After hours and hours (omg so many hours) of waiting for the Conservatives to find a way to open and count ballots, Erin O'Toole won the leadership race and is now the new leader of the Tories. This is a surprise given that polls had Peter MacKay as favourite.

My last blog post had MacKay slightly ahead but my final projections, posted on Twitter, had O'Toole winning. He ultimately won much more easily than anticipated in the last round. My method of mixing polls and fundraising data proved to be effective once again.

Why did my projections moved from slightly for MacKay to slightly for O'Toole? Because I incorporated the fundraising data from the third quarter (data recently released) and those were terrible for MacKay (contrary to what some CBC articles claimed). He was a distant third in number of unique donors. If anything, the fundraising was showing Lewis on the rise and MacKay collapsing.

The Mainstreet poll had the following numbers (for the share of points): 40.5% for MacKay, 32.1% for O'Toole, 16.2% for Lewis and 11.2% for Sloan. The actual results were, respectively, 33.5%, 31.6%, 20.5% and 14.5%. So mixing fundraising and polls did a much better job. It put MacKay lower and Lewis significantly higher. Sloan over performed both.

The polls were especially off in Quebec where Mainstreet had MacKay ahead, 56% to 30% for O'Toole. MacKay ultimately lost that province in the first round, 34% to 45%! Similarly to how polls were showing Bernier with a big lead in Quebec in 2017, the race proved to be very different.

MacKay had to run the scoreboard in Atlantic (he mostly did) and in Quebec to take a big lead on first votes. We knew he was weak on second votes, especially from Sloan and Lewis. His 34% in Quebec were definitely not enough and it was clear that O'Toole was going to win after the results of the first round. I always said MacKay needed to be at 40% overall after the first round in order to win. He only finished with 33%.

Leslyn Lewis almost created the surprise. She actually finished first in votes after the second round thanks to a very strong transfer of the Sloan votes to her. Her vote was quite inefficient, mostly because she was very low in Quebec (which makes sense, she doesn't speak French at all). But make no mistake, Lewis did phenomenally well and likely has a bright future in the Conservative party.

For MacKay, this is a really humiliating defeat. He was the big name, the supposed favourite. He was supposedly so ahead that many big names declined entering this race. He was meant to win. But he did a really crappy campaign (which did improve towards the end). He didn't offer much and he alienated a good share of this party. The fact he got so few of the Sloan and Lewis votes is indicative of that. Of course we wouldn't expect social conservatives to vote for MacKay, but they did vote for O'Toole who is, politically speaking, quite moderate and close to MacKay. O'Toole just ran a much better campaign.

Will O'Toole be able to defeat Trudeau? Well that's a big question. Personally, I feel that O'Toole is a giant upgrade over Scheer (MacKay would also have been). If Scheer managed to win the popular vote and come within a few seats in the GTA to win a plurality, I don't see how O'Toole doesn't at least achieved that. I also believe O'Toole to be particularly smart politically. He knows the CPC needs a better data game  for instance to compete with the Liberals. His leadership campaign showed he knows how to win. The road to a majority won't be easy however. Can he win in Quebec? He crushed it in the leadership but a general election versus Trudeau and the Bloc is a different story. So we'll see. I'll say this however, O'Toole has presented a more substantive plan than MacKay. So I expect the Tories to at least offer something bolder than what Scheer ran on in 2019.

Thanks for reading me and see you soon.

Three years after Andrew Scheer dramatically defeated Maxime Bernier on the 13th and last round (after being behind for the first 12th!), we are less than a week away from having a new CPC leader.

While there are four candidates, only Peter MacKay, Erin O'Toole and, to a lesser extent, Leslyn Lewis have a shot. Derek Sloan is pretty much guaranteed to finish fourth and be eliminated after the first round.

Projecting a leadership race is always tricky. Polls are rare and usually less accurate (hard to poll members only). The CPC also uses a weird electoral system where each riding is worth 100 points, no matter how many people vote in the riding. That means that votes in some Eastern riding, in particularly in Quebec, can be worth a lot more points than votes in Conservative members rich ridings of Alberta.

Before going into the numbers in-depth, here's an executive summary for the busy people that you are:

- MacKay is favored to finish first after the first ballot but should fall quite short of the 50% mark. The real issue for him is getting the second votes of Sloan and Lewis or O'Toole. Polls and fundraising data indicate that MacKay is by far not the main second choice of any other candidate. As a rule of thumb, MacKay must be around 40% after the first round to have a chance.

- O'Toole has a real shot at winning. As a matter of fact, it's not really possible to make a call between him and MacKay. The data we have doesn't paint a clear favourite and is quite noisy. I feel MacKay has a small edge, mostly because I expect his vote to be more efficient.

- Maybe the real surprise is that Leslyn Lewis has an actual chance. Don't get me wrong here, it would be a pretty big surprise if she won. But it wouldn't be a monumental one. As a matter of fact, fundraising data indicates a close 3-way race. She can also count on a massive transfer of votes from Sloan's 2nd choices.

Note: most of the tables in this post don't look nice, visually. Sorry but I didn't have time to make it look pretty.

The data

As mentioned previously, we don't have the luxury of dozen of polls like for a federal election. The calculations in this post are entirely based on two sources: 1) the most recent Mainstreet poll among CPC members and 2) The fundraising data from Elections Canada for the first and second quarter. Using fundraising data has proven to work in the past (CPC leadership in 2017 although I had Bernier as favourite because, well, I didn't factor how effective the dairy farmers would be) and especially the PQ race in 2016 where polls kept showing Cloutier ahead but the fundraising has Lisée leading.

The Mainstreet polls had been quite good in 2017 (although, as with my projections, they also had Bernier as winning at the end with a roughly 75-80% chances). They did less well for the NDP leadership the same year.

At the end of the day, we definitely do not have perfect data, far from it. But we are also not navigating in the complete dark or guessing. Moreover, the polling and fundraising data actually agree more often than not.

The (weird) electoral system

The same that our general elections are decided by a stupid and archaic electoral system, the Tories elect their leader with a weird one where each riding is worth 100 points, no matter how many members vote in it. Some ridings in Quebec in particular will only have a few dozen votes while some in Alberta will have a few thousands. This creates an extra layer of uncertainty as it's now possible to have more votes but fewer points.

In 2017, Andrew Scheer won 50.95% of the points but he actually got 53% of the votes. Bernier's vote was more efficient, mostly because he was winning the more urban ridings where there were fewer members. The difference was +2% for Bernier and -2% for Scheer. It's not huge but it was almsot enough for Bernier to win with fewer votes.

This year, the logical bet is that MacKay's vote will be more efficient. Mainstreet seems to agree as their detailed results (shared with me) show MacKay going from 37.5% of the votes to 40.5% of the points. So a boost slightly higher than what Bernier got. This seems reasonable to me but it's important to realize that this is mostly an assumption (although I guess Mainstreet has done some calculations based on who the respondents were from). Ultimately, I gave MacKay a 2% increase from votes to points and O'Toole and Lewis have a 1% drop. This is based on Mainstreet and the 2017 deviations.

The first round

Here below you have the predictions for the first round (% of points) from Mainstreet poll alone and from my projections that incorporate the fundraising data.

The fundraising data is much more favourable to Lewis. In pure raw number of unique donors, she's actually ahead in the second quarter (I do an average of the first and second quarter with a weight of 75% on the latter). But her donors are not evenly distributed across Canada, with below-average numbers in Atlantic or Quebec, thus making her votes to points conversion weaker. MacKay, on the other hand, could benefit greatly from crushing it in the Atlantic and in Quebec. He's getting a whopping 46% of his 1st-round points from those two regions while O'Toole only collects 29% of his points there and Lewis is at only 18%. This right here might well be the key to the victory of Peter MacKay on Sunday.

You have the percentages of votes for each province below, based on the poll and fundraising.

So no matter which method you use, you get the same qualitative answer: MacKay first, O'Toole second, Lewis third and Sloan fourth.

The fundraising numbers are exceptional for Lewis. She isn't an elected MP (never has actually) and I don't think anyone would have predicted her to be doing so well. She's a social conservative (well it's complicated, let's move on) and she might please some of the more militant base of the party. I therefore wouldn't be surprised if she ultimately performs worse than what the fundraising numbers indicate as the base might be more likely to donate and contribute.

The 2nd choices

Since it appears likely that nobody will be above 50% after the first round, the second votes will enter into play. Derek Sloan should be the first one to go. Where will his roughly 10% of votes go to? The answer is quite clear: a majority will go to Leslyn Lewis.

How do I know that? Well the Mainstreet polls indicates as much. Also, using the fundraising data, I identified people who gave to more than one candidates. Doing so showed me which pairs of candidates was more likely. By far the most common overlap is Sloan-Lewis. The table below show you how similar the results are whether we use the poll or fundraising data (note: for the fundraising data, I couldn't just assume that whoever only donated to one candidate had no second choice. I thus use the % from the polls and I scaled everything to match; Still, this alone isn't enough to explain why the two sources provide essentially the same results). For my projections, I simply did an average of the two.

What do we see? Well Sloan's votes will mostly go to Lewis. I don't think there is any doubt on that one. Lewis' votes are more evenly distributed but MacKay is clearly the 3rd option. Finally between O'Toole and MacKay, it appears that the MacKay to O'Toole is more common than the opposite. It will likely not matter as O'Toole and MacKay will face each other in the final round. Still, if Lewis were to sneak in and finish top 2 after the 2nd round, we need to realize that O'Toole might actually push her ahead of MacKay.

More generally, the various Mainstreet polls have shown that MacKay has decreased over time in the number of second votes he's getting. In the poll from May, MacKay was clearly the second choice of O'Toole supporters. That doesn't seem to be the case anymore.

All of this should be the number one concern of Peter MacKay: his capability of getting second votes from Sloan and Lewis is really limited. Like Bernier 3 years ago, MacKay might well finish 1st after the first round but lose at the end. If anything, MacKay is significantly weaker on 2nd choices from Sloan and Lewis than Bernier was overall.

We also need to deal with the 3rd choices of Sloan's supporters. We can assume that once they transferred (to Lewis mostly), that they act like supporters of that person. That's not perfect obviously. Mainstreet does show us the attrition from second to third with only about half of the supporters who have a second choice expressing a third. So that's a ratio we can use.

Anyway, given all this info and numbers, we get the following projections for round 2 and 3. It is assuming the same electoral advantage (the votes to points conversion) assumed earlier. If you hate this assumption, then take 2% away from MacKay and add 1% to Lewis and O'Toole (or 2% to O'Toole in the last round).

Without the electoral advantage, the last round ends as an almost perfect 50-50 where MacKay wins with... 50.01% of the points! And is naturally behind in votes! So it's really impossible to determine who of MacKay and O'Toole would win at the end.

Can Lewis win?

The answer is yes but it'd require the Mainstreet polls to be off. I haven't done formal simulations but essentially, she needs to beat her projections by about 5-7% in the first round. She does NOT need to be top 2 after the first round, she just needs to be close enough to O'Toole (or MacKay... but let's assume here that MacKay will be first originally) so that her votes+60% of Sloan votes are enough to finish top 2 after the second round. Since Sloan will be around 10-11%, Lewis can create the surprise as long as she's within 5-6 points of O'Toole.

Based on the polls, she is much further behind. Based on the fundraising, she is pretty much exactly where she needs to be. So, just for fun, I only used the provincial averages based on the fundraising and I got the following second round:

Sloan: 0%
Lewis: 31%
O'Toole: 32%
MacKay: 38%

So she's still falling short but it's super close!

Given how noisy and uncertain the data we have is, we really can't exclude a surprise Lewis win. Leadership races are full of uncertainties, much more than regular elections. So projections being off by 5-7 points is really not that far fetched. Especially with the weird electoral system the CPC use.

Other indicators

Using Google Trends over the last 90 days, it's surprisingly close. You'd imagine MacKay being much more ahead (note: Google only seems to know who MacKay is and we therefore can't do a comparison using a topic search, which is usually better. So I picked the search term option.

Purely anecdotally, but my Twitter feed has had a ton of people voting for MacKay. But Twitter in general, and my feed in particular, is not representative. If it were, Bernie Sanders would be cruising towards the presidency.

Finally, other polls done among CPC partisans (and not necessarily voting members) have had MacKay ahead, quite significantly. MacKay has the name recognition that the three others don't.


It's... too close to call. If you account for the uncertainty of any poll, add the uncertainty that it's a leadership race and they use a weird electoral system, it really isn't possible to make a definitive call. It's likely that it'll be between MacKay and O'Toole but Lewis can create a surprise.

MacKay was supposed to easily win this race, he was the big name that many others were afraid of. The fact that I can't even make the call that he's favourite is pretty crazy. It shows how lackluster his campaign has been (although it has improved from the catastrophic start). It also shows a pretty divided Conservative party.

Looking ahead, MacKay does have the profile to win where the CPC needs to win (Atlantic, Eastern suburbs), at least on paper. Mainstreet showed that among the 'pragmatic conservatives' (the ones who just want to defeat Trudeau), he's well ahead. But O'Toole could also do well and I believe both should be significant upgrade to Scheer. As for Lewis, well it'S hard to say. Her run is impressive and she doesn't fit the typical picture of a Tory (she's a woman, she's Black). I have no idea what would happen if she won.