Poilievre, Mainstreet, And Keeping Perspective
Thoughts On Carleton Poll + More
Our friends at Mainstreet have decided that the end of the Ontario election doesn’t have to be the end of them dictating how I feel about politics nor the end of their releases dictating my writing schedule, releasing a seat poll of the district right beside mine, Carleton – the home of presumptive Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, and he will not be a fan. The poll has Poilievre winning by 4%, an 11% swing since the 2021 campaign and putting him in danger of losing the “Stittsville and South” seat that he has held since 2004. (Remember, he entered Parliament 18 years ago, and claims to be an outsider. He was younger than I am right now when he became an MP. He has spent the vast majority of his adult life in Parliament. Whatever, this is just me digressing, let’s get back to the point.)
There’s two questions to be asked about this poll, which the writeup of which posits that it was the Convoy that is causing such a decrease in Skippy’s popularity. The first is is it right, and the second is is it the convoy that caused this. I’m gonna say that the broad thrust of the poll seems plausible – we have no way of knowing if it is 100% “correct”, and I know Quito would appreciate me adding that polls are snapshots, not predictions, but again, my social circles has a bunch of Skippy voters in it and they weren’t happy at all with him at the time of the Convoy, so it’s plausible.
Is it because of the Convoy? Probably, and this is where the relevance of the poll needs to be underlined. Riding polls (or American district polls) have two distinct values – who is going to win in Seat X, and what the broad set of riding or district polls say about the overall race. In the US in 2018, the NYT/Siena district polls were intermittently great in individual districts, but very very good in telling an overall story about the US – one where Democrats were outrunning the GOP by enough to win the House. In the US right now, I am writing about how the state polls we are getting are wildly optimistic for Democrats because in aggregate, the state polls are pointing to an aggregate position that is like 8% more Democratic than the national polls.
I love nothing more than running these sorts of aggregations and extrapolations, but the problem here is that at most, this poll tells me that a Skippy led CPC won’t win back Kanata-Carleton. Like, given that it’s about the Convoy, it’s hard to argue that this poll means anything more than that, because the voters of [insert Golden Horseshoe Seat here] will not care about the impacts of the Convoy like Ottawa voters will. Ottawa voters – even in the suburbs – lived the Convoy, either through job impacts or through friends in a way that even the most tuned in CBC watchers in Burlington or Oakville didn’t. And this is what’s so interesting about both this poll and the entire Skippy candidacy.
We all need to keep perspective about all of this – all of the politics happening now, in terms of 2025 positioning, means absolutely, 1000%, fucking nothing. It means the sum of jack and shit in terms of how voters will vote in 2025. The only way that isn’t true is if the Liberals end up in so much danger and slip so much in the polls that Justin Trudeau changes his thinking on his departure date. Unless that happens – and to be clear, I have absolutely no information on what his current thinking is or any sense of what could change it, or what it would change to – then none of this matters. None of it.
The election is 3 years away. The NDP won’t pull the plug on this Parliament early because the NDP would be reduced to rubble from progressives if they got firm commitments for pharmacare and dentalcare and blew it up early. The NDP did a version of that in 2005, but that was after a budget that Martin passed (after losing a confidence vote, bribing Belinda Stronach to cross the floor, and then winning the confidence motion on a tie) in extremely difficult circumstances, and when Martin had already promised to hold an election in 2006 anyways after the next volume of the Gomery Report.
If you think Jagmeet Singh, who has the political courage and radicalism of the wooden table I am typing this on, is going to risk a Conservative government by forcing the Liberals into an election in a recession – and while the new boundaries are being drawn and finalized, and as the parties are disbanding the old EDAs and getting the new ones set up – then I have oceanfront property in Kalamazoo for you. He is not the kind of risk taker that Jack was, and he and Trudeau get on well, from all accounts – and having seen what Jack lost by risking an election in 2006, he will know not to get cute here.
Therefore, accepting that the Liberals have three years to get this right, that’s three years in which the Conservatives will have to try and keep up this frenzy of anger, it’s three years before the Liberals have to face any sanction, it’s three years for things to get better. Time is on their side, because Skippy is running such a message of the day leadership campaign and attack mode. I’m sorry, even accepting the belief that attacking Trudeau for delays at Pearson plays well today, how does this help the Conservatives win an election whose likeliest date is October 2025? I’m genuinely asking here, because even accepting it helps win the day, winning the day doesn’t matter.
How many “days” of the 2016 campaign did Hillary Clinton win? 90%? She won all three debates, Trump basically spent the last two weeks in hiding, he spent the last month dodging questions about Access Hollywood and Grab Em By The Pussy, but then Trump won. The Ontario NDP campaign was lifeless and then they somehow managed 31 seats this month. Political consultants and tragics like me and you care very deeply about the day to day. The public don’t. Look at what the polls did the second the 2021 election was called – they went from this big Liberal lead back to a close race, because the second shit got real, the fundamentals kicked in. It’s not about “how have you done over the last two years”, because plenty of voters quite liked CERB and the wage subsidy and all that, said they’d vote Liberal in June or July 2021, and then in the campaign backed O’Toole. It’s the same reason the NDP vote rises outside of writ periods and falls during them.
My contention – whether you think I’m way too cocky for someone who has never been on the field, as David Herle called me on Twitter today, or whether you think I’m smart, whichever – is not that the Liberals will hold a polling lead for the next 4 years. My contention is that when the chips are down, Pierre Poilievre will not win the next election. I believe this for a lot of reasons outlined on Monday, and for weeks before that. But let’s be very specific with what that contention actually is – a prediction about where we will be on election day next time, likely in October 2025.
The next election will be fought on an economic competence message and the next election will be fought by either the Prime Minister who saved us from an economic depression during the pandemic and is steering a good economy by then, or by the Finance Minister of the above, and the guy who told people to buy a fucking ponzi scheme, who thinks that York and Burnaby homeowners are “gatekeepers”, and who has nothing but widely disparate anger behind him. Will he go into the Horseshoe and the Lower Mainland and tell families that their cheap child care is going to go back to old prices? If he doesn’t – if he backtracks on his stated position – his right flank, who he told that these deals were bad and their tax dollars shouldn’t go to pay for child care for other people’s kids, are gonna be pissed as hell. If he does, bye bye to another dozen suburban Conservative seats.
Repeat this trick on everything – presumably the Liberals will put some form of abortion access protection law on the books in this Parliament, if only to wedge Skippy, and he will face the same choice of voting for it and pissing off his right, PPC curious flank, and voting against it and condemning his suburban members to have that hanging over their heads. The Liberals will try and wedge him 1000 ways to Sunday by 2025, because why the fuck wouldn’t they? Flip flop around – say, pro-abortion access but anti-handgun ban, pro-child care but anti-serious climate action, etc – and he’s in O’Toole’s spot, where he’s the candidate for nobody. Pick a tack, and he either faces a PPC at 8% or (more likely, given his inclinations) further suburban bleeding.
Is it fun to see a Carleton poll where Poilievre’s close to losing? Sure. Is it in any way important for 2025? No. Should everyone remember that three years is an eternity in politics and stop tilting at windmills? Assuredly.