Transcript: Election aftermath | Sep 21, 2021

You are sending us back
to work with a clear mandate
to get Canada
through this pandemic
and to the brighter
days ahead.
My friends, that's exactly
what we are ready to do.
(People cheering)
Welcome, everyone,
to the #onpoli podcast.
I'm Steve Paikin.
And I'm John Michael McGrath.
Thirty-six days,
$600 million,
nearly 2,000 candidates,
millions of voters,
and the result:
pretty much the same
dang thing as last time.
We'll tear into the
Ontario results
on this Tuesday,
September 21, 2021,
the day after E day.
So, let's get to it.

John Michael, one of the
television anchors last night
called our exercise in
democracy extraordinary,
and I'm afraid I beg to differ.
(John Michael laughing)
That was the least extraordinary
election maybe ever
inasmuch as it was a
Groundhog Day
Justin Trudeau is still
the prime minister,
the Liberals will still
be the government,
Canada still has
a hung parliament,
and yes, Ontario-- as
it almost always does--
decided who won.
Here is the Ontario seat count
as of early Tuesday morning,
and admittedly, some of
this could change
as the mail-in ballots are
counted starting today,
but for now,
in the province
of Ontario, 121 seats.
The Liberals won 78 based on 39
percent of the total vote,
the Conservatives 37 seats
with 35 percent of the vote,
New Democrats five seats
with 18 percent of the vote.
The Greens
got one seat
with just 2.2
percent of the vote
and the People's
Party lots of votes,
six percent of the
votes, but no seats.
And let's just put a somewhat
thicker microscope on that.
The Liberals got only four
percentage points more votes
than the Conservatives
in Ontario,
but they won more than twice as
many seats as the Tories.
JMM, as is so
often the case,
Ontario barely came
through for the Liberals,
but come
through it did.
Right, and you know, these are
the wages of first
past the post again.
The Liberals have a very
efficient distribution of votes.
We've talked about this before.
They tend to win their seats
more narrowly
than the Tories,
who tend to pile up their votes
in really lopsided victories
in primarily
rural ridings.
You know, Ontario has the
single biggest pot of seats
up for grabs
in the country,
and in particular
in the battleground
ridings around the GTA,
you know, this is where
governments are won or defeated.
And it was no
different this year.
The Liberals largely
hung on to their seats
around the greater
Golden Horseshoe
and even converted a few
Conservative ridings.
There were some narrower
wins around the GTA
than last time with the
NDP coming close
to unseating a Liberal in
the riding of Davenport
but coming short
in the end.
And somewhat
there is the case of Kevin Vuong
in Spadina-Fort York,
who was a Liberal but was
disavowed by the party
and yet, at least as
of this recording,
has won
the seat there.
If he, in fact,
goes to parliament--
He could choose
not to. (Laughing)
But if he goes to
parliament, he will sit
as an independent
for now.
And let's also
add just for the record,
there may be
some recounts,
and there may be some challenges
and that kind of thing,
because some
of these results--
And many thousands
of mail-in ballots.
Right. Exactly.
So we're a long way
from deciding some
of these things.
Now, even though the
Liberals were re-elected
with virtually
the same seat counts--
quite incredible-- there
were some surprises.
Two Ontario
cabinet ministers
lost their jobs
Monday night.
Deb Schulte in King-Vaughan lost
to her Conservative opponent
by 1,300 votes,
and Maryam Monsef
in Peterborough-Kawartha
lost her seat by
almost 3,000 votes,
which is a big shock,
because that is considered
one of the most reliable
so-called bellwether ridings
in the province.
Right. We call it a bellwether,
meaning that whoever
wins that riding
has tended to form
government in the election.
You know, it goes Conservative
when Conservatives win.
It goes Liberal
when Liberals win.
But for the first time in,
I think, decades,
this didn't happen.
Monsef was defeated,
as you've said.
You know, a bunch
of things going on here.
It is a riding
that the Progressive
Conservatives hold provincially,
but she was also targeted by
Conservative attacks,
because just as the election
was getting started--
You may recall, of
course, that, you know,
in maybe a historic
example of poor timing,
the election started
basically at the same time
as the Taliban
retook Afghanistan.
In the context
of that,
doing her job as
a minister,
Monsef, in a
press conference,
addressed the
Taliban as brothers.
That was a clip that, you
know, got played over and over
on social media
and on television
and, you know,
seems to--
Well, I mean, you
never know
exactly what
has, you know,
affected the outcome in
any given riding,
but it seems likely that
that hurt her.
Hard to imagine it
didn't have an impact,
given how much play it got
during the campaign, eh?
I agree. Now, the
Liberals, of course,
did not get
their majority.
The Conservatives did not
get their big breakthrough.
The NDP, despite
all the buzz on TikTok,
again didn't do much
at all in Ontario.
But really, in the end, we
are in the same place we were
after the
2019 election.
All of this for
all of that.
(Both laughing)
So, there's two things I'm
thinking about this morning.
The first is that
since Paul Martin won
the Liberal
leadership in 2003--
and that is sort of what
I mentally shorthand
as, like, the beginning of
21st-century Canadian politics,
because I think
of Chretien really
as a 20th-century prime
we've had seven
And five of those elections have
returned minority governments,
three Liberal
minorities now,
two Conservative
and one
majority each
for Stephen Harper and
Justin Trudeau.
You know, there's a real
trend or a real record here
of instability
in our politics,
in national politics
in the early 21st century,
and I don't think--
And you know, this is me saying
this with not a ton of sleep,
not enough caffeine yet
in the morning. (Laughing)
But I don't think that
last night's results
can simply be chalked
up to the pandemic.
I think
political parties
are having an increasingly
difficult time
making the argument for
themselves at a national level.
You know, the Conservatives
have their base.
The Liberals
have their base.
But this is two
elections in a row now
where they've
really struggled
to, you know, convert
the other guy,
if I can put it
that way.
The other thing that
I think we can say fairly
is that, you know,
Justin Trudeau has
actually been weakened
by the results
of this election,
and here's an insight that
I'm actually going to borrow
from Althia Raj
of the Toronto
who said this
on CBC last night.
He has to go back to
a House of Commons
that looks almost
exactly like the one
that Justin Trudeau
left in August,
but unlike in August,
he can't use the threat of
going to an election
for some time now--
six months, 12 months, 18
months, something like that.
And that was, like, a
really big stick
that he could use
against the opposition,
and so now, he
has to play nice
for some period,
because, A, the
political parties
can't really afford to go
to another election
right now,
and also, this is one
of those very few occasions
where the governor
general actually has
some freen of-- freedom
of action. Pardon me.
And the attempt
to try and go to a
quick election,
at least in theory,
you know, immediately
after the last election,
that's the one time
where the GG can say,
"Actually, no.
We're going to shop around
and see if anybody else
can form government."
Don't disagree with
a single thing you said.
Having said that, all of
that having been said,
I want to pick
up on this issue
of the status of Justin
Trudeau's leadership,
because I got texts up the
ying-yang, wherever that is,
last night from people
saying, "Oh, boy.
This is beginning
of the end for Trudeau.
He's got to start
thinking about his exit.
He's really been knocked down
a peg," etc., etc.
"He's put us through
this fourth-wave election
in search of a majority,
failed to get it.
He's a
damaged brand."
However, comma, let me
remind those people,
you know, in politics,
a win is a win is a win.
(Laughing) Yes.
He's still got the
biggest caucus in Ottawa.
There's no obvious successors
taking their knives out,
in the wings.
I'm well reminded that
Bill Davis--
It always comes back to Bill
Davis for me, as you know.
Bill Davis did this
same trick in Ontario
four and a half
decades ago.
He had a minority government.
He called a snap election
in hopes of getting a majority
after just two years.
He failed,
but then his next
move was key.
He promised
the electorate,
after they didn't give him a
majority only two years later--
He promised to serve
the full four-year term.
No snap elections.
He said he'd put the
public's business
ahead of his
party's business,
and four
years later,
Ontarians rewarded him
with a majority in 1981.
Now, do I need to
make this point
more bluntly
or more obviously?
Mr. Trudeau has an
opportunity here
to get the next chapter
of his political life right
in a way he clearly didn't
over the past two years.
So, just a little
caution here.
Before everybody tries to shoo
Mr. Trudeau out the door,
let's just see if he learns
anything from this comeuppance.
No, and I do think
that's the question, right?
Has he learned
You know,
the Liberal party
had all of the cards
in its favour.
It got to pick the
timing of the election.
It had a real sort
of halo effect
from its handling of the
pandemic over the last year.
People were, I think,
you know, reasonably grateful
about the way
the federal government
has handled vaccines
in particular.
You know, Mr. Trudeau
really gets a lot of credit
for the abundance of
vaccines that Canada has
relative to
other countries.
And yet,
at the end of
the night last night,
his party did about as well
as it did two years ago,
when the primary issues of
the election were SNC-Lavalin
and Mr. Trudeau's history
of blackface, right?
So, this should
be a warning
that if the party and
if Mr. Trudeau
do not really start
taking these lessons seriously--
And I mean, two
years ago, Steve,
you and I were saying
much of the same thing,
that, you know,
the lessons of 2019
should have been a
warning to the party.
But if they do not start
taking these lessons seriously,
you know, the next election
could be bloodier.
Well, this is where
I pull my old fogy card
out of the deck here and
just remind everybody
that, you know, we
have been here before.
And I just want to pick
up on what I thought
was a very valid point
you made about--
We seem to
have difficulty
creating majority governments
in this country right now
because of all of the different
divisions all over the place.
And I remember-- And this is
well before you were born,
Mr. McGrath. I well remember--
(John Michael laughing)
I mean, 1957,
it was a minority
Then came the Dief
Sweep in '58, right?
Biggest majority ever
at the time,
but then minority
in '62,
minority in '63,
minority in '65,
and it looked at the time
like it was impossible
for anybody to win
this thing outright.
And then a guy named
Pierre Trudeau came along
and, you know, had a
majority in '68,
a majority then
again in '74,
majority in 1980.
You know,
these things,
they can be
And then Mulroney with a
majority in '84 and again in '88
and then Chretien
with a majority
in '93 and
'97 and 2000.
I'm just saying,
I get you, but you
never know.
Sometimes, these things
have a way
of resolving
themselves, you know?
Okay. Now, we have
spoken a lot in the past
about Doug Ford's ceasefire
with Justin Trudeau,
which held for most
of the election,
until the prime minister
kind of broke it
over vaccine
Question here: Did
Doug Ford
staying out of this
election, in your view,
help or hurt the
federal Conservatives?
Honestly, I'm not
sure you could marshal
a ton of evidence
either way.
It feels like
a nonissue to me.
You know, the results
are so close--
(Laughing) Sorry to
beat a dead horse here,
but the results
are so close
to the results of
the 2019 election overall
that this feels like the kind
of story that just didn't matter
in this
election cycle.
Now, that's obviously
very different from 2019,
where the
Liberals managed
to salvage their
minority government
by running very hard
against Doug Ford
and winning additional
seats in Ontario.
If a provincial premier mattered
at all in this election,
I sort of want to point
towards Jason Kenney
and the crisis that
is unfolding in Alberta.
That may have helped
Liberal fortunes
more than Doug Ford
this time around.
Well, I'll tell you
one thing that did happen
at the Ontario level that had
an impact on the federal level,
and the federal folks
are none too pleased about it.
I don't
know what your--
You know, I subscribe
to all of the party stuff.
I get on
their mailing lists,
and they're fundraising
like crazy right now.
I'm talking about the
Ontario PC Party.
They are taking
advantage of the fact
that they're out of
the spotlight
because of the
federal election,
and I have heard
from federal Conservatives
who are wondering what
in heaven's name--
At a time when Conservatives
federally need money,
need resources,
need people,
why is the premier
of Ontario out there
raising money
right now
which should be going to
the federal effort?
And I have a feeling that
there are going to be
a lot of noses
out of joint
by the time this thing's
all said and done,
because Doug Ford
was out there fundraising
and getting
lots of money--
he's doing quite
well at it--
money, however,
that federal Conservatives
would much prefer to see
go to their efforts.
Right, and I guess here's
just where we remind people
that the Ontario election
is, what, nine months away?
So if you really,
really love elections,
you don't have to
wait too much longer.
(Both laughing)
Now, let's
just put the focus
on a few names from
the province of Ontario
who had provincial
political backgrounds
and just see how
they did.
There are a couple
good news stories here
and then one disappointing
result yet again
for former Liberal
cabinet minister
Sandra Pupatello,
who ran in one of
the Windsor ridings
and for the second
consecutive election,
in an attempt to make
a comeback to politics,
this time at the
federal level,
came up short, losing
to Brian Masse of the NDP.
But there were two familiar
faces from Queen's Park
who are going
to Ottawa,
and Mr. McGrath will tell
you all about them now.
Yeah. I guess I'll
just add very quickly
about Ms. Pupatello,
I mean, this is just a
fascinating story to me,
because since losing
the Liberal leadership race
to Kathleen Wynne in
2013, you know,
she has periodically,
you know,
tried her hand at returning
to elected politics.
And just, you know,
if the politics of Windsor
have changed or what,
I don't know,
but she just hasn't
found a lot of luck yet.
But two of her former
Liberal colleagues
had better luck
last night.
Yasir Naqvi, the former
attorney general of Ontario
and a Liberal MPP for
Ottawa Centre,
he was defeated
in 2018,
but he was elected
the MP of Ottawa
Centre last night.
He will represent
the same riding federally
that he represented
and the same is true of Michael
Coteau in Don Valley East.
We've talked about both of these
men before on the podcast.
The Liberals were
very heavily favoured,
and so, they will make the
move to Parliament Hill.
Another name that might not be
as familiar to our listeners
but is, you know, a relatively
notable provincial Conservative,
Melissa Lantsman,
she was a PC
Party operative,
for lack of a better word.
She supported
Caroline Mulroney's
leadership bid
in 2018.
Caroline Mulroney
did not win
the leadership bid,
but then Lantsman helped
Doug Ford win the election
in 2018.
She was part of the
transition team,
and you know, she has
pretty quickly made her way
into elected
all things
considered, you know,
was one of those names
that Tories talked about
as an example of the
more modern party
that Erin O'Toole
is trying to build,
one that is, you
know, more diverse,
more tolerant, and
more competitive in the GTA.
She beat the Liberal
in the riding of Thornhill,
succeeding Conservative
MP Peter Kent.
She's going to
make a splash up there.
I have no doubt. I know her
a little bit, obviously,
from her appearances
The Agenda
numerous times over
the years,
and she is going to
make a splash.
She's a young,
female, openly gay candidate,
as you point out, the
kind of future face
of the Conservative
party that Erin O'Toole
has very much hoped
to feature going forward.
But she'll
get a chance
to show what she can do
up in Ottawa now,
and I have no doubt that
she'll make a splash up there,
as they say. Now, let's
take a look at the Greens,
and what a disastrous night
this was for the Greens.
They did pick up
a seat in Ontario,
in Kitchener Centre,
but for their leader--
Their leader, Annamie Paul--
who had run a very competitive
race in the by-election
a year ago in
Toronto Centre,
coming second--
she came fourth,
which was a rather
stunning repudiation
for someone who had a
pretty good leaders' debate
by most accounts but who
obviously could not overcome
some of the internecine warfare
in her own party and caucus.
I mean, you mentioned
her by-election win last year,
and yeah, that was a really
impressive performance.
But by-elections
are not elections,
and in the
the fate of the
Liberal government
did not hang
in the balance.
And in this
election, it did,
and Toronto Centre
voters are historically
very, very friendly
to the Liberals.
The only time recently
that they have not
supported the Liberals
was when you had that sort
of provincial apocalypse
that happened in 2018 for
the Liberal party.
Provincially, Toronto Centre
is represented
by a New Democrat
at the moment.
So, you know,
it's almost, like,
no end to the bad news for
the Greens right now, right?
They lost seats
She personally lost
her seat
and, as you say,
not by a little bit.
This wasn't really a
close run thing.
She came in fourth.
So, even if we didn't
know everything we know
about, as you call it, the
internecine warfare
within the
Green Party,
this kind of a performance
is the kind of thing
that leaders in other parties
would have to resign over.
There was better news for the
Green Party in Kitchener Centre,
where Mike Morrice
was endorsed
by a number of
prominent Liberals
after the party had
to dump Raj Saini
over allegations
of sexual harassment.
Morrice here benefitted both
from his own political skills,
since he had done
really well in 2019,
but also from the collapse of
Liberal support in that riding.
Now, it's not often
that we spend a lot of time
talking about a party that
won zero seats.
But we really should talk about
the People's Party of Canada,
because even though they
didn't win any seats
and their leader,
Maxime Bernier,
lost his attempt
to reclaim
his old riding of
the Beauce in Quebec,
at several points in
this campaign,
the People's Party were
polling close to 10 percent.
And there was a
lot of discussion
on where the support
was coming from
and if it would actually
translate to votes.
Were they poaching
from the
Conservative Party?
Were they just creating new
supporters of new people
who hadn't participated
in democracy before?
Do you think
we're any clearer
on getting answers to
those questions
now that we know what
happened on election night?
On the big question of
whether the People's Party
is, you know,
generating new voters
or simply siphoning support away
from the Conservatives,
I'm not sure we have a
lot of clarity yet.
That's the kind of
question that, you know,
political scientists are
going to be, you know,
combing over these results
for months to come.
But I do think
that the argument
that the
People's Party
cost the Conservatives
a lot of seats in Ontario--
It's more complicated
than it sounds.
I know that there are plenty
of ridings this morning
where the Conservative
is probably looking in
the mirror, telling themselves
that if it hadn't been for
the People's Party,
they would have
defeated the Liberal.
But you know, I look
at Elgin-Middlesex-London,
where Chelsea
the daughter of independent
MPP Randy Hillier--
She had
been spoken about
as the kind of candidate
who would do well,
and she did. She got
12 percent of the vote
but didn't really get in the
way of incumbent Karen Vecchio
getting re-elected
quite handily.
In Chatham-Kent-Leamington
and Niagara Falls,
the Conservative
candidates were re-elected
with narrower margins in
2021 than they had in 2019,
but those seats were
not, in the end,
handed over
to the Liberals.
You know, there are definitely
ridings around the country
where you could sort of
do the simple math
and say that,
well, you know,
the CPC vote share
plus the PPC vote share
equals or is greater than
the Liberal vote share
and therefore
Bernier's party
cost the
Conservatives seats.
You know, more
seasoned observers
will tell you that it's
never really that simple,
that, you know,
some of those voters
who voted for the
People's Party
were, in fact, never going
to vote Conservative anyway.
So, yeah.
Really, I realize
that "it's complicated" is--
(Both laughing)
--an annoying answer, but--
Something your generation
says all the time on Facebook.
--it's true. It's complicated.
(Both laughing)
Having said that,
I want to circle back
just briefly here on one riding
that I did visit during the
course of the election campaign.
I followed some canvassers
going door-knocking,
just to see what issues
came up at the door,
and I was struck by how many
People's Party signs there were
in Aurora-Oak
Ridges-Richmond Hill.
This is in York Region just
north of the city of Toronto.
And you know,
I hear what
you're saying,
but on the one hand,
that was a
Conservative riding
which flipped to the
Liberals by 1,100 votes,
and the People's Party
candidate got 1,600 votes.
And look it.
You know,
you're absolutely right.
I have not got the
empirically provable proof
that those 1,600 votes
would have gone
to Leona Alleslev
and enabled her to hold
her seat for the Conservatives.
But having said that, you'd
have a tough time convincing me
that that probably
isn't what happened.
I just put it
right out there.
I think that's what
I think the People's Party
candidate there
moved the election
to the Liberal candidate,
Leah Taylor Roy.
Well, and you know,
I'm certain
that there are ridings
where that,
in fact, happened,
and Alleslev's
or Alleslev's
former riding--
you know, that sounds to me
like a plausible case.
It's going to be interesting
over the next few months
to figure out,
you know,
which ridings there is
the strongest argument for
and which ridings are
more marginal.
You wouldn't have a
hard time convincing me
that maybe,
like, you know,
six to 10 ridings
were actually really close
and the People's
Party really mattered there.
You know, if
you wanted to argue
that it was, like, 10 to
20 ridings across the country
where the People's
Party, you know,
really made
the difference,
I don't know.
That's where I start
to be a bit
more skeptical.
Okay. Well, we know
the players in parliament
are not going to be
changing all that much,
hardly at
all, in fact.
Can we say what,
if anything, may change
as it relates to policy in
the upcoming parliament?
You know, I think
the most relevant thing
for Ontario right
now is that Ontario
is one of the only
provinces that doesn't have
a signed, sealed, and
delivered childcare agreement
with the federal
Obviously, the
Liberals had signed
a number of these agreements
to implement $10-a-day daycare
with other provinces before
the election.
For whatever reason,
they did not land an
agreement with Ontario
before the election
was called,
so we will now
get to see
whether that agreement
You know,
much cheaper daycare
would obviously mean a
lot for Ontario parents,
but this isn't a policy that the
Ford government has, you know,
really been
passionate about.
I don't think they really
like the idea of, you know,
cheap daycare.
So, you know, there's going
to be some negotiation
over what that
deal looks like,
and there may also be
some discussion
about whether that deal
even gets implemented
in the next year
or whether this
also gets mixed up
in Ontario's own
which, to reiterate,
is only about
nine months away.
One other thing that
I'll just say really quickly--
you know, this is the
third election
that the Liberals
have put a carbon tax
as the centrepiece
of their climate policy,
and it's the third time that
they've been made the government
by the voters
of Canada.
I know some arguments never
actually end--
(Both laughing)
--in politics, but this one--
It might be time to
wrap up this argument.
You know, the Liberals
keep winning,
and even the fact that
the carbon tax is now scheduled
to go up substantially in
the next few years
didn't dissuade voters. We
talked about the lessons
that Justin Trudeau may or may
not take from this election.
There are also lessons that
both Erin O'Toole and Doug Ford
could take
from this election.
Interesting. Well,
let's just say one final thing
about democracy
in Canada
on this day after
election number 44.
I don't know about you,
John Michael,
but I saw numerous images on
television last night
of people lining
up to vote for hours.
And obviously, because
of the pandemic,
last night's election was a
bit of a logistical nightmare,
but to see the lengths to which
people were prepared to go
to exercise
that franchise--
which is perhaps the
most essential and sacred duty
we must perform
as citizens,
in my humble
well, let me just say,
it should kick the cynicism
right out of you.
That was bloody inspiring.
You and I, as public servants,
we are only allowed to cheer for
one democratic outcome,
and that's
high turnout.
I don't know
what the turnout was.
I haven't actually
checked that this morning.
But like you, yes,
I'm incredibly
for everybody
who showed up to vote.
You know, look at the
margins around the country.
Some of these seats were decided
on really small margins.
Your vote
always matters.
Thank you
for voting.
And so ends this special
edition of the #onpoli podcast,
I feel like we should start
"I Got You Babe" by
Sonny and Cher rolling.
(Both laughing)
And they say our
love won't pay the rent.
I got you, babe.
(Both laughing)
If you'd like
to get in touch,
you can shoot us an email
or reach us on
I'm @jm_mcgrath.
And I'm @spaikin.
That's S-P-A-I-K-I-N.
This week's episode was
produced by Katie O'Connor,
edited by
Matthew O'Mara.
Production support from Nikki
Ashworth and Jonathan Halliwell.
JMM, I'll repeat my
father's great advice,
even though I'm apparently
not smart enough
to take it myself:
Stay positive.
Test negative.
Feel better, Steve.

Watch: Election aftermath