Election Assignment / by Carl Bindman

Shouts out to Leo Gervais

Nobody said a word in the NDP office as the election results came in—not a word, until one staffer yelled a very loud, very long expletive.

“I was totally depressed as I walked home from the polls,” Thomas Lapierre, an NDP volunteer in the new riding of NDG-Westmount, said the next day. “What a f-cking disaster that election was.”

In NDG-Westmount, where James Hughes ran for the NDP, Marc Garneau for the Liberals, and Richard Sagala for the Conservatives, the NDP was crushed. Marc Garneau won nearly 60 per cent of the vote once the polls, advance polls, and special ballots were counted. The NDP got 22 per cent and the Conservatives 14 per cent.

Remember what I said at the beginning?” Garneau asked during his victory speech. But nobody could have guessed the results 78 days earlier. Nobody anticipated Justin Trudeau’s Liberals winning just under 40 per cent of the vote, earning a majority government and 184 seats—much more than the middling 20 per cent support they enjoyed before the final days.

Nobody could have predicted the NDP losing all but 44 of their seats as support fell from a high of 37 per cent to 21 per cent to just 19.7 per cent of votes. Tom Mulcair was almost beached in Outremont as the Orange Wave receded. Nobody saw the Bloc Québécois clawing back to 10 seats and 4.7 per cent of the vote—although leader Gilles Duceppe’s decision to step down was not without precedent; he also resigned after the 2011 election. And while many Canadians hoped, few polls or pundits predicted Stephen Harper losing the election. He started with 30 per cent of support; he ended with 32 per cent and 99 seats. He also stepped down as party leader.

The progressive vote might have split between the NDP and the Liberals, as in 2011, letting Harper squeeze in another government, but Harper refused to govern without winning the most seats. To prevent a split and to attract the majority of the majority who disliked Harper, the NDP and Liberals refused to consider coalition.

The winner-take-all strategy boosted the NDP when it looked like the winner, but turned in favor of the Liberals when Tom Mulcair’s numbers dropped. Days before the election, most  voters remained undecided, waiting to see who could defeat Harper. That might explain the jump between the last polls and the actual results.