Wednesday, October 5, 2011

It's a four-peat (54 out of 57 ain't bad)

Looks like I was right in 54 of 57 constituencies in my Manitoba election prediction. I was wrong in thinking the NDP's rural vote would slide enough for them to lose Dauphin and Dawson Trail. In the end, they held on against strong Tory challenges in those seats. I was also wrong about St. Norbert, where new NDP candidate Dave Gaudreau managed to narrowly hold the seat for the party by around 150 votes.

The end result is 37 NDP to 19 PC and 1 Liberal rather than the 34 to 22 to 1 I had predicted. I thought the Conservatives would beat the NDP in popular vote, but the NDP still won 46% to 44%. That means an unprecedented fourth majority government and seat count, at least in modern Manitoba political history, and a stunning win for Selinger who entered his first campaign as party leader.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Election Oracle, Manitoba edition

After the mediocre prediction posted in last spring’s federal election, you think Prairie Topiary would have the good sense not to come out of retirement once again to make an election prediction. Alas, old habits die hard.

This is my forecast for this Tuesday’s provincial election: 34 NDP, 22 PC and 1 Liberal. Yes, so that means an unprecedented fourth majority for Manitoba’s NDP and a first for Premier Greg Selinger, a slightly larger and stronger PC opposition under Hugh McFadyen, and Liberal survival as Jon Gerrard clings to perhaps the last bastion of Liberal support in his River Heights seat.

Expect the NDP to win a comfortable majority of seats but lose the popular vote to the Tories who tend to pile up massive wins in rural areas yet fall just short of victory in most of Winnipeg suburbia.

Throughout the campaign, the media has kept its focus on the battles in Winnipeg, which holds 31 of the province’s 57 seats and the bulk of NDP holds that the Tories have to win to form government. I think, however, that the races outside of Winnipeg are just as interesting, so let’s start there.

South-western Manitoba

In southwest Manitoba, which has eight seats, expect the Tories to win solid victories in Arthur-Virden, Spruce Woods, Agassiz and Riding Mountain. I’m expecting previously NDP-held Dauphin and Swan River to be close. Though incumbent and Finance Minister Rosann Wowchuk is not running again, I expect the NDP to retain their Swan River Riding. In Dauphin, the battle is much tighter given riding redistribution, which reduces the NDP’s 2007 lead to 900 votes. I predict Tory candidate Lloyd McKinney will score an upset victory here over the NDP’s Stan Struthers, taking the seat for the Tories for the first time since 1977.

Brandon’s two seats are also battlegrounds. Brandon East has been held by the NDP since 1969, though the party’s wins have been slimmer in recent years. Brandon West, though traditionally Conservative, went NDP in 1999 and 2003 before Rick Borotsik took it back for the Tories in 2007. Both races could go either way in this election, though I predict an NDP hold in East and a Conservative hold in West.

SW MB tally: 2 NDP, 6 PC

South-eastern Manitoba

This region has 14 seats, most of which elect Conservatives. The NDP is hoping to hold its seats in Interlake, Gimli, Selkirk, and Dawson Trail, with Tory challengers strongest in Interlake and Dawson Trail. I predict defeat for Ron Lemieux in Dawson Trail against Tory Laurent Tetrault but NDP holds in the other three, with Interlake the narrowest of these. I may not be right – in 2007, I wrongly predicted defeat for Lemieux.

The only other seat worth watching is Portage la Prairie, which has never elected a New Democrat MLA, a goal the NDP has nevertheless been coming closer and closer to achieving in recent years. With redistribution, the 2007 Tory margin is only 400 votes and their incumbent is not running again while the NDP’s James Kostuchuk is. I’m not predicting it, but this may be one of the few places the NDP can make gains despite slippage in their vote elsewhere. Expect easy Tory wins elsewhere in this region.

SE MB tally: 3 NDP, 11 PC

Northern Manitoba

I don’t see any surprises here. Provincially, the NDP has long ruled northern Manitoba and should take all four seats again in this election.

Northern MB tally: 4 NDP


Let’s get the strongholds and easy wins out of the way. The Conservatives will easily win Charleswood, Tuxedo and McFadyen’s seat of Fort Whyte (3 seats). Expect easy NDP wins in Wolseley, Minto, Logan, Point Douglas, St. Johns, Burrows, Elmwood, Concordia, Kildonan, The Maples, Transcona and Greg Selinger’s seat of St. Boniface (12 seats). And though the Tories may be eyeing the following seats (as they should), they’ll also remain safe for the NDP in this election: Assiniboia, St. James, Rossmere, Radisson, St. Vital, Fort Garry-Riverview and Fort Richmond (7 seats). That leaves nine Winnipeg battlegrounds to consider.

Kirkfield Park and Southdale: In 2007, these were the site of shocking NDP gains in Tory heartland. While the Conservatives are putting up stronger campaigns in this election, the organizational resources of the NDP combined with the incumbency factor of the MLAs likely mean NDP holds. Either way, these will be close races.

Tyndall Park and Fort Rouge: These represent the only true Liberal-NDP battles in the city. As Inkster in 2007, most of what is now Tyndall Park was strongly Liberal. Redistributed results, however, put the Liberals only 400 votes ahead in this seat and, without now-MP Kevin Lamoureux as their candidate, the Liberals will almost certainly see the seat return to the NDP fold. Liberal Paul Hesse is putting up a strong campaign in Fort Rouge against the NDP’s Jennifer Howard and it’s their only chance – albeit a long shot – of actually gaining a seat in this election. With Liberal vote fizzling in this election, I predict an NDP hold.

River Heights: Liberal leader Jon Gerrard is fighting to hold his own seat against Marty Morantz of the Conservatives. With redistribution, he would have won 4,448 to 2,407 votes in 2007, which is still an impressive margin of victory. Despite the Liberals’ plunge in the polls, I think the good doctor can eke out a victory here. This seat was traditionally Conservative until Sharon Carstairs took it in 1986 and they have struggled to win it since, succeeding only in 1995.

Riel, Seine River and St. Norbert: These three NDP seats in southern Winnipeg are being strongly targeted by the Conservatives. Under redistribution, the NDP would have won them last time by 2,200, 2,100 and 500 votes, respectively. With a close margin of victory and no incumbent running for the NDP, St. Norbert is ripe for Tory picking and I think they’ll do it. My gut tells me the margin of victory is too much for the Tories to overcome in the other two seats, though, even for popular former City Councillor Gord Steeves, who hopes to knock off Health Minister Theresa Oswald in Seine River.

River East: Conservative Bonnie Mitchelson barely held on to this seat in 2007, in what was a surprisingly strong result for the NDP. Under the redistributed boundaries, the NDP would have actually won the seat by 70 votes instead of losing it by 52 votes. I think the NDP’s numbers will drop here, like in most areas of the province, so that the Conservatives hold the seat.

Winnipeg tally: 25 NDP, 5 PC, 1 Liberal

Final thoughts

Of the 16 close races I’ve identified throughout Manitoba, I predict NDP wins in 9 (Swan River, Brandon East, Interlake, Kirkfield, Southdale, Tyndall, Fort Rouge, Riel, and Seine River), Conservative wins in 6 (Brandon West, Dauphin, Dawson Trail, Portage, St. Norbert, and River East) and a Liberal win in River Heights. Whether I’m right or wrong will come with Tuesday night’s news.

If I am right, the NDP will be jubilant even if stung by a few of their losses, Conservatives will devastated even if in a stronger position to win in 2015 (with a similar seat count to the NDP’s before they took power in 1999), and the Liberals will be relieved to be alive even with the soul searching that undoubtedly lies ahead for them.


Photo: A ballot from Afghanistan’s 2006 legislative elections. Large numbers of Manitoba voters will hopefully exercise their own right to vote on October 4.

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.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Inside last year's coalition deal

Brian Topp's chronology of last year's events in which federal opposition parties banded together in an attempt to take power from the minority Conservative government is a must-read for any political junkie, no matter your opinion of the deal itself.

Topp, a former NDP campaign co-chair and a coalition negotiator for the NDP, presented his take on the day-to-day drama in a six-part series in the Globe and Mail over the past week.

All the juicy details are there: Dion's desire to un-resign his leadership by leaping right into the Prime Minister's chair, the coalition's strategic error in closely associating themselves with the Bloc (which the Tories seized on pretty much within seconds of hearing about the plan), the Ignatieff team's tepid embrace and then rejection of the coalition, some funny moments of Liberal "entitlement" behaviour (for example, see Marlene Jennings's comments during cabinet negotiations), Dion's final big flop on national television and a whole lot of "big names" playing a role, among them Dion, Ignatieff, Layton, Rae, Chrétien, Broadbent, Blakeney and a host of others.

The series has created quite a stir among political commentators. See the reactions by
Chantal Hébert, Rex Murphy, Paul Wells and Curtis at Endless Spin Cycle (whose earlier post I initially missed when composing this one). Jane Taber comments on how the Tories celebrated the one-year anniversary of the coalition's demise.

Photo: Competing protests in favour and opposed to the proposed coalition in late 2008.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A shameful lack of vision

Andrew Coyne sure tells it like is. Why is a government that so adamantly denies any knowledge of Canadian complicity in torture so desperate to keep us guessing? If they're holding the truth in their back pocket, why are they more determined than ever to block the way forward?

With one Tory MP after another getting in on the act of trying to undermine former diplomat Richard Colvin's testimony (for example, for being
filmsy, inconsistent, and unreliable), it took Christie Blatchford two articles to articulate what weeks of inept spinning have failed to do: poke holes in Colvin's credibility. Don Martin of the National Post has done some similar work.

Of course, many questions remain and Blatchford focuses only on Colvin's testimony, not on the bigger torture issue (
as one Globe letter writer suggested, her "wheat vs. chaff" comment sounds like she misses the boat entirely on the torture question). We can only hope the Military Police Complaints Commission, which is investigating the allegations, is able to eke out the truth despite the government's best efforts to block and obfuscate.

Once again, we see petty and angry politics trump reasoned, articulate, responsible leadership at the federal level. After all, were the leaders of this government to have the courage of their own convictions, surely they would continue to champion the mission in Afghanistan while rushing to sincerely address the damaging allegations that have surfaced. Yet, we see no leadership; we hear no vision. Instead, they duck and hide behind angry, petty invective disguised as spin.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Swan is out!

On Saturday, I posted a comment to Never Eat Yellow Snow's post saying that Swan had reached his “do or die” moment and had to do well in this past weekend’s delegate selection meetings or see his support crumble amid an increasingly polarized Selinger-Ashton battle.

Today, we see the result:
Swan is dropping out, changing the race into a simple one-ballot, two-candidate contest for the Premiership.

While there's no word yet on whether he'll publicly endorse one of his former rivals, it's almost a certainty that Swan will back Selinger. At least 67 Swan-declared delegates will also be freed up to vote for one of the other two candidates. It's certain they'll go disproportionately to Selinger, who, despite a slow start, has emerged in the last couple of weeks as the odds-on favourite to win.

Followers of the leadership race should also check Never Eat Yellow Snow and Endless Spin Cycle regularly for their great ongoing coverage.

UPDATE: Swan and several ministers who had lined up behind him have endorsed Selinger. As Yellow Snow notes, we can expect the rest of the Swan-endorsing cabinet ministers and labour leaders to follow suit.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Why Manitoba Liberals will never win power

How much political mileage can the good doctor expect to get by bashing the guy who's being fêted as he heads for the exit?

Be nice, Mr. Gerrard -- offer up the mandatory bouquet of nice words and funny anecdotes and then turn your attention to someone you'll actually be facing off against.