For whatever it's worth, on October 15th, four days before the election, I outlined the Liberal's path to majority victory. By fluke, in the blizzard of pre-election news, it missed being published on our site.

By the time I discovered it two days later, I was deep into my next piece, and didn't want to update and re-write it. Instead I dropped it and tried to forget my prediction of a strong chance of a majority.

Until Election Day.

So, in lieu of an analysis of the results, here is the untouched & unedited op-ed from October 15, showing how Justin Trudeau could land an historic majority win.

Is Justin Trudeau crazy?

As the Longest Election Campaign in Canadian History gallops to a photo-finish just days from now, Justin Trudeau just spilled the M-word, telling Canadians he’s in the hunt for a majority. Given what Liberal fortunes looked like until just days ago, more than a few people will be asking what he’s smoking.

Yet take a closer look at the trajectory and momentum of this campaign, especially in Ontario and Quebec, which combine for 199 seats out of 338. Then dust off your old statistics assignments on “regression toward the mean.”

There’s daylight between here and a Liberal majority, which might explain the increasingly desperate Conservative campaign.

If this election shows anything, it’s that the public in Ontario and Quebec currently have the highest volatility in Canada and the largest numbers of seats. This makes for big swings in numbers in a fast-moving electorate that might not be captured by pollsters. Just a few short weeks ago polls analyst Éric Grenier of and the CBC put the Conservatives ahead in Ontario by a hair and the NDP 20 points up in Quebec.

The Liberals now lead by double-digits in Ontario and are effectively tied in Quebec. Grenier projects them to lead with 140 seats, effectively 30 seats from a majority.

Can they find those 30 seats? They might be hiding in plain view.

By any any measure the 2011 election was exceptionally anomalous as both the right and left ballooned when the Liberal centre collapsed.

Yet regression to the mean tells us that a variable with an extreme first measurement will tend to be closer to its historical average on the second measurement. Everything being equal, certain strong voter tendencies are likely to spring back to closely replicate their usual patterns.

What are those patterns?


With 121 seats--over a third of all Canadian ridings--Ontario is the electoral jewel in the crown; the prize of prizes. In 2011 with 106 seats in play, the Conservatives took 73, the NDP 22, and the Liberals 11. That won't happen again, or at least not in this election. All polls point to Liberal success in Ontario, and Nanos daily tracking now has them at 47.3%, opening up a massive 17 point lead over the Conservatives at 30.4%. As of this writing, Grenier projects the results to be 69 Liberal, 15 NDP, and 37 Conservative.

Here's a simple question. In this climate, would you expect Justin Trudeau to win a larger or smaller proportion of Ontario seats that Paul Martin won in his 2004 minority win?

Martin took 75 out of 106 seats with 44.6% of the vote, The Tories took 24 at 31.5% in 2004.

If Trudeau equals or betters Martin in 2004, he will take a minimum 86 of Ontario's 121 seats. If he equals Jean Chretien's lowest performance (51.5% of Ontario votes), he'll get 117.

Here are the historical patterns.

  1. For over thirty years, the NDP gains more than eight seats in Ontario only when Conservatives win, as they did in 1984,'88,'06, '08, and 2011. When Liberals win, the NDP seat count in Ontario falls to seven or fewer, as it did in 1993, '97, 2000, and '04. Look for lower than projected NDP numbers this time around.
  2. When Ontario swings, it swings big. The last time the Progressive Conservatives collapsed in the province, the Liberals took over 97% of its seats and held them through three elections, slipping to 70% in the Martin minority. The Liberals even held the majority of Ontario seats during Harper’s first minority government.

With 47% support and rising, the Liberals are clearly on track to shake things up in Ontario.

Which has Harper pinned down in the province making desperate gambits. That Rob and Doug Ford will host a major rally for Stephen Harper on the last Saturday of the campaign suggests the Tory camp is in a pitched battle to save whatever seats it can. This is a campaign that knows it's in serious peril.

If historical trends hold during a Liberal ascendance, Monday will not smile on the NDP, and the current Conservative seat projection will decline further.

If Trudeau can capture 86 seats in Ontario, that gives him 17 of Grenier's missing 30. If he outperforms Martin, he's within striking distance of majority territory.

Where can more be found?


With Mulcair's hold in precarious shape and no clear successor party, Quebec looks ready to splinter.

Prior to 2011, the NDP had won a grand total of 1 seat in Quebec, then they won 59 of its 75 seats, as voters shifted en masse in a failed attempt to stop the Conservative juggernaut. In doing so Quebecers abandoned the Bloc and left a small Liberal rump of 7 seats in Montreal.

Most Quebecers still vehemently oppose the Conservatives, but the NDP no longer looks like the party to stop them.

This year Quebec has 78 seats in play, of which Grenier now projects 21 for the Liberals, 46 for the NDP, 10 for the Conservatives, and one for the Bloc. Yet with support well down from Jack Layton's astonishing 2011 high, and momentum swinging to the Liberals as they move to a statistical tie in the province, can these numbers hold?

Regression toward the mean suggests that, even with significant popular support, the NDP’s Quebec seat count will likely be a fraction of 2011's, leaving a vacuum to be filled by the three other parties. With a volatile electorate, the NDP could conceivably shed more than half of the 46 seats Grenier projects for them by election day.

Parts of Quebec will always remain out of reach for Trudeau, but he’s excelling overall. Chantal Hebert noted in The Star that his recent appearance on a very popular Quebec talk show drew overwhelmingly positive reviews, while La Presse endorsed the Liberals for the first time in 15 years. This week's news of campaign co-chair Dan Gagnier stepping aside amidst allegations of pipeline lobbying impropriety (the keyboard just wants to auto-spell s-p-o-n-s-o-r-s-h-i-p) has significant potential to rain on the Liberal party, especially in Quebec.

The province is far from wide open for the Liberals. But nor is it much better for anyone else.

By Tuesday morning, all of this will be resolved.

But if Grenier’s projections are reasonably accurate nationally, if Trudeau outperforms Paul Martin’s minority numbers in Ontario and capitalizes on an opening in Quebec left by a weakened Bloc and NDP, then 170 seats is not impossible.

Yet for a majority to be in sight, everything has to break Justin Trudeau’s way from here to the finish line.

Which calls to mind the battleground folklore that when Napoleon selected his generals, he asked a single question before all others.

"Is he lucky?”

Well, is he?