This morning, I wrote broadly about how some very incorrect assumptions led Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservative astray. It’s perhaps worth a closer look at a few numbers that tell the story.
Mr. Hudak’s strategy revolved largely around the premise that in battleground ridings, particularly in the Greater Toronto, turnout among PC voters would be higher than among likely Liberals. If it failed, members of his campaign team predicted, it would be because the NDP collapsed and failed to split the centre-left vote.
What didn’t seem to concern most Tories was the prospect of Liberal supporters being as motivated as their own – let alone more motivated.
And yet, if one compares this election’s results in those battlegrounds to the results from 2011, it appears that’s exactly what happened. Increases in Liberal votes surpassed increases in PC votes (if the PC votes went up at all) in virtually any riding it’s worth looking at, and not significantly at the expense of the New Democrats.
Here, for example, is the difference in 2011 and 2014 vote totals in Richmond Hill – the sort of bellwether GTA riding the Tories probably needed to take in order to win government.
Election results in Richmond Hill
That one, like a bunch of others, was at least kind of a wash – which is better for the Tories than what can be said about Mississauga-Erindale, where the Tories thought they had a chance of taking out an incumbent (Harinder Takhar) who didn’t even decide to seek re-election until the campaign had started.
Election results in Mississauga-Erindale
Not only did this phenomenon prevent the Tories from taking Liberal seats; it also accounted for them losing ones they’d long held. The most dramatic example, where the Tories seemed to also suffer for supporters deserting them for other parties, might be Durham – a riding that was vacated by veteran PC MPP John O’Toole when he retired:
Election results in Durham
And venturing over to the province’s southwest, where the Liberals were supposed to be losing seats rather than gaining them, here’s what happened to incumbent PC MPP Rob Leone in Cambridge:
Election results in Cambridge
I could go on, but you probably get the general drift.
As a side note, while still nowhere near winning anywhere, the Green Party experienced more growth than one might have expected. Whether that’s a tribute to Green Leader Mike Schreiner or just a reflection of none-of-the-above sentiments is probably best left to another day.
For now, we’re still sorting through why the Liberals did better than most anyone expected and the Tories much worse. An important caveat with the turnout story is that it’s probably not a completely straightforward one. For instance, the Tories may have motivated more of their base than previously, while losing some of their more moderate supporters to the other parties.
Still, looking at the above numbers, it’s hard not to think that the Tories vastly overestimated their motivation skills, and vastly underestimated how much Ms. Wynne – with a big assist from Mr. Hudak – could motivate Liberals.