Will team Trudeau fall flat in Atlantic Canada?

The last time a federal Liberal government went into an election holding every seat in Nova Scotia, it didn't turn out so good ⁠— at least not for them.In a stinging rebuke, all 11 Liberals were defeated in 1997.Mary Clancy was one of them."When the writ was dropped in '97, I knew I was dead in the water," recalls Clancy, a two-term Liberal MP who represented Halifax.Her share of the vote plunged from 45 per cent in the sweep year of 1993 to 21 per cent in 1997, when the Grits were wiped out in Nova Scotia.Mary Clancy won the Halifax seat for the Liberal party in 1988 and again in 1993, but was defeated in the 1997 election. (CBC)On election night, she took some comfort from an uncle."He looked at me and he said, 'Well you can't take this personally, as the whole province went down to defeat.'"Could it happen again to team Trudeau?Gravity callsTwenty-two years later, there are some very important differences in the political landscape and one brutal similarity: there's nowhere to go but down.And not just in Nova Scotia.The Liberals enter the election holding all 32 seats in Atlantic Canada.They've rebounded in public opinion polls from earlier this year, but a seat projection model used by Halifax-based Narrative Research suggests Liberals could lose as many as 40 per cent of their seats in Atlantic Canada in 2019, mostly in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island."I would certainly say that it looks as though the Liberals could continue to hold the majority of the seats in the region, but certainly not all of them as they did in the past," said Narrative Research CEO Margaret Brigley.Incumbent MPs defeatedThe Liberals also had a huge lead into the 1997 election, having won 31 of 32 Atlantic seats in the 1993 election under the leadership of Jean Chretien.Four years later, they fell flat everywhere in the region except P.E.I., where they held onto all four seats.The Liberals lost three of the seven ridings in Newfoundland and Labrador, and six of the nine seats they held in New Brunswick, where the NDP won two seats for the first time ever.Elsie Wayne, the lone Progressive Conservative survivor from the 1993 election, was joined by four other Tories.But it was worse in Nova Scotia, where every Liberal ⁠— each an incumbent MP ⁠— was defeated. The red team was replaced by six New Democrats and five Progressive Conservatives.That election launched the federal careers of New Democrat leader Alexa McDonough and Peter MacKay and Scott Brison, who both went to Ottawa as rookie Progressive Conservative MPs. Brison would later cross the floor to join the Liberals.Mad at one, mad at allClancy and the other bluenose Liberals were the first to feel the wrath of voters spoiling for a chance to punish the deeply unpopular provincial Liberal government of the late premier John Savage, who resigned one month before the federal election call."People don't particularly differentiate. If they're mad at the Liberals they are mad at all Liberals. Mad with the Tories, mad at all the Tories," said Clancy."Premier Savage, who is a man I absolutely adored and have the greatest of respect for, was not the most beloved premier at the time."Canada's least popular premier today is Liberal Stephen McNeil of Nova Scotia, according to pollster Angus Reid. In June, it said McNeil had an approval rating of just 16 per cent.Liberal Premier Stephen McNeil of Nova Scotia is the longest-serving premier in Canada, but polls suggest his popularity is waning. (Craig Paisley/CBC)"I will go out and do some work for some of the MPs who want me to," said McNeil, who is also the longest-serving premier in Canada, when asked this week if he will help out in the upcoming campaign."I haven't been directly asked."Why 2019 is differentBut here is where differences emerge.Whatever dissatisfaction there is with the McNeil government, the Liberal brand has been holding in Nova Scotia. It's even on an uptick, according to Brigley."We certainly don't see the provincial Liberal Party in the same dire straits as was the case back in 1997," said Brigley.More importantly, Liberals this time are not carrying the dead weight of huge federal spending cuts in the region.Prime Minister Jean Chretien waves to the crowd from his limousine following Canada Day c ...Read more

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