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Friday, October 22, 2021

Environics Analytics: Where in Canada could the People’s Party play spoiler to the Conservatives?

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TORONTO — This election has brought out a level of passion – and sometimes anger – not typically seen in Canada. The prime minister and some Liberal candidates in particular have been on the receiving end of protests and aggression during this campaign.

Some of the protest activity has been attributed to People’s Party of Canada (PPC) supporters. Amidst all this, the PPC has seen its popularity surge as it has seemingly become a conduit for expressing frustration around COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates.

The PPC received 1.6% of the popular vote in 2019 and did not elect any members of parliament. Many current polls put them in fourth place – ahead of the Bloc Québécois and Greens.

The Sept. 16 Nanos data projects 6.7% support, which is more than four times what they received in the last election. Even with the increase in support, seat projections put the PPC winning no more than one or two seats – and maybe none.

There have been two lines of thought on how the PPC could affect the outcomes of larger parties even if they don’t send representatives to Ottawa.  The first line of thinking is that they won’t make much difference. Early in the campaign, this was the common view. In fact, I personally expressed this in an interview with CTVNews.ca on Aug. 17, as part of a leader profile of PPC Leader Maxime Bernier.

The voter segments where the PPC draws its support tend to so overwhelmingly favour the Conservatives that a small share of votes going to the PPC won’t change the outcomes of any races, because the ridings where they did well elected Conservative members by large margins.

The second line of thinking, which is prevalent now that their support has increased, is that they could siphon off enough Conservative voters that their surge may divide the right and give victories to the Liberals, NDP or Bloc in close races.

Where specifically could the PPC play spoiler to the Conservatives? Our table below breaks it down.

Given the PPC supporters’ highly visible connection to vaccine protests, we assumed that vaccine refusers are likely behind a good chunk of the PPC’s surge. We started by identifying the ridings projected to have the highest proportion of people refusing a COVID-19 vaccine.

This comes from Environics Analytics’ VaccineInsights database that took respondents from a Caddle survey and creates estimates for every postal code in the country around vaccination intentions. To do this, we combine the Caddle survey data with demographics and use geodemographic modelling techniques to project results to the ground.

We found that, on average, 7% of Canadians state they will not get vaccinated. But that number varies quite a bit riding-by-riding: it’s 3% at the low end, rising to as high as 15%. For this analysis, we identified ridings:

·        With a projected vaccine refusal at 9% and up;

·        Where the 2019 race was won by <10%; and

·        Where the Conservatives either won the seat or took second place

Our “sifted” result is the list of ridings below where the PPC’s surge could actually help parties to the left hang on or even flip ridings away from the Conservatives. These ridings are in smaller communities and rural areas in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, with a couple of ridings each in Ontario and B.C.

Note that two of these ridings have vacancies for PPC candidates, according to the PPC’s website, and some did not have PPC candidates in 2019 (indicated by a zero vote share in the table).

This list of ridings aligns with Environics Analytics’ voter segmentation that identified segments like Aging Heartland, Older Rustic, and Francophones aux Villages as having relatively large vote shares for the PPC.

These segments tend to have rural and older voters with high voter turnout. However, the segment with the largest share for PPC, looks quite different. It is called Modest Metros, which is a younger, lower-income segment found in cities across the country.

This segment had the second-lowest voter turnout of all 15 voter segments, which raises a third line of thought on the PPC’s impact: the party may also be drawing support from those who didn’t vote in 2019. If this is the case, the PPC may not play spoiler for the Conservatives to the same degree – if those supporters vote this time.

PPC Environics Table

THE TAKEAWAY

Where the PPC draws votes from the Conservatives, they could actually help entrench Liberal or NDP seats, or flip Conservative seats to one of those parties, if the races are close. The largest number of these seats is in Atlantic Canada. We should also watch voter turnout in seats and voter segments where the PPC does relatively well to validate if the PPC managed to boost voter turnout.

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