Monday, August 31, 2009

To go, or not to go: that is the question

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?

Michael Ignatieff, playing the role of Hamlet, is pondering such a question in Sudbury, where a Liberal pow-wow is being held.

As long as the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois vote along with him, Ignatieff will have the chance to topple the Conservative government at the end of September, sending us to the poll booths in early November. No Christmas, no summer, no Olympics, no Kwanzaa to use as an excuse for not holding an election. The autumn is the perfect campaign season. The weather is good, and people are returning to the normal habits of their lives. Plenty of opportunity to pay attention to an election and do that oh-so-burdensome task of taking a few minutes out of your day (and remember, legally your employer is required to give you the time) to vote.

The "Canadians don't want an election" trope can just as easily be translated as "Canadians can't be arsed to care". Canadians will never want an election, and no one seems to realise that those who say they don't want an election are mostly those who won't vote anyway. Let those of us who do care vote, and settle this "election or no election" debate for another year or two, at least. And, in any case, people forget about why the election was called five days in.

And, let's face it. This debate is in large part caused by the unnatural election of 2008. Voter turnout was low - so low that the incumbent government was given a second mandate and larger parliamentary representation while still earning fewer votes than they did in the election that brought them to power. The Liberals had a very weak party leader who led them to one of their worst electoral performances in history. The election almost requires a do-over.

But Michael Ignatieff is mulling whether he should launch the campaign this fall. From my perspective, I'm not sure there is any strong argument against doing so.

Should the Liberals wait for better polling numbers? No one knows how long that would take, or what "better" actually means. In the meantime, the NDP and Bloc would gleefully force Ignatieff into a position of propping up the Tory government. He might even find himself in an election at a time of Stephen Harper's choosing. Harper chose well last year, and almost got himself a majority.

Are elections expensive? Yes. But not outrageously so. A few hundred million dollars is just a drop in the bucket of the federal budget, and will give some temporary relief to the unemployed, as Elections Canada will be hiring. It will also force the parties to spend the taxpayer dollars they've been stockpiling, pumping that money back into the economy - well over 50 million dollars worth of it.

Do the Liberals have a lot to lose? Not really. They have so much more to gain. Ignatieff could win the election and become Prime Minister. He could finish a strong-enough second to work out some governing arrangement with the NDP. But even if he loses he will be in a better position than he is in right now. With the numbers we've seen, he's virtually guaranteed an extra 25 MPs. That means bigger clout in Parliament and greater opportunities for twisting the screws on the Tories with the help of the NDP and the Bloc. It means more representation on committees. It means more funding from the per-vote subsidy. It means a larger staff, both because of the increase in funding and the increase in MPs.

It means being in a better position to win the next election, rather than starting at the disadvantage in which the Liberal leader currently finds himself.

CentVingtCinq Updated

I've updated the Quebec provincial projection. Jean Charest's Liberals are back into majority territory. Of course, he is already there and will remain so until 2012 or 2013. But I like to keep it up to date nevertheless.

Here's how the polling has looked in Quebec this year:Quebec provincial politics do not translate directly to the federal scene. But there are two guideposts one can use to help out with reading the trends in that province. The Bloc Quebecois tends to do better than the Parti Quebecois, so the support level of the PQ can be considered the 'floor' of the Bloc. The other guide is that an ADQ supporter is almost certainly a Conservative supporter, so the support level of the ADQ can be considered the Conservative 'floor' in Quebec or its 'ceiling', if the ADQ is doing better than the Conservatives. With the current troubles the ADQ is having, however, that might not be very useful anymore. The ADQ is slipping into obscurity.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

More Details on the AR Poll

The details to the Angus-Reid poll from yesterday have been posted.

So, to fill out the regionals, the Liberals had a very weak 19% in British Columbia, placing them in third. In Alberta, the NDP is second behind the Conservatives with 16%, with the Liberals in third at 12%. In the Prairies, the NDP had a very strong 31%, coming seemingly at the expense of the Liberals who had 17%. In Quebec, the NDP had 12%, and in Atlantic Canada the Liberals are in front with 39%, followed by the NDP at 33% and the Conservatives at 20% - a very poor showing.

This poll would've translated into the following seat totals:

Conservatives - 121
Liberals - 104
Bloc Quebecois - 45
New Democrats - 37
Greens - 1

As to who would make the best Prime Minister, I was wrong. The "none of the above" was not the favoured option, at 21%. But another 18% said they didn't know. Elizabeth May and Gilles Duceppe managed 2% apiece.

Harper's top PM numbers came in Alberta (46%) and his lowest in Quebec (14%). Ignatieff's best result came in Atlantic Canada (29%) and his worst in Alberta (7%). Layton's best result was in Quebec (20%), and his worst was in Alberta (6%).
The poll also asked which of the leaders would be best able to handle the economy, the environment, health care, foreign affairs, and crime. The numbers for Ignatieff aren't very good. I think the issue is that people don't know the Liberal leader very well. Layton and Harper have been on the scene for years, people know what they're about. I imagine an election campaign would clear things up.

Friday, August 28, 2009

New AR Poll: 4% Conservative Lead

Angus-Reid has released a new poll today, as reported by the Toronto Star. Angus-Reid has not updated their website yet, which is odd as they are usually very quick with that. The poll was taken between August 25 and August 26 and involved 1,003 Canadians. The national results:

Conservatives - 34%
Liberals - 30%
New Democrats - 18%
Greens - 9%
Bloc Quebecois - 8%

So, a good result for the Tories but nothing out of the ordinary. The NDP result is very good. As Angus-Reid is my highest-rated polling firm, these are important numbers to note.

As I don't have the full details yet, I can only give a partial description of the poll.

In British Columbia, the Conservatives have taken a strong lead with 43%, followed by the NDP at 28%. The Liberals are in third, with the Greens in fourth at 10%. This Green result demonstrates that there definitely is an upward trend for the party in British Columbia.

In Alberta and the Prairies, the Tories have a strong lead (62% and 51%, respectively) while the Liberals have edged ahead in Ontario (37% to 35%). A 13% for the NDP in this province, however, is very worrisome, especially considering the Greens have 15% support.

In Quebec, the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois are tied at 33% with the Conservatives at 16%. In Atlantic Canada, the NDP has 33%, a very, very good result. I don't have information about the other parties in the region.

As to who would make the best Prime Minister, Stephen Harper is at 27%, followed by Michael Ignatieff at 17% and Jack Layton at 12%. With such low numbers, we must assume "none of the above" was by far the most popular answer.

This means that, in the Best PM track, Harper has dropped one point to 28%, Ignatieff has dropped three points to 22%, and Layton has dropped one point to 13%.

More information to come as more details emerge!

Weekly Projection Update: Conservatives by Six

So, there have been no seat changes in the projection over the last week. There has been some movement in projected support, however.

At the national level, the Greens are this week's big winners. They've picked up 0.2 points, and now stand at 9.4%. The Bloc Quebecois has lost 0.1 points at the national level, and the Liberals have lost 0.2. They now stand at 32.5%, less than half-a-point behind the Conservatives who are at 32.9%.

There were some large (greater than 0.3) regional movements as well.

In British Columbia, the Conservatives and Liberals each lost 0.4 points. The NDP gained 0.3 and the Greens, still benefiting from the May announcement of her choice of riding, have picked up 0.6 points. The breakdown there is now:

Conservatives - 35.2% - 19 seats
Liberals - 28.4% - 12 seats
New Democrats - 23.1% - 5 seats
Greens - 12.8% - 0 seats

Quebec also saw some significant movements. The NDP and the Greens made the most gains, with 0.4 and 0.3 points, respectively. The Liberals and the Bloc, on the other hand, each lost 0.3 points. The Quebec projection now looks like:

Bloc Quebecois - 36.4% - 49 seats
Liberals - 31.1% - 20 seats
Conservatives - 15.0% - 5 seats
New Democrats - 10.8% - 1 seat
Greens - 6.6% - 0 seats

The Prairies saw the NDP drop 0.3 points and Atlantic Canada saw the Conservatives lose 0.3 points to the NDP. Alberta, Ontario, and the North saw very little movement in support.

It's been an interesting week for polls, to say the least. But when you look at all of them together, you still see very little movement in public opinion for the time-being. That is to be expected; it's summer. Once Parliament starts up again in September, things could start moving. And, of course, there is the possibility of an election - which some Liberals are saying won't happen after all.

For the purposes of drama and blog traffic, I hope that isn't the case.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

New EKOS Poll: 1.5% Conservative Lead

My apologies for the late post, I've been away all day, and it's been a long one. Anyway, EKOS has released a new poll today, taken between August 19 and August 25 and involving 2,153 Canadians. The national results:

Conservatives - 32.6%
Liberals - 30.9%
New Democrats - 15.7%
Greens - 11.3%
Bloc Quebecois - 9.5%

So, nothing out of the ordinary but it does provide further proof that the Ipsos-Reid poll earlier this week was an outlier. It can happen to anyone.

The EKOS race is narrowing, but more interesting is that the NDP have seen a not-insignificant drop of about two points from the last poll. If you look at the weekly EKOS polling, you see an NDP bump after the convention of about one-to-three points. It seems to be already falling off - but it did exist.

The race is white hot in British Columbia - 31.6% for the Conservatives, 28.3% for the Liberals, and 27.2% for the NDP. Ontario is extraordinarily close as well - 37.0% for both the Tories and the Liberals. A weak 14.2% for the NDP.

In Quebec, the Bloc is doing well at 37.1% with the Liberals at 26.2% and the Conservatives at 15.0%. This week's CROP poll, far from the "gold-standard" of polling firms in Quebec (according to The Globe and Mail's Norman Spector), looks to be more of an outlier, but CROP historically under-polls the Bloc.

The Liberals have re-emerged in Atlantic Canada, with 43.5% while the NDP has slipped to 21.8%.

Demographically, the Conservatives lead among males (36.3%), those aged 45-64 (34.8%), 65+ (39.7%), those with a high school education (30.0%), and a college education (35.8%). They also lead in Vancouver (33.1%) and Calgary (69.5%).

The Liberals lead among females (31.6%), those aged under 25 (29.9%), between 25 and 44 (29.95), and those with a university education (35.9%). They also lead in Toronto (39.7%) and Ottawa (43.8%), the latter being a new development.

The Bloc leads in Montreal at 35.8%. The NDP did not place second in any demographic or city.

So, this poll would translate into the following seat totals:

Conservatives - 122
Liberals - 109
Bloc Quebecois - 50
New Democrats - 27

It's the close race in Ontario that does it. Give the Liberals two points from the Tories in that province and the government flips allegiance.

Projection update coming tomorrow, but I'm not sure when as it will be a very busy day.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New CROP Poll: BQ and LPC Tied

CROP released a new poll today through La Presse, taken between August 13 and August 23 and involving 1,003 Quebecers. The result:

Bloc Quebecois - 30%
Liberals - 30%
New Democrats - 18%
Conservatives - 17%
Greens - 6%

CROP is one of the less reliable polling firms, and is correspondingly weighted the least in my model. They also tend to under-poll the Bloc, so it is difficult to know what to think with this poll. This result is far, far lower than anything we've seen recently with the Bloc, while the NDP number is quite high. Another outlier, perhaps?

As usual, CROP does not have the details for this poll available on their site, and I don't imagine they will for another few months (it took about half-a-year for CROP to update their site last time).

The article above mentions that the Bloc is now in the lead in the Quebec City region, with 33%. They are followed by the Liberals at 24% and the Conservatives at 23%. This bodes well for the Bloc - they look to return to some of their former 'fortresses' at the expense of the Tories.

The only other piece of information is that 61% of Quebecers are dissatisfied with the government. Which means about 22% of Quebecers don't want to vote for the Conservatives but are satisfied with their governing.

UPDATE: More details via Chantal Hébert's blog. She provides the Green result, but also the francophone breakdown:

Bloc Quebecois - 35%
Liberals - 26%
New Democrats - 17%
Conservatives - 17%
Greens - 5%

This is the important number, since most of the seats in Quebec are decided by the francophone vote. The Bloc still has a good lead over the Liberals among this group, ensuring they can still win a good portion, perhaps even the majority, of the seats in Quebec - even with 30% support provincially.

UPDATE 2: No doubt out of spite, CROP has decided to actually update their website. So we get some more details.

Among non-francophones, the Liberals have the lead with 50% of the vote. They are followed by the NDP at 19% and the Conservatives at 17%. In Montreal and the surrounding region, the Liberals are ahead with 35%, followed by the Bloc at 29% and the NDP at 17%. That puts them in a good position to hold on to Outremont.

Quebecers consider Michael Ignatieff to be the best potential Prime Minister (35%), followed closely by Jack Layton (29%). Stephen Harper receives only 18% - more or less the amount of Conservative supporters. It seems that Bloc voters tend to see Layton as the best PM.

Monday, August 24, 2009

More Details of the Harris-Decima Poll

Harris-Decima has posted the details to their latest poll, taken between August 13 and August 23 and involving 2,024 Canadians. I talked about the national results in my previous post, but here are the regionals.

British Columbia is the most surprising thing from this poll. It has the Conservatives at a very low 28%, followed closely by the NDP at 26% and the Greens at 24%. Yes, the Greens. Now, the Ipsos-Reid poll had a strong 14% for the Greens in the province, so perhaps this isn't as odd as it looks. No doubt the Greens have been getting a lot of coverage in local media thanks to Elizabeth May's decision to run there.

Alberta and the Prairies are what you'd expect, good Conservative leads(62% and 44%, respectively) with the Liberals in second (20% and 30%). This is a very different result from the 9% in the Prairies we saw in Ipsos-Reid. The NDP's performance in those two provinces, 15%, is very worrisome.

In Ontario we see a six-point Liberal lead, which isn't unusual considering what we've seen over the past few weeks. The breakdown is 40% for the Liberals and 34% for the Tories, with the NDP languishing in third with 13%.

Harris-Decima does not agree with Ipsos-Reid in Quebec, as it has the Conservatives at a very bad 12%, much lower than the 20% in IR. The Bloc leads at 37%, followed by the Liberals at 28% and the NDP at 11%.

Finally, in Atlantic Canada we see a very bad result for the Tories: 23%. The fight is between the Liberals (38%) and the NDP (32%).

This poll would result in the following seat totals:

Liberals - 118
Conservatives - 109
Bloc Quebecois - 51
New Democrats - 29
Greens - 1

With the Greens at such a high number in BC, I had to give Ms. May her seat. And if the party actually got 24%, which would surprise the hell out of me, who knows how many seats they could win out on the West Coast.

This poll shows some discrepancies that doesn't make it infinitely more reliable than the Ipsos-Reid poll, but it certainly has a lot more going for it - it is within what the trend has been and involved twice as many people.

What can the two parties take from this poll? Nothing really. Business as usual, still a close race. The Ipsos-Reid poll no doubt sent some shivers down Liberal spines and glee up those of the Tories, but this Harris-Decima poll should calm everyone back down.

The Greens, however, need to reinforce their strength. They probably aren't actually at 1 in 4 support in British Columbia, but they are certainly doing better here. They should focus virtually all of their energy in the province. I know Greens will tell me that Ms. May isn't the party, but the Greens need to win a seat in order to gain some credibility (5%-10% of Canadians aren't going to throw their votes away to an unrepresented party forever!) and this is their best chance to do it.

New HD Poll: 1% Liberal Lead

Well, that didn't take long.

The Globe and Mail, via the Canadian Press, is reporting on a new Harris-Decima poll that more or less erases the Ipsos-Reid madness of the last few days:

Liberals - 32%
Conservatives - 31%
New Democrats - 16%
Greens - 11%
Bloc Quebecois - 9%

As someone who keeps an eye on every poll, this looks more accurate. It shows the Liberals and Conservatives in a tie and has a relatively strong NDP result. That has been the story for the past few weeks, and with more than 2,000 respondents the margin of error is lower. However, the poll was taken between August 13 and August 23 - straddling the Ipsos-Reid poll and encompassing several polling days both after and before it. Could it be that Ipsos-Reid was merely polling at a particularly bad time for the Liberals? Since more than half of the Harris-Decima poll was taken during and after the Ipsos-Reid poll, we should see a much bigger Conservative number if the IR poll is to be considered to have discovered a new trend.

Harris-Decima is the least favourable pollster when it comes to the Conservatives, but they also haven't been too friendly to the Liberals. The disparity isn't very large, so taking this into account we still end up with a Liberal/Conservative tie.

We don't have any of the details yet, and Harris-Decima is one of the slower pollsters when it comes to posting their detailed data, but I'm pretty sure we can use this to consider the IR poll as a complete outlier.

More to come as more information becomes available.

More on the Ipsos-Reid Poll

The details have been released in yesterday's Ipsos-Reid poll. Some interesting results.

I've already expressed my concerns with the accuracy of this poll, and the regionals haven't changed my mind.

To fill in the gaps, the NDP had 13% and the Greens had 11% in Ontario. The NDP had 8% and the Greens 9% in Quebec. At 26%, the NDP is competitive in Atlantic Canada and at 9% they are in trouble in Alberta.

The regionals in British Columbia and the Prairies are notable. In British Columbia, the NDP has dropped to 21% but more interestingly, the Greens are up to 14%. Has Ms. May's announcement of running in that province had an effect? In the Prairies, the Liberals polled only 9% - extremely low. And as you'll see from the other questions in this poll, Ipsos-Reid had trouble finding Liberal supporters in the Prairies. We know they're there, however, since recent polls have given the Liberals two or three times as much support as this one.

Conservatives lead in all demographics: 18-34 (27%), 34-54 (40%), 55+ (46%), males (41%), and females (37%).

This poll would translate into the following seat totals:

Conservatives - 154
Liberals - 83
Bloc Quebecois - 47
New Democrats - 24

Yes, that's right. One short of a majority. The Tory strength comes from Ontario, where they win 64 seats. Their results elsewhere are not out of the ordinary, though they do keep 9 of their 10 seats in Quebec.

Ipsos-Reid included plenty of other questions in this poll.

When asked whether they felt they had a clear idea of the policies the Liberals will enact in government, 44% agreed and 52% disagreed. I actually find that result surprising. People are aware of the policies of any party? Quebecers know about Michael Ignatieff's policies the most (54%), while the Prairies say they have no idea what he is talking about (72%). This is the first of the "we hate Mike" result in the Prairies.

As to what will influence voters, the perceived ability of a party and its leaders to follow through with its promises is tops, at 44%. Quebecers said this is the deciding factor the most, at 50%, while British Columbians don't care if politicians lie (36%).

The ability to handle the economy was second most important, at 37%. This is the top factor for British Columbians (46%) and Quebecers are least likely to consider this important (25%).

Finally, whether a particular party can form a majority is not a winning option - a further nail in the coffin in the Conservative strategy to ask for a majority. Only 14% of Canadians considered this the decided factor. Atlantic Canadians are most likely to be influenced by this, at 24%, while British Columbians are least likely (9%).

As to whether Liberals are ready to govern, 47% of Canadians agree while 49% disagree. Quebecers and Atlantic Canadians agreed the most (57%), while people in the Prairies disagreed the most (70%).

What's interesting is when you compare this result to the "should the Conservatives be re-elected result". Here, 45% of Canadians agree while 50% disagree. Looking at these two questions, the Liberals actually come out ahead.

Another question was whether the Liberals would do a better job handling the economic crisis than the Conservatives if they were the ones in power. 43% agree and 51% disagree, with the best/worst numbers coming in Quebec and the Prairies (guess which is which).

Now let's look at the Harper vs. Ignatieff numbers:

So Harper comes out ahead on the economy (48-40), world affairs (48-41), and finances (49-37). Ignatieff is in front on the environment (45-41). All of these results are surprisingly close. Harper's best numbers come in Alberta (65%-72%) and his worst come in Quebec (26%-32%). Ignatieff's best numbers are in Quebec (53%-60%) and his worst are in the Prairies (13%-21%).

This poll, because it is so different from the trends we've seen, will provide plenty of fodder for Canadian media and has already been the topic of choice in the blogosphere. I have a feeling, however, that the EKOS poll (and perhaps another poll) this week will contradict what Ipsos-Reid has found.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

New IR Poll: 11% Conservative Lead

The National Post is reporting on a new Ipsos-Reid poll, taken between August 18 and August 20 and involving 1,001 Canadians. I will no doubt be able to get the full details from Ipsos-Reid tomorrow, but for now we have what Canwest is reporting. Here are the national results:

Conservatives - 39%
Liberals - 28%
New Democrats - 14%
Greens - 10%
Bloc Quebecois - 8%

Now, before we all go into conniptions, this is just one poll with only 1,001 respondents. By all indications, this is an outlier because the last poll that had the Conservatives this high was back in January and it makes a four-to-eight point improvement over the other polls we've seen this month. The last time the Liberals were under 30 was back in January as well. It seems unlikely that suddenly we would have such a huge swing in voter support.

Regionally, we get the Tories 12-points ahead of the Liberals in Ontario, their biggest lead since December. They have been this high before recently, at the beginning of July. But that, too, seemed like a bit of an outlier. At 31%, this is the lowest we've seen the Liberals since December 2008. In fact, this is only the third time this whole year that the Liberals have been under 35% - further indication that this poll is problematic.

In Quebec, the numbers aren't too unusual but show a decent Conservative boost - 20%. They haven't polled over 20% since January. The Bloc still leads at 35% and the Liberals at 29%.

Atlantic Canada is also not unusual, with the race close. The Liberals have 34% and the Tories have 32%.

The Prairies show a big Tory lead, 57% to 25% for the Liberals. Alberta shows the same thing, 64% to 21%.

British Columbia is interesting, however. With such a huge Conservative result nationally, it is surprising to see the party at only 38% in the province with the Liberals doing well at 27%. If we are to suspect that this poll is a little bit off, then the BC number is worse than it looks.

Of course, Ipsos-Reid could've captured a new direction in Canadian public opinion. We can't say anything until we've seen some other numbers from other pollsters. Until then, we have to look at the poll with skepticism - though Conservatives can certainly hope this is an indication of more good news to come.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Minorities and Conservative Re-Election

Nanos has an interesting poll on their site today. It was taken between July 30 and August 2, so it is a little old, and involved 1,002 Canadians.

The poll had two questions. First, Canadians were asked if they had a positive or negative opinion of minority governments (they could also say somewhat positive or somewhat negative). Surprisingly, Canadians have a positive opinion of minority governments:

Positive - 53.9%
Negative - 37.3%

This sort of puts into question the potential Conservative strategy of asking for a majority. Of course, if the Conservatives had 37.3% of the vote they might get a majority, but obviously not every person who is against minority governments will vote for either the Conservatives or the Liberals.

Every region of the country has more positive views of minority governments than negative ones. In fact, only British Columbia did not have more than 50% with positive attitudes towards minority governments.

Atlantic Canada is most in favour of them, at 66.2%, followed by Quebec (55.9%). The strongest negative opinions came from British Columbia (40.8%) and Ontario (39.0%).

This demonstrates that asking for a majority for the sake of a majority is probably not a winning strategy. Better to ask Canadians to vote for your party because of the merits of your party and hope for the best. Canadians aren't so frustrated with minority governments that they will do anything to avoid them. To me, this says that the next election will be like the others: about the parties rather than the form of government.

The second question asked whether the Conservatives deserve to be re-elected or if a change is necessary. Not surprisingly, a majority believe a change is necessary (otherwise, the Conservatives would be at 50% or more in the polls!):

Change - 58.5%
Re-Elect - 31.9%

That leaves about 10% of Canadians unsure, giving the Conservatives good room for growth. But the amount of Canadians who currently want a Conservative re-election is too low to even give them a minority government.

Change is most desired in Quebec (68.7%) and Atlantic Canada (62.3%). This bodes well for the Liberals, who are the favourite option in Atlantic Canada and who are currently the favourite government-option in Quebec. Even in the Prairies (including Alberta), a plurality want change - 44.9%.

Those most in favour of re-electing the Conservatives can be found in the Prairies (including Alberta) and British Columbia (41.2% and 34.4%, respectively). Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, only the Quebec numbers for "re-election" would be a decent electoral result (24.5%). Otherwise, the Conservatives would be at lows of 26.5% in Atlantic Canada, and 32.6% in Ontario (especially troublesome).

What we've seen this summer is that no one is in a position of certainty. There have been no "slam-dunk" polls for any of the parties, and every party has a good chance of not reaching their goals. The Tories are virtually assured of losing seats, and maybe even government. The Liberals will certainly grow their caucus, but could find themselves in the opposition again. The Bloc is unlikely to increase their parliamentary representation, and the NDP is likely to lose anywhere from 20% to 50% of their current seat holdings.

Considering the situation, you'd think that they'd all be trying to avoid an election. But for the opposition the potential gains might be too much to ignore: the Liberals could form government, the Bloc could return to some of its traditional strongholds in the province, and the NDP could be in a bargaining position for power or influence. Throw in the fact that they have all been saying how horrible the Harper government is, it just might be enough to put us into an election come November.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Projection Change: Conservatives by Six

Thanks to a commenter who got me thinking, I took a second look at the projection model for Alberta. I'm not quite sure how I got the numbers I did, but I've changed the model for that province and so the projection has changed. Instead of 25 seats, the Conservatives are projected to win 27. And instead of three, the Liberals are projected to win one.

So, that puts the total at 120 Conservative seats to 114 Liberal, meaning a Conservative minority.

Weekly Projection Update: Conservatives by Two

The projection has been updated, and there have been some significant changes. Part of the reason for these changes is that I have tweaked the weight of past elections slightly in order to make them more uniform.

What we have is the Conservatives down three seats, the Liberals up two, and the NDP up one. This puts the race very close, at 118 Conservative seats to 116 Liberal seats. In all likelihood, a situation like this would have some sort of Liberal-NDP co-operative government or even a true coalition, but for now the Projected Parliament will remain in Tory hands.

The Conservatives have lost one seat each in British Columbia, Alberta, the Prairies, and Atlantic Canada but have gained one seat in Ontario. The Liberal gains come in British Columbia, Alberta, and the Prairies but they have also lost one seat in Ontario. The NDP seat gain comes, appropriately enough, in Atlantic Canada.

The national support level has flipped and the Conservatives now have the lead, thanks to a 0.1 point gain and 0.2 point Liberal loss. The NDP and Bloc Quebecois are also up 0.1 points nationally.

Regionally, the Conservatives have seen losses of 1.1 points in British Columbia, one point in Alberta, 0.3 points in the Prairies, and 0.4 points in Atlantic Canada.

The Liberals have made gains of one point in British Columbia and Alberta and 0.8 points in the Prairies.

The NDP has lost 0.3 points in British Columbia and 0.8 points in the Prairies.

The Greens have shown gains of 0.6 points in British Columbia and the Prairies, 0.5 points in Alberta, and 0.7 points in Atlantic Canada.

Things are extremely close, to say the least.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

New EKOS Poll: 2.6% Conservative Lead

EKOS has released its weekly poll today, taken between August 12 and August 18 and involving 1,886 Canadians. I don't have a link for you, however, as their website hasn't been updated yet. Here are the national results:

Conservatives - 32.8%
Liberals - 30.2%
New Democrats - 17.3%
Greens - 11.0%
Bloc Quebecois - 8.7%

Nothing really groundbreaking here, though it is a strong NDP result. This is in part due to the convention held in Halifax from August 14-16. However, the interesting part is that the NDP showed a huge gain only on August 18, where they polled somewhere around 25%. And their Atlantic Canada result, 22.9%, is surprising low considering where they've been recently and the fact that the convention was held in Nova Scotia. Can we say there has been a convention bump? With contradictory evidence like this, we need a second poll before we can say anything conclusive.

Regionally, Alberta and the Prairies are what you'd expect, though at 24.6% the NDP is back to its usual support in the latter region.

Ontario and Quebec show little movement, with a close race in Ontario (36.3% Liberal and 35.4% Conservative). The NDP (15.9%) and Greens (12.4%) showed some better-than-usual results here. In Quebec, the Bloc still holds the lead at 35%, with the Liberals at 27.7% (a drop), the Tories at 16.5% (the minimum of where they need to be), and the NDP at 12.8%. That might be enough to keep Outremont. The Greens, at 8%, did well here.

Two regions with greater movements are British Columbia and Atlantic Canada. On the West Coast, the Liberals hold the lead with 32.1% followed by the NDP at 27.4% and the Conservatives at 27.0%. Yes, that is the NDP in second and the Tories in third. This is a three-way race, and with the Greens at 13.6% we might even see a Green win for Elizabeth May.

On the East Coast, the Liberals lead with 32.5% (a huge drop), followed by the Conservatives at 31.7% (a nice gain), the NDP at 22.9% (disappointing), and the Greens at 12.9% (good).

This poll would translate into the following seat totals:

Conservatives - 120
Liberals - 108
Bloc Quebecois - 48
New Democrats - 32

This would be a good result for the NDP considering their recent difficulties in the polls. The Liberals make huge gains in British Columbia but have disappointing results in Ontario and Atlantic Canada. The NDP caucus is dominated by BC and Ontario.

In terms of demographics and cities, the Conservatives lead among and in:

Males (36.3%)
Age 45-64 (35.5%)
Age 65+ (44.2%)
High School (34.6%)
College (35.6%)
Calgary (65.8%)
Ottawa (44.0%)

The Liberals are ahead among and in:

Females (30.5%)
Age <25 (29.9%)
Age 25-44 (30.0%)
University (37.2%)
Vancouver (41.6%)
Toronto (39.9%)

The Bloc leads in Montreal with 38.6% while the NDP places second among those aged less than 25 with 20.1%.

This poll shows all of the parties close to where they want to be. The Conservatives have the lead, the Liberals are within striking distance, and both the NDP and the Bloc should be able to (for the most part) maintain their current seat holdings. This doesn't warn any party against going to an election, but doesn't really scream "Opportunity!" either.

I'll update the projection with this tomorrow.

Conservative Majority Possible?

If an election is called in the fall, and probably if it is called in the spring, the Conservatives will be asking for a majority government. The party senses that Canadians are fed up with minorities.

I agree that they probably are, but that does not translate into wanting any majority. Canadians want a majority - with their own party in power. It could attract a few undecideds, if the Conservatives are in the lead, but it won't attract more committed Liberal or NDP voters. They are unlikely to be okay with a Conservative majority. And Quebecers voted Bloc in 2008, in part, to prevent a Conservative majority. I'm not so sure that this is a winning strategy for the Conservatives, as Canadians have been "scared off" from the Tories in the past when talk turned to a majority government.

Whether Canadians want a Conservative majority is one question. Whether the Tories can realistically get a majority is another.

The 2008 election was a perfect storm for Stephen Harper. The Liberals had a weak leader and had the least amount of support in their history. The NDP was strong enough to split the vote in some areas but not so strong that they ate into Tory chances, and the Bloc Quebecois was unable to wipe out the Conservatives in Quebec. It is hard to imagine a better scenario.

Their 143-seat win was the best they've managed. And aside from the NDP victory in Alberta that brought the party down to 27 seats and the trouble in Newfoundland & Labrador that limited the Conservatives to nine seats in Atlantic Canada, Harper's troops did the best they could do in every region. If you take the top Tory performances in their history since 2004 in each of the regions, you still only get to 144 seats - 11 seats short of a majority.

So what would it take to push the Conservatives to 155 seats?

Looking at the closest ridings in the 2008 election, there are 11 seats in the country where the Tories finished second with less than 5% between them and the winning party. In order to give the seats to the Conservatives, as well as give them their best historical performances, their popular vote in each of the regions needs to be nudged upwards. So what kind of gains do the Tories need to make between now and election day?

In short, huge gains.

First, let's look at their most likely areas of improvement. In the Prairies, they need to maintain the 22 seats they currently hold (and gain one more than they are currently projected to win). Alberta is a no-brainer, they merely need to win back the one NDP seat in Edmonton. In terms of the projection, they need to win back two seats and improve their vote by 4.7 points. That shouldn't be a problem in this province. In the North, they need to win two more seats than they are currently projected to win, and improve their vote to 48.5% from the currently projected 29.9%. Their best result, in 2008, had them at 36.2%. With only three ridings, it should not be too difficult to push their support up by 18.6 points, especially considering the Prime Minister's recent trip. Lastly, the party needs to gain three seats over the current projection in Atlantic Canada and improve their vote by 12.4 points. They currently stand at 29.1% but need to be at around 42% to be in the neighbourhood of 11 seats.

Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia pose some greater challenges. In Quebec, the Tories need to move into a position where they can keep their 10 seats. This means improving their vote by about 8-points, which will not be easy. They've been at 24.6% before (in 2006), however, so it is not impossible. In British Columbia, the party needs to take 26 seats (six more than they are currently projected to win) and about 50% of the vote (about 13 points more than they are currently projected to have). That will be a difficult task, as their 44.4% in 2008 was a high watermark. Lastly, in Ontario, the party needs 56 seats. This means 15 more than they are currently projected to win. From their current 35.3% projected support level and their 39.2% support level in the 2008 election, the Tories need to end up at over 41% in the province. That would seem to be the most difficult task of all.

So, if the Tories can manage to make all of these gains, they will end up at 155 seats. Over their 2008 election total, they need to win four more seats in British Columbia, one more in Alberta, five more in Ontario, one more in Atlantic Canada, and one more in the North.

In the face of a more capable Liberal leader who also benefits from an NDP leader whose shine is starting to wear off, and a steady Bloc in their province, it would seem to be impossible to envision such a change of fortune for the Conservatives. Can they really do better than their best-case-scenario win in 2008?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Regional Trends: Prairies

Last month, I wrote about the regional trends in Alberta. Today, we'll look at the two Prairie provinces: Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Electoral History since 2004

A quick glance at the last three elections shows that the two provinces are dominated by the Conservatives, but that there are also some regions open to the NDP and the Liberals.

In terms of the vote share, what we see is a steady Conservative rise over the last three elections, coming almost entirely at the expense of the Liberals. The NDP has remained steady as a rock, while the Greens have slowly shown some gains.

In 2004, with 40.3% of the vote, the Conservatives took 20 ridings in the two provinces. The Liberals, with 30.4%, took four ridings as did the NDP with 23.5%. In 2006, the Conservatives maintained their 20 seats but increased their vote share to 45.6%. The Liberals, though dropping in support to 24.3%, managed to pick up another seat and take five in all. The NDP, which increased their support to 24.8%, lost one seat and took three in all. Finally, last year, the Conservatives continued to improve with 51.1% of the vote and 22 seats. The NDP kept themselves steady at 24.8% and picked up another seat. The Liberals dropped to a woeful 17.2% and only won two seats.

The Conservative strength is constant throughout the two provinces, while the Liberals and NDP pick up most of their seats in Manitoba, and Winnipeg in particular. Ralph Goodale, however, is the Liberal survivor extraordinaire in Saskatchewan.

Breaking this Tory domination seems extremely unlikely, but the Liberals and NDP do have eight seats to fight over in the two provinces - absolutely critical for the two parties in order to have some Western representation.

Polling Trends

The numbers have remained remarkably steady in the Prairies. The Tories have seen a small drop in support starting around April-May, where results in the 40s became more likely than results in the 50s. But considering their 20-seat haul in 2004 with 40% of the vote, this should not be a concern for them.

The Liberals have also shown some stagnation, but have improved their results from their polling lows in July and are starting to show some life. A result better than the 2006 election is likely, but the Liberals look to be stuck somewhere in the mid-20s.

The NDP has maintained itself at the 23%-25% support level it had in the last three elections. Some weak polling results at the end of July look to be over-come, but the NDP has not shown itself capable of getting out of its current position. Only very rarely has the party polled better than 1 in 4.

Finally, the Greens have shown some modest improvement over some horrible polling results in the first few months of this year. Nevertheless, unlike some of the other regions of the country, the Greens don't look like they will make some big strides forward in the Prairies. Maintaining their vote share looks like a reasonable goal.

The Conservatives are projected to take 21 seats in the two provinces, with the Liberals winning four and the NDP three. This has been locked-in for quite sometime now, which is not surprising considering the consistency of the polls.

The Liberals need to distance themselves from the NDP as well as show themselves capable of competing with the Tories on their own ground - all five seats that they have won in the past should be targeted. This is not a growth area for the NDP, and they need to fight hard to keep their four seats. This is one of the regions where the NDP should be able to defend what it currently holds, and this has to be a top priority. The Prairies gave birth to the NDP, and Jack Layton needs to keep a significant presence here. A return to Saskatchewan, though unlikely, would be a terrific victory.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pollster Leanings - Update

I've updated the pollster leanings chart for Angus-Reid, incorporating the last two months of polling. The favourability for the Conservatives has been reduced by an average of 0.6 points nationally and 0.5 points in Quebec, while the Liberals' unfavourability has been further increased by 0.3 points nationally and 0.5 points in Quebec. Angus-Reid's tracking of NDP numbers has improved by 0.6 points nationally and 0.4 points in Quebec, while it has also improved for the Bloc Quebecois by 0.4 points. There has been virtually no change in the relative favourabilty of Angus-Reid in polling Green support.

Nationally, AR is the second most favourable pollster for the Tories and the NDP at the national level. The are the most unfavourable pollster for the Liberals nationally and the second most unfavourable for the Greens. In Quebec, they are the second most favourable pollster for the Bloc Quebecois and the second-most unfavourable pollster for the Liberals.

The chart below tracks how each pollster tends to lean when calculating support levels for the various parties, as compared to the average polling results from other pollsters each month. This does not necessarily equate to a deliberate bias, but instead is more reflective of the polling methods used.

The following chart shows each pollster's average variation from other polling firms. The numbers are the amount of percentage points a particular pollster favours or disfavours that particular party compared to other pollsters over a similar period of time.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Party Perceptions

Angus-Reid released a new poll today, focused on how Canadians feel about the four pan-Canadian parties. Respondents were given 17 words, and had to say whether they felt each word applied or didn't apply to each party. The poll was taken between August 11 and August 12 and involved 1,003 respondents.

First, here are some graphics of the top five and bottom three responses for each party, with the word size denoting the relative size of people who said these words applied to each party.So the Conservatives are seen as arrogant (55%), secretive (48%), out of touch (43%), uncaring (37%), and dishonest (33%). Not exactly positive. And they aren't seen as exciting (3%), compassionate (5%), or open (11%). Ouch.So, the Liberals are seen virtually the same way as the Conservatives, except inefficient (42%) replaces uncaring (37%). They're also arrogant (43%), out of touch (41%), dishonest (38%), and secretive (32%). They aren't seen as exciting (5%), down to earth (9%), or honest (10%).Compared to the two major parties, the NDP is seen as a less effective party but not a particularly 'mean' party. They're considered out of touch (41%), inefficient (39%), weak (37%), foolish (32%), but also compassionate (30%). The two major parties didn't have a positive aspect in their top five. The NDP aren't seen as strong (7%), exciting (7%), or efficient (8%).Finally, the Greens. They're seen similarly as the NDP: weak (50%), inefficient (38%), out of touch (38%), down to earth (35%), foolish (29%), and compassionate (29%). They aren't seen as strong (2%), efficient (7%), secretive (8%), or exciting (8%).

The main thing you can take from this is that people generally don't have good opinions about any of the parties.

Now, let's look at how they are perceived overall. What I've done is averaged out all the totals for the positive and negative qualities, to give a result of how many people have a negative or positive view of the parties.So the NDP and the Greens have the best scores, and are seen most positively by Canadians. The Conservatives and Liberals follow, with the Liberals in last - quite surprising, actually. What's interesting is that Angus-Reid also broke down the results by how people voted in 2008. Looking at it that way, Green voters are most enthusiastic about their party by giving them an overall positive score of 47.3%. This is followed by the NDP (40.4%), the Conservatives (32.3%), and Liberals (31.7%).When it comes to bad qualities, people are more forthcoming. Here there is a bit of reversal, with the Greens edging out the NDP for least negative and the Conservatives taking the title as having the most negative responses. Broken down by party, Liberals see their own party the most negatively (14.0%), followed by the Conservatives (13.1%), the NDP (11.0%), and the Greens (9.3%).

So how do supporters see their own parties? For Conservative voters, Stephen Harper's party is intelligent (56%), strong (50%), and efficient (46%). They aren't foolish (4%), weak (7%), or exciting (7%). In fact, they are the only party whose supporters had "exciting" as one of their bottom three responses. An interesting result, however, is that only 9% of Conservative supporters see their party as compassionate. Seen as a weakness by the right, perhaps?

For Liberal voters, their party is intelligent (58%), in touch (37%), and strong (35%). They aren't uncaring (5%), dishonest (7%), or foolish (9%). However, 22% consider the party to be arrogant.

NDP voters see their party as down to earth (57%), compassionate (56%) and in touch (48%). What they aren't is uncaring (3%), secretive (4%), or dishonest (4%). What's interesting is that more NDP voters see the party as weak than strong.

Green voters are most enthusiastic, with 73% saying the party is down to earth, 65% saying they are open, and 64% saying they are intelligent. Greens don't view their party as arrogant (1%), secretive (3%), or uncaring (3%). At 5%, however, they also don't see themselves as strong.

This just confirms what I've seen in these sorts of polls. People don't particularly like the Conservatives, the Liberals, or their leaders. But they respect them. The NDP and Greens always score well when it comes to likability, but not when it comes to competence. I'm not sure what can be taken out of this. Do Canadians want hard, uncaring people to make the tough decisions in Ottawa?

CentVingtCinq Updated

Just a little note that I've aged the polls over on CentVingtCinq, the Quebec provincial wing of this site. Since there hasn't been a new poll since June, things are pretty quiet over there. But the aging of the polls has given the Liberals one more seat and the Parti Quebecois one fewer, opening up the PLQ lead to six (62 to 56).

Friday, August 14, 2009

Party Funding - Part Deux

A few days ago, I wrote about party funding, in response to talk of removing the public per-vote funding from the Bloc Quebecois.

One of the issues I was unsure about was where Bloc funding actually comes from. The Bloc relies on fundraising at the local riding level more than most parties. The Conservatives and some pundits have referred to the Bloc receiving 86% of its revenue directly from the per-vote taxpayer funding. I wrote about how that is inaccurate, as the Bloc raises funds in a different way than other parties.

Thanks to the terrific information compiled by The Pundits' Guide, an incredible source for anything to do with elections, party nominations, and party funding, I can provide you with some more accurate information.

This chart from TPG shows where funding comes from for all five major parties: As you can see, parties receive money from three major sources: central fundraising, riding association fundraising, and the public funding (the riding fundraising information for 2008 hasn't been compiled yet, as the info from TPG is only at a preliminary stage). One important thing to take from this chart is that the public funding hasn't replaced central or riding funding for either the Conservatives or the Bloc Quebecois. The argument that the Bloc survives off of the government funding, thus, falls flat. They've only used it to supplement their own fundraising, not replace it.

Prior to the public funding in 2004, the Bloc raised anywhere from $900,000 to $2,000,000 per year. Between 2004 and 2007, the Bloc has raised $1.7 million, $1.6 million, $1.5 million, and $1.2 million, respectively. Obviously, the amount being raised by the Bloc is slowly reducing, but this is still well within their pre-2004 performance. From this we can draw the conclusion that the Bloc is not relying on the public funding more than other parties. The argument, instead, can be made that it is the Liberals and the NDP who rely on this funding more than anyone else.

Let's look at 2007, the last year that TPG has complete information. The Bloc received 71% of its revenue, or $3.0 million, from the public funding (rather than the oft-quoted 86%). The remaining 29% came from their own fundraising initiatives, including $400,000 at the national level (or 10%) and $800,000 (or 19%) at the riding level. Now, as far as I can tell, fundraising at the riding level is far more complicated to compile, and must be reported at a different time than central funding. If I'm wrong correct me, but my understanding is that the parties need to report on their national fundraising on a quarterly basis while their riding association funding is reported on an annual basis. This leads to the mistaken view that the Bloc, which relies on central fundraising far less than the other parties, receives the vast majority of its funding from the public per-vote subsidy. The fact of the matter is that about 1/3rd of the Bloc's funding comes from private donors, and 2/3rds of that comes at the riding level. In 2007, only the Liberals (at 21% or $3.5 million) relied on riding-level fundraising more than the Bloc. The Conservatives and Greens received 15% of their funding at this level, while the NDP received 11%.

That the Bloc doesn't need to raise as much money as the other parties themselves comes as no surprise. Their expenses are much less than the other parties. They only operate in one province, so travel expenses are lower. They only communicate in one language, and they only have to try to reach 7 million people rather than 33 million. Should they be penalised for this? No, as this is a strategic choice by the party. Any of the pan-Canadian parties could choose to focus on one or two regions and so save their money. I'm sure that this is done to some extent, with parties spending a disproportionate amount of their revenue on individual regions.

Minister Steven Fletcher, who brought this issue to the forefront, wrote a letter to the Toronto Star in response to the criticism that his position was anti-democratic because it targeted the Bloc:

While some have advocated ending the per-vote subsidy only for the Bloc Québécois, that is not the position of our Conservative government. We believe that no party should have its operations supported by this taxpayer subsidy and that all parties should be primarily funded by their supporters.

This is clearly a more fair position to take, all parties should be treated equally. But the last part of his letter (We believe that no party should have its operations supported by this taxpayer subsidy and that all parties should be primarily funded by their supporters) nevertheless remains disingenuous. As I've shown in my earlier post, all parties rely primarily on taxpayer subsidies. As a reminder, anywhere from 50% to 75% of public donations are subsidised by the government - you receive 50% to 75% of your donation back on your taxes.

When you look at it in this manner, you see that, in 2007, the parties were funded by taxpayers to the following extent (rough estimates):

Conservatives - $24.6 million or 77%
Liberals - $13.8 million or 84%
New Democrats - $8.2 million or 82%
Bloc Quebecois - $3.8 million or 90%
Greens - $2.2 million or 85%

Kudos to the Conservatives for relying on taxpayer funding in the smallest proportion, but as you can see all parties rely primarily on taxpayer subsidies. In fact, about $52.6 million in taxpayer funding went to the five parties. Here are the parties' proportion of that funding, compared to the vote received in 2006:

Conservatives - 46.8% of funding, 36.3% of vote
Liberals - 26.2% of funding, 30.2% of vote
New Democrats - 15.5% of funding, 17.5% of vote
Bloc Quebecois - 7.2% of funding, 10.5% of vote
Greens - 4.2% of funding, 4.5% of vote

If the per-vote funding was the only funding parties received, it would actually be the most democratic option and would save taxpayer dollars. The conclusion that must be reached, then, is that all parties rely primarily on taxpayer dollars and that to remove the per-vote funding would actually make things less democratic and more unfair. Barring private donations, or removing the subsidy on private donations, would make things for more fair and would reduce taxpayer funding of political parties by about 50%.

The ultimate conclusion, then, is that this entire argument is based on political rhetoric rather than the facts.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Weekly Projection Update - Conservatives by Seven

The Conservatives still hold a seven seat lead on the Liberals. There have been no changes to the seat count. A remarkable thing about the polls in recent weeks, and even months, is the consistency. Even if a poll does show some movement, another one comes along that shows movement in the other direction, evening things out.

Nationally, the Liberals and NDP have traded 0.1 points, reducing the Liberal lead over the Tories to the smallest of margins.

Large regional movements include a 0.5-point loss for the Conservatives and a 0.3-point gain for the Greens in British Columbia, and a 0.3-point gain in the Prairies for the Liberals.

Because Elizabeth May has announced she'll be running on the West Coast, I've changed the projection model so that a Green seat win in Atlantic Canada becomes much more unlikely. However, considering the Greens are currently projected to do best in British Columbia, the seat choice by Ms. May seems like a good one. It will be interesting to see if we BC shows a small bump for the Greens over the next few weeks.

Another region to watch will be Atlantic Canada. The electoral victory of the provincial NDP in Nova Scotia has also paid off for Jack Layton's troops, and with the convention being held in Halifax over the weekend, the NDP may be able to sustain some of that momentum into the fall. Of course, we'll have to wait and see if the convention gives a bump to the party at all in the province.

And maybe, just maybe, next week we'll be calling them the Democratic Party of Canada, or DPC. Change is fun.

New EKOS Poll: 1.7% Conservative Lead

EKOS has released a new poll today, taken between August 5 and August 11 and involving 2,985 Canadians. The national results:

Conservatives - 32.7%
Liberals - 31.0%
New Democrats - 16.5%
Greens - 10.1%
Bloc Quebecois - 9.7%

With such a large sample size, that is a good result for the NDP. The Liberals and Conservatives remain very, very close.

The Conservatives lead in British Columbia (31.3%), Alberta (63.0%), and the Prairies (44.2%). They also lead among males (36.3%), those aged between 45 and 64 (34.4%), those over the age of 65 (43.1%), those with high school educations (35.8%) and those with college educations (35.4%). They also lead in Calgary (67.0%) and Ottawa (48.7%). In Ontario they're not far behind the Liberals at 35.5%, and their 16.3% in Quebec is not terrible. The 25.6% in Atlantic Canada, putting them in third, is.

The Liberals are leading in Ontario (38.8%) and Atlantic Canada (32.8%). They also lead among females (30.7%), those younger than 25 (26.9%), those aged between 25 and 44 (29.7%), and those with a university education (38.1%). They also lead in Vancouver (28.7%) and Toronto (47.7%). Their results in British Columbia (25.8%) and the Prairies (29.7%) are decent, and their 27.3% result in Quebec is a little below average.

The New Democrats had a very strong poll, but did not lead anywhere. They did take second place in British Columbia (26.6%) and Atlantic Canada (30.1%). Their results in Ontario (14.7%) and Quebec (11.1%) were alright, but their Prairie result (20.3%) is worrisome. They did best among 25-44 year olds (19.1%) and were strong in Vancouver (26.3%).

The Bloc Quebecois had a very strong 38.5% in Quebec, and lead in Montreal (38.8%).

The Greens always do well in EKOS polling, and their top demographic is those under the age of 25 (19.6%) and their best city is Vancouver (17.2%).

The poll also had a rating of approval or disapproval of the three major party leaders. Stephen Harper had the best approval rating at 36%, but also had the worst disapproval rating at 47%. Jack Layton had decent results (34% approve, 33% disapprove), while Ignatieff had the worst approval rating (29%) but had a better disapproval rating (38%) than Harper.

This poll translates into the following seat totals:

Conservatives - 117
Liberals - 110
Bloc Quebecois - 51
New Democrats - 30

Still very, very close. And a good showing by the NDP. Their goal in the upcoming election must be 30 seats or more if they want to have any hope of a moral victory.

Projection update coming later today, or tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Party Funding - Not So Simple

Recently, there has been talk of removing the public party funding from the Bloc Quebecois. It was first brought up in a Globe and Mail editorial by a former Conservative, and more recently was brought up by Minister of State Steven Fletcher, responsible for democratic reform.

Chantal Hébert has a scathing, and in my view justified, opinion on that matter.

One of the basic elements of the argument is that the Bloc is dependent on the public subsidy for survival, and that Canadian tax-payers are funding a sovereigntist party. Of course, the $1.95-per-vote subsidy is actually funded by the voters themselves. If you vote for the Conservatives, your $1.95 will go to the Conservative Party. If you vote for the Bloc, your $1.95 will go to the Bloc. That is a very democratic way of giving the parties public funding.

But the argument falls flat when you realise that private donations to political parties are subsidised at between 50% to 75%. So, if you donate $400 to a political party, you will get $300 back on your taxes. In that way, Canadian tax-payers are funding political parties in an undemocratic way. For example, if a party gets about 60% of all private donations (as the Conservatives did last year), but only had 36% of the vote, that party would be funded by tax-payers in a proportion larger than their portion of the vote.

So, I thought I'd look at how much money each party actually receives from this subsidy on private donations. These are rough, rounded numbers, but according to my calculations should be very close to the actual amount each party has so far raised in 2009 that will come from this private subsidy:

Conservatives - $5,400,000
Liberals - $3,700,000
New Democrats - $860,000
Greens - $270,000
Bloc Quebecois - $210,000

In addition to the $5.4 million the Conservatives will receive from this private subsidy, they have also received $5.1 million from the public per-vote funding. Taking both the public funding and the private donations into account, the Conservatives have raised about $13.4 million. Of that $13.4 million, only $2.9 million will actually be coming out of the pockets of private donors. The rest is coming from the public funding and the private subsidy - or a total of 78% of all of their funding.

In that sense, it is incredibly hypocritical to criticise the Bloc for relying on public funding, paid for by the Canadian tax-payer. The Bloc will only receive a total of $1.6 million from public funding and the private subsidy.

The Conservatives will be receiving about 6.5 times more funding than the Bloc from tax payers, while they only had 3.7 times more votes.

The number of 86% is often thrown around as how much of the Bloc's funding comes from the public per-vote funding, compared to the 38% of the Tories. The Bloc reports donations differently. Unlike the other parties, funds are raised in and for the local ridings to spend. The Bloc does not do major national funding and then distribute it to the riding associations, as the other parties do. As far as I can understand from the reports on the Elections Canada website, the Bloc raised $191,811 in donations at the national level so far in 2009. At the riding association level, they've raised $140,631, for a total of $332,442 - or 24% of their total revenue. So, if my calculations are correct, the Bloc's funding comes 76% from the per-vote funding. Still high, but not so high.

UPDATE - Thanks to The Pundits' Guide for pointing out that my calculation of the fundraising of the Bloc in the individual ridings is mistaken. It seems to be very difficult to figure out how much money is raised at the local level by the Bloc, though I'm sure there is a way. Suffice to say, the 86% is still incorrect as the Bloc, according to Bloc MP Pierre Paquette, raises as much money at the local level as they used to do with the national campaigns - somewhere around $1 million.

This post fills in some of the gaps and corrects some of my errors.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

New SC Poll: 2% Conservative Lead

The Globe and Mail has reported on a new Strategic Counsel poll of 1,000 Canadians taken between July 29 and August 3. SC has yet to post the detailed information on their website.

Here are the national numbers:

Conservatives - 34%
Liberals - 32%
New Democrats - 15%
Bloc Quebecois - 10%
Greens - 8%

So, well within what we've seen lately. "Statistically tied", as they say. I hate that phrase. While the margin of error means they could be tied, it could also mean an even greater Tory lead. So why not just say "it's close!"?

"It's close!" in Ontario:

Liberals - 40%
Conservatives - 37%
New Democrats - 14%
Greens - 9%

Again, this is what we've been seeing lately. And now Quebec:

Bloc Quebecois - 44%
Liberals - 30%
Conservatives - 14%
New Democrats - 7%
Greens - 6%

That's a huge Bloc result, but the Liberal and Tory numbers are nothing surprising. The NDP result is low, which is probably the reason for the high Bloc number.

The SC details won't give us much more information, as they don't seem to report on results in Atlantic Canada, and the "West" is globed into one group. What this poll does confirm, once again, is that this is a tight race, both nationally and in Ontario, and that the only real fluctuation in Quebec is the Bloc number. We could see a worse result than 2008 for the Bloc, or we might see the best result since 2004.

Monday, August 10, 2009

BC Provincial Poll - NDP On Top

Angus-Reid has released a new British Columbia provincial poll of 802 respondents.

British Columbia is one of several provinces where provincial politics don't translate well onto the federal scene - Quebec and Saskatchewan immediately come to mind. But, nevertheless, as the third largest province in the country the swaying of its political pendulum is worthy of attention.

The provincial New Democrats have maintained the 42% support of the May 2009 election, but the BC Liberals under Premier Gordon Campbell have seen their support melt away from 46% only three months ago to 34%. The beneficiaries have been the Green Party (up four points to 12%) and the BC Conservatives (up five points to 7%).

The NDP lead or share the lead in every part of the province. They lead in every age group and most other demographics. The BC Liberals are the favourite of only the rich and university educated.

Now what does this mean at the federal level? Hard to say. The Conservatives don't have a provincial counterpart in British Columbia worth mentioning, and the Nanos poll released today, taken over the same period, doesn't quite match up. Compared to 42% for the provincial wing of the party, the NDP had only 22.6% support at the federal level - and that 1.4 points lower than a few months ago. The BC Liberals, at 34%, share the same support level as the federal Liberals (34.1%). However, it is highly unlikely that tall BC Liberal supporters are federal supporters, because that would require half of the provincial NDP supporters to be Tory supporters at the federal level. What we likely have instead is BC NDP supporters going to the federal Liberals, and BC Liberal supporters going to the federal Conservatives.

If anything does match up well, it is the Green support: 12% provincially, 11.1% federally. We can safely assume that those are the same voters.

Nevertheless, with the provincial wing of the party doing so well, Jack Layton would be wise to put in some extra effort in British Columbia. Of course, most people can make the distinction between the two wings of the party, but if people are willing to vote NDP at the provincial level, they are more likely to be open to voting for the NDP at the federal level. What Layton has to do is figure out why virtually half of his provincial support goes elsewhere at the federal level.

New Nanos Poll: 2.5% Liberal Lead

Nanos Research has released a new poll today. It was taken between July 30 and August 2, so it is actually a little older than the EKOS poll from last week. Here are the national results:

Liberals - 33.8%
Conservatives - 31.3%
New Democrats - 18.7%
Bloc Quebecois - 9.2%
Greens - 7.0%

Nanos has been a particularly good pollster for the Liberals, and this lead actually represents a drop in 2.5 points from the last Nanos poll in June. So, relatively speaking, this poll isn't very positive. The Conservative number isn't any better, however, as it marks a 0.9 point drop. The NDP number is huge, and is an increase in 1.9 points. Compared to the dismal polling results we saw for Jack Layton's party last week, this is good news for them.

In Ontario, the Conservatives are showing a massive 7.4-point drop, and though the Liberals have shown a small drop in support they still lead at 38.4%. The NDP had a big 5.8-point gain, more or less representing the source of the national gain. They stand at 17.3%.

In Quebec, the NDP is also showing gains of almost four points, and stands in third place with 14.5%, ahead of the Tories at 13.1%. The Bloc is still out in front, at 35.8%, but is closely following by the Liberals, at 34.1%.

Elsewhere, the Liberals lead in British Columbia (34.1% to 32.3%) and Atlantic Canada (39.0% to 31.5%). That latter result represents a huge 12.4-point gain in Atlantic Canada for Stephen Harper, but considering the small sample size (78), this can be taken with a grain of salt.

Nanos polls Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba as one region, so their "Prairies" result is useless to me. Suffice to say, there isn't much movement here.

Because of a lack of usable results in Alberta and the Prairies, I can't say exactly what this poll would represent in seat wins. But, taking the currently projected results for Alberta and the Prairies, I get these results for seats:

Liberals - 118
Conservatives - 116
Bloc Quebecois - 47
New Democrats - 27

In all likelihood, this poll would have given the Liberals and NDP a few more seats in Alberta and the Prairies (particularly), so we can probably bump the NDP up to 28 or 29, the Liberals up to 120, and the Conservatives down to 113 or 112.

Nanos also asks who would make the best Prime Minister, and so my "Best PM" track has been updated. Stephen Harper leads the pack with 29.5%, with highs of 40.2% in the Prairies and lows of 16.2% in Quebec. Michael Ignatieff is close behind with 26.2%, with highs of 31.3% in Ontario and lows of 19.2% in the Prairies. Finally, Jack Layton rounds out the top three with 15.2%. His best numbers come in Atlantic Canada (19.9%) and his worst in Ontario (12.6%). That last fact is an issue.

In the Best PM track, this drops all three leaders (because Nanos allows Duceppe and May to be chosen as options). Harper sees the biggest drop, five points, while Ignatieff and Layton each lose two.

Finally, Canadians were asked what their top issue is. It is still "jobs/economy", at 30%, but this is a drop of 5-points from a few months ago. Healthcare has taken up the slack, and now stands at 26%. The environment (9%) and education (4%) are the next two.

The jump in concern about healthcare is likely the result of two things: firstly, the economy is getting better, so people are returning to their more 'traditional' concerns; and secondly, the debate about healthcare in the United States is undoubtedly having an effect here.

Does this mean that the leaders should change their message? No, but it might be a good idea to stop the "economy and only the economy" type of political discourse. People aren't as concerned anymore, so it's necessary to throw some other issues into the mix.

I should also point out that the "Leaders Speak" section will always be updated without notification. So scroll down daily to check out what the party leaders have been saying.

Friday, August 7, 2009

New Feature - The Leaders Speak

As you can see, on the right side of the page (scroll down) I've added a new feature.

In this section, I will post some recent quotes from the various party leaders that I feel to be noteworthy.

This is part of an on-going process to expand the coverage that provides. I want to cover politics as well as polls, and provide readers with as much information as possible.

If you have any suggestions for other features, please don't hesitate to leave a comment or contact me.

I've also added an image showing what Parliament would look like according to the projection.

Weekly Update - Conservatives by Seven

The projection has been updated. The EKOS poll from yesterday has been added and polls have been "aged" since we have passed into a new month.

The Conservatives have gained one seat in Quebec to rise to 121 seats. The Liberals lost one seat in Quebec and now stand at 114 seats. This puts the Tories in a minority position, with enough of a seat gap to form government - though just barely. The NDP and Bloc have remained steady.
Nationally, the Conservatives and Greens have gained 0.1 points. The Liberals and New Democrats have lost 0.1 points.

Regionally, there were few movements larger than 0.2 points. The Conservatives gained half a point in British Columbia and 0.3 points in Quebec. Both of these gains are important, as the Tories were beginning to slide on the West Coast and their Quebec performance simply needs to be better. The Liberals have lost 0.3 points in Alberta and 0.4 in Quebec - only the latter is particularly damaging. The New Democrats have gained 0.3 in the Prairies, a good sign.

You may have noticed the "short-term projection" on the right-side of the page is gone. I started making that projection because the "long-term projection" was reacting too slowly to the Liberal change in fortunes. I didn't want to be perceived as favouring one side over the other. During an election campaign, when several polls per day will be released, this won't be as much of an issue. I don't want my projection to swing widely - it will require a real change in trends to move in one direction or the other. But outside of an electoral campaign, where we only get several polls per month, the projection moves much more slowly.

But now that the long-term and short-term projections have become so close together, there is no more need for the short-term projection. I've thus removed it, and so the projection at the top of the page will remain as the only "official" projection of this site.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

New EKOS Poll: 3% Conservative Lead

As usual, EKOS has released a new poll today. It was taken between July 29 and August 4 and involved 2,468 interviews. The national results:

Conservatives - 34.9%
Liberals - 31.9%
New Democrats - 13.8%
Greens - 10.8%
Bloc Quebecois - 8.6%

That is an excellent result for the Tories. The Liberal result isn't terrible, however, so things still remain close enough. But the NDP result is horrific. They almost need the name change to get away from these kinds of numbers. The Green result is inflated, as usual.

Regionally, nothing too dramatic. But the NDP is weak in a lot of places - 18.4% in British Columbia, 22.5% in the Prairies, 12.5% in Ontario, and 23% in Atlantic Canada. This is simply a bad poll for them.

The Tories had no terrific results themselves, but are close in Ontario (36.2%) and had one of their best recent results in Quebec (19.1%). The Liberals had a surprisingly weak result in Quebec (27.6%). The Bloc 36.1% isn't even that good.

Did anyone do well in this poll?

If anyone did, it was the Conservatives. They led in most demographics (males, females, 25-44, 65+, high school, college, Calgary, Ottawa) while the Liberals (<25, university, Vancouver, Toronto) and the Bloc (Montreal) took the rest.

This poll would result in the following seat totals:

Conservatives - 127
Liberals - 113
Bloc Quebecois - 49
New Democrats - 18
Greens - 1

So, the Liberals remain within striking distance but the NDP caucus is decimated.

I'll be updating the projection later today or tomorrow morning. The poll has been "aged" with the passing of another month, so there should be some changes.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Democratic Party of Canada?

The blogosphere has been talking about it for a few days and it was brought up for the first time a few weeks ago, but the media is now beginning to report on the story as well.

The New Democrats are considering changing their name. They would drop the "New" and become the Democratic Party.

The NDP has been around for almost 50 years, so it does make sense to drop the "New". After two or three generations, it is difficult to consider them "new" anymore. And it is not unusual for a party to have the same name as parties in other countries. Many nations have Conservative and Liberal parties. The names themselves were brought over from the United Kingdom.

Could the popularity of the Democratic Party in the United States be an instigator for this name change? Quite possibly, but it doesn't really matter. I don't expect to see the NDP jump 5 points because of this, and it is impossible to know how Canadians will feel about the US Democrats in ten, twenty, or thirty years.

However, I'd suggest a different name. The Conservative and Liberal parties have names that are descriptive of their policies. The Bloc Quebecois has a name that is instantly understandable. And the Greens have an internationally recognised name that stands for environmentalism. But "New Democrat" is not descriptive of anything, and the name "Democratic Party" isn't much more descriptive. This Democratic Party of Canada wouldn't be really all that more democratic than the other parties in the House of Commons.

As I've talked about in the past, the New Democrats are part of the Socialist International. Now, unfortunately some of the other parties take to calling the NDP "socialists" in the pejorative sense, but the NDP shouldn't be afraid to be who they are. They frequently refer to their "social democracy", as does the Bloc Quebecois. So, that is not an unknown or scary phrase in Canadian politics.

I would suggest that the NDP change their name to the SDP, or Social Democratic Party. They wouldn't be the first. Various incarnations of the SDP have formed governments throughout the world. In fact, in Nazi Germany the Social Democrats were the only real liberal opponents to Adolf Hitler, and many of them spent years in concentration camps because of it. So the history of organised Social Democracy does have some good elements, and it would not be a bad idea for the NDP to embrace that political movement.

Unfortunately, I doubt the NDP would make such a change. As an alternative, the name "Democratic Party" seems better to me than the New Democrats, for the reasons I've outlined above. They aren't new anymore, and it doesn't help describe who they are. As long as they stick to their roots and keep the horrible olive green and bright orange, I'm down with the name change. Any party that is brave enough to wrap themselves in those colours is okay in my book.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Monthly Picture: July

Now it's time to look at the polling average over the month of July. A eight national polls were taken during this month, totalling about 16,140 interviews. Here are the results we get at the national level, with the difference from last month's average in brackets.

Conservatives - 33.4% (+1.4)
Liberals - 32.3% (-2.1)
New Democrats - 15.7% (+0.4)
Bloc Quebecois - 9.6% (+0.4)
Greens - 8.7% (+0.1)

Only the Conservatives had a good polling month, and they have increased their vote total by 2 points over the last two months. The Liberals had a bad month, dropping more than two points and losing the top spot. The NDP and Bloc Quebecois did alright, while the Greens stagnated. The NDP gain is significant in that they have been struggling since the last election. The seat projection for these results is as follows, with the difference from last month in brackets:

Conservatives - 124 (+12)
Liberals - 111 (-12)
Bloc Quebecois - 50 (+1)
New Democrats - 23 (-1)
Greens - 0 (-1)

The Liberals and Conservatives trade seats, and the Tories are back in power. It is still a close-run thing, however. The Bloc maintains itself while the NDP still loses more than a third of its current caucus.

The regional results, with difference from last month in brackets:

BRITISH COLUMBIA (seven polls - 1,599 people)

Conservatives - 37.8% (+2.7)
Liberals - 27.9% (-3.1)
New Democrats - 21.4% (-0.1)
Greens - 11.7% (-0.2)

ALBERTA (seven polls - 1,169 people)

Conservatives - 58.9% (-0.3)
Liberals - 19.7% (-0.7)
New Democrats - 11.2% (+0.1)
Greens - 9.6% (+1.1)

PRAIRIES (seven polls - 845 people)

Conservatives - 47.4% (-0.3)
Liberals - 21.5% (-4.9)
New Democrats - 21.2% (+2.6)
Greens - 8.3% (+1.5)

ONTARIO (eight polls - 5,679 people)

Liberals - 38.6% (-2.0)
Conservatives - 36.5% (+1.4)
New Democrats - 14.9% (+0.6)
Greens - 9.6% (unchanged)

QUEBEC (eight polls - 3,566 people)

Bloc Quebecois - 37.1% (+0.3)
Liberals - 30.7% (-2.6)
Conservatives - 15.5% (+2.1)
New Democrats - 9.7% (-0.3)
Greens - 6.7% (+0.5)

ATLANTIC CANADA (seven polls - 918 people)

Liberals - 37.2% (-2.0)
Conservatives - 29.6% (+3.2)
New Democrats - 27.6% (+1.5)
Greens - 4.6% (-2.7)

Regionally, the Conservatives and the NDP had the best month, gaining in four regions and losing in only two. The Conservatives losses were very small in the Prairies and Alberta, but they made significant leaps forward in British Columbia and Atlantic Canada, with more modest, but still important, gains in Quebec and Ontario. The NDP's gains were smaller, but the 2.6-point gain in the Prairies is a good sign for them, as is the small gain in Ontario. The Greens had a decent month, gaining in three, losing in two, and staying the same in one. All of the movements were very small except in Atlantic Canada, where they lost more than a third of last month's support. That makes an Elizabeth May campaign in Central Nova unlikely. The Bloc had a small gain, but that marks two months in a row.

The Liberals had a bad month, losing in all six regions. Only in Alberta was the loss small, in all other regions the loss was greater than two points, and reached a troublesome give points in the Prairies.

August and September will determine whether we'll be headed to an election in October. Michael Ignatieff will probably not defeat the government if he is still trailing, as the reasons for doing so aren't exactly clear, as they would be following the spring budget.