What will provincial wins for Conservatives mean for the federal vote in October?

The 2019 federal election campaign is already underway. The CBC News Canada Votes newsletter is your weekly tip-sheet as we count down to October 21.

The Canada Votes newsletter is your weekly tip-sheet as we count down to Oct. 21.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, centre, looks on as Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, right, and New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs shake hands during a meeting of Canada's premiers in Montreal, Thursday, December 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

The 2019 election campaign is already underway — the CBC News Canada Votes newsletter is your weekly tip-sheet as we count down to Oct. 21.

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State of the federation

Vassy Kapelos, host of Power & Politics

When Andrew Scheer delivers his fourth policy speech this week in Edmonton, he'll be talking about federal-provincial relations.

There's a lot to talk about. The landscape has changed dramatically since Justin Trudeau was first elected back in 2015.

Remember when Rachel Notley's win in Alberta buoyed Tom Mulclair and the federal NDP's numbers? When then-Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne hit the campaign trail with Trudeau after her big victory the year before?

How the tables have turned.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gestures to Indigenous leaders and Premiers as he delivers his opening remarks at the First Ministers Meeting in Ottawa, Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Some have called it a blue wave. Some (OK, one magazine, then everyone on Twitter) called it "the resistance." Whatever you want to call it, it's hard to dispute that change has been in the air provincially.

From west to east … Jason Kenney, Scott Moe, Doug Ford, Blaine Higgs and Dennis King rode in waving the conservative flag (the Greens also did historically well in B.C. and P.E.I., and most recently, Liberal Dwight Ball in Newfoundland & Labrador barely kept his hold on power).

But here's the thing: what's remarkable about all this isn't just the fact that most of the aforementioned victories belonged to large- or small-c conservatives. It's that they actively campaigned against the federal government to win their elections. And they largely shared a single message focused on opposition to the same thing: the carbon tax. They even promised to take the feds to court.

The campaigning, the messaging — it was pretty successful. It helped to get them elected — though to what degree their fight against the federal carbon price contributed to their victories is impossible to determine.

Now, though, they have to govern. And when you're running things,  it's not as easy to have a hate-on for the feds all the time.

Those court cases? Well, the feds just won two (against Saskatchewan and B.C.) on the issue of jurisdiction. When he was campaigning, Jason Kenney probably invoked Justin Trudeau's name more often than he did Rachel Notley's. The temperature of that confrontation has gone way down since, and the public shows of outrage have mostly dried up.

So it will be interesting to hear what Scheer has to say. He and those premiers may share a big tent, politically — but that doesn't mean they'll always be able to take the same position. Federal and provincial governments have different interests. Premiers have to advocate for the best interests of their provinces over everyone else's. Prime ministers are supposed to look at the bigger picture.

Take Kenney's promise to hold a referendum on equalization, for example. Scheer hasn't said a lot about it yet. Would he reform the equalization formula to better suit provinces which have taken issue with it, like Newfoundland & Labrador, Saskatchewan and Alberta? Would he risk angering Quebec to do it?

And what does it all mean for the federal election in October? History shows us voters can easily live with different parties in power at different levels; it's not a given that they'll vote one way in a provincial election and the same way federally.

But there are a lot of people who don't like new taxes, who feel angst about their own economic future and who maybe want a better deal for their own provinces.

And that may factor into how they cast their vote — and for whom — in October.

Vassy Kapelos is host of Power & Politics, weekdays at 5 p.m. ET on CBC News Network.

Have a question about the October election? About where the federal parties stand on a particular issue? Or about the facts of a key controversy on the federal scene? Email us your questions and we'll answer one in the next Canada Votes newsletter. Scroll down to see the answer to this week's question.

Power Lines

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

Amanda Alvaropresident and co-founder of Pomp & Circumstance

The Liberals will be kicking off the week with Justin Trudeau highlighting the government's steadfast and unequivocal commitment to supporting women's rights and equality at the Women Deliver Conference in Vancouver. It's a stark contrast to Andrew Scheer's Conservatives, who didn't stand in the House of Commons to affirm a woman's right to choose this week.

Rachel Curran senior associate at Harper & Associates Consulting

The Conservatives Leader Andrew Scheer will be focused on unveiling another plank in his platform for governing Canada — this time concentrating on federal-provincial relations and the removal of interprovincial trade barriers. As with his immigration speech last week, his central message is that Conservatives will unite Canadians through sensible, concrete policy measures designed to enhance Canada's prosperity.

Kathleen Monk principal at Earnscliffe Strategy Group

New Democrats released their comprehensive environment plan – which includes meeting Canada's Paris Agreement emissions targets, creating 300,000 jobs and cancelling tax breaks for the wealthiest people and corporations. Jagmeet Singh is taking an ambitious approach to climate and social justice, and the pressure will be on him this week to sell this vision to Canadians.

Poll Tracker Takeaway

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

While Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer might have a problem in Ontario named Doug Ford, things are going reasonably well for him in Quebec.

The Conservatives have 21.2 per cent support in the province, according to the Poll Tracker - a level of support they have been holding since about mid-February.

That's when the SNC-Lavalin story began to eat away at the Liberals' numbers. Though the Conservatives haven't made up more ground since that initial jump, the margin between them and the Liberals in the province has continued to shrink. It's now just 11.5 percentage points, as the Liberals have slipped to 32.7 per cent in Quebec.

The gap was twice that size at the beginning of the year.

This puts the Conservatives in a good position to make some seat gains in the province. The Poll Tracker puts them in range of between 13 and 20 seats — more than the 11 the party currently holds in Quebec. In fact, anywhere within that range would be the best performance for the party since 1988.

The Conservatives are banking on the profile of some of their candidates to make up for Scheer's lack of ties to the province. The latest example is Yves Lévesque, former long-time mayor of Trois-Rivières, who was announced as the Conservative candidate in the riding on Thursday.

The seat is currently held by the NDP's Robert Aubin, but with the New Democrats at just 10.3 per cent support in Quebec — down from the 25.4 per cent the party captured in 2015 — a seat like Trois-Rivières is on the chopping block. The Conservatives placed a solid third in the riding in that election. Lévesque gives them a very good chance of leapfrogging into first.

It's the kind of win the Conservatives are hoping to score throughout Quebec — wins that would make it very hard for Justin Trudeau's Liberals to secure re-election in October.

Canad Votes 2019 polling averages as of May 28, 2019 (CBC )

Ask us

We want to know what YOU want to know

Catherine Liboiron asks: Where do the various parties stand on proportional representation?  I think it's necessary. How can one get a little over one third of the votes and claim a major victory?

Historically, at the federal level, it has been difficult to win a majority of seats in the House of Commons without winning at least 40 per cent of all ballots cast (the lowest mark was the Liberal majority in 1997, which was achieved with 38.5 per cent of the popular vote).

The Liberal party does not have an official position on electoral reform, though Justin Trudeau has said he is in favour of moving to a ranked ballot. Either way, the Liberals are unlikely to promise any kind of reform after the unpleasantness that resulted from their commitment in 2015.

The Conservatives also don't have an official position on the electoral system, but have insisted that any change should be endorsed by voters in a referendum.

Both the New Democrats and Greens support a move to some kind of proportional representation. Both parties may have to square those commitments with the recent referendum results in British Columbia and Prince Edward Island, where voters rejected proposals for proportional representation.

– Aaron Wherry, Senior Writer 

Have a question about the October election? About where the federal parties stand on a particular issue? Or about the facts of a key controversy on the federal scene? Email us your questions and we'll answer one in the next Canada Votes newsletter.

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Thanks for reading. If you've got questions, criticisms or story tips, please email us politics@cbc.ca.

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