Sunday, May 1, 2011

Election Oracle: 2011

It’s been about a year and a half since I’ve made any posts on this blog. Life has made it hard to keep up with the writing and there’s a good community of Manitoba bloggers that keep the ideas flowing and the debates going. While I’m not sure if I’ll bring this blog back to life at some point, I’m happy for now to use it for my election predictions. Usually, I come in a bit closer than just about anyone, but we’ll see if that holds true for this time, especially when the last polls of the campaign are still showing increased movement toward the NDP.


Last election (incl byelections): C 145, N 36, L 77, B 49, I1
Prediction: C 152, N 84, L 51, B 20, I 1

They key question from the start of the campaign was whether the Conservatives would get a minority or majority. The second that emerged was whether the NDP will form the Official Opposition. I’m predicting 152 Conservatives, which is a small increase and within a few seats of a majority. If I’m wrong and they pick up a few extra Liberal seats in Ontario, then they may eke out a slight majority. The NDP will be solidly in second place, even if their organization can’t convert all of their support into hard votes. The last few polls of the campaign have showed the NDP numbers still increasing, but I’ve tried to offer fairly conservative predictions.

If my prediction is right, it’ll be a tepid win for the Conservatives – they’ll have yet another minority, leaving them unable to push their agenda through Parliament, but it’ll be a strong minority, which means they’ll be too strong to be pushed aside by an opposition coalition. It’s a historic rout for the Liberals and one from which they may never recover, if a British-style left-right realignment is the outcome. It’s also a crushing defeat for the Bloc in Quebec, which has dominated since their formation in the early 1990s. Now they’re more of a chip than a block. For the NDP, it’s an astonishing result and an endorsement of Jack Layton’s style and direction.

So what lies ahead? For the Conservatives, they’ll continue in a minority government and continue strategizing about how to hold back the NDP from further growth. I can only hope that the Conservatives see this election as a sign that Canadians prefer vision and substance over dirty tricks and character assassinations, but that might be too much to hope for. It may get worse yet.

For the NDP, as Official Opposition, the task ahead will be one of discipline, coalition building (informal rather than formal) and developing an image, platform and strategy for forming government. All parties go through some growing pains as they transition from a protest party into a governing party and the federal NDP won’t be any different. As well, with Liberals, Bloquistes and Greens all migrating to the NDP, the party may no longer be interested in a formal merger or coalition deal. The new NDP is the coalition.

For the Liberals and Bloc, regrouping will be tough. Right-wing Liberals may gravitate to the Conservatives in the hopes of stopping further NDP growth. Left-wing Liberals who’ve flirted with the NDP but saw them as having no chance of forming government will now feel the pressure to move to the NDP. With the Liberals in third place, potential candidates, leaders and donors will now all be much harder to come by. For their part, Bloc members may wonder what point there is in sticking around. More socially conservative nationalists may drift to the Conservatives while left-leaning ones will feel compelled to join many of their colleagues in supporting what is now the largest social democratic party in Quebec. The Bloc and Liberals will try to convince voters that this election was a blip or a one-off event, but clawing their way back isn’t going to be easy.


Last election: C 11, N 4, L 17
Prediction: C 14, N 7, L 11

Apart from several Conservative and NDP pickups, I expect the Atlantic to be mostly unchanged, even though some polls are pointing to a last-minute NDP surge here. I see Tory pickups in Avalon, Malpeque, Madawaska-Restigouche and Moncton and one loss to the NDP in Nova Scotia’s South Shore. Look also for NDP gains in St. John’s South and Dartmouth.

Possible surprises: Tory win in Random-Burin-St. George or NDP wins in Central Nova (Peter McKay) or Halifax West. Some pundits have suggested these, but I’m sceptical they’ll happen.


Last election: C 10, N 1, L 14, B 49, I1
Prediction: C 8, N 36, L 10, B 20, I1

The story here is the catastrophic meltdown of the Bloc and the meteoric rise of the NDP. Many pundits are completely puzzled by the NDP’s strength, but the party’s been laying the groundwork for growth and seeing incremental results for years. Of course, the perfect storm of good fortune for the NDP in this election helped throw open the flood gates. I predict Duceppe will lose his own seat in Laurier-Ste-Marie, making the Bloc’s collapse even more stunning. Look for NDP gains throughout the Montreal/Laval, Gatineau and Quebec City regions.

While the Liberals will lose some seats to the NDP, including Westmount, NDG, Lasalle-Émard and Hull-Aylmer, the few good news stories of the night will come when they pick up Bloc seats (Ahuntsic, Haute-Gaspésie and possibly Brome-Missisquoi where Denis Paradis is running) as the NDP siphons away Bloc votes. The Tories will lose Beauport-Limoilou, Charlesbourg and Pontiac (Lawrence Cannon, one of my least favourite MPs) to the NDP, but should hold on to the rest. Unfortunately, independent Arthur André, known for working another job while being an MP and making intolerant comments on the radio, will probably eke out a victory over his Bloc and NDP competitors.

Possible surprises: Everywhere, as untouchable Bloc and Liberal strongholds fall. Watch for NDP star candidate and Innu leader Romeo Saganash in a close battle with the Bloc for his northern Quebec seat.


Last election: C 52, N 17 , L 37
Prediction: C 60, N 22, L 24

With Quebec not interested in their party, the Tories needed Ontario to get their majority. It would have worked well if the NDP only cut into the Liberal vote, so as to toss Liberal-Conservative races to the Tories, but the NDP have pulled votes from the Tories too. I predict most new wins for the NDP in the Toronto area, including Beaches-East York, Davenport, Oshawa, Parkdale-High Park and and York South-Weston. I think they’ll also win Oshawa from the Cons.

The Liberals, squeezed from both sides, will probably lose around one third of their Ontario seats, including many in the 905 belt. The Holland-Alexander race has drawn a lot of attention in Ajax-Pickering. I predict a Tory win there as well as in Mississauga South, Brampton-Springdale and Brampton West. A few Toronto seats are likely to swing Tory as well (a first since the 1980s), giving them Don Valley West, Eglinton-Lawrence and York Centre.

Possible surprises: I expect Iggy will be safe in his own seat, but a surprise of the night could be the Tories giving him a run in his home seat. If the NDP really surprises, they may pick up Scarborough Southwest, Guelph, Essex, Kenora and others, but I expect they’ll fall a little short in these ridings.


Last election: C 9, N 3 , L 2
Prediction: C 9, N 4, L 1

I don’t expect the electoral drama that’s going on in most other provinces to really reach us here in Manitoba. The NDP should win Winnipeg North back from the Liberals in a close race, giving us the same result as in 2008.

Possible surprises: The Conservatives could surprise and win Winnipeg South-Centre from the Liberals or Elmwood-Transcona from the NDP, but I don’t think their numbers are quite high enough to do it.

Saskatchewan and Alberta

Last election: C 40, N 1 , L 1
Prediction: C 39, N 2, L 1

There is NDP momentum in our two neighbouring prairie provinces, but it’s probably not enough to make many seats change hands. NDP targets include Palliser, Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River, Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, Edmonton Centre and Edmonton East. Of these, I predict an NDP win in the Saskatoon seat with tighter races but not wins elsewhere.

Possible surprises: Conservative nomination loser James Ford is running again as an Independent in Edmonton--Sherwood Park and there’s an outside chance he could pull off an upset. The NDP might also surprise with a second seat in Alberta. On the other hand, it’ll be one of the few big letdowns of the night for New Democrats if they surge Canada-wide but end up shut out of Saskatchewan again.

British Columbia

Last election: C 22, N 9 , L 5
Prediction: C 21, N 12, L 3

The NDP has seen big upward movement in their poll numbers here as in most other provinces and it should gain them a few more seats. On election night, watch for them battling to pick up Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, Vancouver Island North and Surrey North from Tories, while the Tories fight close races to pick up Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca (vacated by Keith Martin) and Vancouver South (Ujjal Dosanjh).

The Greens are of course hoping for a win in Saanich-Gulf Islands, where Elizabeth May is running. It’s their one shot at a seat and I think they’ll fall well short, despite the poll they released claiming they’re in the lead.

Possible surprises: A stunning upset could come if Hedy Fry is defeated by the NDP in Vancouver Centre or if Elizabeth May somehow does pull off a win on Vancouver Island. A last minute NDP surge might also toss them some seats they haven’t won since 1988.

The North

Last election: C 1, N 1 , L 1
Prediction: C 1, N 1, L 1

Don’t forget about the north! I predict one seat apiece for each of the three parties – same as last time. The NDP in the Western Arctic (NWT) and the Conservative in Nunavut each stave off a former Territorial Premier running as the Liberal candidate.

Photo: John William Waterhouse's Consulting the Oracle, 1882.