Canada: Mississauga Lakeshore Byelection Preview
A Preview (And Some Expectation Setting)
Given it is currently 5AM and I can’t sleep, let’s do a byelection preview for Mississauga Lakeshore, why don’t we?
The Federal Liberals are defending their least-safe Mississauga seat, won by just over 6% in 2019. If the Tories are going to win the next election, they don’t have to win this seat, and anyone who claims that a theoretical Liberal win says very much about Poilievre’s appeal is full of shit, but they need to win some number of seats kind of close to this. It’s a suburban seat, obviously, and the kind of seat where the Tories have struggled in recent years because of the Global Fucking Realignment (start the drinking game now, I guess).
My instinct is the Liberals will win it, but that it doesn’t matter. The Liberals are running Charles Sousa, Kathleen Wynne’s former Finance Minister and MPP for the seat, while the Conservatives are running a cop of seemingly limited notoriety. Byelections in recent years have been wonky – the CPC coming close in York Centre in 2020 and then bleeding back those gains the next year, the Greens leader going from 2nd to 4th from the 2020 byelection to the 2021 General, the Liberals winning South Surrey White Rock and then losing it – and there hasn’t been much of a byelection penalty against the Liberals. The 2020 results were, hilariously, bad when the party was riding high in the polls, which was mostly a function of the fact that they were 8 days before the US elections during a pandemic and legitimately nobody gave a fuck about them.
This time I’m also highly unsure anybody cares, but here I suspect that helps the Liberals. Poilievre has been nowhere recently and Lakeshore isn’t exactly fertile ground for Skippy’s brand of conservatism. A rough average of the recent Federal polls has Ontario roughly tied, with but the better pollsters have small CPC leads. If things are at a Leger-esque C+2 in Ontario, this seat would be roughly tied by provincial swing. Throw in a bit of differential swing for the GFR, and any attempt to model this would have a slight Liberal lead.
Toss in byelection turnout, though, and any attempt to model it is mostly useless. My prediction is loosely held, but I do think Sousa will win this for the Liberals – partially because betting on the left to do decently in the suburbs has mostly not failed me in recent years (we are ignoring Ontario 2022 for now, thanks OLP and ONDP), partially because this is just not good real estate for Poilievre’s brand, and partially because I just don’t think Sousa would have come back if he didn’t have good reason to think he would win?
It could be dumbassery on my part – the Wynne-era Ontario Liberals were able to convince themselves of many, many things that were either obviously not going to happen or were actually straight up untrue at the time – but I just fundamentally don’t think the LPC are going to lose this.
Now, because that’s only like 500 words, this column is actually going to be more useful than just vaguely intelligently guessing at the chances – let’s go through some of the potential reactions to this and set some expectations that can’t be then dismissed as either churlish or cope.
A CPC Win Is Bad But Not Terminal For The LPC
Weirdly, a CPC blowout would hilariously be a better sign for the LPC than a narrow win, but either way, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. Again, the CPC got a big swing from 2019 to the 2020 York Centre byelection that was erased 11 months later. If the CPC win this comfortably, it’s presumably on the backs of complete Liberal apathy, which wouldn’t concern my Liberal optimism much.
If turnout isn’t that bad and the CPC still win, it would be more concerning, but not terminal. A decent chunk of the argument that the Government will be returned is based on two things – that the eventual campaign will force voters to know what Poilievre stands for and believes in a way they don’t now, and that those views will hurt him, and that the economy will be better in 2025 than it is today. A byelection now means little if that second basic instinct is true.
A Conservative win is absolutely possible for two reasons – it’s the kind of seat that would be very close on provincial swing and byelection turnout effects are wild and can be extremely variable – but there’s nothing that makes me think that this potential result would be indicative of much.
A Liberal Win Is Not A Sign Poilievre’s A Loser
To be entirely consistent, however, a Liberal win is nothing to write home about and shouldn’t be taken to mean fuck all for 2025.
The Liberals, by trading their culturally conservative voters in places like rural Newfoundland and much of Nova Scotia for these social liberals in the suburbs, have effectively traded voters who pay less attention to the news for those who pay more. That means that if there’s going to be a steep turnout decline, it could very well be that those Tory voters who will vote in a General election are less likely to vote on Monday, plainly because they forget it’s happening.
If that’s the case, then the Liberals edge won’t mean anything for 2025, but again, they’re running a former MPP against a seemingly random cop of no distinction in a seat that’s trending their way and that Poilievre is a bad fit for. Pretending that winning this means much of anything for 2025 will happen either way, but if the Liberals win it, they will act like this means Poilievre’s leadership has been wounded. Those arguments are febrile at best and shockingly naïve at worst.
The NDP’s Bad Night Doesn’t Matter
This one I’m not even going to pretend to caveat – the NDP will likely have a horrible night and it won’t matter. The thing about voters who vote in byelections in early December is that they are the highest of high information voters, and they are exactly the type of voter who knows that a vote for the NDP in a seat like Lakeshore is a vote to help Pierre Poilievre. The squeeze campaign doesn’t even need to happen, it’s just clear to the voters themselves.
I’m on the record saying Singh should go, but what is likely coming isn’t evidence for the claim.
Obviously, byelections are crack for people like me and the people who read this site, but the boring truth is that it is highly unlikely that Monday’s byelection will mean fuck all. That said, I think the Liberals are favourites, if you really care.