The campaign is ending - and the fallout may just be starting

In this week’s Canada Votes newsletter: Will the election results reveal a divided country? Also: what if the polls are wrong? — and how do I find out who wins?

The Canada Votes newsletter is your tip-sheet as we count down to election day.

Top row, from left: Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May. Bottom row, from left: Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier (CBC)

When we wake up Tuesday, how divided will we be?

By Vassy Kapelos, host of Power & Politics

I have an embarrassing confession to make.

My first reporting job was in Swift Current, Sask. I was relieved and excited to get the job, but I had a slight problem. I had no idea where in Saskatchewan Speedy Creek, as it's affectionately known, was (it's about two hours southwest of Regina, FYI). 

The reason I didn't know: I grew up, like so many do, in Toronto, a.k.a. the centre of the universe, insulated from everything but my own ignorance. If I had thought of Alberta and Saskatchewan while growing up for a combined total of more than 10 minutes, it would have been a miracle of sorts.

So spending the first five years of my career in those provinces, I hope, saved me from my own ignorance. It also fundamentally changed the way I look at our country.

While here in central Canada it's almost normal for people to scoff, or even roll their eyes, every time someone brings up separatism out West, it's not that simple. Is the concept of separating illogical, maybe even too dramatic? Sure. But it's anchored in a very real sense of being disconnected from the centre of federal power and political will.

That has been very evident in this campaign. When the leaders did stop in Alberta (as Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau did last night), they did so sparingly, and in the case of NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, not at all.

Yes, I know that's a function of the fact the Conservatives, according to CBC's Poll Tracker, are set to capture 60 per cent of the popular vote in the province. But people who don't live and breathe politics don't think of it that way — they just see that nobody is showing much interest in them.

That's not entirely true. There is a lot of interest in fossil fuels — whether they should be phased out and how fast that should happen, as well as much debate about whether the TMX pipeline should go ahead. I'm not here to get into the merits of any of that and I completely get the impetus to go all out to reduce emissions, but suffice it to say, those questions have pitted large swaths of progressive politicians against the livelihoods of a lot of Albertans.

Then you hop a bunch of provinces to the east and another wild situation awaits us. The remarkable re-emergence of the Bloc in Quebec could leave the province in a scenario few would have imagined even six weeks ago, with the majority of seats going to the BQ.

Power & Politics Special Coverage

Catch up on the latest from the campaign trail with an extra edition of Power & Politics on Sunday at 10 a.m. ET on CBC News Network, or tune in to the repeat broadcast Sundays at 5 p.m. ET. 

On election day Power & Politics kicks things off at 4 p.m. ET on CBC News Network and tune in the day after for analysis of the election at 2 p.m. ET

If Alberta is the fly-over zone of this election, Quebec is anything but. Yes, I know it's because every party is fighting for their lives in that province. But in an effort to do so, and to counter the Bloc, messaging from every. single. party. has focused on addressing nationalist sentiment and interests. 

Jurisdiction over immigration, autonomy over culture, masters of their institutions, a veto over pipelines, opting out of universal pharmacare — the list of promises from federal leaders to Quebecers is long. Who could forget also that every leader quickly agreed to Premier Francois Legault's demand not to intervene legally in challenges against his province's secularism law.

I'm not naive. I understand that electoral math drives so much of this — and I also understand and respect that Quebec's place in the federation is unique. But in this election, a campaign that has highlighted regional differences in the name of political expediency could have really long lasting consequences.

Even inside the campaigns, they know it won't be easy to put it all back together again. One operative told me, "we didn't have a choice — we had to put party ahead of country," before lamenting that reversing gears after the election will be "truly hard." 

I just hope for our country's sake that it won't be impossible.

Power Lines

The Power & Politics Power Panelists on where the big parties will be focused this week

Amanda Alvaro  president and co-founder of Pomp & Circumstance
The Liberals have made their appeal to Canadians: continue to move forward with investment in the middle class, or risk falling behind with the Conservatives. The choice is clear. On election day, progressives should come together to vote for Trudeau's real plan on climate change, a strong economy and a defence of our interests and values domestically and on the world stage. 

Rachel Curran senior associate at Harper & Associates Consulting
Conservatives will be focused this weekend on identifying their supporters and getting them to the polls on Monday. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer's final message to voters will focus on the tax-and-spend dangers of a Liberal-NDP coalition, and his contrasting plan to put more money in their pockets.

Kathleen Monk principal at Earnscliffe Strategy Group
New Democrats are ending the campaign with momentum, propelled by Jagmeet Singh's strong, authentic leadership. Jagmeet is telling Canadians they don't have to vote for a party that makes life easier for the wealthy and well-connected – that the NDP is ready to defeat Conservatives and stop Liberals taking you for granted. New Democrats will always choose you. Go vote!

Poll Tracker Takeaway 

Éric Grenier's weekly look at key numbers in the political public opinion polls. 

What if the polls are wrong?

That's certainly a question that will be keeping me awake tonight.

In a race as close as this one appears to be, it wouldn't take much of a gap between the polls and the results to change the outcome in potentially dramatic ways.

Small differences between the polls and the results should be expected. In the end, polls gauge voting intentions — what people say they mean to do. Not all of those people will follow through on those intentions.

And while polls measure what Canadians are thinking, only those Canadians who cast ballots get a say in  tomorrow's outcome. If there are big differences between the political views of voters and non-voters, then the polls will miss the mark.

But polls (at the federal level at least) have done a pretty good job over the last four elections. Since 2006, the average results of the polls conducted in the last three days of federal election campaigns have not missed any party's final result by more than 2.7 percentage points.

Over the last four elections, both the Liberals and Conservatives have been, on average, under-estimated in the polls — the Conservatives by an average of 1.4 points, the Liberals by 0.8 points.

The New Democrats and Greens have been overestimated in the polls by an average of about one point.

This could be a reflection of the robust get-out-the-vote operations the Conservatives and Liberals employ. It isn't a given, though — the Conservatives were under-estimated in 2008, 2011 and 2015, but not in 2006.

The Liberals were overestimated in 2008 and 2011, but were under-estimated in 2006 and 2015.

It all underlines how the final numbers and the final projections are only a best-guess. That's why the Poll Tracker presents the potential range of plausible outcomes based on where the polls stand today.

It's also why we still count votes, folks. Make sure yours is counted tomorrow.

An advanced polling station is pictured in Burnaby, B.C., is pictured on Oct. 11, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Tap here to go to the full poll tracker 

Ask CBC News

You asked: How can I watch the election results? 

Join us for Canada Votes 2019: Election Night starting at 6:30 p.m. ET. on CBC TV, CBC News Network, Gem, cbcnews.ca and our CBC News App.

Our Election Night special will have real-time results and analysis explaining how what we're seeing connects with your life.

We'll also have a live results page up all night on our CBC News App and cbcnews.ca.

You can get real-time results, look up your riding results and create and follow a personal "watch list".

If you're more of a radio person, we've got that covered too.

CBC Radio's election night special will have in-depth coverage and analysis as results become available from coast to coast to coast. 

Listen starting at 7 p.m. ET on CBC Radio One or the CBC Listen App. 

Find more information and links here.

More from CBC Politics 

Inside 48 hours and a momentum shift on the Conservative campaign
Andrew Scheer and his team appeared relaxed and quietly confident late last week, dancing at a Nova Scotia rally and joking with reporters. But amid a dramatic push to sharpen his message and build momentum to Election Day, bold claims and a Friday night surprise created some tension. Katie Simpson has more

In 2019, Justin Trudeau has baggage - and faces a very different political landscape
For Justin Trudeau, winning re-election was never going to be easy. But along with the baggage that comes with government - and Trudeau's own public pratfalls - the Liberals have had to cope with a markedly diminished margin of error. Read Aaron Wherry's analysis here

Election ends the way it began as the closest in recent memory
While nationwide support for the Liberals and Conservatives have slumped as the Bloc and NDP rise, they remain where they started: neck-and-neck. Eric Grenier takes a final look at the numbers before Election Day

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