Ontario voters have a tendency to put one party in power at Queen’s Park and another on Parliament Hill. If history repeats itself, Ms. Crombie could become premier and federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre prime minister.
But history may change its mind: The Liberal Party has become dangerously weak at the provincial level.
Many a pundit, including this one, has predicted the Liberals’ demise, and lived to rue the day. But provincially, at least, the Grits are in trouble.
They hold only seven seats in the Ontario. The New Democrats, with 30 seats, are the Official Opposition, and they have a new leader, too. Davenport MPP Marit Stiles.
At 338Canada.com, Philippe Fournier projects electoral outcomes based on polls, history and demographic data. He has the Liberals running slightly ahead of the NDP, with both trailing the Progressive Conservatives by a wide margin.
Mr. Fournier believes that the Ontario Liberals still have a better shot at forming government than the NDP. But neither is currently a threat to Premier Doug Ford.
The Premier “is so far ahead of the competition in organization and branding and every kind of metric,” he told me. “Mr. Ford might be vulnerable in three years. But right now, who’s going to beat him?”
Next door, in Quebec, things are even more grim. François Legault’s conservative Coalition Avenir Quebec dominates political life. The once-mighty Liberal Party languishes in fourth place, according to 338Canada.com.
Antonia Maioni, a political scientist at McGill University, describes the Liberal situation as “dire for several reasons, not the least of which is that the party label means less and less to francophone Quebecers, especially outside of Montreal, its leadership is in crisis, and the CAQ is still a real and now enduring phenomenon in Quebec.”
Quebec and Ontario are the twin pillars of Liberal support in Canada. At the provincial level, at least, those pillars are crumbling.
The British Columbia Liberal Party’s name had become so toxic that it has renamed itself BC United.
“Some elements in the party, and some of its strategists, have worried that the Liberal name could be losing them support from low-information, viscerally anti-Ottawa voters who could provide the margin of victory in numerous suburban ridings,” said David Laycock, professor emeritus of political science at Simon Fraser University. “The NDP has outperformed the Liberals in an increasing number of these ridings over several elections now.”
BC United remains, like its predecessor, a moderately conservative party that, according to 338Canada.com, currently trails Premier David Eby’s NDP by 10 points.
In last month’s Alberta election, the Liberal Party received 0.2 per cent of the vote. In the past Saskatchewan election, 0.08 per cent. For all intents and purposes, there is no longer a Liberal Party in either province.
In Manitoba, Progressive Conservative Premier Heather Stefanson faces a strong challenge from NDP Leader Wab Kinew. The Liberals, polling around 12 per cent, are not in the picture.
The Liberals remain competitive in Atlantic Canada. They form the government in Newfoundland and Labrador and are the Official Opposition in the Maritime provinces.
But in Prince Edward Island, at least, a tectonic shift is under way. In the 2019 election, the Green Party surged, taking 31 per cent of the vote and forming the Official Opposition. In this year’s election, the Liberals won back Official Opposition status, but their share of the popular vote fell to its lowest level ever, 17 per cent, behind the Greens at 22 per cent.
Don Desserud, a political scientist at University of Prince Edward Island, observes that the Liberal popular vote share has declined in each of the past four provincial elections. “I think the Liberals should be very concerned.”
The phenomenon of Liberal decline at the provincial level may be temporary. And whatever happens provincially, Liberals under Justin Trudeau remain in control in Ottawa.
It would be uncharitable to observe that the federal party has lost the popular vote in five of the past six elections.