Erin O'Toole wins the CPC leadership. Peter MacKay misses an empty net.


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.