OTTAWA — The 184-seat majority the Liberals won Monday could have been even greater, save for dozens of close races that could have seen Justin Trudeau rival Brian Mulroney for the largest majority in Canadian history.
In all, there were 128 seats where the margin of victory was less than 10 per cent between the winner and the runner-up, with the Liberals coming in second in 57 of those ridings, based on a Canadian Press analysis of Elections Canada voting data.
Enough votes one way or another and the Liberals could have picked up those seats, amassing a majority of 241 seats. Mulroney's Progressive Conservative victory of 211 seats in 1984 remains Canada's biggest electoral landslide.
The tightest races in the country most often saw the Liberals and Conservatives going toe-to-toe. The Conservatives eked out victories over the Liberals in 31 of the closest races in the country, while the Liberals barely won 33 ridings over the Conservatives.
Claude Denis, a professor of political studies at the University of Ottawa, said the numbers may hint at strategic voting in a number of ridings that either made the race closer than it might have been, or pushed the Liberals out in front.
Anti-Conservative voters backed the Liberals, eliminating vote-splitting and sending Grits to Parliament instead of New Democrats and even some Conservatives, Denis said.
Kathy Brock, a political studies professor from Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., said the numbers suggest the Conservatives lost the election, even more so than the Liberals won it.
The Tories, she said, put too many eggs in one basket — namely trying to paint Trudeau as "just not ready" and counting on him to slip up and prove them true. There wasn't a plan B when that didn't happen, Brock said.
"The Conservatives were on the verge of doing much better," she said. "This could have been an election that flipped, as is often the case."
Of those ridings where the margin of victory was less than 10 per cent, the Liberals won 53 of them, leaving the Conservatives narrowly missing 33 seats and the NDP an extra 16 ridings.
The NDP saw their 59 seats in Quebec cut to 16 — as a share of the seats available, the NDP went from holding 79 per cent of the seats down to 21 per cent. Likewise in Ontario, the Tories saw their hard-earned gains from 2011 slashed: After winning 73 seats in Ontario (about 69 per cent of the seats available) four years ago, Canada's most populous province delivered the Conservatives 33 seats, or about 27 per cent of the seats available.
The majority of people occupying the 338 seats in the House of Commons will be rookies. The House will welcome 197 first-time MPs, 57 of them women.
Women will make up 26 per cent, or 88 seats in Parliament — up one percentage point from the last Parliament, according to Equal Voice, an organization that advocates for greater female involvement in politics.
Jordan Press, The Canadian Press