Saturday, May 19, 2007

Election oracle, part 2: Winnipeg


















Image: Temple of Apollo located on the slopes of Mount Parnassus near Delphi, Greece. The original location of the Delphic Oracle.


Here are the first of my seat-by-seat predictions for Tuesday's provincial election. This first series covers all Winnipeg constituencies. The next will cover non-Winnipeg constituencies, while my last series of predictions will cover any of the close "nail-biters" I've identified.

Winnipeg stronghold seats

I'm not going to spend time talking about seats that are party strongholds. It's a foregone conclusion that the NDP will dominate in the inner city, while the Tories will coast to victory in areas like Tuxedo. So, to make things short, here's a list of the "stronghold" wins I'm predicting right off the bat:

NDP strongholds (13): Burrows, Concordia, Elmwood, Kildonan, Lord Roberts, Minto, Point Douglas, Rossmere, St. Boniface, St. Johns, St. Vital, Transcona, Wolseley

PC strongholds (3): Charleswood, Fort Whyte, Tuxedo

Other seats are profiled in more detail below.

Southdale

From what I understand, Jack Reimer is a decent MLA and a super-nice guy. Apparently, he was well-respected in the 90s by members of both sides of the house. A couple of Southdale people I know have sung his praises.

While this doesn't have much to do with the current race in Southdale, I think Reimer's biggest shortcoming stems from his myopic tenure as Urban Affairs Minister in the Filmon government. The department was completely unable to accept what I'd consider to be basic urban planning tenets regarding growth, sprawl, transportation, and inner-city development. Beholden to the big developers and sprawl-friendly RMs, the department stalled in the face of public demands for a capital region planning vision by creating the Capital Region Review, an exercise with a whole lot of dialogue but structurally designed to provide very little value in way of planning recommendations. The NDP hasn't exactly been great in articulating its vision for the capital region, but at least there's some understanding of the issues as well as progress in areas like water stewardship.

In this race, Erin Selby seems like a great, dynamic candidate and I hope she wins. Unfortunately, I think Southdale is far too conservative a constituency for the NDP to pull it off. The NDP's fortunes will certainly rise there (over the 36% they won in 2003) as a result of her high profile and the weight of the party's organizational machine, but I'll be the most shocked of all if the NDP actually wins.

Prediction: 'A' for NDP effort, but a PC win.

Assiniboia

I think Jim Rondeau must be the hardest working MLA in the province. It's certainly paid off: his margin of 3 votes in 1999 turned into a margin of close to 3,000 in 2003. That's a steep hill to climb for former city council candidate Kelly DeGroot, the Tories' candidate there.

I happened to sit with Ms. DeGroot at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon once and chatted with her for a bit. Moderate, intelligent, articulate and organized, she seems like a great catch for the Tories as a candidate. Nevertheless, there's no way she's going to be able to knock off Rondeau in this election.

Prediction: NDP win

Seine River

After Fort Garry, this was the NDP's narrowest victory in Winnipeg in 2003: about 700 votes or 9% of the electorate separated the NDP from the Conservatives. If anyone else other than Theresa Oswald were the NDP candidate, I'd expect a close race. But Ms. Oswald, the current Minister of Health and a swiftly rising star in the party, is the candidate. Expect her to win with an increased level of support.

Prediction: NDP win

Fort Garry

Fort Garry was the closest race in Winnipeg in 2003, with less than 100 votes separating winner Kerri Irvin-Ross of the NDP and defeated incumbent Joy Smith of the PCs. Given that Winnipeg voting intentions are somewhere around the same place as in the 2003 election, this is likely to be another very close race (for the third election in a row).

Prediction: "nail-biter"

St. James

With a 54% to 33% victory over her Tory challenger in 2003, the NDP's Bonnie Korzeniowski will not likely have a hard time being re-elected.

Prediction: NDP win

The Maples

Preceding this election campaign and the last, there have been ugly battles for the NDP nomination in The Maples. When the dust finally settled after the most recent and controversy-laden race, candidate Mohinder Saran had defeated sitting MLA Chris Aglugub to stand as the NDP candidate in the provincial election. Saran is one of the candidates who had nothing to do with any of the controversy and he inherits a pretty strong constituency for the NDP: in 2003, the party took 68% of the vote, to 16% for each of the Conservatives and Liberals.

Prediction: NDP win

Riel

There's a lot of talk in Tory camps about how they're planning to take this seat with former West End BIZ President Trudy Turner, who also gave City Councillor Harvey Smith a tough run for his money in last fall's municipal campaign. Based on a rough glance at the campaign signs that are up throughout the constituency, Ms. Turner's inner-city credentials are selling well in the poshest riverfront properties near St. Vital Park, but not as well in the rest of the constituency.

Of course, it's an old cliché that signs don't vote. The real problem with Tory hopes is that, based on the numbers, Riel is now a stronger NDP constituency than is Seine River, St. Norbert, Fort Garry, or Radisson. Chances are that Riel will go Tory only after those other seats do, and that doesn't appear likely. Of course, Tories are hoping for some sort of localized groundswell of protest to defeat the incumbent, Christine Melnick, but that would require a protest sufficient to close a 1,300 vote gap. Pretty unlikely.

Prediction: NDP win

Wellington

I've already talked about Wellington in earlier posts. When your 2003 base is 74% and your closest competitor was at 15%, vote-splitting isn't much of a concern. Expect NDP candidate Flor Marcelino to win easily.

Prediction: NDP

St. Norbert

The third closest NDP win in Winnipeg, this seat will be watched on election night. Current MLA Marilyn Brick ran here in 1999, but fell short of defeating Tory Marcel Laurendeau by about 700 votes. In 2003, she turned the tables, winning by 700 votes. It probably didn't help the Tories any that their sitting MLA had to be rescued from the trunk of his car after being put there by an unscrupulous associate. Talk about low points in one's political career!

As long as the NDP are polling the Winnipeg numbers they are, they should be able to hold on to south Winnipeg seats like this one. As a rule, Ms. Brick is staying away from her trunk.

Prediction: NDP win

River East

This seat represents the narrowest Tory win in Winnipeg in 2003. Longtime incumbent Bonnie Mitchelson hung on by 500 votes, which was a little closer than her 1999 victory of 700 votes. Electoral historians might note the NDP's 1981 victory in this seat -- its only win here ever -- but its then-boundaries included much of what is now Rossmere.

Given the lack of profile this race has had during the campaign, I suspect there's little hope of the NDP stealing it from the PCs. I fully expect Mitchelson to increase her margin of victory to something a little more comfortable.

Prediction: PC win

Fort Rouge

I'm actually talking about Fort Rouge (instead of simply chalking it up as an NDP stronghold) only to shatter Liberal pipe dreams about actually taking the seat. Liberals contend that with youthful candidate Paul Hesse, the lack of an incumbent MLA (Tim Sale, the former MLA for Fort Rouge isn't running again), and door-to-door canvassing challenges for NDP candidate Jennifer Howard, they have a shot at winning. They don't. Even if they were to double the 17% they were able to get in 2003, they'd still end up short.

Prediction: NDP win

Inkster

The Liberals' Kevin Lamoureux is quite a character, being known for his bizarre antics in the Legislature. He's represented the Inkster constituency in every election since 1988, with the exception of the 1999 to 2003 period, after he lost to the NDP's Becky Barrett.

The NDP are once again challenging, this time running impressive candidate Romy Magsino. My initial thoughts are that Lamoureux will hold on to this seat, but then again he did benefit in 2003 from the collapse of the local PC vote from 13% to 4% (while the Liberal vote climbed from 43% to 53%). A little bit of a Tory revival could steal those votes back from Lamoureux, putting him in a very close race against the NDP's Magsino. This one will be tight.

Prediction: "nail-biter"

River Heights

Jon Gerrard, leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party, is the MLA for River Heights. Of any area of the province, River Heights seems the most suited to voting Liberal. Made up of professional, well-educated, and upper middle class families, voters here are probably too well off to be entirely comfortable with the left-leaning character of the NDP, but yet too educated and cultured to have any affinity for the simplistic, sometimes angry, hard right ideology often voiced by Tories (including their current candidate). That leaves just enough room for Manitoba's highest-profile Liberal to run up the middle and eke out victory after victory.

Of course, Gerrard's victory isn't entirely in the bag. The Tories have won this seat before, most recently in 1995, and could do so again. In 1999, Gerrard took 45% of the vote to defeat incumbent Mike Radcliffe, who garnered 41%. In 2003, Gerrard won with 49% of the vote, compared to just 29% for the PCs and 20% for the NDP. Given that recent polls put Conservative support at around their 2003 level, they'll need to pull up their socks a little before mounting a more serious challenge for this seat.

Prediction: Liberal win

Kirkfield Park

The phrase "pulling a Kirkfield Park" might just become a new word in our political lexicon. I can just imagine picking up a copy of the next edition of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary and finding the following among the new words the editors decided to include:

Kirkfield Park n. 1. a provincial constituency, first created in 1981, whose members elect a representative to the Manitoba legislature. 2. the act of an elected representative, especially a member of the Manitoba PC party, resigning part-way through the term they were elected to serve to the detriment of their party's political fortunes (after former MLAs Eric Stefanson and Stuart Murray, who resigned as representatives of Kirkfield Park before their terms were complete).

For a constituency that's never elected anyone but a Tory, it's surprising to see two Tory MLAs in a row resign, leaving the seat as vulnerable as it is to an NDP pick-up. And given that Kirkfield Park remains a Tory island in a sea of orange, I would have expected to see a heated nomination race between several high-profile candidates for the Tories. Not so, which is another bad omen for the PC's chances of governing in the near future.

Kirkfield Park remains highly vulnerable to the NDP. You wouldn't think so, based only on the 2003 results, when the PCs grabbed 47% to the NDP's 31%, and the Liberals' 22%. Of course, that was when PC leader Stu Murray held the seat. The advantage in terms of media exposure and organization that comes from being a party leader is immense and, barring some protest that seeks to make that leader a lightning rod for voter grievances, a party leader is hard to defeat. It's a lot of the reason that Jon Gerrard is able to win in River Heights.

What if, in 2003, the Tory candidate hadn't been Stu Murray? You can bet that the race would have been a lot closer. Add to that a great NDP candidate and an NDP machine that's working the riding hard, unlike in 2003, and you have yourself a battle. This will be one race to watch on election night.

Prediction: "nail-biter"

Radisson

I was originally going to call Radisson a "nail-biter," given the rising tide of PC vote in the area in the last ten or so years. A bizarre blend of Transcona, East Kildonan, St. Boniface, and Windsor Park, it is a traditional NDP seat.

In 2003, the NDP's Bidhu Jha beat the Tories' Linda West by 52% to 39%. That's a lot closer than in 1999 when the result was 55% to 33%, which is in turn closer than in 1995 when the result was 52% to 22%. The Tories are starting to think they're going to take the seat, and they just might do so one of these days.

Given that NDP and Tory support in the city is at about the same level as in 2003, the Tory tide still has to rise by a fair bit to put them over the top in Radisson. This is especially true now that Jha has the benefit of incumbency and voter recognition that he did not have in 2003. While voters here still have the potential to surprise on election night, my sense is that the outcome will look something like Gary Doer's recent joke, which paraphrases the party's 2003 slogan: "Much accomplished, more Bidhu."

Prediction: NDP win

Winnipeg prediction summary

In 2003, of 31 seats, the NDP took 23 seats, to 6 for the PCs, and 2 for the Liberals.

My 2007 prediction so far shows little change: 22 NDP, 5 PC, 1 Liberal, and 3 "nail-biters" (Fort Garry, Inkster, Kirkfield Park), which I'll call after I profile the non-Winnipeg seats.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

What kind of canvas challanges are the NDP having in Fort Rouge?

Not enough volunteers or something? I would have helped there if I knew I was needed instead of down in Southdale or Kirkfield Park.

Anonymous said...

The Angus Reid poll (taken Thursday and Friday) says:

NDP 49%
PC 37%
Liberal 9%

Shaping up to be a repeat of 2003 (49-36-13), but likely the NDP is up slightly in Winnipeg and down outside Winnipeg. If things break the right way, the Dippers might actually net a seat or two overall.

Anonymous said...

"What kind of canvas challanges are the NDP having in Fort Rouge?"

Seems walking is a little hard for Howard. Either way, she will win anyway. The Liberals are dreaming.

Anonymous said...

Howard does not walk very well do to a disabilty, thus she is not able to hit as many doors as the young Liberal guy is able to.

James Allum would not have had this problem and would have sewen up this riding already, leaving Fort Rouge volunteers time to seal the deal in other target ridings.

Instead we are scrambling to ensure we keep a third party from stealing a safe seat from us.

Remind again why we nominated Howard over Allum?

Anonymous said...

We nominated Howard because the members at the meeting thought she was the best person to represent them as a member of the NDP.

We don't need sour grapes popping up at this point of a campaign.

Richard said...

I know a lot of folks who worked hard on the Allum nomination, but I do have to agree with the last post: Howard did work hard for what was her second run at a nomination and successfully won it. She'll now have her shot at representing Fort Rouge in the Legislature. If she does great as an MLA, we'll all be better off; if she does poorly, there'll be future nomination meetings.

I gained a lot of respect for Jennifer Howard while on her mailing list a while back. The stuff she wrote on health care policy was fantastic, being both well-articulated and broad in vision.

I stand by my prediction that the Liberals have NO CHANCE of winning in Fort Rouge. Just because they say they do and are running a spirited campaign doesn't mean a whole lot.

Anonymous said...

Howard is really lacking volunteers compared to what Tim Sale always had.

I say she still wins it, but a few more resources thrown her way would have made this riding a give-me back in the first week of the campaign. N

Anonymous said...

I'm a little worried about the Maples holding for us.

It looks like our ex-NDP MLA who lost the nomination is backing the Tory behind the scenes.