Election 2019: Liberal wins most seats in Parliament, but Conservatives win national popular vote

Election 2019: Liberal wins most seats in Parliament, but Conservatives win national popular vote

Centre-left voters share priorities going forward, opening up potential for legislative cooperation

October 22, 2019 – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party breathed a sigh of relief Monday night, having held onto enough seats in the House of Commons to claim a mandate in seeking to form a minority government, but facing the challenges that will come with relying on support from other parties to implement their agenda.

The Liberal path to minority victory ran through Ontario, where the incumbent party’s vote efficiency gave it the needed seats to stave off defeat. The electoral result conversely represents a bitter but symbolic victory for the Conservative Party of Canada under Andrew Scheer. The CPC increased its seat count with at least an extra twenty seats and – critically – won the popular vote but failed to topple the Liberals.

It was a similarly disappointing night for the NDP – whose campaign and leader came alive in the last few weeks but was ultimately dependent on a shifting and uncommitted left of centre base – which appeared to either switch to the Liberals at the last moment or stay home altogether.


  • What happened?

  • Vote efficiency favoured Liberals

  • Was Ford a factor?

  • How will Canadians feel about minority?

  • Shared priorities to watch

  • Pipelines will likely continue to divide

What happened? 

One thing was true throughout this campaign; voters, especially those on the left of centre, were uncertain about what they wanted. Even last week, with fewer than seven days until the election, just half of voters said they were locked into their top choice in this election.

Graph from October 15 release

With so much room for movement, the political makeup of the country on October 22 was anything but settled heading into voting day. What was clear, however, was that the Conservative Party was likely to garner the support of close to one-in-three residents. The CPC’s base was solid, while the NDP and Liberals were less certain.

With this uncertainty in mind, consider the following scenarios that the Angus Reid Institute anticipated for the Liberal Party. While the party’s established base appeared to be 29 per cent, those who said that they were “somewhat likely” to switch before the election looked to potentially push the party to 34 per cent. The party ended the night hovering around the 33 per cent mark nationally.

Graph from October 15 release

Ultimately, the Liberal Party was supported by 33 per cent of Canadians, likely picking up last minute votes from New Democrats who made the choice to vote strategically, with their heads, rather than with their hearts despite increased personal momentum and favourability for leader Jagmeet Singh in the final weeks of the campaign. Just over one-third (35 per cent) supported the Conservatives.

Vote efficiency favoured Liberals 

Much of the concern among Conservatives was about the efficiency of their vote. That is to say, the overwhelming strength of the party’s support in regions such as Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, relative to its ability to pull off needed wins in Ontario.

Those fears were realized, as the Conservative Party ended the night with more votes than the Liberals, but considerably fewer seats. Meanwhile, NDP and Green Party supporters may once again be calling for electoral reform, as their combined 22 per cent of the vote yielded just 28 seats overall, or eight per cent of Commons seats. By contrast, the Bloc Quebecois won eight per cent of the popular vote, but took more than 30 seats, or nine per cent of the seats in Parliament:

Perhaps nowhere is this vote efficiency disparity more evident than in Ontario. While the Liberal Party received approximately 40 per cent of the vote, the party won two-thirds of the seats:

Was Ford a factor?

With close battles across the province, it is worth considering what role Ontario Premier Doug Ford may have played in the election. While Ford may not have pushed Conservatives away, his presence may have hindered the party’s room for growth. Indeed, half of residents said his performance as Premier would have an impact on their federal vote, and among those who said they would consider him in their vote, 85 per cent said they were less likely to support the CPC:

Graph from September 25 release

How will Canadians feel about minority?

For a significant portion of the country, the Liberal minority is a comfortable result. In the last week of the campaign, more than half of those who said they would support the NDP and Green Party said they would prefer a Liberal minority out of the four most likely options. While seven-in-ten Liberals said they hoped for a majority, they are likely breathing a sigh of relief with any form of Liberal government re-elected. For Conservatives, this result is unsurprisingly, a great disappointment:

Graph from October 15 release

Shared priorities to watch

The Liberal Party now lacks the majority that it needs to push forward its legislative agenda and discussions about how the government will proceed will undoubtedly begin as soon as post-election celebrations wrap up.

While it is too early to say where the Liberal Party will look for support, it is worth noting that centre-left voters showed a significant degree of agreement on important issues that the government may tackle. The budget, for example, is likely to propose deficits for the next several years. Four-in-five voters who said they would support the Liberals, NDP and Green Party agreed that this is the best path forward when compared to the idea of balancing the budget within the next few years:

Graph from October 18 release

Further, the centre-left parties are unlikely to challenge the Liberal government on its federal carbon tax. If anything, there may be support, as the NDP and Green Party platforms suggested, to increase action on this issue:

Graph from October 18 release

Another area of common interest for both the Liberals and NDP is pharmacare. The Liberal Party ran on a promise to invest $6 billion over four years in an effort to kickstart a universal program, while the NDP plan suggested more money was necessary. This may be a point of discussion in the coming months.

Graph from October 18 release

Pipelines will likely continue to divide

As has been the case over the last several years, there is one area that is unlikely to yield cooperation without considerable effort – pipelines. Both the New Democratic Party and the Green Party have been opposed to the TransMountain pipeline expansion, while the Liberal Party has continued to support its completion.

Canadians are divided into three camps on the issue. Close to the same number say Canada should do more to increase its pipeline capacity, do more to stop any increases in pipeline capacity, or continue forth on a case by case approach:

Graph from October 18 release

About ARI

The Angus Reid Institute (ARI) was founded in October 2014 by pollster and sociologist, Dr. Angus Reid. ARI is a national, not-for-profit, non-partisan public opinion research foundation established to advance education by commissioning, conducting and disseminating to the public accessible and impartial statistical data, research and policy analysis on economics, political science, philanthropy, public administration, domestic and international affairs and other socio-economic issues of importance to Canada and its world.


Shachi Kurl, Executive Director: 604.908.1693 shachi.kurl@angusreid.org @shachikurl

Dave Korzinski, Research Associate: 250.899.0821 dave.korzinski@angusreid.org