Election numbers worth knowing

Analysis: A look at 80 years of voting in riding

By Kirk Winter

This riding has historically not been a swing riding.

At few other times in public discourse are more numbers floated for public consumption than at election time. Multiple polls are out every day, sometimes telling conflicting stories. Politicians, as a part of their tried-and-true stump speeches, talk about millions and billions in election promises like pocket change.

The Advocate spent time crunching the numbers for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock going back to 1945. Here’s what we’ve found after almost 80 years of voting in this riding.

Number of federal elections

Since 1945, there have been 24 federal elections fought in this riding.

Power of incumbency

Only once since 1945 has an incumbent been defeated at the polls. John O’Reilly was defeated by Barry Devolin in 2004. In all but one other case incumbent members, after winning multiple elections, have been able to retire on their own terms. The outlier to this trend was Charles Lamb, first elected in 1963, dying in office in 1965 opening the door to Bill Scott to begin his illustrious career representing first Victoria, and then Victoria-Haliburton in Ottawa.

Since 1945, the Conservatives have won 21 out of 24 times in Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes – Brock, or 88 per cent of the time.

A Conservative stronghold

First the Progressive Conservatives and then the Conservatives have won 21 out of 24 elections in this riding since World War Two. Bill Scott was able to hold the riding even in 1968, while the rest of Canada embraced Trudeaumania, with a comfortable margin of victory.

Familiar faces

Once elected, the local member can have quite a lengthy career if they wish. Clayton Hodgson won six elections, Bill Scott eight, Barry Devolin four and Jamie Schmale is aiming for his third victory in 2021.

Money matters

Elections are expensive to fight and even more expensive to win. In 2015 the Conservatives outspent all the other candidates by a considerable margin allocating $70,000 to their local campaign. The Liberals spent $46,000, the NDP $53,000 and the Greens $8,000.

2019 also featured a Conservative advantage, with the Conservatives spending $50,000 versus the Liberals $41,000 and the NDP $7,000.

Remember the rest of the riding

When looking for a candidate the Conservatives have stayed away from nominating someone from Lindsay. Clayton Hodgson realized early on that a winning campaign could be put together by making sure the Conservatives swept all the villages and hamlets of the riding and splitting Lindsay with the Liberals and CCF/NDP. A candidate from rural Victoria County had the necessary credibility to win the trust of non-Lindsay voters.

Hodgson was from Burnt River, Scott from Kinmount, Devolin from Haliburton and Schmale is from Bobcaygeon, though now lives in Lindsay.

Law school grads and other walks of life

Since Confederation, the bulk of parliamentarians elected to Ottawa have been law school graduates. Since 1945, the Liberal Party in this riding have run some fine and upstanding lawyers like David Logan and Bruce Glass and watched them go down to defeat every time.

Not only have the Conservatives focused on attracting strong candidates from the rural regions of the riding, they have also focused on selecting candidates from non-law backgrounds, choosing instead people from other walks of life.

Hodgson was a lumber merchant, Scott a hardware store owner, Lamb an auctioneer, Devolin a college instructor and Schmale was a radio broadcaster.

Not even close

Since 1945 the Conservative candidate in this riding has averaged 48 per cent of the popular vote. The high water mark of the Conservative Party was 1984 when Bill Scott won 61 percent of the popular vote, with Jamie Schmale earning the smallest plurality in 2015 with only 45 percent of the popular vote.

A united right is the secret

In 1993, 1997 and 2000 local real estate salesman John O’Reilly seemingly did the impossible, winning the riding for Jean Chretien’s Liberals.

While O’Reilly campaigned hard to win each time, the numbers tell a story of the Liberal benefitting from the presence of both a Progressive Conservative candidate and a Reform Party candidate on the ballot competing for the same votes.

In 1993, O’Reilly won 37 per cent of the popular vote versus 51 percent split between the two centre-right candidates. In 1997, O’Reilly was re-elected with 34 percent of the popular vote while the Reform and Progressive Conservative candidates won 58 percent of the popular vote between them. In O’Reilly’s last successful election in 2000, before the Reform Party and the Conservatives merged, he once again managed to win 34 per cent of the votes cast against a combined 61 percent for the Reform and Progressive Conservative candidates.

An interesting historical footnote occurred in the election of 2000 as it marked the only defeat of a Scott in local election history when Laurie, daughter of Bill, finished in third place representing the Progressive Conservatives behind the Reform candidate Pat Dunn and the victorious Liberal Candidate John O’Reilly.

The election of 2004 featured a newly minted and united Conservative Party and locally Barry Devolin defeated John O’Reilly by winning 44 percent of the popular vote to O’Reilly’s typical polling numbers of about 35 percent.

1 Comment

  1. D'Arcy McGee says:

    I too, have scanned the election results going back in time, & agree that while we live in a bedrock Conservative riding,one can never take the voters for granted (see 1990 provincial election & 2009 provincial by-election). The P.C.’s & the Reform wasted an opportunity by refusing to compromise on specific ridings. Had they agreed to one Party running in certain ridings in 2000, either P. Dunn or L. Scott could be seeking a 8th term in a few weeks.. Look forward to another review of local provincial political history, prior top next year’s June election

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