Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Manitoba's new electoral boundaries

As some fellow bloggers (Curtis, PolicyFrog and The Hack) have already pointed out, the new provincial election boundaries have been finalized. While most of the outgoing constituencies will be replaced with fairly similar new counterparts, there are a few big changes. Most notable is the loss of one seat in southwestern Manitoba and the gain of another in southeastern Manitoba.

As PolicyFrog also noted, there are some interesting name changes and I like what I see. For example, most of Inkster, a constituency named after a street, becomes Tyndall Park, a constituency named after a community. Rupertsland becomes Kewatinook (Cree for "from the north"), in a nod to the constituency's large aboriginal population.

A few nomination battles could well result. For the Conservatives, five sitting MLAs will have to fight it out over the four seats that remain in southwestern Manitoba. In south Winnipeg, the NDP-held seats of Fort Garry and Lord Roberts unite to become Fort Garry-Riverview (a much better name than the ugly Pembina-Jubilee moniker that appeared in the draft proposed maps). NDP-held St. Norbert loses Fort Richmond but gains some Tory territory from Fort Whyte.

I'll have more thoughts soon. In the meantime, those wanting to take a look for themselves should consult the
boundaries commission site and report.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The prorogation and 2009's limping victor

So after a debate that split the country and amid rallies in which words like "coup" and "antidemocratic" were tossed around, a group of opposition legislators announce they have secured a majority in the House and plan to take power.

But enough about Thailand... Here, in Canada, some coalition supporters might be disappointed that our Governor General accepted Stephen Harper's request to prorogue, or suspend, Parliament until January 26.

The Prorogation

While I'm a supporter of the coalition, I don't find her decision at all unreasonable. After all, if the opposition coalition can't stay together through seven weeks of Tory apologies and/or anti-coalition PR, what would have been the odds of it sticking it out for the promised 18 months? If it is able to hold together until the end of January, and if the Liberals can sort out their leadership issues without clobbering each other over that time, then there's a good chance it can form a workable government. And, if it does hold together, it'll be entirely within its right as a majority-group of MPs to pass non-confidence in the current government and to form an alternative one.

Of course, there'll be no clear winner and loser, even after the budget/confidence vote. Whether the Tories cling to power or the coalition takes over, Canadians will be left with an exceptionally weak federal government.

If the Tories Survive

Consider that, if the Tories do hold on, they'll be chastened and cautious. Harper will be weakened and his hold over the party will be much more tenuous than it was before all this drama -- his reputation as a brilliant tactician is in tatters. And, as part of its effort to survive, the government will likely have committed to a budget that has a more centrist or left-leaning flavour than the Conservatives would really like. Many divisive Tory policies, such as dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board, may have to be shelved. At the same time that Conservative supporters see their hopes deflated by the continued backpedaling of their own party, other parties will be able to accuse the Tories of having a hidden agenda and have many voters believe them. The Conservative Party will also have much rebuilding to do in Quebec and they'll be taken to task nationally for having risked opening the sovereignty/national unity can of worms. Finally, they'll be at the helm of a Canadian economy that's on its way downward, something they may have to rightly or wrongly shoulder the blame for the next time they face voters.

If the Coalition Succeeds

Of course, it won't be all fun and games for the coalition if it assumes power. After all, it will likely be the weakest minority government ever to preside over the country. It will be led by the Liberals, a disorganized and money-strapped shell of what was once the country's natural governing party, in partnership with the NDP, whose inexperience in federal cabinet may well show. With a mere 114 seats to the Tories' 143, the coalition will have difficulty passing bills that aren't confidence motions, since the Bloc is not bound to vote with the government on every bill. Ditto for having control of the House committees. And, like any government that holds office through 2009, it will preside over a sinking economy and a federal deficit, all of which the Conservatives will be only too happy to blame on the coalition's supposed fiscal mismanagement. Then, when the coalition parties eventually do face an election, some voters will rightly or wrongly punish them for having worked with the Bloc, not to mention for the above mentioned economic woes.

Battle Stations

These issues must be on the minds of those considering their options right now, particularly by Michael Ignatieff and his supporters, as they consider how to ease the honourable yet inept Dion out of his leadership role. Meanwhile, coalition solidarity is being driven by Dion, who desperately wants to become Prime Minister even if for just one day; Bob Rae, who's support of Dion and of the coalition is really a proxy for his own bid to stave off Ignatieff and win the leadership for himself; the NDP, which hopes to bolster its own legitimacy by sitting in a federal cabinet for the first time ever; and a diverse array of interest groups, including labour unions, women's organizations, human rights groups, wheat board supporters, arts organizations and others who abhor Tory policies and who see opportunity in the coalition.

From the Prime Minister and his crew, who seek to hold power, we should fully brace ourselves for all of the following:

- Bend-over-backwards apologies for Financial Update misdeeds (note the statement's initials -- from a joke making its rounds this week);

- Promises of a new era of cooperation (no doubt to be accompanied by a strong sense of deja vu among Canadians...)

- A budget so steeped in Liberal and NDP policies as well as treats for every Canadian that the opposition will risk embarrassement and/or the wrath of Canadians by voting against it to defeat the government;

- More national-unity-be-damned "the separatists are at the gates" hysterics and other Tory coffer-funded PR aimed at turning popular support against the coalition;

- PR aimed at driving wedges between the two Liberal Party camps; and

- A push to have the coalition accept a return to the polls if it chooses to defeat the government on January's budget.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bennett replayed

Wow, R.B. Bennett is back.

At the very time when fearful and uncertain Canadians are looking to elected leaders to put aside their petty squabbles and work toward staving off a looming economic recession, what does our newly elected Conservative government do? They pull a complete flop on the economic front and use the crisis instead as an opportunity to attack their opponents.

It sounds like an earlier Tory Prime Minister,
R.B. Bennett, who came to power amid the Great Depression only to declare it over in 1930 when it was really just getting underway. His then-refusal to provide anything in the way of economic stimulus sounds like our current finance minister's declaration that no more spending is presently needed and, in fact, that cutbacks are the answer!

Bennett's ideological devotion to laissez-faire-style government and his belief that "the sole function of government is to favour private enterprise" is strikingly similar to the thinking of the current government, whose worship of tax cuts as the cure for all ills is so devout that they actually believe that last year's tax cuts will somehow prevent next year's recession.

Another tenet of R.B. Bennett's Tories was that government assets = bad. Modern day Tories believe the same and so have proposed a
fire sale of $2.3 billion of crown corporations and other federal property in a supposed attempt to prevent a deficit. As blogger NDP Outsider suggests, maybe the best time to sell one's assets isn't in a buyer's market. Once again, blind ideology trumps common sense.

R.B. Bennett also took the opportunity to beat up on anyone he thought a political opponent. Under the guise of preventing communism, he revised Section 98 of the Criminal Code to do away with the fundamental democratic right of being innocent until proven guilty where association with supposedly subversive organizations was concerned (you could be put away for simply showing up at a rally or meeting). This was used to arrest members of far left organizations as well of members of that old Tory bogeyman: labour unions.

The thinking among Tories apparently hasn't evolved much since Bennett's days: they made sure to
ban strikes and bypass collective bargaining for public sector workers in this week's economic update, something that's puzzled even the Globe and Mail, which is hardly a pal of the unions. Maybe the Tories didn't want to be outdone by Bennett in repealing rights (collective bargaining is a charter-protected right) or attacking political opponents. Why bargain when you can simply take out the club?

The federal Conservatives also decided to open a new front against the opposition by doing away with federal public financing of political parties, hardly an issue at the top of the public agenda. So much for the new era in civility that the Tories seemed to be all in favour of
a mere two weeks earlier. So much for putting aside the House's characteristic squabbling to focus on our most pressing common problem. So much for real leadership.

One might have thought that here was Harper's golden opportunity to cement his brand as statesperson and leader by reassuring Canadians, by listening to ideas from all sides, and by working together to move forward. In such a scenario, it wouldn't be hard to envision him being rewarded with a majority government in our next trip to the polls. Instead, he squandered the chance and now faces the prospect of losing power to an opposition party coalition no one dreamed possible a week ago. Thursday's smugness became Saturday's
backpedal. My favourite reporter question to a fuming Harper: “Sir, did you make a mistake?”

Of course, R.B. Bennett eventually relented and opted for a big fiscal dividend in an effort to boost the economy, but by that time, Canadians had suffered through more than five years of tough economic times. In what we can only hope is another parallel with R.B. Bennett's Conservatives, the Tories went on to be crushed in the following election and then spent the following 22 years in the political wilderness. Let's just hope we don't have to endure five years of clueless leadership before repeating that history.

Further reading: The
economic update and responses by Jeffrey Simpson, Dan Lett, Thomas Walkom, The Globe, and Pierre Berton's book The Great Depression.

Photo: A Bennett Buggy, named after Depression-era Prime Minister R.B. Bennett, was the term used for a car pulled by a horse, after the owner could no longer afford gasoline.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Predicting recessions

This is a funny video posted today by Jason Kirby of Macleans.

It shows a variety of panel interviews over the last couple of years with some wall street loud mouths, really exposing how completely vacuous is the advice most of them give. Of the talking heads, only Peter Schiff had any real understanding that the American economy was in serious crisis. It's worth a watch.

When Schiff speaks of paper wealth versus real wealth and productive capacity, it reminds me a lot of Jim Stanford's argument in his very interesting book Paper Boom.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Prairie Topiary out-predicts other pundits!

Time for some gloating: I predicted the correct result in 287 out of 308 seats, for a 93% success rate. That's down from my 95% success rate in last year's provincial election, but it beats out Democratic Space's 92% (282 correct) and Election Prediction Project's 91% (281). My totals were also much closer than theirs -- you'd need to switch the result in only seven seats to match my predicted totals. It seems that just about everyone, including the rational investors putting their money down at the UBC election stock market, thought the Tories would do worse and the Liberals better than I did.

Final result: CON 143, LIB 76, NDP 37, BQ 50, IND 2
PT's prediction: CON 137, LIB 80, NDP 40, BQ 49, IND 2

Curtis Brown also did very well in his predictions, beating out most other pundits; his were CON 137, LIB 86, Bloc 49, NDP 37 and Ind 2. He'd have to change the result in just 10 seats to be dead on.

Bart the fish (aka
Warren Kinsella), whose prediction was 135 CON, 75 LIB, 50 Bloc, 40 NDP and "some Green stuff" was also quite close.

What now?

For the Liberals, the question will be whether Dion can hang on. I doubt he will. And that leaves Bob Rae as the frontrunner for a job that will involve a lot of party rebuilding.

For the NDP, it's onward. Though last night's seat count is their second-best result in history, there were certainly many disappointments, especially the loss of MPs Catherine Bell and Peggy Nash, being shut out of Saskatchewan for the third time and not winning more than one seat in Quebec. Those are balanced with proud wins in Alberta and Newfoundland and the near-sweep of northern Ontario.

For the Bloc, they've made it clear they're still a force to be reckoned with, but now will face continued questions of their purpose in Ottawa and whether Duceppe will continue to stick around.

For Harper, he can govern with a little bit more of a comfort level, but with opposition control of the committees in particular, the next Parliament may be as frustrating as the last. We may well be back at this in a year or two.

For me, I have a flight to catch and a short, but thankfully election- and punditry-free holiday to enjoy.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Election Oracle 2008: wrap up

Prairie Topiary's predictions suggest the following result (with change since 2006 in parentheses):

Con 137 (+13)
Lib 80 (-23)
Bloc 49 (-2)
NDP 40 (+11)
Ind 2 (+1)
Green 0 (-)

I feel I’ve been fairly conservative in my predictions, usually siding with the incumbent in what I believe to be extremely close races. In particular, I’ve been fairly conservative in predicting NDP wins. Party supporters are often overzealous in predicting wins for their own party and I’d like to avoid falling into that trap. I obviously hope for higher numbers, and I won’t be terribly surprised if the party picks up ten more seats than I predicted tomorrow night. Tomorrow will tell all.

If these do turn out to be the results of tomorrow’s election, then we can expect every party to feel a mix of elation and disappointment. The Tories will be happy to have gained some extra seats, but disappointed for having failed to attain a majority. The Liberals will be relieved to see that the world didn’t end for their party, but disappointed to have lost so many seats. The NDP will be elated to see its caucus expand by 25%, but will wish they had gained more, perhaps even to surpass the Liberals or at least their best-ever seat count. The Bloc will be happy to see it hold Quebec, but will face tough questions about its purpose in the new House of Commons and after Gilles Duceppe’s departure (I’m betting he’ll step down before the next election). Finally, the Greens will be saddened to again be without any MPs in the House, but will see a silver lining in their increase in popular vote and important role in this campaign.

For comparison, here are the predictions of a few other pundits:

Democratic Space: Con 128, Lib 92, Bloc 52, NDP 34, Ind 2, Green 0

Election Prediction Project: Con 125, Lib 94, Bloc 51, NDP 36, Ind 2, Green 0

Nixtuff: Con 124, Lib 88, Bloc 51, NDP 42, Ind 2, Green 1

Paulitics: Con 131-133, Lib 80-81, Bloc 55, NDP 38-40, Ind 1-2, Green 0

Trendlines: Con 132, Lib 84, Bloc 52, NDP 39, Ind 1, Green 0

UBC Election Stock Market (rounded): Con 129, Lib 88, Bloc 48, NDP 40, Other 2

Sovereignty en Anglais: Con 123, Lib 94, Bloc 55, NDP 34, Ind 2, Green 0

EKOS (Oct. 10) : Con 152, Lib 60, Bloc 57, NDP 39, Other 0

LISPOP: Con 135, Lib 87, Bloc 51, NDP 33, Ind 2, Green 0

Hill & Knowlton: Con 124, Lib 86, Bloc 56, NDP 42, Ind 0, Green 0

Vote for Environment projection: Con 131, Lib 85, Bloc 52, NDP 38, Other 2

Interestingly, compared to these, my results are high for the Conservatives and NDP and low for the Liberals and Bloc. Feel free to post other predictions in my comments section.

Photo: John William Waterhouse - The Crystal Ball (1902, oil on canvas)

Election Oracle 2008: BC and the North

British Columbia is a true three-way race. Polls have showed buoyant Conservative numbers here. The Liberals, which many polls showed in fourth place in mid-campaign, have recovered somewhat, while the NDP, traditionally very strong in BC, are likely down in some parts of the province and up elsewhere.

Greater Vancouver/Lower Mainland

In greater Vancouver and the lower mainland, there are 21 seats and, of these, eight elected Conservatives, eight elected Liberals, and five elected New Democrats. Liberal slippage, much of it to the Greens, will likely mean Conservative gains in suburban Vancouver: namely, in North Vancouver, West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast and Richmond. This will mean the loss of Liberal Don Bell, turfed Liberal-turned-Green Blair Wilson, and Liberal Raymond Chan. The NDP should win the same five it won before, while Liberals will likely fend off strong challenges in Newton-North Delta (Sukh Dhaliwal), Vancouver Centre (Hedy Fry), and Vancouver-Quadra (Joyce Murray). Many expect David Emerson’s former riding of Vancouver-Kingsway to go NDP, but I think Wendy Yuan of the Liberals will eke out an extremely narrow win.

2006 result: Con 8, Lib 8, NDP 5
2008 prediction: Con 11, Lib 5, NDP 5

BC Interior

There are nine seats in BC’s interior and, in 2006, they split 7-2 Conservative-NDP. The NDP should easily hold its BC Southern Interior and Skeena-Bulkley Valley seats, plus are likely to present a strong, but ultimately unsuccessful, challenge in Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo.

2006 result: Con 7, NDP 2
2008 prediction: Con 7, NDP 2

Vancouver Island

There are six seats on Vancouver Island: 3 NDP, 2 Conservative, 1 Liberal. With the NDP candidate withdrawing in Saanich-Gulf Islands, the Liberals and Greens are both eyeing this seat. The race will be closer than ever, but I think the Conservative will prevail as the opposition vote splits.

Neighbouring Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca is also a close race, perhaps too close to call. Liberal – once Reform Party – MP Keith Martin is fending off very strong challenges from both the Conservatives and NDP, the latter team of which gained a pile of volunteers following the events in Saanich-GI. I will call this race narrowly for the incumbent.

In Vancouver Island North perennial competitors Catherine Bell of the NDP (currently the MP) and John Duncan of the Conservatives (formerly the MP) are again facing off. A mere 600 votes separated the two last time. I predict slight momentum for the Conservatives here, meaning that John Duncan will likely regain his seat.

2006 result: Con 2, Lib 1, NDP 3
2008 prediction: Con 3, Lib 1, NDP 2

BC Provincial total

2006 result: Con 17, Lib 9, NDP 10
2008 prediction: Con 21, Lib 6, NDP 9

Northern Canada

I’m also including the three northern seats (one for each Territory) here. The Liberals will easily hold the Yukon, while the NDP will easily hold Western Arctic. The wild card is Nunavut, where prominent candidates for all four parties are running. I place my bet on former territorial cabinet minister Leona Aglukkaq, who is running for the Conservatives.

2006 result: Con 0, Lib 2, NDP 1
2008 prediction: Con 1, Lib 1, NDP 1

Election Oracle 2008: Alberta

In Alberta, election drama comes at a premium price. Who won every seat in 2006? Who’s likely to again win every seat? Who always wins? Yeah, you guessed it.

In this campaign, only the riding of Edmonton-Strathcona has a real chance of electing a non-Tory. There, NDP candidate Linda Duncan is running a very high-profile campaign. In 2006, she came less than 5,000 votes from toppling MP Rahim Jaffer. This time, known Liberals have been endorsing Duncan while Layton has been visiting Edmonton a bunch of times. The race is truly neck-and-neck. It’s hard to defeat an incumbent, so I’m predicting a slim Tory hold. I hope I’m wrong.

A couple of other candidates have longer shot odds of winning. These are former Alberta NDP leader Ray Martin running in Edmonton East (the only federal Alberta riding the NDP’s ever held), independent Jimmy Ford in Edmonton-Sherwood Park, and Liberal James Wachowich in Edmonton Centre (Anne McLellan’s old riding). I predict Conservative wins in these ridings.

2006 result: Con 28
2008 prediction: Con 28

Election Oracle 2008: Atlantic Canada

In Atlantic Canada, the Tories were set for larger gains, but have slid in the last half of the campaign. While they are weak in Nova Scotia and face Danny Williams’s ABC campaign in Newfoundland and Labrador, they are likely to win additional seats in New Brunswick. The NDP is also very strong in the region, but may have difficulty translating the increased support into additional seats.

Newfoundland and Labrador

In Newfoundland and Labrador, Premier Danny Williams has led the ABC ("Anyone but Conservative") campaign against the federal Tories. Given Williams’s popularity, two of the three Conservative MPs for the province have opted not to run again. That leaves only the riding of Avalon, where I predict Conservative MP Fabian Manning will squeak through, despite the ABC campaign. In St. John’s, the NDP is running a strong campaign and will prevail in St. John’s East with former provincial leader Jack Harris as candidate. Though it's a close race, I predict the Liberals will take the city’s other riding, St. John’s West. The Liberals will clean up in the province’s remaining ridings.

2006 result: Con 3, Lib 4, NDP 0
2008 prediction: Con 1, Lib 5, NDP 1

Prince Edward Island

In PEI, the Liberals are likely to sail to victory in three ridings, but face a tough challenge in Egmont, the province’s fourth riding. There, former PEI Transportation Minister Gail Shea is attempting to win for the Conservatives and is ahead by several points, according to at least one riding poll. Nevertheless, I think the Liberals will hold this riding for yet another sweep of the province.

2006 result: Lib 4
2008 prediction: Lib 4

Nova Scotia

In Nova Scotia, the Conservatives are down several points, and up against Green leader Elizabeth May in Central Nova, former Conservative MP Bill Casey, who is running as an independent in Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, and a number of strong NDP and Liberal candidates.

I predict a relatively easy hold for McKay in Central Nova and a tighter win for Gerald Keddy in South Shore-St. Margaret's against former NDP MP Gordon Earle. They Tories are likely to lose in close races against Bill Casey in the seat they formerly held and against Robert Thibault, the Liberal MP in West Nova who manages to offend someone every time he speaks.

The NDP are very strong and will easily retain their two seats. While they are putting on very impressive campaigns in Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, Central Nova, and South Shore-St. Margaret's, I predict no additional seats. With their strength in areas such as Cape Breton, the Liberals will likely easily hold their remaining seats.

2006 result: Con 3, Lib 6, NDP 2, Ind 0
2008 prediction: Con 2, Lib 6, NDP 2, Ind 1

New Brunswick

New Brunswick is the Atlantic province where the Conservatives stand the greatest chance of gaining seats. They will likely win in Fredericton, where the Liberal incumbent is not running again, and the three-way race of Madawaska—Restigouche, where former NB cabinet minister Jean-Pierre Ouellet is running. Saint John, where incumbent Liberal Paul Zed is facing former Tory MLA Rodney Weston, is the hardest race to predict, but I’m going to call it for the Conservatives given the very narrow Liberal win in 2006 and the Tory history of the riding (remember Elsie Wayne?).

2006 result: Con 3, Lib 6, NDP 1
2008 prediction: Con 6, Lib 3, NDP 1

Atlantic Canada total

2006 result: Con 9, Lib 20, NDP 3, Ind 0
2008 prediction: Con 9, Lib 18, NDP 4, Ind 1

Election Oracle 2008: Quebec

In Quebec, at the start of the campaign, the Tories were all set to scoop up perhaps up to 20 seats from the Bloc. But that all changed as the Bloc, aided by the other opposition parties, were able to make the arts funding cuts a major issue in Quebec. As Tory numbers plummeted to below their 2006 level, the Bloc continued to rise. It may be that the Bloc’s surge has abated, but for the Tories, the damage has been done: the majority is denied.

The Liberals remain strong in Montreal, and may win some Bloc seats there, but are a non-player in most regions outside the city. The NDP has seen its support more than double in the province, with strength in Montreal and the capital region, but that seems to have subsided late in the campaign. The Conservatives will struggle to hold on to their seats, while the Bloc will emerge from the campaign seemingly renewed.

Montreal region

In the region of Montreal, there are 22 seats, of which 10 were won by the Bloc and 12 by the Liberals in 2006. The NDP’s Thomas Mulcair later won the long-time Liberal seat of Outremont in a by-election and looks set to be re-elected there. The NDP is running a very strong campaign in Westmount-Ville Marie with star candidate Anne Lagacé-Dowson, but I predict a Liberal hold. The only other changes for this region are two Bloc seats that will likely be re-taken by the Liberals: former MP Eleni Bakopanos who lost by less than 1,000 votes in 2006 is running in Ahuntsic and will likely take that seat, while Justin Trudeau, son of Pierre, is running in a very tight race in Papineau and will likely defeat Bloc MP Vivian Barbot. Thierry St. Cyr, the Bloc MP for Jeanne-Le Ber, will likely hold his seat, despite a strong challenge from both the Liberals and NDP.

2006 result: Lib 12, Bloc 10, NDP 0
2008 prediction: Lib 13, Bloc 8, NDP 1

Northern Quebec

Northern Quebec has ten seats, of which nine were won by the Bloc in 2006. The Conservatives won one seat here in 2006 and added another in a 2007 by-election. I predict the Conservatives will hold their two seats, including Jonquière-Alma, where polls apparently show the Bloc ahead of Tory MP Jean Pierre Blackburn. The Bloc should easily hold their remaining eight seats.

2006 result: Con 1, Bloc 9
2008 prediction: Con 2, Bloc 8

Rest of Quebec

The rest of Quebec, which comprises a variety of very different regions, contains 43 seats. In 2006, 32 went Bloc, while 9 went Conservative, one went Liberal, and one elected an independent. The rise in Bloc fortunes has shifted the political scene toward one very similar to 2006 and I expect remarkably few changes as a result.

The only change I do predict is that the Conservatives will lose MP Luc Harvey in Louis-Hébert. While they’ll hold the rest of their seats, they’ll be disappointed when Senator Michael Fortier loses in Vaudreuil-Soulanges. Independent quasi-Tory MP André Arthur will have no problem being re-elected in his riding.

As for challengers, in Brome-Mississquoi, it looks like the Bloc’s strength will ensure that Liberal Denis Paradis will fail in his comeback bid. In Gatineau and Hull-Aylmer, two seats very heavily targeted by the NDP, I predict re-election for the Bloc and Liberal candidates, respectively. In Rimouski, where Bloc-turned-Independent MP Louise Thibault is running, expect the new Bloc candidate to win. The Bloc should also win again in the closely watched ridings of Sherbrooke, Saint-Lambert, and Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot.

2006 result: Con 9, Bloc 32, Lib 1, NDP 0, Ind 1
2008 prediction: Con 8, Bloc 33, Lib 1, NDP 0, Ind 1

Provincial total

2006 result: Con 10, Bloc 51, Lib 13, NDP 0, Ind 1
2008 prediction: Con 10, Bloc 49, Lib 14, NDP 1, Ind 1

Election Oracle 2008: Ontario

In Ontario, the NDP has seen its numbers soar, with noted strength in Toronto, industrial regions, and northern Ontario. In suburban and exurban areas, the Liberals have seen losses to the Greens in particular, which has endangered many Liberal incumbents hoping to fend off Tory challenges. Had the bad economic news of the last couple of weeks not happened, the Tories would likely have cleaned up in many parts of the province. Instead, the Liberals saw a bit of a bump in their numbers and go into tomorrow’s election having likely reduced the number of losses they’ll see.

GTA/905 belt

In the GTA/905 region, into which I’m including Hamilton, Welland and Niagara Falls, there are 54 seats. The Liberals won 37 of these in 2006, leaving just 11 for the Conservatives and 6 for the NDP.

For this election, I’m predicting that the NDP’s Marilyn Churley will pick up Beaches-East York, knocking off Liberal MP Maria Minna. Peggy Nash will also fend off Liberal leadership contender Gerard Kennedy’s attempt to retake Parkdale-High Park, while Liberals hopes of making a return to Hamilton will also fail. In Welland, the NDP’s Malcolm Allen is likely to defeat sitting Liberal MP John Maloney, while in Oshawa, CAW activist Mike Shields will likely defeat Tory MP Colin Carrie by a very small margin. The NDP also threaten incumbents in Davenport and York South-Weston, but I predict the Liberals will hold on to those.

The Liberals also face losses to the Conservatives in this region. In Mississauga, Liberals Paul Szabo and Omar Alghabra are likely to face defeat, while floor crosser currently-Tory Wahid Khan will survive a strong Liberal challenge. Finally, Belinda Stronach’s old seat of Newmarket Aurora will return to the Tory fold under Lois Brown, while another Brown – Oakville Liberal MP Bonnie Brown – will see her seat move to the Tory side of the House.

2006 result: Con 11, Lib 37, NDP 6
2008 prediction: Con 15, Lib 30, NDP 9

Southwestern Ontario

Southwestern Ontario has 22 seats, in which 12 went Conservative, 7 went Liberal, and 3 went NDP in 2006. The Liberals have dropped somewhat throughout the region, while the NDP is strong in and around the Windsor region. Even a small decline in numbers for the Liberals will send three of their seats (Brant, Huron-Bruce and London West) into the Tory fold, which is what I expect to occur.

In this region, many eyes will be on Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound and Guelph for the strong Green challenges in those ridings (and a fantastic candidate for the NDP, Tom King, in Guelph), but I predict a Tory win in the former and a Liberal win in the latter. Some also speak of NDP strength in Essex, which neighbours Windsor; I predict the Tory will hold there.

2006 result: Con 12, Lib 7, NDP 3
2008 prediction: Con 15, Lib 4, NDP 3

Eastern Ontario

There are 20 seats in eastern Ontario, which includes the capital region, and it strongly voted Conservative in 2006. Only parts of Ottawa and Kingston managed to elect non-Tory MPs.

In this election, I predict no seat changes for the region. Liberal David McGuinty is perhaps most at risk of losing his seat, but I predict a Liberal hold. A lot of noise has been made about Ottawa Liberals Penny Collenette and David Pratt taking on NDP MP Paul Dewar and Tory MP John Baird, respectively, but both MPs will easily coast to re-election.

2006 result: Con 16, Lib 3, NDP 1
2008 prediction: Con 16, Lib 3, NDP 1

Northern Ontario

In northern Ontario, the NDP has been surging and Liberal incumbents are running scared. The NDP’s strong campaign, including its release of a northern Ontario platform and the relatively high profile of a number of its candidates, has help the party build on existing strengths in the region. Expect the party to pick up both Thunder Bay seats, plus Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing and Nickel Belt from the Liberals. I also predict a narrow win for the NDP in Kenora’s three-way race, but a loss against Sudbury Liberal Diane Marleau.

2006 result: Con 1, Lib 7, NDP 2
2008 prediction: Con 1, Lib 2, NDP 7

Provincial total

2006 result: Con 40, Lib 54, NDP 12
2008 prediction: Con 47, Lib 39, NDP 20

Election Oracle 2008: MB and SK

Here are the first of my regional predictions. Others will follow shortly.

In Manitoba, expect the Conservatives to hold all their seats, plus pick up St. Boniface from the Liberals, who won it by only 1,500 votes in the last election. The Liberals are also likely to lose Churchill to NDP candidate Niki Ashton, leaving them with just one seat of the 14 in Manitoba.

2006 result: Con 8, Lib 3, NDP 3
2008 prediction: Con 9, Lib 1, NDP 4

I also predict few changes for neighbouring Saskatchewan. There’s been a lot of talk about Liberal Ralph Goodale facing a tough challenge from the Conservatives. Others have suggested that Conservatives Tom Lukiwski and Andrew Scheer might be in tough fights with the NDP. Still others point to newly elected Tory MP Robert Clarke struggling to fend off Liberal David Orchard. I expect all these MPs to be re-elected.

Where the races are interesting are in two seats in which incumbents are not running for re-election: Palliser and Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar. Both seats feature close races between the Conservatives and the NDP. I think former Moose Jaw Mayor Ray Boughen will take Palliser for the Conservatives, while the NDP’s Nettie Wiebe will prevail in Saskatoon.

2006 result: Con 12, Lib 2, NDP 0
2008 prediction: Con 12, Lib 1, NDP 1

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Election Oracle 2008

Prairie Topiary's Election Oracle is back!

I'll post detailed province-by-province predictions here on Monday afternoon after I take a glance at the last of Nanos's daily tracking polls.

This weekend's polls show the Conservatives recovering some of the points they lost to the Liberals in the past week. The Conservatives are still down significantly in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, while the NDP looks to be down a few points in BC. Nanos shows the NDP's numbers holding strong at 22% nationally, which is probably the highest they've been all campaign. I suspect that the NDP pretty much neutralized any strategic voting lure of the Liberals, though a decline in their numbers tomorrow might suggest otherwise.

Of course, accurate predictions require something more than just poll numbers. They have to include consideration of regional swings, the influence of "star" personalities and the added recognition factor that comes from being an incumbent, as well as the role of strong local organization and "top of mind" brand status (e.g., Greens are less "top of mind" and tend to worse than the polls suggest on election day, while the opposite is often the case for the Liberals). Anticipating last minute shifts in support can also be key.

I may yet change these numbers, but right now I'm predicting the following:

Conservative minority (141 seats)

Liberal Official Opposition (76 seats)

Bloc (49 seats)

NDP (40 seats)

Independent 2

Green 0

That's a notable increase in seats for the Conservatives and NDP at the expense of the Liberals. It's not inconceivable that the NDP could surpass its highest ever popular vote (20.4% in 1988) and seat count (it held 44 seats following a win in a 1989 byelection). Passing the Bloc to become the third largest party in the House might also be possible, but passing the Liberals is unlikely, as that could only come through a Liberal meltdown in Toronto and Atlantic Canada, two areas where Liberal numbers appear to have been strengthening in the last week.

Stay tuned for more details tomorrow.

Photo: A female bowl bearer or mboko from the Luba culture in the Congo. Traditionally, bowl bearers are used by royal diviners to predict the future.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Independents, Greens to watch on election day

In this election, a number of ridings feature interesting independent and Green candidates. A few stand a legitimate chance of winning and several threaten to influence the final outcome on election day, but most will be simply noted for their colourful role in the campaign.

Here’s a summary of the independents, in rough descending order of anticipated impact on the final election result.

  • Portneuf–Jacques-Cartier, QC
    André Arthur, the only independent MP elected in 2006, is a virtual shoo-in this time around. The right-wing former radio host votes with the Tories so frequently that they decided not to bother running a candidate against him. For all intents and purposes, this is a Tory candidate, though he’s likely too much of a maverick and too controversial (
    some say racist over his remarks about African students) to ever join the Tory caucus. Other parties nominated candidates only at the last minute. Expect Mr. Arthur to be easily re-elected.

  • Cumberland–Colchester–Musquodoboit Valley, NS
    Bill Casey is a the Conservative MP who was booted out of caucus for voting against the 2007 Conservative budget, given his belief that it betrayed the Atlantic Accord with his province and Newfoundland and Labrador. Very popular locally in this typically safe Conservative riding, he is likely the candidate to beat in this election.

  • Rimouski-Neigette–Témiscouata–Les Basques, QC
    Louise Thibault was a socially conservative Bloc MP who quit the party over differences with left-leaning leader Gilles Duceppe. She’s running a strong campaign as an independent, which is likely to split the Bloc's vote and make this race what may be one of Canada’s first five-way races (the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP are all contenders to some degree). With the Bloc recent resurgence, I anticipate a loss to the new Bloc candidate, Claude Guimond.

  • Welland, ON
    Past NDP candidate Jody DiBartolomeo decided to run as an independent after losing the nomination to Malcolm Allen, a local councillor, deputy Mayor and CAW rep. The poor sport, who put in a very impressive second place showing for the NDP in 2006, threatens to split the NDP vote in this very tight three-way race.

  • Cardigan, PEI
    Larry McGuire, brother of Egmont Liberal MP Joe McGuire, is running as an independent in Cardigan. Larry McGuire is known for controversially suggesting in 2006 that “fat-cat, well-heeled Tories” in provincial government jobs would be replaced by Liberals if that party was elected to government in P.E.I. The Liberal leader refused to sign his nomination papers, after which point he decided to run provincially as an independent, earning 19% of the vote. He’s back at it again and, while he stands little chance of winning, there is a possibility he could draw enough votes from Liberal MP Lawrence MacAuley to cause him to lose to the Tory candidate.

  • Kildonan–St. Paul, MB
    Ex-Liberal candidate Lesley Hughes is now running as an independent after being turfed from the Liberal party over a column she wrote a number of years ago. While she’ll likely pull in several thousand votes on election day, her presence in the campaign is unlikely to have any effect on the final outcome in this race, where Tory MP Joy Smith is expected to be re-elected.

  • Calgary Northeast, AB
    Local cab company founder Roger Richard decided to run as an “independent conservative” after losing the Conservative nomination to replace MP Art Hanger. He alleges “unscrupulous nomination practices” are to blame for his loss to winner Devinder Shory, a lawyer. Despite running a relatively high-profile campaign, Richard is likely to come up short against Shory, whose party took 65% of the vote in 2006.

  • Edmonton-Sherwood Park, AB
    Another riding with
    controversy over the Conservatives’ nomination process features an independent candidate. James Ford, a former Tory, is running against Tory Tim Uppal, in protest against rules that allowed the Tory to win by announcing a run at the last minute and stacking the meeting with supporters. In 2006, the Tories won with 64% of the vote, far ahead of the next closest rival with 14%. Expect an easy Tory win despite the controversy.

While the Greens appear unlikely to elect any MPs on October 14th, they will put in an impressive showing in a number of ridings across the country, particularly in suburban/exurban Ontario and BC. Here’s a summary of the ridings to watch, including all those in which they earned at least 10% of the vote in 2006. If the Greens were ever to shoot up further in the polls, these are the seats they'd be most likely to start winning.

  • Central Nova, NS
    Green party leader Elizabeth May is running against Conservative incumbent Peter MacKay and NDP candidate Louise Lorefice in what, by all accounts, is an uphill battle for her. In 2006, the Green candidate received only 671 votes, a mere 1.6%, in what is a traditional Conservative riding. Recent polling also shows Green Party support lower in Atlantic Canada than anywhere else but Quebec. Still, with their leader running here, this remains one of the Green Party’s best hopes for electing an MP.

  • Dufferin—Caledon, ON
    Ard Van Leeuwen is the Green candidate in a riding in which they earned an impressive 10% in 2006. Gains made largely at the expense of the Liberal Party in this Tory riding may push Van Leeuwen over the 20% mark.

  • Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound, ON
    Dick Hibma is running for the Greens in a riding where their 2006 result was 13%, which was one of their strongest showings in the country. In the last provincial election, the party won a whopping 33%, a result which put them second to the Conservative candidate. In this election, they stand a strong chance of placing a distant second behind Conservative MP Larry Miller.

  • Guelph, ON
    Mike Nagy ran a strong campaign during the by-election that was superseded by the current federal campaign. The federal campaign inevitably focuses on two or three national leaders, which will probably result in lower support for Nagy than the by-election, where the focus is much more on the strength of the local candidates, would have. Near the close of the by-election, a Green Party-sponsored poll placed Nagy’s support at 24%, behind the first place Liberal. The race nevertheless remains one of four serious contenders, with the Liberal and Tory most likely to duke it out for first place.

  • London North Centre, ON
    Mary Ann Hodge is running for the Greens in the riding in which Elizabeth May captured 26% of the vote while running as the candidate in 2006. Without such a high-profile candidate, expect the Greens to sink back down to a respectable 10% to 15% of the vote this time around.

  • Ottawa Centre, ON
    The Green Party’s deputy leader, David Chernushenko, won 10% here in 2006 and was set to run again, but withdrew as the party’s candidate. While Jen Hunter, the party’s new candidate, is likely to carry her party’s share of the vote to a higher echelon, the result in this relatively safe NDP riding is unlikely to change.

  • Peterborough, ON
    Emily Berrigan is the candidate in Peterborough, an area the Greens cited as having the fastest growing membership in Ontario in early 2007. While the party is likely to see an increase from the 5% it received in 2006, the Conservative MP is likely to be re-elected, while the Liberals and NDP fight it out for second place.

  • Calgary Centre-North, AB
    Eric Donovan is the Green candidate in a riding that voted 13% Green in 2006, making it one of the party’s strongest ridings in one of its strongest cities. Like in the other Calgary ridings, expect the Conservative candidate to be elected in a landslide while the other candidates duke it out for second place.

  • Calgary Centre, AB
    Kim Warnke is the Green party’s candidate in Calgary Centre, where the Greens received 11% in 2006.

  • Calgary West, AB
    Randall Weeks is the Green party’s candidate in Calgary West, where the Greens received 10% in 2006.

  • Wild Rose, AB
    Lisa Fox is running in Wild Rose, a riding that includes Airdrie, Cochrane, Canmore, and Banff. The Greens came in second place in 2006, with 11% of the vote.

  • British Columbia Southern Interior
    This currently NDP seat includes left-leaning communities of BC, such as Nelson. Those same communities provide some base for the Green Party, which earned 11% here in 2006. Andy Morel is the Green candidate in this election.

  • Saanich–Gulf Islands, BC
    This seat may offer the Greens their most likely opportunity for winning a seat in the wake of NDP candidate Julian West’s withdrawal. Green candidate Andrew Lewis, the Party’s Deputy Leader and perennial local candidate, first made a splash when he achieved 25% in a local provincial constituency. In this election, he is facing off against Liberal candidate Briony Penn, a popular former member of the Greens and incumbent Conservative MP Gary Lunn. With Conservative numbers up in BC, the Liberal and Green candidates face an uphill battle to defeat the Tory, even with the NDP now out of the race.

  • Vancouver Centre, BC
    Adriane Carr, the former provincial leader and another Deputy Leader of the federal Greens is running in what has been billed as a high-profile four-way race. The incumbent, Liberal Hedy Fry, faces academic Michael Byers of the NDP and former provincial politician Lorne Mayencourt of the Conservatives, in addition to Ms. Carr. With such high-profile candidates and a mere 6% 2006 base to build on, Ms. Carr faces long odds in this race.

  • West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast, BC
    Blair Wilson, originally elected for then turfed from the Liberal Party for alleged spending irregularities, is the Green Party’s first MP, having joined the party just before the current election campaign. Facing a likely Tory win, he is unlikely to be elected under his new party’s banner.

  • Nunavut
    Peter Ittinuar is the Green Party’s candidate in Nunavut and is best-known the first-ever Inuit person elected as MP. He brings quite a storied past, which may hamper his ability to draw votes. First elected as a New Democrat MP in 1979, he later crossed the floor to become a Liberal. When he lost that party’s nomination in 1984, he ran as an independent but was defeated. Two years later, he was convicted for assaulting his wife. He sought to run again for the NDP in 1993, but was refused the opportunity. An Ontarian these days, he also recently ran for the Green Party’s nomination in Brant, but was defeated. In this election, he has acknowledged his past mistakes and is running a strong campaign. However, he faces very strong candidates for each of the other three parties, all of whom are targeting Nunavut this time around. The Greens received 6% in this riding in 2006.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Great campaign posters

Martin Patriquin points out some wonderful and hilarious campaign posters made by students of UQAM graphic design professor Nelu Wolfensohn. Definitely worth a gander.

Photo: A mock campaign poster created by UQAM students Evelyne Caillé-Guibert and Francis P. Paquin

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Using bad policy to troll for votes

I very rarely agree with the Globe and Mail's Margaret Wente , but her piece today on the Tories' motivation for cutting arts programs and treating young offenders as adults is right on the money. Whether you think the policies are misguided or not (I do for reasons such as this and this), they're more about winning votes than solving problems.

It's possible that the arts cuts have won some votes for the Tories in Ontario's 905 belt, but
they've sure backfired in Quebec, where the Bloc's numbers have just shot up about ten points at the Tories' expense.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Which polls are most accurate?

Here's an interesting post from Worthwhile Canadian Initiative, a keen blogger who's analyzed the seemingly inexplicable gaps in party support that we see between pollsters' numbers, particulary between the Liberals and Greens. He illustrates why poll watchers will be wise to trust Nanos's daily releases most.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Conversion: Libs sink in BC, Dippers target QC

This is interesting -- if true, we're talking about a complete meltdown of the Liberals in BC (as in possibly zero seats). Maybe Blair Wilson is far smarter than any pundits have given him credit for thus far.

regional polls being tracked at Paulitics also confirm the NDP Quebec surge being talked about by CTV/Globe and Mail (Strategic Counsel polls of its 45 identified swing ridings). Peter Donolo of Strategic Counsel credits effective ads and newly perceived relevance following the NDP's win last year in Outremont.

The NDP publicly claims it's in the running
in six to twelve seats in Quebec, but a smaller number of wins is more realistic, even if the poll numbers continue to improve. For those wondering about the most likely seats, they're as follows:

  • Outremont, which the NDP's Thomas Mulcair picked up in last fall's byelection. In 2006, this seat had the NDP's strongest Quebec result, at 18%. Some pundits say the Liberals are a threat to take the seat back given that they've dominated it since 1935, but that's highly unlikely given the huge margin of victory in the byelection, the fact that most Mulcair votes came from the Bloc, Mulcair's high profile as an MP since then, and the fact that the Outremont Liberals have barely got their campaign off the ground (in week three!).

  • Gatineau, where last election's narrowly defeated progressive Liberal MP, Francoise Boivin, is now running for the NDP. Jack has been in the riding at least twice so far this campaign (first time with the House of Commons in the background across the Ottawa River) and he'll likely be back. Dropping Bloc numbers and rising Con numbers in the province mean this is likely to be one of the few four-way races in the country.

  • Hull-Aylmer, which neighbours Gatineau, was the NDP's third-strongest 2006 Quebec showing (15%), and features Pierre Ducasse, a former NDP leadership contender, as candidate. Ducasse, considered a strong candidate, is taking on Marcel Proulx, a Liberal who won with only 33% of the vote in 2006.

  • Westmount-Ville Marie, which was called as a byelection that was then superceded by the general election. Running against Marc Garneau for the Liberals in this longtime safe Liberal seat is Anne Lagace-Dowson, a well-known CBC personality. She is considered to be in a close race in this riding, which includes not only well-off Westmount, but also more working class regions of Montreal.

  • Jeanne-Le Ber, a Montreal riding where Quebec Green Party co-founder and high-profile environmental activist Daniel Breton is running for the NDP. While this might be a longer shot for the party, the Bloc, who currently holds the riding, has begun shifting their focus to the NDP as their primary challenger.

Those are the five most likely Quebec NDP wins, though a few other Montreal seats are also in play to some degree. I'm currently predicting wins in only Outremont and Gatineau, though that could very well change from here to the end of the campaign.

The one seat that isn't being talked about much as a potential pick-up for the NDP is one of the poorest ridings in Canada and one in which the NDP had its second-best showing of any Quebec seat in 2006: Laurier-Ste. Marie, currently held by Gilles Duceppe. If the NDP were to double its support in this seat, as polls for the Montreal area suggest is about right, it would be a hair away from winning. While I think it an unlikely win for the NDP this time, a good showing will leave it ripe for the taking once Duceppe retires as many expect him to before the subsequent election.

Sometime soon, Prairie Topiary will once again host its election oracle, featuring wondrous and amazing predictions for the coming election. Stay tuned.

Photo: The interior of the Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal, the city where the NDP's Quebec strength is currently concentrated.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Free Press Insiders polls

Is it just me or is the Winnipeg Free Press taking some liberties in the way that it's publishing the results of its Free Press Insiders polls?

The Free Press seems to be portraying the results as if they're representative of voting intentions in Manitoba and in specific Manitoba ridings. However, the poll isn't a random sample of eligible voters; it's a large Internet panel of Free Press readers. As such, the poll results are, at best, only representative of Free Press readers.

If the panelists differ from electors in their voting intentions -- something that's certainly possible given that the panelists are disproportionately Internet-savvy newspaper readers -- then the published numbers aren't indicative of party standings.

Elections Canada has some
very specific rules associated with the publishing of election polls. These include indicating a poll's margin of error and whether the survey was not conducted using recognized statistical methods. I don't see either in the Free Press article.

Clearly, if a margin of error applies to these results, it should be indicated along with a note that riding-by-riding numbers are less robust than the province-wide numbers. If a margin of error doesn't apply because the poll isn't scientific, then that should be made clear in the article.

Even if Elections Canada's requirements were met in an adjoining article I missed, omitting the standard caveats from a presentation of the poll results threatens to mislead the voting public. For those thinking of voting strategically and relying on the Free Press to inform themselves, that's a big problem.

SEPT 26 UPDATE: Accompanying today's Free Press Insider poll results is a cautionary note that the poll results "do not necessarily reflect the views of the entire Winnipeg or Manitoba poplation" along with more information about the sample size and methodology. The inclusion of this information represents a big improvement -- it's clear and allows readers to put the poll results in context.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dreaming big

Following a stream of historically poor Liberal poll numbers, some campaign observers are beginning to ask whether the NDP is about to surpass the Liberals (see here, here and here) and form Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition in the next parliament.

Indeed, the big fantasy of the federal NDP, and likely a prerequisite for the party to ever become a true national contender for power, has always been to surpass the Liberal Party. New Democrtas believe this milestone would give rise to a new political polarization between the right and left, thus damning the Liberals to the political wilderness forever.

This thinking is never far from the minds of NDP strategists, who face the tricky task of fighting the Tories without inadvertently sinking themselves by helping the Liberals who, for their part, adeptly hug the middle, adopting the rhetoric and policies of the right or the left in whatever combination is most likely to win them power.

The model of political polarization the NDP seeks emerged in Britain in the first half of the 20th century as the Labour Party surpassed the Liberals, who were never again to taste power. Canadian examples can be found in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and BC, though sometimes this is in a two-party system with the Liberals on the right (e.g., Saskatchewan's anti-medicare Liberals of the 1960s and 1970s and the current right-leaning Liberals in BC, who replaced the Social Credit Party there). Polarization is arguably occurring in Nova Scotia where the NDP appears close to winning power and the Liberals slip further into third place every election.

The big question: can it happen federally? As things stand, the New Democrats are likely to make gains and the Liberals likely to suffer losses, but can the shift be dramatic enough for the NDP to form Official Opposition? Some polls show the gap between the two parties to be as little as 3%, a level of competitiveness not seen since around 1990.

So what would it take?

First, it's important to note that the NDP need not necessarily surpass the Liberals in popular vote to surpass them in seats. This is because, generally-speaking, the Liberals' votes tend to be more evenly spread than either the Conservatives' or the NDPs' votes, which tend to be concentrated in particular areas. This tends to make the Liberals more efficient than other parties at converting votes into seats when they're popular but less inefficient than other parties when they're unpopular. In 1984, the Liberal-NDP gap was 28% to 19%, but the seat gap was only 40-30. Another percentage point or two might have pushed the NDP into second.

To come in second in this election, the NDP would likely have to win at least 60 seats or so, with the Liberals falling below that number. The losses for the Liberals in Ontario, where they won 54 seats in 2006, would have to especially large. Specifically, we'd need to see the following:


Liberal numbers would have to drop below 30% from the mid-to-high 30s where they are now, while the NDP would have to climb 5 points or so to the low 20s, with noted strength in northern Ontario. The Tories would break 40%. Liberal losses to both the Conservatives and NDP, plus bleeding to the Greens in vulnerable suburban ridings, would result in a seat count of something like this:
Con 55 / Lib 28 / NDP 23 (2006: Con 40 / Lib 54 / NDP 12)


Bloc numbers would have to stay over 30%, around where they're hovering now, as continued Bloc leakage to the Tories and NDP will produce new victories for the Liberals. The Tories would have to stay around their current 30% while the the NDP approached 20% (up from about 15% now). This might yield something like this:
Bloc 33 / Con 23 / Lib 14 / NDP 4 / Ind 1
(2006: Bloc 51 / Con 10 / Lib 13 / Ind 1)

Atlantic Canada

The Tories would need to gain only a few points (to maybe 36%) at the expense of the Liberals for them to steal a number of close Liberal seats in Nova Scotia, PEI and especially New Brunswick. This would offset Tory losses that are all but guaranteed in NL (a victim of Danny Williams's ABC campaign). The NDP, who are already up a few points over their 22% in 2006, would have to eke out a few new victories in St. John's and Nova Scotia. In seats, that would probably come out to something like this:
Con 14 / Lib 10 / NDP 7 / Ind 1
(2006: Con 9 / Lib 20 / NDP 3)


On the prairies, a couple of points gained for the NDP over their 2006 numbers could give them up to five more seats (I can't see the party winning more than three in Saskatchewan). The Tories would have to win some, lose some, leaving the Liberals with 1-2 seats in total on the Prairies. That would leave something like the following seat count:
Con 46 / NDP 8 / Lib 2 (2006: Con 48 / NDP 3 / Lib 5)


NDP numbers have been strengthening in BC in the last week. Two or three more points would put them over 30% and win them a few new seats at the expense of both other parties. The Liberals, who are bleeding to the Greens in suburban Vancouver, would see some seat losses to the Tories. That could leave the situation something like this:
Con 18 / NDP 17 / Lib 1 (2006: Con 17 / NDP 10 / Lib 9)


A territorial seat for each party as the Cons pick up Nunavut:
Con 1 / Lib 1 / NDP 1 (2006: Lib 2 / NDP 1)


In order to make the above happen, the NDP would need something in the range of 22%, while the Liberals could have no more than about 26%. In addition, the shift in numbers would have to be in the right regions. The above seat counts total as follows:
Con 157 / NDP 60 / Lib 56 / Bloc 33 / Ind 2
(2006: Con 124 / Lib 103 / NDP 29 / Bloc 51 / Ind 1)

The above exercise, apart from being fun (it's still more fun than realistic at this point), suggests it's narrowly possible for the NDP to surpass the Liberals. I would suggest that it remains an uphill battle for the NDP and that they shouldn't underestimate the Liberals. Still, a lot can happen in the one month of campaign that remains.

If the Liberals somehow do tank and make a historically poor showing on October 14, they really shouldn't blame Dion, who seems to be a rather decent, intelligent politician. Rather, for a number of reasons, they can place the blame squarely on this

Photo: The House of Commons (facing the government side)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

If I were a rich man...

I wonder if this scene from the musical Fiddler On The Roof is what Dion had in mind when he announced on Tuesday that he's not a rich man.

It does make me wonder: did the Liberals not see this campaign coming? First, they were forced to
scramble to secure a campaign plane (and ended up with a real gas guzzler). Now, they've suddenly realized that Dion's image needs a makeover and are trying to recast him as just a regular guy -- why didn't they do that a year ago?

Some other thoughts and observations on the campaign thus far:

  • You have to wonder about Ontario Liberal Premier McGuinty's decision not to endorse his federal counterparts. Apparently, he doesn't want to worsen his already abysmally poor relationship with feds. If that doesn't tell us how far ahead the Tories are in this campaign and how unlikely the Liberals are to win, I don't know what does.

  • The puffin poop Tory ad that was all over the new today blew up in the Tories' faces, as it well should have. Have they forgotten how their ad making fun of Chretien's paralysis backfired several years ago? Perhaps the Tories' punishment should fit the crime -- straight to bed with no dessert, plus grounding for one week.

  • I was somewhat surprised that May was barred from the televised debates given that the criteria for entry has always been to have a minimum of one MP, which the Greens have now met. Ironically, the Liberals, who pushed for May's inclusion, would likely have the most to fear from May's participation, as polls show it's them bleeding the most to the Greens, particularly in Ontario (confirming some comments I made previously).

  • One new EKOS poll puts the Liberals at the historically low level of 24%, only narrowly ahead of the NDP, at 19%. Similarly, a second poll (by pollster Segma Unimarketing, which I've never heard of until now) put them at 25% to the Conservatives' whopping 43%. The federal Liberals, one of the most successful political parties in the western world, have only received that low a share of vote once -- in 1867! In 1984, their next worst performance, the Liberals converted 28% of the popular vote into just 40 seats.

  • The NDP might be the only party to run a full slate of 308 candidates in this election. The Tories have bowed out of Portneuf-Jacques-Cartier to help Independent MP André Arthur in Quebec, while the Liberals are of course not running against Elizabeth May in Central Nova, whose party isn't fielding candidates against either Stephane Dion in Saint-Laurent-Cartierville or former Conservative Bill Casey in Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

  • On Monday, Young Liberals heckled Jack Layton for borrowing Liberal votes in the last election instead of focusing on Harper. They claim that attacking the Liberals in 2006 split the anti-Harper vote and helped elect him. Now, if they really believed that, would they not be busy heckling at Tory rallies instead?

  • With PQ leader Pauline Marois undergoing surgery, the Bloc loses an important campaign ally (Marois had planned to stump for Duceppe). That party is desperately struggling to stop the loss of support to the Conservatives and, to a lesser extent, the NDP (a just-posted Globe article suggests the Bloc may have slowed the Tory momentum in Quebec).

  • New Stephane Dion website: http://www.thisisdion.ca/. I wonder how many fans looking for this website will accidentally wind up at the Liberal leader's site.

  • Finally, there are some great online resources for political junkies who just can't get enough. Pundit's Guide is an amazing database of candidates, contests and results. Paulitics and niXtuff provide regular tracking of polls. The Globe's, Canwest's and the CBC's sites provide additional articles, polls, and punditry. Independent sites nodice.ca, Election Prediction Project are also great resources. Democratic Space will launch its election coverage on Sept. 14.