Friday, October 30, 2009

The 2008 Election: Four Other Scenarios

Earlier this week, I looked at what the 2008 election would have looked like if Canada had a two-party system. Using the "second choice" polling and the UBC election forecaster as in that post, I've looked at four other scenarios.

In this first scenario, during the summer of 2008 the Green Party disbands. Whether it is because they decide not to split the environmentalist vote, they run out of money, or because of some scandal, it's up to you.

With 40% of Green supporters going to the Liberals, 33% going to the NDP, 19% going to the Conservatives, and 8% (or 27% in Quebec) going to the Bloc, things actually don't change all that radically.

All parties increase their popular vote, but only the Liberals take a few more seats than they did in the actual election. Neither the Bloc nor the NDP benefit much from the disappearance of the Greens. This really puts a damper on the claims that the Greens play a significant role in keeping the Conservatives in government.

In this scenario, the Bloc Quebecois disbands to, say, focus on the next provincial election in Quebec.

This does make a big difference in the election. About 37% of Bloc voters go to the Liberals, 33% go to the NDP, 19% go to the Greens, and 11% go to the Conservatives. The national popular vote does not change radically, again, but all parties make some gains.

In terms of seats, this gives the Conservatives an extra six seats in the province, bringing them onto the doorstep of a majority with 149 seats. The Liberals make huge gains in Quebec, winning about 35 seats in the province. However, with 112 seats, they're still only the official opposition. The NDP also makes big strides in the province, winning nine seats in all. Most of them come on the island of Montreal, but the others come in Gatineau, Drummondville, and St-Hyacinthe. With 157 seats, an NDP-Liberal coalition government is possible.

In this next scenario, the Liberals and NDP agree to a merger in order to stop the Conservatives from forming another government.

Not all NDP voters are happy with this, though, and while 53% go to the new Liberal/NDP formation, 21% go to the Greens, 17% go to the Conservatives, and 10% (or 43% in Quebec) go to the Bloc Quebecois.

The result is another Conservative minority government. This pushes the Tories over 40% but inflates the Liberal result to almost 36%. The Bloc also benefits, as do the Greens. The Bloc wins two more seats and gets 51, but the Greens still do not elect anyone.

The Conservatives maintain their seat total, but the Liberal/NDP merged party is the big beneficiary, going to 114 seats. Stéphane Dion and Jack Layton share Official Opposition Leader duties.

This last scenario is the most unlikely, but assumes that both the Greens and the Bloc disappear during the summer of 2008.

In this scenario, the Liberals get 43% of Green votes and 41% of Bloc votes. The NDP gets 36% of Green votes and 45% of Bloc votes. The Conservatives get only 21% of Green votes and 14% of Bloc votes.

The result is, again, a Conservative minority of, again, 143 seats. The Liberals make the biggest gains, going from 26% to 33% and taking 118 seats. The NDP also benefits, pushing its vote up to a massive 25% and taking 45 seats. Here again, a Liberal/NDP coalition is possible as the two parties hold 163 seats.

With these results, an argument can be made that Jack Layton is doing as well as Ed Broadbent did in the 1980s. The problem is that Broadbent didn't have to deal with the Greens and the Bloc Quebecois. In fact, when you remove the Bloc from the equation, Layton would be making the kind of strides in Quebec that Broadbent could have only dreamed of.

As some of you have pointed out, these don't add up to 308 seats, but that is because of independents.

An interesting little exercise to mull over the weekend. It shows how well the Conservatives did in the last election. Only by eliminating the Bloc, Greens, and NDP did the Liberals have a chance to win the most seats.


  1. Why not go province by province and do a 1990's scenario, with the PC Party and the Alliance

  2. Maybe next time. It would take awhile to do.

  3. Interesting...
    It actually wouldn't change all that much in the House.

    I like the way you think about all these different possibilities!

  4. In your No-BQ scenario, the seat totals only add up to 306, not 308.

  5. I feel like I have little to say except that the reslts are very interesting.

  6. I think this highlights the regional nature of the current Canadian political landscape.

    There's not a lot of vote-splitting going on. The Conservatives win seats where they are strong enough to win seats regardless of who their opponents are, and the opposition parties win the rest of the seats.

  7. And none of those seat totals add to 308.

  8. --- "And none of those seat totals add to 308."


  9. I'm pretty surprised that the elimination of the bloc and the greens doesn't result in a majority government for anyone. 20% of the vote is "freed" up but to no one's overwhelming advantage. Good analysis Eric.

  10. An interesting aspect of the pre-1993 scenario is that Jack Layton is doing as well as Ed Broadbent. The problem is that Broadbent didn't have to deal with the Greens and the Bloc. In fact, when you remove the Bloc from the equation, Layton would be making the kind of strides in Quebec that Broadbent could have only dreamed of.

  11. I'm going to add that realisation to the post.

  12. yup, just imagined if the Meech lake accord had passed. So many things would be different in canadian politics - no BQ, maybe no Reform Party, Tories would still probably have lost in '93 but not by anywhere near as much, no Quebec referendum in '95 - the list goes on and on.

  13. DL

    Only the most partisan of Trudeauites still deny that Meech should have been ratified.

    Or those who are ignorant of what was actually IN Meech.
    (a large number unfortunately)

  14. Eric,

    did you get a new espresso machine?

    slowly back away from the cup.....

    Great post and thanks again for all the number crunching.

  15. Goaltender Interference30 October, 2009 17:36

    I'm not sure things would have been too different with Meech being passed. As you say, the PCs would still have lost in 1993 and Mulroney would still have resigned. Once Mulroney was out, Lucien Bouchard and the other sovereignist PCs may well have still left the party to form their own caucus, rather than sit in opposition behind Kim Campbell.

    Parizeau would still have won the 1994 Quebec election and gone ahead with a referendum (he was no fan of Meech). And if Meech had passed in spite of most westerners being against it, that could have fed into the western discontent that gave life to Reform.

  16. Goaltender is probably right.

    Western alienation was going to rise no matter what. Same with Quebec seperatism.

    We're giving too much credit to constitutional arrangements. Meech wasn't a chicken, it was just one of many possible eggs. Other issues or sticking points would have been used to advance these positions.

    Many believe the theory that political parties don't generate ideas, they consume them. They're vehicles that respond to public pressure and cultural changes (the ones that don't cease to exist and we don't remember them).

  17. After Meech, the Charlottetown accord was defeated by voters by a big margin. I know they're not the same proposal, but I've seen no indication that the public changed it's mind.

    Thinking about the results of the projections... I'm now curious as the results if the NDP got it's wish and were stacked up directly against the Conservtives.

  18. Ask and ye shall receive.

    Here is how the former voters go:

    LPC = 45.5% to CPC, 54.5% to NDP
    GPC = 36.4% to CPC, 63.6% to NDP
    BQ = 23.5% to CPC, .76.5% to NDP

    The result?

    The Conservatives would have 54.4% of the vote and win 189 seats. The New Democrats would take 44.4% of the vote and 118 seats.

    Shows quite accurately how, compared to the Conservatives, the Liberals occupy more of the centre. But also that, compared to the NDP, the Conservatives occupy more of the centre.

  19. Eric,

    the centre isn't all its made out to be in politics. Usually it can't hold in a polarized environment. I think the Conservative position and even the NDP position is better - to hold down one end of the spectrum and reach out to the middle.

    I'm not big on making grand predictions but I personally think the days of the Liberal party are more or less over.

    It existed as a middle of the road vehicle for various power brokers and elites to rule with. It won because it had all the money, the opposition was disorganized, and it confused people by telling them that "Liberal" and "Canadian" were the same thing.

    My guess is that after Harper wins his majority next year, Bob Rae becomes leader and tries to unite the left somehow.

  20. Wow; not that bad actually.


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