. Voters will want to see that the Party has learned its lesson, has changed, and is offering new leadership.  Internally, the party will need to heal and unify.

Electoral wipe outs – and subsequent recoveries – speak well for our system.   There is elasticity.  Voters are in charge, punishing when they are mad, generous to parties that change and renew.  Parties that can take a punishing hit, rebuild, and contend for power are examples of parties that strive to be inclusive, rather than staying in a narrow box that only appeals to a narrow slice of voters (like the Greens, for example).  For Ontario Liberals, this phase may be over, but it will also be the beginning of something new.

Advertisements

Voter Turnout lessons and what it means for Ontario

Update: My editorial in the Globe & Mail (June 6, 2018)

Ontario voters will render their verdict on June 7th.

It’s a very significant election.  The Liberals have governed since 2003.  A change in Ontario – either to Doug Ford’s PCs or Andrea Horwath’s NDP – will be a major tone-setter for national politics and influence the make up of the issues heading into the 2019 federal election, not to mention the impact it would have on one of the largest sub-national economies in the world.

But of course, only those who actually vote get to decide.  Millions of Ontario residents will avoid the polls altogether.

Screen Shot 2018-05-26 at 9.16.04 AM.png

Who will end up voting to elect the next Premier of Ontario? (Photo: CBC)

The recent BC election and 2015 federal election provide insight into who will show up to the polls in Ontario, and what it means for parties when the overall voter pool grows, and by how much.

You can’t stand still while the voter pool grows

Like the Ontario Liberals, the BC Liberals won four consecutive elections in BC – and like the Ontario Liberals – a female leader replaced a three-term Premier and won an improbable fourth term for her party.

In the case of BC, Christy Clark succeeded in holding her Party’s overall raw vote and its market share, especially in relation to the BC NDP, and won a majority in 2013.  In 2017, Clark’s BC Liberals still held their raw vote (almost identically), but the voter pool grew resulting in a loss of market share.  The Greens surged and the NDP bridged the gap.  Result: a minority government and we all know how that turned out.

Chart 1:  Raw vote for BC parties (1996-2017)

Screen Shot 2018-05-24 at 9.52.49 PM.png

In fact, when looking at BC’s historic forces of “Free Enterprise” versus “The Left”, the change over time is quite dramatic.  Free Enterprise has been sitting at around 800,000 voters for 20 years while the NDP/Greens have nearly doubled.  It finally caught up to “Free Enterprise” in 2017.

Chart 2:   Raw vote for Free Enterprise (BC Libs/Right wing parties) vs. NDP/Greens (1996-2017)

Screen Shot 2018-05-24 at 9.59.07 PM.png

The number of voters in BC provincial elections has climbed steadily since 2009 after a dip, with the total now reaching close to two million. Federal turnout was not that much different than provincial turnout from 2000 to 2011, but exploded in 2015.  Close to 2.4 million British Columbians voted, 20% more than the 2017 BC election.

Chart 3: Total number of voters in British Columbia in recent provincial and federal elections (BC only)

Screen Shot 2018-05-24 at 10.03.01 PM.png

The federal Conservatives – like the BC Liberals in 2017 – held their raw vote in 2015, but lost market share because almost three million more Canadians cast ballots in 2015 compared to the previous election. The Conservatives were happy with their slice of the pie in 2011, but Justin Trudeau helped bake a bigger pie leaving the Conservatives with their same old slice.  The Liberals were clearly the beneficiary of the increased turnout.

Chart 4: Federal parties’ raw vote totals (2006-2015)

Screen Shot 2018-05-24 at 10.07.20 PM.png

It also matters where you hold your vote.  Both the Clark BC Liberals and Harper Conservatives actually increased their raw vote in their heartland.  The BC Liberals cleaned up in the Interior while the Conservatives thumped the other parties in Alberta (and gained votes in Quebec).  But they both lost ground in the vote-rich urban regions.

A study of federal voter turnout among registered voters between 2011 and 2015 showed that there was increased turnout in all age groups, but the largest increase was among younger voters.

Chart 5: Turnout rate of registered voters by age group (2011 and 2015 federal elections)

Screen Shot 2018-05-24 at 10.12.16 PM.png

So, increased voter turnout, means more young people voting, meaning bad news for centre-right parties.  Got it?

Actually, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Federal turnout in 2015 was quite exceptional.  It blew the lid off of previous federal elections and, as shown above, the 2017 BC election did not replicate that level of turnout.  Turnout increased, but it wasn’t “Justin-sized”.

In BC, the Golden Agers still rule the roost.  Those aged 55 to 74 punch above their weight.  Compared to their share of the population, those age groups make up a much bigger share of the voter pool.  The 55-64 age group makes up about 17% of the adult population but accounts for about 21% of the voters; the 65-74 age group makes up about 13% of the population but 18% of the voters. Combined, about 30% of the population have close to 40% of the voting strength.  Add the over 75s, who also have a disproportionately large share of voting strength, and you have half of the voting population over the age of 55.

The reverse is true, obviously, for younger voters, particularly those under 35.  Those voters make up about 28% of the population but only about 18% of the voters in BC.

Chart 6: BC age groups as a percentage of the population and as a percentage of voters

Screen Shot 2018-05-24 at 10.19.32 PM.png

When looking at how age groups compared between the 2013 and 2017 provincial elections, there are interesting findings.  The largest increase by age group was the 65-74s with over 60,000 more voters in that category in 2017.  The next largest increase was 25-34s at close to 40,000.  What explains this?  Demographics partly, but there may be a mini-Justin effect with the Greens inducing turnout (a theory, not proven) and it may have been a result of third-party turnout activism (again, not proven).  These numbers are also the result of Elections BC estimate so we also have to assume they got it right, but it rings true to me. (Not sure what’s going on with that 45-54 category – did I remember to vote?)

Chart 7: Increase in votes by age category between 2013 and 2017 BC elections

Screen Shot 2018-05-24 at 10.25.27 PM.png

Was the increase in 25-34s concentrated in the Lower Mainland where the BC Liberals suffered heavy losses? I don’t know.  It would be an interesting study to see where in BC the largest increases took place.

The increase in 65-74s – and indeed increases across the board among 55+ age groups, should have been a good thing for the BC Liberals.  The fact is – they didn’t do as well as 2013 with their base.  It wasn’t just young people showing up that made a difference; it was a lack of performance among previous BC Liberal voters.

What does this mean for Ontario?

Let’s take a look at how Ontario provincial elections compare to federal elections when it comes to turnout.

Federal turnout has been consistently higher.   In 2015, 6.5 million Ontario voters galloped to the polls to vote in the federal election, yet no Ontario provincial election has ever seen more than five million voters.

Chart 8: Comparison of number of Ontario voters voting in recent federal and Ontario elections

Screen Shot 2018-05-24 at 10.34.21 PM.png

Historical election data in Ontario shows us that – only once – has a political party received over two million votes (Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals in 2003)

Chart 9: Ontario elections since 1990 – total votes and top party votes

Screen Shot 2018-05-24 at 10.42.03 PM.png

Taking turnout into account relative to federal elections, how many voters can we expect in the June 2018 election in Ontario?  And how many votes will the top party need?

The 2014 election saw provincial turnout at 88% of the level of the dull 2011 federal election.  If the 2018 Ontario election is 88% of the sizzling 2015 federal election, then that would equate to 5.7 million voters in June. That would be a huge increase. I don’t think that’s going to happen.  I think, like BC, there will be an increase in the voter pool – over 5 million for the first time – but probably not as high as 5.7 million.  Even with an increase north of five million, the winning party will likely need a record-setting vote total (+two million) or hope for a good vote split.

Then, who votes?

It is more likely that Ontario’s age composition will resemble BC’s 2017 profile than Canada’s 2015 profile – older people having a disproportionate share.

I looked at the share of each age group in the 2011 and 2015 federal elections, and the BC 2017 election, and applied those ratios to Ontario’s population.  Based on these three scenarios, 55+ age group would account for 42% to 48% of the voters in the coming election, compared to 38% share of the population.

Chart 10: Ontario population by age group compared to age models from 2011 and 2015 federal elections, and 2017 BC election

Screen Shot 2018-05-24 at 10.47.05 PM.png

Does it matter in Ontario?  Typically, the 55+ age group leans right relative to younger voters.  This was certainly the case federally in 2015 and in BC in 2017.

However, in Pollara Strategic Insight’s mid-election survey of Ontario voters, we found that the NDP had gained 7 points among voters aged 50 and over during the first half of the campaign, taking the lead in this category of high-turnout voters.

Chart 11: Pollara Strategic Insights survey results of Ontario election, May 4 & 22, 2018 (50+ voters)

Screen Shot 2018-05-25 at 5.56.14 AM.png

The striking difference in Ontario is the gender split, with men more likely to vote PC, and women more likely to vote NDP at this stage of the campaign.  From what I have seen over the years, there is not a major turnout difference between men and women, like there is with age.

If the poll results stand, the NDP will have blunted a major advantage for the PCs – support among older voters.  Geographically, there is likely still a PC advantage.  The NDP may be gaining in key demographics, but at the end of the day, it matters where the votes are located – in the ridings.  (More on seat models another day).

Pollara’s research also finds an “enthusiasm” advantage for Doug Ford’s PCs.  Ford Nation is already lining up at the polling stations to vote, they’re so excited, though slightly less so than earlier in the campaign.  The NDP voters are the least excited.  Is that just their nature or is their rise in support a bit thin? In terms of impact on votes, if Ford over performs the polls on Election Day, it may well be because he was throwing red meat to his base, regardless of their age.

Chart 12: Pollara Strategic Insights survey results of Ontario election, May 4 & 22, 2018 (Enthusiasm Gap)

Screen Shot 2018-05-25 at 6.05.34 AM.png

What does it all mean?

  • When the voter pool grows, parties must grow with it or perish.
  • Older voters (55+) still rule the roost and constitute a majority (or close to it).  They punch above their demographic weight at the polls.  The party with an advantage in this age group will have a turnout advantage.
  • Youth turnout continues to lag behind, but it is growing and becoming a bigger factor.
  • While it will likely be a record turnout for an Ontario election, it is very unlikely that the June election will keep pace with 2015 federal turnout. The unknown is to what extent 55+ age group exerts control over the outcome, or whether Millennials offset their influence by voting in increased numbers.

 

View from the Left: The Liberals had a better campaign

By Richard Tones and Brenton Walters

There is a litany of perspectives out there on the poor showing of the NDP and Thomas Mulcair in the recent federal election. They range from not being ‘left’ enough and corporate conspiracies to specific moments such as the niqab controversy and debate performances.

orange_crush_cs_open

The Orange Crush came up empty on Election Night.  Why?  Read on.

The problem is that although some have some of these theories have merit, the issues identified were symptoms and not the illness. We suspect our perspective will be seen as simplistic – but it might be just that simple.

The Liberals had a better product.

The Liberal machine put together a campaign that was just shy of perfect in political terms, and New Democrats know it. They had some particular advantages such as a leader with incredible notoriety, an enviable vote efficiency, manageable expectations, and a campaign just long enough to bring it all together.

On election day, voters that had identified as NDP supporters five weeks earlier voted Liberal. That is why Mulcair has 44 seats instead of ’just 35 more than the NDP had in 2011’.

The Niqab

With all due respect to Mulcair, the niqab didn’t matter in terms of electoral fortune – it was just a bump in the road. The results speak for themselves: the Conservative’s numbers barely moved from 2011, the Bloc dropped five points, and the Liberals went up over 20 points.

If the niqab mattered, it was only for a moment, and it wasn’t a vote-determining issue. In Quebec, the NDP finished a full 10 points behind the Liberals, who arguably had the same position.

More than 60% of Quebeckers voted for the two parties (Liberal & NDP) who had a position that apparently 93% of Quebeckers disagreed with. The Bloc started the campaign at 17% according to Nanos and ended at 19.3%, popping up over 20% briefly a full three weeks after the niqab story broke.

More Quebeckers voted for the Liberals and NDP in 2015 than in 2011. They just seemed to be attracted to the Liberals more – niqab be damned.

The NDP Economic Anchor

What has become the traditional attack by Liberals and Conservatives (or the litany of provincial coalitions of the two) is that the NDP doesn’t understand business, will increase taxes, and generally can’t handle money.

We have now seen three elections in a row where the NDP spent an entire campaign trying to prove they were up to the challenge: the 2015 Federal, the 2014 provincial in Ontario, and the 2013 provincial in British Columbia.

In each case the central message of the NDP was, “you can trust us with the bank card.”

The NDP is in the unenviable situation where they are in constant danger of being cut by both edges of the fiscal sword. If they don’t campaign on fiscal responsibility they fail to counter the primary attack on them, and if they do campaign on fiscal responsibility they are said to be saying whatever it takes to get elected – not to mention causing heartburn for their long standing base in labour and other social movements.

We’ve spoken to a lot of folks from within the party who agree that it is a frustrating position to be in and don’t have a particular answer on how to deal with it. Most (including your author) say that they would have run the same economic campaign – with only minor changes.

Our new theory? Ignore it.

In Layton’s speeches and debate performances he rarely rattled off economic data, and when he did bring it up it was always in the context of direct family finances such as bank fees. In contrast, you can’t find a speech from Mulcair (or Horwath, and Dix) that doesn’t talk about big economics.

This will irk some folks, but Trudeau talked about emotional issues at around 30,000 feet while Mulcair spoke about financial planning at about 100 feet. There is an interesting parallel to Layton v. Ignatieff.

In 2011 our roles were reversed

Jack Layton was an amazing leader and that helped greatly, but the product itself was superior to that of the Liberals in 2011.

In 2011, the NDP had a campaign with the same feel as Trudeau’s: it was high level with a larger message, one that appealed to voters without getting stuck in the trenches. We had a budget and lots of numbers, but it never got in the way of the larger discussion of values. We were much better at ignoring our largest negative, fiscal management.

If you want to test this yourself just go ask your ‘average voter’ friend to give you three adjectives on the Liberal and New Democrat campaigns in 2011 and 2015. You will find ‘average voter’ will use some of the same words to describe the Layton and Trudeau campaigns and conversely the same words to describe the Mulcair and Ignatieff campaigns.

Summary

Don’t mistake our mention of ‘product’ as meaning just Layton or Trudeau (or any other leader) alone. Having a leader that is naturally charismatic is incredibly helpful, but the package around them has to be just as dynamic, including a message that is more than a collection of policies – it has to all connect to a larger emotion. In 2015 we weren’t able to do that, while the Liberals were.

They presented voters with a near-perfect package: a charismatic leader, messaging that connected emotionally with a lot of Canadians, and (some) policies that supported that messaging. And so they won.

 

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 3.01.20 PM.png

Richard Tones is Director of Government Relations at Wazuku.  Previously, he had a successful career in the labour movement.  He’s a veteran NDP campaigner, a former aide to BC cabinet ministers, and one-time candidate.  He’s from one of the great hometowns: Maple Ridge, BC.  His full-length bio photo was too edgy for this blog.

 

epzcsrcz_400x400

Brenton Walters’ firm Civil Communications offers campaign and communication services.  He is a veteran campaigner including Tom Mulcair’s leadership and Vision Vancouver.  He was raised in a small logging town on an island and then a small farming/hippy community outside a bigger town on a bigger island on the coast of BC.  Diehard Whitecaps fan.

Thanks to both Richard and Brenton for contributing.  Looking to add more perspectives at Rosedeer.com in the months ahead.

Wrap-up on BC’s federal cabinet representation

BC is off to a decent start in terms of Cabinet clout with three new federal cabinet ministers today: Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould (Justice and Attorney-General of Canada), Hon. Harjit Sajjan (National Defence), and Hon. Carla Qualtrough (Sport and Persons with Disabilities).  All rookie MPs, which is without precedent in modern times.

Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau is the 3rd prime minister to be an alumnus of the University of British Columbia, joining Rt. Hon. John Turner and Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell.

BC carved out some senior cabinet representation in PMJT’s first cabinet

Here is a summary of articles at Rosedeer.com on BC’s cabinet representation:

  • Cabinet Committee assignments for BC ministers. What will BC’s ministers be up to? Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould, Hon. Harjit Sajjan, and Hon. Carla Qualtrough sit on a variety of important committees with Wilson-Raybould and Sajjan on Agenda & Results.
  • The Justin Trudeau Cabinet by Region. How does BC fare versus other regions? With 12% of the seats in the House of Commons and 9% of the seats in the Liberal Caucus, BC’s Liberal delegation composes 10% of the Cabinet’s membership.
  • Jody Wilson-Raybould a First Nations first.  Wilson-Raybould is first female First Nations person elected in British Columbia history.  Now, she’s the second FN cabinet minister from BC, following in footsteps of Hon. Len Marchand.

Cabinet Committee assignments for BC ministers

BC’s federal cabinet ministers Jody Wilson-Raybould, Harjit Singh Sajjan and Carla Qualtrough will be busy.

Hon. Harjit Sajjan (Vancouver South) sworn in as Minister of National Defence

Cabinet committee mandates and memberships indicate they will be spending a lot of time in meeting rooms.  They will now begin the four year tug-of-war between cabinet duties and constituency visits.

Cabinet Committee on Agenda and Results

The pre-eminent Cabinet sub-committee chaired by PM Trudeau.  Both Wilson-Raybould and Sajjan are members of the 11 member committee.

Treasury Board

Chair Hon. Scott Brison.  No BC ministers.

Parliamentary Affairs

Chair Hon. Dominic Leblanc.  No BC ministers.

Inclusive Growth, Opportunities and Innovation

Chaired by Health Minister Hon. Jane Philpott.  This committee is mandated to “grow the middle class”.  No BC ministers.

Diversity and Inclusion

Chaired by Immigration Minister Hon. John McCallum.  This committee is mandated to improve relationship with indigenous Canadians and promote diversity, multiculturalism, and linguistic duality.  Wilson-Raybould and Qualtrough are members.

Canada in the World and Public Security

Responsible for promotion of Canadian values and interests abroad, and domestic/global security.  Chaired by Hon. Ralph Goodale (Public Security ministers), Wilson-Raybould is vice-chair and Saijjan is a member.

Sub-committee of Canada in the World: Canada-US relations

Mandated to “foster strong relations”.  Chaired by International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, Wilson-Raybould andSajjan are members.

Intelligence and Emergency Management

Chaired by PM Trudeau, Wilson-Raybould is vice-chair,Sajjan is a member.

Open and Transparent Government

Chaired by Hon. Judy Foote, Qualtrough is vice-chair, Wilson-Raybould is a member.

Environment and Climate Change

Chaired by Foreign Minister Hon. Stephane Dion.  No BC ministers.

By my count, Wilson-Raybould sits on six cabinet committees (vice-chair of two),Sajjan sits on four committees, and Qualtrough two (vice-chair of one).

Treasury Board, Growing the middle class, and Climate Change are three committees where a BC presence is missing, but realistically, BC’s ministers can’t be everywhere.  With two on Agenda & Results, BC has a fair crack to be heard.

The Justin Trudeau Cabinet by Region

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his new cabinet today.

Here’s a spatial look at the geographic base of his ministers.

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 8.55.25 AM

The following table breaks down the number of ministers by province and how that compares to the size of the LPC caucus in each province/territories (P/T), and how cabinet representation relates to the proportion of that P/T’s share of the LPC national caucus and share of seats overall.

# of Ministers # of Liberal MPs # of MPs (Total) % of seats from P/T in HOC (all) % of LPC seats from P/T in LPC caucus % of P/T Lib MPs as share of cabinet % of LPC MPs from P/T in Cabinet LPC MPs as % of P/T
BC 3 17 42 12% 9% 10% 18% 40%
AB 2 4 34 10% 2% 6% 50% 12%
SK 1 1 14 4% 1% 3% 100% 7%
MB 2 7 14 4% 4% 6% 29% 50%
ON 11 80 121 36% 43% 35% 14% 66%
QUE 7 40 78 23% 22% 23% 18% 51%
NB 1 10 10 3% 5% 3% 10% 100%
NS 1 11 11 3% 6% 3% 9% 100%
PEI 1 4 4 1% 2% 3% 25% 100%
NFLD 1 7 7 2% 4% 3% 14% 100%
NORTH 1 3 3 1% 2% 3% 33% 100%
TOTAL 31 184 338 100% 100% 100% 17% 54%

BC’s share of Cabinet in line with House of Commons / Liberal Caucus

  • BC’s share of the House of Commons (HOC) is 12%.
  • BC’s Liberal MPs make up 9% of the national Liberal Caucus
  • BC’s federal cabinet ministers make up 10% of the PM Justin Trudeau’s cabinet

Ontario has most ministers but lower proportion of MPs in Cabinet

  • Ontario’s share of HOC is 36%
  • Ontario Liberal MPs make up 43% of national Liberal Caucus
  • Ontario ministers make up 35% of federal cabinet

Quebec’s proportion of HOC, proportion of Lib MPs as share of national Caucus and Cabinet are very consistent at 22-23%.

Atlantic Canada makes up 17% of the Liberal Caucus compared to 9% of overall seats, and 13% of cabinet.

The Prairies make up 18% of the HOC, but only 7% of the Liberal Caucus.  Their share of cabinet seats is 16%.

Which regions have the most MPs utilized in Cabinet?

  • 42% of Prairie Liberal MPs serving in Cabinet, compared to
  • 18% BC
  • 18% Quebec
  • 14% Ontario
  • 13% Atlantic

Overall, PM Trudeau has carefully balanced regional delegations as a proportion of his Cabinet.  He has chosen to ensure cabinet is balanced by region, not by proportion of Liberal MPs by region.  If he had done so, there would be more cabinet ministers from Atlantic Canada (where he swept) and fewer from the Prairies where he took 12 of 62.

UPDATED:

Adding Ottawa Citizen graphic which tells the story of Cabinet diversity:

BC’s Place at the Cabinet Table

With Wednesday’s cabinet announcement looming, what will it mean for British Columbia?

Sir John A parachuted into Victoria in 1878

BC’s place at the Cabinet table was at the head of the table in the 1870s when Sir John A. MacDonald was elected from Victoria in 1878, despite never having seen the place.  He would eventually visit Victoria once he fulfilled the ultimate the election promise – the construction of the CPR.

Who have been BC’s heavyweights at the cabinet table?  An historical review reveals British Columbia’s conflicted past in dealing with race relations and uneven influence compared to its provincial peers.

The early years ~ BC notables in Cabinet

In the late 1800’s, Edgar Dewdney was elected from Yale BC and served as an MP under Sir John A. MacDonald, becoming a partisan loyalist, personal friend, and ultimately an executor of his will.  Lured to BC by the Gold Rush, Dewdney’s name is remembered through major roads (Dewdney Trunk) and localities, principally for his role in surveying the province.  John A. dispatched him to oversee the territories as a direct report where he dealt with the Riel Rebellion and the demise of buffalo herds and resulting starvation.   Not averse to mixing public duties with private land speculation, he eventually made it to federal cabinet in 1888 but not from BC; later, he was appointed BC Lieutenant-Governor.  A BC cabinet minister?  Not exactly, but an influential British Columbian at and near the cabinet table, yes.

Conservative Martin Burrell, representing Yale-Cariboo, served in Prime Minister Robert Borden’s Conservative and Unionist cabinets as Agriculture minister, Mines Minister, and Minister of Customs & Inland Revenue.   An interesting note about Burrell (a former mayor of Grand Forks), was that he was appointed Parliamentary Librarian in 1920 and served in this post until his death in 1938.

Future BC premier Simon Fraser Tolmie would serve in both of Arthur Meighen’s cabinets as Minister of Agriculture.  In both stints, Meighen’s governments were momentary, outfoxed by William Lyon MacKenzie King.  Along with Ujjal Dosanjh, Tolmie has been one of two BC premiers to serve in a federal cabinet.  Other premiers, such as Amor de Cosmos, Fighting Joe Martin, and Dave Barrett, also served in Parliament.

HH Stevens aboard the Komagatu Maru

Conservative heavyweight HH Stevens served in Meighen’s brief cabinet (1926) then for four years under Prime Minister RB Bennett.

He was a powerful Trade minister who crusaded against price-fixing.  He resigned in epic fashion and created the Reconstruction Party which split the vote and destroyed the Bennett government in 1935.

He returned to the Conservatives thereafter but his political career fizzled out.

While he was unquestionably a force of politics in BC during the 1920s and 1930s, he is also remembered for his role in stifling the Komagatu Maru and for reflecting public opinion during his time concerning Asian immigration: “We cannot hope to preserve the national type if we allow Asiatics to enter Canada in any numbers.”

Fishing boats seized during internment of Japanese-Canadians

Fear over Asian immigration was a multi-partisan issue, with labour leaders and Liberal politicians eager participants as well.  Liberal Ian MacKenzie was sworn into Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King’s cabinet prior to the 1930 election.  He won his seat but the government lost power.  In 1935 he re-emerged as Minister of National Defence.  He also became the first Government House Leader in the House of Commons.  As BC’s top cabinet minister, he championed the internment of Japanese-Canadians during WWII, stating in the 1942 election: “Let our slogan be for British Columbia: ‘No Japs from the Rockies to the seas.”

HH Stevens probably remains the most notable figure in Canadian politics coming from BC between Confederation to the end of WWII.  Perhaps it was the librarian Burrell who left the most lasting mark.

Moving toward modern times

James Sinclair: Justin Trudeau’s grandfather

The service of James Sinclair bears mention – the grandfather of incoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  He was a Member of Parliament from Vancouver-North and Coast-Capilano from 1940 to 1958, when he was defeated in the Diefenbaker sweep.  He served as Minister of Fisheries from 1952-57.  The Sinclair Centre in Vancouver bears his name.

The Diefenbaker era ushered in BC’s first dose of serious cabinet clout.  From 1957-63, three senior ministers hailed from the west coast.

Two-time contender E. Davie Fulton

E.Davie Fulton as Minister of Justice for much of that time; Howard Green, ultimately serving as Secretary of State for External Affairs; and George Pearkes, Victoria Cross recipient, served as Minister of National Defence prior to his appointment as BC’s Lieutenant-Governor in 1960.  Fulton left federal politics to lead the BC Conservative Party, but was thwarted by the governing Socreds.

The election of the Pearson government in 1963 continued BC’s cabinet presence with capable ministers, albeit at a less prestigious level than the Diefenbaker years.

Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 11.39.19 AM.png
Arthur Laing served in Pearson’s cabinet as Minister of Northern Affairs and Natural Resources then later as Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs.  A former leader of the BC Liberal Party, Laing was the “BC Minister”; the bridge from YVR to the City is named in his honour.  Laing’s wingman in cabinet was John Nicholson who served in various posts under Pearson.

BC’s decline in clout

While BC held at least three seats in cabinet during the first PET ministry (1968-79), BC seemed to lose ground with other provinces who had powerful ministers.  While BC was not without credible ministers, the Marc Lalondes, Jean Marchands, Jean Chretiens, John Turners, and Allan MacEachens defined the Trudeau era at the cabinet level.

In 1968, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau brought young Vancouver MP Ron Basford into cabinet as Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs.  He is remembered as the minister who championed Granville Island among other BC legacies.  Laing continued in Public Works until 1972.  Jack Davis served in Fisheries and Environment portfolios between 1968-1974 (before his election as a Social Credit MLA).  Len Marchand and Iona Campagnolo both served as Ministers of State in the mid 1970s, with Marchand finishing as Minister of Environment in 1979.  Marchand was the first First Nation cabinet minister and first FN Member of Parliament in Canadian history.  Senator Ray Perrault served as Government House Leader from 1974 to 1979.

The short-lived Joe Clark government featured prominent BC politicians like Minister of Environment John Fraser, Defence Minister Allan MacKinnon, and Minister of State Ron Huntington (father of Delta South MLA Vicky Huntington).  Their tenures were short-lived when the Clark government was defeated in the House.  Fraser ran for leader in 1976, dropping off on the second ballot but delivering his support for Clark.

When PET was returned in 1980, he had the makings of a strong front bench from BC.  Popular ex-mayor Art Phillips had been elected to the Liberals in 1979, serving in Opposition.  Former BC Liberal leader Gordon Gibson contested North Vancouver-Burnaby while renowned resource economist Peter Pearse sought election in Vancouver Quadra.   Three strong ministers except that none were elected, nor were any Liberals in BC.  Wipe out.  Senators Jack Austin and Ray Perrault became BC’s unelected representatives in Cabinet.  Perrault was later dropped, contributing to BC’s alienation from the Liberal Party.

When Prime Minister John Turner decided to seek office from Vancouver-Quadra in 1984, he sought to bridge the divide between the Liberal Party and the west coast.  While he gained his seat (in the face of an electoral onslaught), he alone was elected from BC.

Screen Shot 2017-12-08 at 9.23.42 AM
Turner’s BC story is a compelling one.  He spent his early early years in Rossland and, while his formative years were spent in Ottawa, he returned to UBC for university (his stepfather was Lieutenant-Governor) where he was very much Big Man on Campus along with being Canadian 100 metre sprint champion.   His BC years are chronicled in Elusive Destiny, an apt title for a political giant who’s timing was off.  (Incredibly, his Olympic dreams were dashed when his car was hit by a train on the Arbutus Corridor!  Who woulda thunk it).  Turner served as MP for Vancouver Quadra for 9 years, retaining his seat after relinquishing his leadership to Jean Chretien.  He had a strong BC connection but Turner was very much a pan-Canadian, representing three provinces during his illustrious parliamentary career.

The Mulroney-Chretien eras

From 1984 to 2004, BC had a steady presence at the cabinet table, not strikingly influential, but produced our first prime minister.

Prime Minister Brian Mulroney came to power in 1984 riding a wave of western alienation.  But he also won big in Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes too.  Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 11.42.39 AM.pngIt was a huge mandate.  “Red Tories” John Fraser and Pat Carney, an upset winner in 1980, led the BC contingent.  Fraser took Fisheries and Carney to Energy – two significant portfolios. Fraser would resign halfway through the first term during

“Tunagate” but his stature among MPs led him to a much-dignified election and reign as Speaker.
Carney would move to International Trade during the dramatic US-Canada Free Trade negotiations.  Tom Siddon would replace Fraser, and others like Gerry St. Germain, Frank Oberle, and Mary Collins would ultimately join Mulroney’s cabinet.

 

St. Germain was a Mulroney favourite.  The bilingual, Metis chicken farmer was my MP and opponent when I rode my ten-speed down to Mae Cabott’s Liberal campaign office on the Lougheed Highway in 1984.

Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 11.45.47 AM.pngGerry taught me a lesson in humility by spanking our campaign (Tip: be careful burmashaving on a busy highway when everyone hates your political party).  Incredibly to me, having been appointed to cabinet, Gerry lost his seat in 1988 at the very moment he was poised to move up in the cabinet ranks.  BCers often choose protest over pragmatism.

In 1988, Carney did not run again creating a vacancy in Vancouver-Centre.  Back then, Progressive Conservatives were electable in that riding, unimaginable, it seems, now.  Kim Campbell resigned her seat in the provincial legislature part way through her first term and secured the PC nomination, won the seat, and catapulted herself into Cabinet.  As Justice minister (then National Defence), she held a high national profile, and emerged as the consensus favourite to succeed Mulroney following the demise of the Charlottetown Accord.  Campbell fended off Jean Charest for the leadership win.

Kim Campbell on the campaign trail, 1993

She had a strong BC network behind her, like Chief of Staff Ray Castelli and other apparatchiks that have been a big part of BC politics, but Mulroney did not leave her much time and the subsequent election played out for her like it did for John Turner, except worse.  The party was decimated and, like 1984, Vancouver bore witness on election night to a humiliating concession speech by a sitting prime minister.

Jean Chretien’s election in 1993 and subsequent cabinets through 2003 had consistent BC representation, yet not too flashy.  David Anderson, elected in 1968, then BC MLA and Liberal leader, returned from the political wilderness in 1993 to serve as National Revenue Minister before moving on to Fisheries then his signature role in Environment.  Herb Dhaliwal was another prominent minister during the Chretien era, following Anderson in National Revenue and Fisheries before going to Natural Resources.  Ministers of State include Stephen Owen, Raymond Chan, and Hedy Fry.  Chretien could never elect more than 6-7 from BC so he didn’t have a lot to choose from.

BC’s return to Diefenbaker-like prominence: 2004-2008

I’ll run for the Liberals in 2004, says ex-NDP Premier Ujjal Dosanjh

Both the Paul Martin cabinet and first Stephen Harper cabinet saw a decided uptick in BC clout at the federal cabinet table.  Following the 2004 election, Martin appointed a record five BC ministers including star recruits David Emerson (Industry) and former BC Premier Ujjal Dosanjh (Health).  The lineup was rounded out by Stephen Owen, Raymond Chan, and Senate Leader Jack Austin.  The BC delegation was aided by a regional campaign, led by Mark Marissen, that punched above its weight in the 2004 election with its “Made in BC Agenda”.  The Liberals won more seats in BC despite dropping from a majority to a minority.  (They would win more again in 2006 in a losing national effort)

CPC Cabinet heavyweight Stockwell Day

Harper’s first cabinet contained a major surprise – David Emerson.  To the astonishment of Liberals and Conservatives alike, the Liberal star switched jerseys, eschewing politics for policy, and assumed the International Trade portfolio and eventually Foreign Affairs before he left office in 2008.  Emerson was joined from BC by former Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day (Public Safety, International Trade, Treasury Board), Chuck Strahl (Agriculture, Indian and Northern Affairs, Transport), and Gary Lunn (Natural Resources).  Jay Hill’s appointment in 2007 as Whip (elevated to cabinet) then Government House Leader would make it five ministers for the BC delegation, matching Martin.  BC had considerable clout.

Fading out of the Harper years

Emerson, Day, Strahl and Hill would all choose to leave politics by 2011, and Lunn involuntarily.  They would give way to James Moore, who started in Heritage and went to Industry, Ed Fast – who may have the Trans Pacific Partnership as his legacy, John Duncan, Kerri-Lynne Findlay, and Alice Wong.  As the Harper mandate struggled in its final years, so too did its profile in British Columbia – not an uncommon life cycle for aging governments.  Only Ed Fast and Alice Wong remain in Parliament from the Harper cabinets.

Eclipsed by other regions

For many Liberal governments in the Pearson-Trudeau-Chretien eras, it was often a case of being “west of the best” or so it seemed.  BC had many capable ministers during this time but very few national personalities that one hearkens back to when remembering an era.  Ron Basford may have the strongest claim for cabinet legacies.  The Martin government went in a stronger direction for BC but it’s lifespan was short.  Harper’s team started off strong but seemed to fade down the stretch.  Good people, good ministers, but lacking a sense of oomph.

Conservative cabinets have seen BC eclipsed by Conservative-crazy Alberta, which has established the storyline for much of the past 40 years.  Alberta had leader (1976-83) and Prime Minister Joe Clark (later Secretary of State for External Affairs and lead constitutional negotiator) and Deputy PM Don Mazankowski.  The demise of the PCs was born in Alberta too with Preston Manning’s Reform Party.  The evolution and return of the conservative movement was an Alberta story – Stockwell Day (who ran for leader of the Alliance from Alberta before moving to BC) and Stephen Harper led in succession.  Harper’s cabinet also featured prominent Albertan personalities such as Jim Prentice, Rona Ambrose, and Jason Kenney, who may well be the next in a procession of Alberta Conservative leaders.

British Columbians have risen to prominence in the NDP, although not usually to the top.  Tommy Douglas led the party from a base in BC for a time.  Rosemary Brown, Dave Barrett, Svend Robinson, and Nathan Cullen have all been serious national leadership contenders, though unsuccessful.

BC’s Burden

There’s one major disadvantage: Distance.  How many people want to fly 3000 miles back and forth each week?  Time spent traveling is enough to dissaude anyone, especially those with younger children.

A point of regional unfairness is that BC ridings have more population than most provinces due to Canada’s constitutional side deals.  The vast expanse of Skeena has far more constituents than ridings in Saskatchewan, Manitoba or any in the Maritimes.  How does that make sense?  It makes a tough job even tougher.

Political culture.  Federal politics is more abstract to British Columbians.  While we saw 70% turnout in the recent election, BCers do not live and die by federal politics. If they did, Keith Baldrey might report on federal politics more than twice a year.  But they don’t.  BC media outlets have only two reporters in Ottawa (Vancouver Sun and the Tyee).  Provincial politics is the main sport and drives the media’s and the public’s interest.

Protest over politics.  We have often gone the other way when Canadians elect their governments.  BC abandoned PET in 1980, cut down the PC team in 1988, and kept Chretien on a short leash.

Then there’s the network.  It’s tough to aspire to national leadership when the critical mass is elsewhere.  Kim Campbell remains the only BC-raised prime minister.  Alberta has figured out how to gain national office, but no one here.  HH Stevens may have had the first good chance in the dying days of the RB Bennett government but he passed on it.  E.Davie Fulton was a thorn in Diefenbaker’s paw, but finished third to Dief in the 1956 PC leadership, and third again trying to succeed him in 1967.  John Fraser tried in 1976.  Hedy Fry and Joyce Murray both made quixotic bids to lead their parties but were never in contention.

Of course, fewer BC politicians speak french than in eastern provinces.  This has been a drawback in climbing the greasy pole.  James Moore does, but he is another BC politician who has ruled out a national bid.

Prime ministers have been piled up like cordwood from Quebec, Ontario, and Alberta.  Even Saskatchewan has had its run; BC has but one brief stint from one of its own prior to her electoral slaughter.  Where have been the Finance Ministers from BC? Many excellent ministers from BC have served at the cabinet table, but my overall assessment is that we, as a province, haven’t been exceptional in the federal arena.  In part, because many have chosen not to run.

What’s next?

Unlike any Liberal prime minister since his father in 1968, Justin Trudeau has more than a handful of MPs to choose from in BC.  However, BC will have to be patient.  ‘Heavyweight’ cabinet ministers usually don’t start out that way.  13 of 17 Liberal MPs from BC arrive in Ottawa with no federal experience.  It will take time for BC’s new ministers to learn the ropes and gain effectiveness in the race for competing resources.

Trudeau is probably the first elected prime minister in Canadian history to claim extensive BC roots and a strong family connection, though Quebec rightly has first claim.

I wish the new BC appointees patience and perseverance.  BC’s clout in cabinet over the years has been checkered.  Let’s hope they elevate BC’s priorities to their rightful place.

UPDATED (November 2015):

BC netted two major cabinet portfolios with the appointment of the Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould (Justice and Attorney-General) and Hon. Harjit Singh Sajjan (Defence).  Hon. Carla Qualtrough (Sport and Persons with Disabilities) rounds out the BC cabinet delegation.

Both Wilson-Raybould and Sajjan represent Vancouver seats while Qualtrough is one of five Liberal MPs elected south of the Fraser.

When is the last time BC’s delegation has been entirely made up of rookie MPs?  I’m not sure there is a precedent in the past 100 years.

UPDATED (JULY 2018):

Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould and Hon. Harjit Singh Sajjan continue to serve in their major portfolios.  Hon. Carla Qualtrough received a promotion to Public Works and was affirmed in that role in July 2018.  Hon. Jonathan Wilkinson joined Cabinet on July 18 as Minister of Fisheries & Oceans, following in the footsteps of other BC ministers like David Anderson, Herb Dhaliwal, Tom Siddon, John Fraser, Jack Davis, Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau’s grandfather, Jimmy Sinclair.  Historical list of Fisheries & Oceans ministers here.

** This post was taken from a number of sources and not always easy to piece together BC’s federal voice.  If there are any sins of omission or commission, please comment.  Thank you.

Related: