Election 2019: Fewer Liberals, fewer Red Tories, and some good pro-life gains

By Jonathon Van Maren

A few brief thoughts on election night (for those who want more in-depth commentary, I co-hosted an election night livestream with my friends Scott Hayward and Alissa Golob from the political pro-life organization Right Now last night):

  1. Despite the fact that I am obviously disappointed, this was the result I was expecting. Only twice in Canadian history has an incumbent prime minister with a first-term majority been unseated, and despite being damaged by a never-ending string of scandals, Trudeau remained relatively popular. That said, the Tories actually beat the Liberals for the popular vote, and the Liberals currently have the smallest vote share of any government, minority or majority, in the history of the country.
  2. The primary reason Trudeau eked out a win is because Andrew Scheer was, to put it bluntly, a weak leader. The Conservative campaign was completely devoid of ideas, and the campaign team around Scheer obviously decided that affordability was going to be the single issue they discussed (I know they had other policies. Nobody else did.) Incidentally, that’s what every leader was campaigning on, and combined with Scheer’s lacklustre stump skills and the total absence of a political kill instinct, he essentially traveled the country stirring up apathy.
  3. The People’s Party of Canada was wiped out. Maxime Bernier even lost his own seat, which is not surprising based on his reputation in Ottawa circles for being a somewhat lazy politician. I never considered them a viable alternative, despite the fact that several of their candidates were whip-smart and accomplished people (such as Dr. David Haskell of Laurier University.) At this point, however, it does appear that the PPC may cost the pro-life movement a few pro-life seats. The most painful loss is Harold Albrecht, one of the best pro-life MPs with a perfect voting record. In short: the PPC didn’t damage the Conservative Party, but they did hurt the pro-life movement.
  4. The Trudeau Liberals may shift even further to the left, if that is even geographically possible. With their dependence on the NDP or the Bloc to keep them in power, they will probably choose to adopt a few NDP policies while keeping the rest of their “progressive” agenda steaming ahead. It’s a minority government, sure, but the only good news Jagmeet Singh has had in a long time is that he may hold the balance of power—after his incredibly poor showing, it’s the only reason his party isn’t turfing him. Tom Mulcair would have been eating Trudeau’s lunch for the duration of the campaign.
  5. A number of fantastic pro-life candidates won, while several high-profile Red Tories lost. Tamara Jansen won in Cloverdale-Langley City, for example, while Conservative Party deputy leader Lisa Raitt lost in Milton. Lisa Raitt was the MP who fought pro-lifers at convention to keep the line “a Conservative government would not support any legislation to regulate abortion” from being deleted from the Tory Party handbook. It should be obvious that Red Tories have no natural base, while good social conservative candidates do. The Conservative caucus heading to the House of Commons is a more pro-life group than before, unencumbered by several heavy-hitting opponents like Raitt.
  6. Red Tories will be scrambling in the coming weeks to claim that Scheer’s personal social conservatism was the reason he couldn’t unseat Trudeau, despite the fact that one of the reasons he consistently managed to appear weak was his refusal to actually address his personal convictions in anything resembling English. Scheer spent most of the campaign running from his pro-life record, and that undoubtedly damaged him. That said, social conservatives always get the blame in this coalition, and perversely, the Red Tories will be sure to pretend that this was a campaign fought on the credibility of the very issues that Scheer refused to discuss.

These are just my initial thoughts—there will be much more analysis in the days to come, especially as leadership challenges take shape, Trudeau’s agenda is announced, and we begin to get a clearer picture of how long this minority government will last. But for the moment: A disappointing but unsurprising night. We have more pro-life MPs in the House of Commons, fewer Red Tories, and fewer Liberals. That, at least, is good news.

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11 thoughts on “Election 2019: Fewer Liberals, fewer Red Tories, and some good pro-life gains

  1. Suzy cleaver says:

    You come across as arrogant and I’m actually somebody who has listened to you and liked you. Pride comes before the fall.

      • Anthony says:

        You know that I have nothing but respect for the work that you do, and I’m not speaking for Suzy, but…some people (not me, mind you) may see it as arrogant to say “this was the result I was expecting” immediately after an election – especially without posting a pre-election tweet or linking to a pre-election article to prove it. In the age of Twitter, “I knew it all along” doesn’t fly anymore.

        • Jonathon Van Maren says:

          A good tip. Although I did say, at the beginning, that I was skeptical of a Conservative victory, based on the sizes of Trudeau’s crowds that weekend (I’d attended one of his rallies on Saturday.) But I appreciate this feedback.

  2. James says:

    Disagree with your comments on PPC. they had great prolife candidate and Bernier was the only party leader to defend them when he was challenged by the media. Unlike the conservatives who dropped candidate Heather Leung and then demonized her after a video of her standing up for children and parents regarding SOGI. Bizarre to me why social conservatives support the CPC.

    To note the PPC has the fastest growing membership of any new federal party in the history of the country. What Bernier accomplished in a year was something to be proud of and if he sticks with it could be a factor in coming elections. They just need to ignore certain ridings as they will never have a chance in some.

  3. Andy Doerksen says:

    Some good considerations, but I disagree with your assertion that “the PPC . . . hurt the pro-life movement.”

    On the contrary: it’s the so-called “Conservatives” who’ve hurt the pro-life movement for decades now . . . by doing precisely nothing to fight for it, or even to //facilitate// debate about it. At this rate the Cons are //never// going to do anything about abortion, so having pro-life MPs who are Cons has the same net effect as having entire parties that bar pro-life MPs.

    By contrast, Maxime Bernier was/is the //only// friend pro-lifers have among party leaders, because he was/is the //only// candidate open to having his MPs introduce abortion in Parliament as a subject for debate. And it’s //only// if the subject is openly debated in Parliament that pro-lifers are going to gain any traction for achieving actual pro-life legislation down the road.

  4. John Zylstra says:

    some good comments and analysis. Nice to know about Lisa Raitt. I do want to clarify however, that it is likely the People’s Party cost the Conservatives about six seats, where the votes were close, such as in Miramachi and Richmond Hill. Not enough to turn the tide, but still… However, it is likely they are done. Was Scheer a weak leader? Possibly. He wanted to be polite, but at the same time, a leader should show spirit and life.

  5. Navi says:

    Good summary. But I’m more worried about what happens with the party leadership and platform moving forward. Just as we all knew it would be, the Official Narrative is that Andrew Scheer lost against a badly bruised Trudeau (blackface scandal) because of his pro-life stance (thus voters love abortion more than they despise racism). He couldn’t close the deal in Quebec and Ontario, which are supposedly full of socially liberal but fiscally conservative swing voters. Of course, this has no basis in reality. Doug Ford identifies as personally pro-life, allows members of his caucus to propose pro-life legislation, courted Right Now, and expressed support for parental consent laws yet he still won a majority in the 2018 provincial election (sweeping the coveted 905 region). You could argue that the provincial Liberals had no chance of winning that one, but that doesn’t mean the voters had to give Doug Ford a majority. They could’ve gone with the NDP (which appeared likely at one point) or a minority government. They didn’t, they picked Ford. The great Red Tory Lisa Raitt, meanwhile, lost her own GTA seat. They can more reasonably argue that Scheer was a poor fit for Quebec, but it’s a weird idiosyncratic province that all three national parties did relatively poorly in thanks to the resurgent Bloc Québécois (and Stephen Harper didn’t need to win it to get a majority government).

    Andrew Scheer has his flaws and made many unforced errors in his campaign (including his handling of the abortion issue – he was pro-life for two years, then tried to pretend not to be pro-life once the writ was dropped). But I think things will likely get a lot worse if he doesn’t survive the leadership review (for which he needs 66% of the party delegates). You could end up with someone that bars pro-life candidates, or openly champions abortion access (Justin Trudeau actually has been pretty weak on this front, despite all his virtue-signalling). Or the party platform could promise that MPs won’t support any pro-life legislation and remove the few existing pro-life planks (not funding overseas abortions, conscience protections for doctors, campus free speech). Perhaps worst of all, the Overton window will become the even more narrow (“personally pro-life but against reopening the debate” and “big tent party” are now too extreme).

    This isn’t necessarily how it will go. Smarter Conservatives, even the ones that don’t like us, surely know that pro-life voters could vote for a spoiler party en masse (a revitalized PPC, or perhaps a Wexit party if it comes to be) which would destroy their chances of forming government (remember the Alberta 2015 provincial election). But we must be vigilant and mobilized for the next few conventions, or it won’t make much of a difference that we added another 15 pro-life MPs.

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