Social conservative candidates got strong support from Toronto suburbs, leadership data says

This post was originally published on this site
https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/canada/2017/05/29/social-conservative-candidates-got-strong-support-from-toronto-suburbs-leadership-data-says/lemieux-trost.jpg.size.xxlarge.original.jpg

Conservative leadership data shows social conservatives had a strong showing in suburban Toronto ridings, where anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage candidates were the first choice of a significant percentage of party members.

Social conservatives were credited with providing the final push to secure Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s victory at the party’s Etobicoke convention Saturday.

According to data released by the party, that victory took place virtually in the backyard of a lot of social conservatives.

Read more:The Conservatives have a new leader, but not the bigger tent they need: Hébert

In six Scarborough ridings, either of two social conservative candidates, Brad Trost or Pierre Lemieux, was the first choice of between 20 and 55 per cent of Conservative members. In Scarborough-Agincourt alone, Trost took in more than 49 per cent of first choice picks.

In Mississauga between 17 per cent and 24 per cent of members listed Trost or Lemieux as their first choice.

These ridings are mostly represented by Liberal MPs, so while social conservatives are a force among conservative members in these ridings, they don’t appear to have the same sway with the general electorate.

The surprising support for social conservatives in Toronto is just one of the insights that can be drawn from voting data released by the Conservative Party.

The Star analyzed the first choice of all 141,000 Conservative members who voted in the party’s leadership contest — essentially a 141,000-person focus group on where members want their party to go.

For the analysis, the Star grouped the 14 leadership candidates into five categories based on their policy pitches: progressive conservatives; social conservatives; “big tent” conservatives; law-and-order conservatives; and Maxime Bernier supporters.

The Star then mapped support for each category, measured by the percentage of support the candidates received in the first round of voting.

The results are imperfect, but offer a snapshot of the Conservative grassroots.

1. Social conservatives — Brad Trost, Pierre Lemieux

There’s been a lot of talk of the social conservatives’ strong showing in Saturday’s contest, and their down-ballot support looks to be what sealed Andrew Scheer’s victory.

According to the data, social conservative voters are strongly concentrated in the Prairies but also in Ontario, where the two avowed social conservative candidates combined for 20.2 per cent members’ first preference.

Aside from Scarborough and Mississauga, the data suggests concentrations of social conservatives in southern Manitoba, western parts of Saskatchewan and a handful of other ridings across the country.

2. Maxime Bernier (and Kevin O’Leary)

Maxime Bernier doesn’t fit easily into any of the other camps, as befits a self-styled libertarian. Bernier’s tax cutting and small government platform played well in Alberta where he finished first. He also managed strong support in his native Quebec, although not as strong as expected.

Aside from those two regional centres, Bernier had little broader support — almost none in Atlantic Canada, B.C. or Saskatchewan. He did passably well in Ontario, taking in 24 per cent of support in the first round of voting, but losing it to Scheer by the end.

3. Progressive Conservatives — Michael Chong, Lisa Raitt, Chris Alexander

The more progressive side of the conservative movement has taken a back seat in the modern party, and this leadership race was no exception.

These candidates did best in Atlantic Canada — particularly Lisa Raitt’s native Cape Breton — and in urban GTA and Vancouver ridings. But together they combined for just 11.95 per cent of members’ first choice for leader.

4. Law and order Conservatives — Kellie Leitch, Steven Blaney

Kellie Leitch’s major campaign promise — “values testing” for new immigrants — was lambasted as dog-whistle politics. It flopped with the Conservative membership with only seven per cent of members choosing her as their first choice. Former public safety minister Steven Blaney barely registered in the race, being the first choice of slightly more than 1 per cent.

5. “Big tent” Conservatives — Andrew Scheer, Erin O’Toole, Andrew Saxton, Rick Peterson, Deepak Obhrai

“Big Tent” candidates could also be called “continuity” candidates, here — as in, those candidates who offered a similar vision of conservatism as Stephen Harper.

Unsurprisingly, given their more broad appeals, Andrew Scheer and Erin O’Toole’s support was spread out geographically, with strong support in Saskatchewan and in Quebec — which likely meant the difference between a Scheer leadership and a Bernier leadership.