HOW AND WHEN, on election night, do we begin to know which party has won a general election in Canada?
For five and a half hours on the evening of November 8, while the polls close region by region through the six time zones from Newfoundland to the Pacific Coast, election betting will be the fastest game in Canada. Early totals will not, by themselves, mean much—unless, of course, there is a sweep comparable to 1958, when John Diefenbaker took all the seats in Nova Scotia and PEI, and seven out of 10 in New Brunswick. But unless all parties are equally mistaken about the voters’ intentions, there will be no such victory this year for anybody. The result will remain in doubt as far west as Manitoba, and perhaps all the way to B.C.
Clues will be of two kinds. There is the handful of ridings where one party champion is pitted against another. Can Conservative National Chairman Dalton Camp beat the Minister of Trade and Commerce, Mitchell Sharp, in the normally Tory seat of TorontoEglinton? George Hogan, a top-level Conservative strategist and policy adviser, thought he was going to run against Red Kelly, the Liberal hockey player, when he accepted nomination in York West; instead he finds himself confronting Robert Winters, Minister of Public Works in the St. Laurent Cabinet and since 1957 a towering figure in Canadian industry. In the rural and small-town riding of Northumberland, Ont., Conservative Glamor Boy George Hees faces Liberal Glamor Girl Pauline Jewett, a former Conservative minister against an outstanding Liberal MP.
But these are largely personal contests, and therefore ambiguous. “If George Hees doesn’t win Northumberland, we can’t expect a single gain in Ontario,” said one leading Conservative; but another, equally eminent and well informed, said, “I wouldn’t be surprised to see George lose to Pauline —there must be a lot of resentment against an outsider coming in.” (Strictly speaking, Miss Jewett is an outsider too, though her mother’s family came from Northumberland County. However, she has been a
candidate there since 1962 and MP since 1963. George Hees’ family has owned a farm in the county for years, but he himself is a somewhat implausible county squire, an exTorontonian who now lives in Montreal.)
A better guide to the immediate future, as nightfall sweeps westward across Canada on election night, will be the ridings in each region which, regardless of the individual merits of the candidates, are listed as doubtful in the battle plans of all parties. In private, they are virtually unanimous on which seats these are—political planners may try to fool the public, but they don’t try to fool either themselves or each other.
Broadly speaking, they all expect little change in the Atlantic Provinces or the west. Each hopes to pick up a few in each region, but all assume that the general complexion in the 27th parliament will be the same as in the 26fh. Therefore the election will be decided in Quebec and Ontario, with the Liberals taking most of Quebec, the Conservatives hoping for a major comeback in Ontario (where they now hold only 26 of the 85 seats but where they took 67 in 1958, and held 56 even in the Liberal landslide of 1949). The minor parties hope to gain from the more equal division of the anti-socialist or anti-radical vote, if the Conservatives revive somewhat in the cities and the Liberals in the countryside.
Here is a check list, region by region, of the indicator seats across the country, where a victory for either party can be taken as showing a trend: ATLANTIC: In Newfoundland only two seats are in any doubt whatever, the urban ridings of St. John’s. Liberal Premier Joey Smallwood has always been able to deliver the five outport ridings, which are often late in reporting results but which may be taken for granted as Liberal. If the Conservatives recapture St. John’s East, which they have held in four out of six elections since 1949 and lost by only 857 last time, it will be no more than a normal swing; if they take b th St. John’s scats, though, the backers of a Liberal victory will
have a right to start asking for odds.
PEI’s four seats are now split tw'o and two. Liberals hope to defeat Heath Macquarrie in Queen’s; Conservatives hope to knock off the Minister of Mines, Watson Macnaught, in Prince. Neither party expects a clean sweep in PEI.
Nova Scotia’s indicator riding is Digby-Annapolis-Kings, the Annapolis Valley riding in which the late George Nowlan was unbeatable, and which his son Pat Nowlan is hoping to hold for the Conservatives. Another open seat is industrial Cape Breton South, where Tory Donald Maclnnis might lose to the NDP; Liberals have no chance there. A possible anomaly in Nova Scotia is the two-member Halifax seat, where each party always nominates one Protestant and one Roman Catholic. This year the two Protestants, Liberal John Lloyd and Conservative Robert McCleave, are much stronger than the two Roman Catholics, both newcomers (the last MP, Gerald Regan, has left federal politics to become provincial Liberal leader.) Some observers think Halifax voters might ignore precedent and elect the two Protestants, one from each party. Other Nova Scotia seats are expected to remain as they are; a gain for either party would be a major victory.
This is also true of all but two seats in New Brunswick. Liberal optimists say they can recapture York-Sunbury, Conservative optimists dream of winning Charlotte; even the optimists think the other eight seats will be unchanged, and realists say all 10 will be.
QUEBEC: Fewer than 50 seats would mean a major disaster for the Liberals, and fewer than 60 would mean at best another minority Liberal government, perhaps a minority Conservative
one. Liberals themselves expect something between 60 and 65. The easy approach, therefore, is to ask which seats the Liberals might lose.
Conservatives now hold eight. In one of these the ex-MP, Louis Joseph Pigeon, is not running again; his seat had always been Liberal until 1958. So was Montreal-Ste. Marie, where Conservative George Valade managed to survive in 1962 and 1963 by bigger majorities than he’d got in the Conservative landslide of 1958, but where he’s expected to lose this time. Paul Martineau, Minister of Mines in the last Diefenbaker Cabinet, was elected in 1963 by the casting vote of the returning officer, but he is personally strong and apparently has managed to heal a party split in his riding; he might survive. The other five, all in rural seats with strong hereditary Conservative blocs, are given slightly better chances of re-election, though it would not be astounding if the Conservatives came back with zero in Quebec, as they have done twice befor since World War I.
Real Caouette’s Créditistes numbered 13 in the last House, plus five Social Crediters who stood by Robert Thompson when the split came, and two who (after an interval with Thompson) defected to the Conservatives. None of these latter will survive. How many of Caouette’s group can be re-elected, if any, is the least answerable question in Quebec. The other wide-open question is “Where will the Crédit iste vote go?”
Not only socialists but many Liberals hope it will go to the NDP. They don’t even want too big a victory for themselves in Quebec, because they don’t want to become “the Quebec party,” but they would like to see an opposition developing on the Left instead of the extreme Right.
However, few people expect the NDP
0 get more than one or two seats it most. NDP hopes were considerably wilted when the “Three
lean Men”—Jean Marchand, Pierre Frudeau, Gerard Pelletier—who had uported the NDP in 1963, this time jhose to run for the Liberals. All
1 bree are expected to win; Pelletier and Trudeau are in safe Liberal ridings, and Marchand is a formidable campaigner who will almost certainly crush his Créditiste opponent in Quebec West.
One seat the Liberals are likely to lose is St. Jcan-lberville, held in the last House by Hon. Yvon Dupuis
who is now on trial for influencepeddling. Dupuis has trumpeted his intention of running again. He will probably call himself a Liberal, but he has been explicitly repudiated by Prime Minister Pearson and will have an official Liberal candidate against him. However, he is likely to win anyway.
ONTARIO: This is the real battleground of the 1965 election, but the choice of indicator seats is complicated by a wide variety of local factors.
For instance, the former minister of immigration Richard Bell has a good chance of recapturing Carleton, which runs from the western suburbs of Ottawa into the Ontario countryside. Carleton had never gone Liberal until 1963, when the civil-service vote turned on the Diefenbaker government and Bell lost by 1,157 votes out of 67,336 cast. He is personally popular, and has been working hard in the riding ever since his defeat. Also, civil servants are alarmed by the "threat” of bilingualism in the government service and may express this fear by voting against the Liberals. But a Conservative victory in Carleton would not necessarily indicate a general swing.
Similarly, NDP stalwart David I ewis would regain York South if the Conservatives in that riding revive from the collapse of 1963, and again divide the anti-socialist vote. Conservative Frank McGee might win back the mammoth York-Scarborough riding, the largest in Canada, because he w’as a good MP and because his present
job as a television host makes him even better known than he was in parliament. Losses like these would be serious for the Liberals, who can’t really afford any losses in this election, but they would not be sure signs of a general rout.
It would be more significant if the Liberals should lose seats like the two Renfrews in the Ottawa Valley, or Wentworth in the central rural region which they captured by less than 1,000 and which is an old Tory stronghold. Or, if the swing is the other way, Conservative losses in Elgin (held by 947 votes) or Victoria (966) or Lambton-Kent (retained by only 24, after a recount) would show immediately Tory hopes had crashed.
The NDP may be an important factor in Ontario, either by winning new seats or by siphoning off enough votes to decide close races between the old parties. Retirement of Douglas Fisher, deputy leader of the NDP in parliament, leaves Port Arthur up for grabs; it used to be safely Liberal in the days of C. D. Howe, but those days seem a long time ago. Several Toronto seats—Broadview, York Centre, perhaps even York-Scarborough as well as David Lewis’s York South —are conceded by the old parties to be fighting ground for the NDP, especially if the “undecided” vote represents as much disgust with the old parties as they fear it does.
Once Ontario’s 85 seats are counted, the final result becomes predictable even if not yet certain. In 1963 the Liberals had 119 seats east of the Ontario-Manitoba border, yet fell short of a majority—they got only 10 in the whole of western Canada. This time, they have only faint hope of adding much to that total. For a majority, therefore, they should have at least 125 by the time they get to the prairies. Conservatives will prevent a Liberal majority if they can win 50 eastern seats, unless the Liberal sweep in Quebec is almost total. With anything over 60 the Conservatives would probably be the largest group in the House, with some chance of forming a minority government, but they would need 90 to have any hope of a working majority. PRAIRIES: Conservatives hold 41 of
48 seats (plus the two in the Yukon and Northwest Territories) and do not expect to lose any of them. Liberals are confident of holding the three they managed to get in 1963, and have faint hopes of picking up maybe three or four more, maybe Saskatoon and/or Assiniboia, maybe one of Edmonton’s three seats, maybe another in Winnipeg. The NDP has two Winnipeg seats, expects to hold them but has little hope of any more. Social Credit may lose both of its Alberta seats, including that of National Leader Robert Thompson in Red Deer; if so, both seats will go to the Conservatives. No party expects much change.
BRITISH COLUMBIA: Commonest opinion among all four parties is that the final count for B.C. will be about the same as it was last time, but not necessarily with the same parties winning in each riding. Howard Green, Diefenbaker’s minister of external affairs, is making a strong bid to regain his old Vancouver-Quadra seat from a Liberal back-bencher, Grant Deachman. Liberals think they might take Cariboo from Social Créditer Bert Leboe. Conservatives might lose both of the Okanagan seats, but the other three parties were virtually neck and neck for second place in 1963 and all predictions are risky there. All nine NDP seats are rated as safe, not only by the NDP itself but also by Conservatives and Social Credit; some Liberals talk of winning Vancouver Kingsway from Grace Maclnnis, widow of the veteran MP Angus Maclnnis and daughter of J. S. Woodsworth, the founder of the CCF. BLAIR FRASER
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