For political strategists plotting a path to victory for the Conservatives and Liberals, Atlantic Canada is filled with opportunity. In 2015, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals won all 32 seats in the region, an overwhelming result that will be almost impossible to replicate. With national polls showing a tight race, any gains the Conservatives make in Atlantic Canada could have an outsized impact on their chances of forming government. For the Liberals, minimizing their losses in the region is key if they have any hope of winning another majority.
The NDP was wiped off the map in Atlantic Canada four years ago, and will be hoping to pick up a seat or two in places like St. John’s and Halifax.
Polling results in Atlantic Canada have been remarkably consistent, with the Liberals polling in the low 40s, holding a healthy lead over the Conservatives. Atlantic Canada is also the only region in the country where the Greens are regularly polling ahead of the NDP, an interesting subplot that could hurt both the NDP and the Liberals. Depending on how it is distributed, a fragmented progressive vote across the region could end up helping the Conservatives.
Andrew Scheer, Justin Trudeau, and Jagmeet Singh have all made tours through Atlantic Canada, although only the Conservative and Liberal leaders have made multiple visits. Scheer has visited Cape Breton, where he probably thinks discontent with the provincial Liberals will spill over to their federal counterparts; Trudeau stopped in Fredericton to stump for Matt DeCourcey in a place that isn’t traditionally Liberal; Singh held a town hall in Halifax, where he welcomed support from former provincial NDP leader (and Halifax MP) Alexa McDonough.
The federal election in Atlantic Canada has been defined by the lack of an obvious key issue. In past elections, voters have been able to direct their enthusiasm—or anger—towards a single issue like employment insurance or the fishery. Issues like climate change and affordability are important in the region, but nothing has captured the imagination or the ire of the electorate. The party that is able to find that hot button issue could be primed for success on October 21.
Astute election observers should be paying attention to two things in Atlantic Canada: how many of their 32 seats the Liberals lose, and whether Green support in the polls materializes on election day. A three-way fight for progressive voters between the Liberals, NDP and Greens could open the door for the Conservatives to take the advantage in some ridings and achieve their goal of making cracks in the Liberal fortress.