The House

In House Panel - Election Night Storylines

In House panelists Rosemary Barton and Andrew Coyne are here with their predictions on the election night story lines you should be watching for on Oct. 19.

What's in store for each of the party leaders? And what is the path to victory just one day out from the vote?

Get ready for a trip to the polls. Election day is Oct. 19, and In House panelists Rosemary Barton and Andrew Coyne are here with the election night story lines you should be watching. (CBC)

Finally. After a marathon campaign, Canadians will head to the polls to cast their votes on Monday. At times, it seemed like we would never get there. After all it has been the longest campaigns in modern Canadian history — far longer than the 36 day iterations Canadians have grown used to in recent years. 

But there is still time for some movement in the voting patterns. 

As it stands, the polls point towards a small, minority government for Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party. But their lead over the Conservatives is slim, according to CBC's Poll Tracker.

Stephen Harper could capture his fourth mandate. If he does, he would become the first prime minister to accomplish that feat since the Sir Wilfrid Laurier. But it's still an uphill battle

Tom Mulcair and the NDP have dropped back significantly since the start of this campaign but there could still be time for them to eek out an upset, especially if the volatile Quebec electorate lines up behind them on Oct. 19. Or if they're able to stave off complete collapse in vote-rich Ontario.

To decipher how this could all play out we've brought in our In-House Panelists: Andrew Coyne, columnist with Postmedia, and Rosemary Barton, the host of CBC News Network's Power & Politics.

Chris Hall: We've talked to members of the parties about the path to victory. Look ahead, Andrew, what do you see for the Conservatives?

Andrew Coyne: At this point, if you judge by the polls, are unlikely to come out the victors. But you never know. What we saw in 2011 was that there vote was understated by the polls by about two or three percentage points. It would not be surprising to see if they came in slight above that, which case, we could have a very close result on Monday night.

CH: Their vote tends to be more efficient than the Liberals. They tend to get more seats for votes than the other parties. Do you agree with that? 

Rosemary Barton: Traditionally, that's been the case. But there have been some hints, as of late, that maybe they are concerned about that.

I think that the most recent one is the sudden attachment to the Ford brothers and Ford Nation, these voters that you would expect would all want to come out and vote Conservative. That to me is a sign that they are a little bit worried about some of that voting efficiency.

While Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is seeking help from Rob and Doug Ford, he is also trying to put a little distance between himself and the Ford family. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

But I think there are places where they are hoping and there is a chance that they'll make some gains. In and around Quebec City, we've seen Stephen Harper there increasingly. There is a possibility to pick up some seats in Quebec.

CH: What's the story line for Stephen Harper? What does he need to get across to Canadians? 

AC: What he's been trying to get across is that mostly other two guys are too risky. But, he's got a very low ceiling on his support. He's got a very high base, he's not going to go below 25 per cent, but he's not going to go above 35 per cent by all indications. So, it's all been hovering around 30 per cent. 

It's not as if he can count on some last minute surge unless a lot of people get cold feet about Justin Trudeau while they're in the polling booth, while they've got their pencil over the paper and saying 'uh I just can't quite do it.' That I guess is there last saving grace.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, left, and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper. (Reuters)

RB: He's done nothing - this campaign hasn't been about expanding that voter base, right? There's been no move, or anything on offer, to try and get other types of Canadians to come into the party. Which, I think they've done successfully in the past but haven't done this time around.

It's really just about holding on to what they have. Plus, they've been there so long, so it's hard to win when you don't have anything new. 

AC: You at least have to say 'ok here's the unfinished business,' 'here's what we want to do with our next mandate,' there's been virtually none of that in this campaign. It's been basically 'more of the same, don't trust the other guys,' that's a pretty uninspiring message.

And they've been up against, at least in the case of the Liberals, somebody who is capable, whatever his other failings, is capable of inspiring people and getting people excited — that's a tough thing to campaign against.

Let's flip to Tom Mulcair. What does he need? What's his story line to his people with two days left? 

RB: Well, his story line is probably the one he should have started with: the NDP has been standing up to Stephen Harper and can stand up to Stephen Harper and can represent progressives.

The problem, of course, is they came to that argument far too late in the campaign and didn't portray themselves as the real opponent to Stephen Harper.

NDP leader Tom Mulcair waves to supporters after a rally, Monday, October 12, 2015 in Maple Ridge, B.C. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

They have a little bit of time left to still make that argument, I suppose, and they're in the right part of that debate now. 

AC: Yeah they thought this would be a two party race — they thought the Liberals were going to drop out of it early. Their campaign was all about portraying themselves as a responsible government in waiting and waiting for the Conservatives to fall on their face.

When the Liberals stole their mantle as the party of change — the party that wants to do things now — they didn't have much of a fall back plan.

They got a bit of a lift, or hail mary if you will, out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. When they decided to come out foursquare against it, that certainly sealed their fate of forming government. Centrists would not be pleased by that, but by that point it wasn't going to happen. It was about saving the furniture, as they say.

It does seem to have succeeded in stabilizing their vote. They've come out of free fall, they've come back up to about 23, 24 per cent. That's better than they've done previously.

Let's say, as bad as this campaign is going to look for them, they're still going to come out with their second best result ever. But when you come in thinking you're going to be government, it's pretty sad.

RB: They have to show that 2011 wasn't a mistake. It wasn't a one-off. It wasn't all about Jack Layton. It was more than that. So, at this stage, if that's the bar, they'll probably meet that bar. 

CH: I talked to a Liberal — and when I asked him what Justin Trudeau has to do in the last two days — he said: avoid mistakes. Dan Gagnier was a mistake. The narrative for him? 

AC: Absolutely it was a mistake. Obviously a mistake on Gagnier's part, who has been around the block and who you think would no better. It looks very poorly on him. Let's leave it at that. 

They, themselves, Trudeau and his people didn't respond well either on the first day. The first impulse was to minimize it, and then the next day they came out foursquare against it.

There will be some damage done. They got lucky because it happened the same day as the Jays game. It will probably hurt them the most — if it does — in Quebec. But we'll have to wait and see if it really registers with people. I think the biggest impact is: you'll lose a day [of campaigning]. And remember up until this point there was a sense of momentum, crowds. It may take a few points off. 

RB: Yeah, I agree. It may do the most damage in Quebec. It's where they're most sensitive to these arguments about an old, corrupt Liberal party. I think the party where they may have gotten lucky is that it happened so late, right? If this had happened mid-campaign, imagine what the NDP could have done with it. 

But it may have happened too late that it may not sink in or get the traction that it would have. But, I agree, it sort of deflates that campaign at the end when they don't need that.

AC: But don't forget 20 per cent of the electorate has already vote. 

RB: Right. 

CH: That also helps, doesn't it.