One step backwards, two steps forward
RightNow Election Analysis
BY ALISSA GOLOB & SCOTT HAYWARD
On October 20th, 2015, one day after the last federal election, I think it was safe to say, we were depressed. Alissa had just spent months traveling across the country in the “No2Trudeau” campaign, and we had both been volunteering for pro-life candidates in the GTA every single day after work for months. And Justin Trudeau won anyway, and with a majority government. We lost half of our pro-life Members of Parliament, and some by less than 100 votes. And that was the start of RightNow.
Less than six months later we created this organization that was a first of its kind by solely focusing on nominating and electing pro-life candidates. The goal was to ensure that 2015 was never repeated in the pro-life movement, and that we always go forwards, never backwards.
On October 22nd, 2019, one day after this federal election, we were not depressed. We weren’t thrilled at the outcome, but we knew that Canada was more pro-life that day than it was the day before. We had just come off of a four-hour live election coverage broadcast and it was time to crunch the numbers. Our goal was to replace 50 pro-abortion Members of Parliament with 50 pro-life ones in the top swing ridings across Canada, so the ridings where those pro-abortion candidates won by the fewest number of votes. We knew it was going to be difficult to win. The last time a Prime Minister was ousted after holding a one-term majority government was 1935. We also knew throughout the night it was becoming apparent the Liberals would hold onto government status. Following the results however, showed us that even though we didn’t completely achieve our goal, there were some very serious victories.
RightNow's Scott Hayward & Alissa Golob with CCBR's Jonathon Van Maren during our live-election coverage
We know that your first instinct as pro-life voters would be frustration and anger about the fact that we are stuck with Justin Trudeau, arguably one of the most pro-abortion politicians in Canadian history, as Prime Minister of Canada. Which is why we are here to show you not only the numbers, but the good, the bad, and the future.
Pro-life Members of Parliament who won:
Of the 53 pro-life Members of Parliament running for re-election, 52 retained their seats. This is an increase from the 2015 general federal election, when 80 pro-life Members of Parliament ran for re-election and only 40 retained their seats.
Of the 22 newly elected Conservative candidates that won their seats, at least 15 of them are pro-life. This means that at least over two-thirds of all newly elected Conservative Members of Parliament are pro-life. Prior to the federal election, just over half (54%) of the Conservative Party of Canada caucus was pro-life:
After the election, that has increased to 56%, with a good chance that the 7% of unknown Conservative Party of Canada caucus members could also be 100% pro-life Members of Parliament:
The total number of pro-lifers in the House of Commons has increased from 53 to (at least) 68 Members of Parliament. While this is not the result that was being worked toward (the reasons for failures on behalf of ourselves in the pro-life movement and for those outside of our movement is discussed later), the fact is that the House of Commons is now more pro-life than before, the Conservative Party of Canada caucus is more pro-life than before, and some of the staunchest pro-abortion Conservative female Members of Parliament have been replaced by younger, more diverse, pro-life Conservative female Members of Parliament.
Candidates like Tamara Jansen and Nelly Shin who were attacked by the media for being socially conservative, and even had protests in front of their campaign offices, flipped their ridings in some of the most difficult seats in the country. Why? Because the mainstream media is having less of an influence and protests don't win votes. Volunteering does.
Pro-abortion protesters in front of CPC candidate Tamara Jansen's office
Lastly, because we won the nominations in those 50 swing ridings, we now have 35 candidates of record who will more than likely run in the next federal election, which means the pro-life movement can focus on key ridings in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) to flip next time around.
Pro-abortion Members of Parliament who lost
A number of prominent pro-abortion Liberal Party and Conservative Party MPs lost their seats. Removing these pro-abortion Members of Parliament from the House of Commons (and from their caucuses) has a magnified impact for the pro-life movement, due to their prominence on Parliament Hill:
Former leader of the Liberal Party of Saskatchewan, Ralph Goodale was first elected to the House of Commons in 1986 for two years in Saskatchewan. He returned to the House of Commons in the 1997 general federal election. Since 2003, he was the only elected federal or provincial Liberal in Saskatchewan. As of October 21st, 2019, Saskatchewan now has no federal or provincial Liberal politician, something that has not occurred since 1986. With the defeat of Ralph Goodale (who had a 0% pro-life voting record) by a pro-life Conservative candidate, the Liberal Party now has no elected MPs between Vancouver and Winnipeg (besides Yukon and the Northwest Territories), which spans almost half the continent and approximately ten million people.
As the only female Quebec Conservative MP since the 2015 federal election, Sylvie Boucher has had a larger-than-average voice within the Conservative Party of Canada. During her time as a Member of Parliament, she had a failing pro-life voting record (only 33%) when it came to abortion. Originally elected in 2006, she lost her re-election bid in 2011 by approximately 10,500 votes. On Monday, she lost her riding again by almost 3,400 votes. Her riding is one of the more winnable ones for the Conservative Party of Canada, not only in Quebec, but across the country.
First elected in 2008, Lisa Raitt was immediately sworn into Stephen Harper’s cabinet after her election. She became an instant rising star within the Conservative caucus and was often on political television shows representing the CPC. In the 2017 CPC leadership race, she finished 8th on the first ballot with less than 5% of the points showcasing her disappointing leadership campaign. Despite a dramatically poor result, she was appointed as deputy leader by Andrew Scheer. Even though she won her seat by more than 2,000 votes in 2015, she lost her riding by more than 9,000 in 2019. Here is Lisa speaking for the party (something that she will happily not be able to do anymore) on abortion at the last Conservative Party of Canada policy convention in Halifax last year:
Justin Trudeau's demoted government:
Justin Trudeau was demoted to a minority government. In fact, there has been no federal government (majority or minority) that has won with as little of the popular vote (just over 33%). “the last time a party formed government with less than 35% of the popular vote was John A. Macdonald in 1867 with 34.8%. This is significant. In a minority government, Trudeau must have the confidence of at least one other party to pass any bills, including his budget. If it fails, a new election is called. Given that he can’t even play nice and allow the other leaders to finish their speeches before starting his own, we don’t think he’ll be able to keep the confidence of the House too long.
Another interesting note is that the make up of the committees in the House of Commons and Senate reflect the make up of the House and Senate themselves. For example, when the Liberals held a majority in the House of Commons, they would also hold a majority on committees of the House (e.g. having seven of eleven seats of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights). However, now the Liberals will have a minority of the seats on these committees. This means that if the Members of Parliament from other political parties on those committees vote together and pass a motion for a committee to investigate the current Liberal government and cabinet regarding issues such as SNC-Lavalin (parliamentary committees have the power of subpoena), then it may be more appropriate to measure this minority government’s length in months and not years.
Even though pro-life candidates hold at least 68% of the newly added Conservative seats, 35 of our candidates in our target ridings still lost. So let’s get into the weeds.
Vote splits with the PPC
One of the constant battles we had was with fellow pro-lifers who were adamant on voting and volunteering for pro-life People’s Party of Canada (PPC) candidates who were running in ridings against winnable pro-life Conservative Party of Canada candidates. In seven ridings, the vote split with the PPC candidate cost these Conservative candidates to lose (three of whom were pro-life):
You will notice that one of them includes Harold Albrecht in Kitchener-Conestoga, a long-time stalwart pro-life Member of Parliament who had a 100% pro-life voting record during his time in the House of Commons and strongly defended his pro-life voting record in local media and in debates during the 2019 federal election.
RightNow had numerous pro-life voters from Harold’s riding inform us that they would be voting for the PPC candidate instead of Harold (despite his perfect voting record), because of deeply problematic lines from Andrew Scheer that they did not like.
Despite our explanations that only the voters of Regina-Qu’Appelle could cast or not cast a ballot for Andrew Scheer and that only the voters of Kitchener-Conestoga could cast a ballot for Harold Albrecht, Harold lost the riding by 223 votes. The PPC candidate won 783 votes. It is one less pro-life vote in the House of Commons.
According to public polling firms that tracked second choice amongst decided voters, no fewer than 67% (two-thirds) of those who supported the PPC said they would support a Conservative Party of Canada candidate. Applying that discount rate to the PPC votes in the seven ridings, this still would have caused six Conservative candidates to lose, including all three of the pro-life candidates.
Lack of volunteers
RightNow only has two full-time staff. That is not by choice, but by necessity as RightNow lacks the financial capacity to hire more people at this time. Both staff members decided to not take vacations, work six days a week at 12 hours per day since January 2, 2019, and spent six months traveling across Canada to over 50 locations in our 50 target riding areas hosting workshops explaining how easy it is to doorknock for your local winnable pro-life candidate.
Having a database of over 20,000 people, we hammered them with notices about various workshops via text, email, voice blast, live calls, and snail mail. By mid-August, RightNow had posted a video of the entire workshop for others to access who were not able to make the workshops in person. An easy-to-fill online form was created for those who wanted to sign up to help doorknock for their local, winnable pro-life candidate. At the outset of the campaign, it was calculated that each campaign needed approximately 60 weekly doorknocking hours (or 20 volunteers) per campaign by the issuance of the writ (official beginning of the campaign) to win those seats. We then partnered with other organizations, like 4MyCanada who was able to introduce us to new pockets of pro-lifers and focus on recruiting door-knockers from their list as well. And it helped. Out of the 20,000 people contacted, 650 signed up for weekly doorknocking shifts, or less than 4%.
In the target ridings where we met our weekly doorknocking requirements, we won 10 of those 17 ridings. Three of those 17 were lost due to vote splits with the PPC (as mentioned above).
In the target ridings where we did not meet our weekly doorknocking requirements, we only won 5 of those 33 ridings. We could have won an additional 12 of the 28 ridings we lost if we had met our doorknocking requirements.
This means that if the doornocking requirements were met for all 50 of our target ridings, then we would have won 27 of the 50 target ridings. Without a vote split from the PPC, we would have won 30 of the 50 target ridings, doubling our result from 15 new pro-lifers elected.
As an example, in the riding of Richmond Hill in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), our pro-life candidate lost by 112 votes. This means that if only three additional pro-lifers had signed up to doorknock once a week during the five-week campaign, we would have an extra pro-life Member of Parliament in the House of Commons.
The number of pro-lifer doorknockers RightNow was able to distribute to Richmond Hill (despite doing over 20 workshops in the GTA in 2019)?
When pro-lifers show up, we win. When we don’t, we lose. It’s just that simple. And we lost at least 15 seats because of it.
In the Greater Toronto Area that does not include the City of Toronto (often referred to as the 905, since that is the area code in the geographic region) there are 28 suburban ridings that contain young families and many religious communities. These ridings constitute almost as many seats as Alberta, or the Atlantic Provinces, or Manitoba and Saskatchewan combined. It is essentially the population size of a separate province.
Of the 50 target ridings for RightNow, 19 were in the GTA.
The total number of votes cast for Conservative Party of Canada candidates in the 28 GTA ridings decreased from 2015 by approximately 40,000 votes. The Liberals increased their total raw number of votes in the same ridings by approximately 30,000. No other region of the country saw the total raw number of votes increase for the Liberal Party, including typical Liberal bastions of support such as Montreal, Ottawa, or Newfoundland. Even Justin Trudeau saw his vote decrease in his own riding by almost 1,500. The Conservative Party saw its lowest share of the popular vote in these ridings since 2006, over 13 years ago:
The only time that the Conservative Party of Canada saw it’s vote share and percentage of the vote increase in the 905 region was in the 2011 general federal election. It is also the only time that an explicitly pro-life policy was part of the Conservative Party platform and defended during an election campaign, which was the defunding of abortions overseas.
Assuming that 100% of the decrease in the total raw votes for the Conservative Party went to the Liberal Party (which would be highly unlikely given statistics from polling firms who showed less than 10% of Conservative Party voters would support the Liberal Party as their second choice), the decrease in Conservative votes from 2015 to 2019 was greater than the increase in the vote total for the Liberal Party and the People’s Party combined in no fewer than twelve ridings in the GTA.
Which means it wasn't a problem of Conservative votes bleeding to the Liberal or PPC parties in the GTA, it was a problem of Conservative voters staying home.
What does this mean?
In no other region of the country (besides parts of Quebec) did the total raw number of votes or the percentage of the vote decrease than in the GTA.
Many in the media will attribute this to the fact that Andrew Scheer was too out of touch with urban and suburban Canadians because he is socially conservative. However, this theory does not apply to the suburban and urban ridings in British Columbia, particularly in the MetroVancouver and Lower Mainland regions, where the total raw vote and popular vote increased for the Conservative Party of Canada, which resulted in numerous pro-life candidates being elected to the House of Commons.
So, what is the solution in the GTA?
It would appear by looking at the empirical data that is available to us and considering the growth rates (or lack thereof) of total raw votes for the Conservative Party in the GTA over the last eight years, the problem is not holding a socially conservative position.
- Social conservative candidates placed (on average) over 50% on the first ballot in the 905 region in total raw votes for the 2017 Conservative Party leadership race
- Doug Ford and Tanya Granic Allen combined for over 50% of the total raw first ballot votes in the vast majority of the 905 GTA provincial ridings (which share the same geographic boundaries as the federal ridings) for the 2018 Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario leadership race.
Which means that a significant number of social conservatives stayed home on election day this federal election in the 905 region of the GTA. This is further clarified by the fact that pro-life Conservative Party candidates lost by an average margin of 1,445 fewer votes than the pro-abortion Conservative Party candidates in the 905 ridings of the GTA.
When conservative leaders and political parties campaign without having social conservatives in the platform, they lose in the GTA. When they do include social conservatives in the platform (re: 2011 federal election and the 2018 general provincial election regarding conscientious objection rights and parental consent for abortions), they win.
So where do we go from here? Some political pundits, commentators and Conservative insiders think that Scheer has got to go because he was too socially conservative. They think the Conservatives need a leader that follows in Trudeau’s footsteps on “abortion and gay marriage”.
Robyn Urback wrote in her post-election analysis, “Trudeau's promises came with baggage, too — mostly his own — but ethical scandals don't necessarily affect people's lives as directly and intimately as a threat, real or perceived, to the freedom to marry who you want and do what you want with your body.”
The CBC got a “Conservative” pundit Anthony Koch talking about the “catastrophic” election results saying, “There is no substantive, Catholic, white voter base that's gonna vote for us because Andrew Scheer says he's pro-life", saying he has no business remaining leader of the Conservative Party because of his "view on same-sex marriage… and how he lost Lisa Raitt her seat in the 905”.
Matt Gurney in the National Post wrote, “Perhaps if Scheer had been willing to confidently assert what his beliefs were, and also why he’d still avoid the contentious issues of abortion and gay marriage, Canadians might have been swayed by his sincerity. But his effort was late and barely half-hearted. It probably did more harm than good.”
These pundits have a losing agenda and it's no surprise they're using Scheer's defeat to push it. But we don't deal with conjecture. We deal with numbers. And the numbers tell us that it was because of suppressed social conservative vote due to Scheer's convoluted and ambiguous statements on life issues that he lost many seats in the GTA that he could have won. It wasn't because he said he's pro-life.
When pro-lifers show up, pro-lifers win. As of October 22nd, 2019 we started working towards the next federal election. We are farther ahead today than we were four years ago but there's still a lot of work to do, and we need your help to do it. In order to hire more staff, we need more monthly donors. Two people working 72 hours a week is unsustainable for the future. We also need more pro-life supporters to step up and volunteer for their pro-life candidates, especially in the GTA. If we can accomplish these two objectives, we can continue to build toward that pro-life majority in the House of Commons at a faster rate, which means passing laws and saving babies as soon as possible.
The future of the pro-life movement is in your hands, and it starts RightNow.