Conservatives Made Two Big Moves

March 1st, 2022 | RR

The Conservative Party made two pivotal and highly valuable decisions in February. First, they threw Erin O'Toole to the curb. Second, they embraced the trucker convoy and made themselves the only elected party in government to do so. Despite a slight majority of Canadians being opposed to the convoy and the media doing everything to demonize them, Conservatives made the right choice and their efforts will pay off. 

Booting O'Toole was the first step in changing what was a failed experiment. The party tried to move to the left on several major issues after O'Toole misrepresented himself to win the leadership. Not only did his strategy not work, his leadership ruse stoked division and anger. On top of that, he flipped and flopped on almost every issue that was important to conservatives. Getting rid of him was the right thing to do. 

The second step involved doing what almost every political hack in Ottawa was afraid to do: embrace the anti-mandate trucker convoy.

Before they even arrived in Ottawa, the media portrayed the truckers as white supremacists and Q-anon lunatics with fringe ideals. According to most polls, the smear tactics weren't as effective as journalists had hoped. Two weeks after the convoy arrived, a poll from Ipsos showed that 46% of Canadians were sympathetic to their cause. Furthermore, those numbers showed healthy support for the convoy across all party lines.

Despite anywhere from 54% to 60% of Canadians being opposed to the convoy's antics (depending on the poll), the Conservative Party's choice to support the movement was a winner.

The real math isn't in the 60% that oppose the trucker convoy, it's in the 30-40% that support the movement. According to most of the polls, the convoy has garnered support from every party, including the NDP. Most of the polls show support for the convoy stretching from socialists in the NDP to environmentalists in the Green Party. With the Conservative Party being the only elected mainstream party to support the movement, those numbers are a big deal.

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Maxime Bernier's PPC probably had the biggest number of supporters for the convoy among its membership, but a majority of Canadians don't see the party as a viable alternative that can win seats. Even those who want to support the party might be afraid to risk their anti-Trudeau vote. That leaves the CPC as the only viable party to support anti-mandate protests. By going full anti-mandate, the CPC could kneecap the PPC in the next election.

Up to 25-30% of Conservative Party voters opposed the convoy, but a majority won't vote Liberal or NDP because of their party's support for it. If they opposed the convoy, they definitely won't be voting for the PPC. As long as the CPC holds strong conservative policy positions in the next election, the 30% in the party who oppose the convoy and its message won't go anywhere. That's just a fact.

That leaves the Conservative Party with a big advantage.

According to the Ipsos poll from mid February, 43% of NDP supporters and 30% of Liberal supporters sympathized with the anti-mandate convoy. However, the biggest numbers from that poll aren't about partisan lines—they're about age and demographics. Among those between the ages of 18 and 34, support for the convoy and its message was at 61%. This makes it one of those rare occasions in which the CPC is aligned with Millennial and Gen Z sentiments.

Other polls, like one from Angus Reid, reflected less support for the convoy. Asking a more direct question about what Canadians think protesters should do, by mid February, Angus Reid found that 72% believed the convoy had made its point and should pack up and go home. 22% believed the protesters should stay in Ottawa. Among those who thought the protesters should stay, 39% were CPC voters, 7% were NDP (11% supported protesters' demands) and only 3% were Liberal. Unlike the Ipsos poll, this poll wasn't asking whether Canadians were sympathetic to the cause. The Angus Reid poll was more a reflection of frustrations with blockades and two weeks of endless protests—which is something Conservatives had acknowledged, while blaming Trudeau for failing to resolve the situation.

As for Trudeau, nearly every poll has shown wide levels of disapproval for how he handled the blockades.

Overall, as an average of the polls, we can estimate that 35% of Canadians supported the convoy and its message—albeit, many disagreed with their methods. As I mentioned above, these are winning numbers. Although a majority of Canadians support some mandates and oppose the trucker convoy, the numbers are more complicated than how they appear on the surface.

The Truth Behind The Numbers

If 15% of every party's membership supported the convoy, there is a good chance the Conservative Party could scoop up some of that breakaway support. Even if only a fraction of that 15% flipped, the CPC could benefit significantly. Although we have to be realistic about how willing Liberals and socialists would be to cast a vote for Conservatives, we need to acknowledge how people of all political stripes feel about vaccine mandates, passports and restrictions.

Bodily autonomy and the right to choose have proven to be non-partisan issues for some voters. Even though a majority of Canadians support vaccine mandates to some extent, the ones who don't have spent their lives voting in different ways. They aren't just right-wing conservatives. People who oppose mandates can be socialists, environmentalists and (definitely) even anarchists.

Other segments of the population that are often missed in political polling are the non-voters and part-time voters. You know them. They're your aunts, uncles and friends who take pride in never voting and dismissing all politicians as corrupt. They have no political affiliations, but when something riles them up, they get involved. They'll vote for the one party or political leader that inspires them and taps into their grievances. Maxime Bernier and the PPC did this at the height of the pandemic.

When it comes to getting the jab or losing your job, a lot of ordinary non-voters have something to say.

"Booting O'Toole was the first step in changing what was a failed experiment."

Polls have repeatedly shown that 10% of NDP voters strongly oppose vaccine mandates. Up to 50% of Green Party supporters feel the same way. Libertarians and PPC supporters are a given and many pundits have guessed that much of the Green Party's support went to the PPC in the last election—because of restrictions and mandates. As for the non-voters that polls missed, if they total 30% against mandates, the CPC has an even bigger pool of potential voters.

The last federal election was hampered by restrictions, pandemic fear, fewer polling stations and long lines. The next one won't be. Furthermore, a majority of Canadians are now shifting in favour of ending restrictions and getting back to normal. Any politician or party that tries to hang on to mandates will lose. Under Candice Bergen, the Conservatives have been ahead of the curve. Just as sentiments were starting to shift, Bergen jumped ahead while Trudeau flailed.

Voters of all stripes have noticed.

With the 18-34 demographic showing some support for the anti-mandate cause, Conservatives are off to a good start in 2022. The 30% of party members who opposed the protesters aren't going to leave the CPC, but the hardcore, passionate anti-vaxxers and anti-mandate voters might ditch other parties.

What polls have failed to capture is the difference in passion and enthusiasm between anti-mandate Canadians and pro-mandate Canadians. Those numbers will blow the socks of prognosticators and pundits in the coming years. We all know which team has the most passion—and so do Candice Bergen and Pierre Poilievre.

The Breakdown

There are 27,000,000 eligible voters in Canada, but only 17,000,000 voted in the last federal election. To keep things simple, we'll only use numbers from the 2021 election, rather than work with averages from previous elections. Turnout is generally around 55% to 60% in every election, but in 2021 it was 62%. That leaves about 10,000,000 eligible voters who didn't vote, which is standard in most federal elections, give or take.

If 30% of that 10,000,000 are supporters of anti-mandate policies and protesters, that leaves a pool of at least 3,000,000 apathetic non-voters for the Conservative Party to take from. If 10% of NDP voters are passionately opposed to mandates and restrictions, that adds another 303,000 potentially disenfranchised voters. If 3% of Liberal supporters are the same, that adds another 160,000 potential Conservative voters.

Keeping in mind that many socialists and hardcore Liberals won't vote Conservative, no matter what, let's trim those numbers down by 50%.

Instead of 303,000 disenfranchised NDP voters, let's go with 150,000. Instead of 160,000 Liberals, let's go with 80,000. Just to trim it down even more, instead of 3,000,000 anti-mandate non-voters, let's go with 1,500,000. That gives the Conservative Party a potential pool of 1,730,000 extra voters in the next election—based solely on the party's anti-mandate positions.

In the last federal election, Conservatives scooped up 5,747,000 votes—a loss of about 492,000 votes from 2019. Since 2019 saw a surge in turnout, we will keep sticking with 2021 numbers and pretend the 492,000 never happened and that those numbers can't be regained. This gives us a better “worst case” scenario for Conservatives.

To make it even more interesting, let's say a slim percentage of anti-convoy CPC voters leave and go Liberal in the next election. Let's put that number at 50,000 (probably too generous).

In the next election, after all of that, Conservatives have the potential to rake in 7,427,000 votes in a high turnout scenario. This is if they can keep most of their base enthused and inspired. If Liberals and Trudeau keep shitting the bed and if mandates keep coming and going over the next couple of years, that should be a piece of cake. If the economy surges back and Trudeau makes a bold flip to the anti-mandate side, it might not be as easy. However, due to their anti-mandate position, the Conservative Party has increased their ceiling of potential voters to at least 7,000,000.

In a low turnout scenario, Conservatives would likely surpass 6,000,000 votes in the next election, putting them in a good position to beat Liberals. In the last election, Trudeau's Liberals only pulled in 5,555,000 votes.

The 30% of Canadians who passionately oppose mandates are a force to be reckoned with. Unlike deflated and disenfranchised Liberals, they will show up to vote in the next election. Unless Trudeau, or his replacement, can manage to regain a foothold by inspiring their party's base with low unemployment, normalized inflation and a strong GDP, they don't stand a chance in the next election.

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