June 14th, 2023 | RYAN TYLER
Portage-Lisgar Analysis: A Likely COnservative Win
To win, Bernier will need to match the PPC's election performance from 2021.
In order for Maxime Bernier to pull off a PPC win in Portage-Lisgar on June 19th, he will need to match the PPC's support from the 2021 election. Since by-elections have dismal turnout, it's unlikely his supporters will be able to match, or improve on, the party's 2021 results.
Much of the PPC's success from the 2021 election hinged on fallout from the pandemic, which had many non-voters and conservatives angry. However, things have changed and mandates are no longer gaining as much ire from voters. Things like jobs, inflation, healthcare and costs of living are at the top of everyone's minds. When it comes to those issues, the PPC has a poor history of convincing people they can deliver. Most voters know the PPC can't do anything without an adequate number of seats.
The number one setback: most voters think a vote for the PPC is waste of time. The party has no seats and past election results don't give enough hope for potential voters in Portage-Lisgar to leave work early, or to take time out of their day to vote in a by-election that no one cares about.
However, if PPC supporters in Portage-Lisgar are just as enthusiastic as they were in 2021, the Conservatives should be worried. Low turnout would hurt them worse than it would hurt the PPC, or any other party with nothing to lose.
If we cut the 2021 raw votes in Portage-Lisgar by half for every candidate, we get a turnout of roughly 32%, which is about what we should expect on election day. That would put the CPC candidate at 11,900 votes, the PPC at 4,895, the NDP at 3,034 and the Liberals at 2,483. In percentages, that works out to: CPC 53%, PPC 22%, NDP 13% and Liberals 11%. This is if 2021 margins remain the same for each candidate.
If turnout dips to 27%, we might see the CPC bottom out at 10,000 votes and the PPC at 4,000 or less. In a situation like this, PPC turnout could make or break a PPC win and a CPC loss, but the likelihood is slim that PPC turnout would surge high enough to make a big enough impact.
Unless the PPC has picked up new support from 2021, or converted more Conservative voters, it's unlikely that Bernier will get more than 5,000 votes. If he manages to match his party's turnout and votes from 2021 (an unlikely and almost impossible scenario), it would put him closer to 9,000 votes. That would put him just inches away from the Conservative candidate.
There are around 69,000 eligible voters in Portage-Lisgar and the PPC did well in 2021, but by-elections seldom inspire people to pay attention or participate. By-elections have low fanfare and they generate minimal headlines, but that could be an advantage to a high profile candidate like Bernier. Of all 338 ridings in Canada, the PPC was most popular in Portage-Lisgar (with the exception of Beauce), which is due mostly to Bernier's appeal among anti-mandate crowds.
No one knows who Branden Leslie is and that could be bad for the Conservatives.
On June 19th, it will be the Conservative brand against Maxime Bernier. Leslie's votes will be more about his party, while Bernier's votes will be about Bernier. Bernier will only come close to 5,000 votes if he is able to use low CPC turnout to his advantage and maximize the PPC's get-out-the-vote efforts, but it still wouldn't be enough to compete with Leslie's default 10,000 votes.
To beat Leslie, Bernier needs all of his PPC voters from 2021 to turn out, plus another 211. It's that, or he needs to hope for a total collapse in CPC turnout. Even under a total CPC collapse to 5,000 votes, Bernier would need a miracle to surpass Leslie. (The CPC collapsing to 5,000 votes isn't likely to happen in rural Manitoba.)
These are four scenarios that could play out on June 19th. The fourth is the least likely, but the only scenario in which Bernier could win.
The most likely scenario is a Conservative win under standard by-election turnout and party performance. There is also the possibility that the PPC's steam has run out and that Bernier could finish closer to 2,000 votes. That scenario isn't explored here, but it remains a likely possibility.
There is a highly unlikely scenario in which Bernier brings in an astronomical turnout above 10,000 votes, but that's even less likely than scenario four.
Voters, pundits and PPC supporters should expect a standard, normal, highly boring by-election in Portage-Lisgar. All the parties will probably perform similarly to 2021, but Conservatives might do better. Voters will be as disengaged and bored as they are in any other by-election and the Conservatives will hold Candice Bergen's old seat with healthy margins.
Bernier might do well, but he would need a miracle to beat Branden Leslie.