Monday, August 16, 2010

Best Case Scenarios: July

Time for the July "best case scenarios". Not a very positive month for anyone. The situation has gotten marginally worse for the Conservatives, relatively worse for the Liberals, and unchanged but less ideal for the New Democrats.

These best case scenarios calculate each party's best projection result last month in each region (West, Ontario, Quebec, Atlantic Canada).

For example, if the Conservatives had their best result in the West in an Angus-Reid poll, their best result in Ontario in a Nanos poll, their best result in Quebec in a Léger poll, and their best result in Atlantic Canada in an EKOS poll, I've taken each of these bests and combined them.

In other words, these projections are the best possible result each party could've gotten had an election taken place last month, based on the available polling data.

Things are unchanged for the New Democrats, who in July could do no better than 44 seats. While that would be a historic best for the party, the 20.0% that would give it to them would not be. These 44 seats are unchanged from last month.However, the make-up of the rest of Parliament is very different. Whereas in June the NDP also won 44 seats, the Liberals won 99 and the Conservatives 114. That gave the NDP a lot of leverage, as combined with the Liberals they had as large a block in the House of Commons as the Conservatives presently have. But this month, the Conservatives won 137 seats and the Liberals 76 seats in this scenario, meaning the combined total of the Liberals and NDP is not greater than what the Tories have.

In this scenario, the NDP wins 20 seats in the West, 18 in Ontario, 2 in Quebec, and 4 in Atlantic Canada. It is worth noting that in this best case scenario the NDP does no better than 22% in Atlantic Canada.

The Liberals do increase their seat haul this month, taking 112 seats rather than last month's 111. Nineteen of them come in the West, 51 in Ontario, 17 in Quebec, and 25 in Atlantic Canada. But while this does mean one more MP for the party than last month, it means a bigger gap between them and the Conservatives.Though the Liberals take 32.4% of the vote in this scenario, the Conservatives maintain enough of an edge to win 122, ten more than they won in the Liberal best case scenario in June. While the combined total of the Liberals and NDP (137) is better than what the Conservatives can muster, the situation is not as cozy for Michael Ignatieff.

All in all, however, the change in best case scenarios is worst for the Conservatives. With 36.5% of the vote, the party would win 142 seats: 70 in the West and North, 54 in Ontario, 8 in Quebec, and 10 in Atlantic Canada.Last month, however, they were at 154 seats, or one shy of an outright majority. They've moved away from that significantly, and their best case scenario is now marginally worse than their present standing in Parliament, though the difference (even in the make-up of the Opposition) is negligible.

Clearly, the Liberals still have a lot of work to do before they are in a situation that would make them relish an election. While increasing their caucus from 77 to 112 MPs would be great for them, it would still mean a possibility of being on the Opposition benches. And if Ignatieff ended up as Prime Minister, it would be as head of a relatively weak coalition government.

The NDP do have some things going for them. They do have a chance of increasing their seat total and perhaps even being part of a coalition government, but as the other scenarios show they also risk losing some of their clout. If I were them, I would hold off on an election until my best case scenario number was in the high-40s to the low-50s. There's just too much to lose for them.

Finally, the Conservatives have nothing to gain from an election. It is extremely unlikely they would do better than their current 144 MP caucus. While it is probable that they would still win a plurality of seats and so extend the life of their government for another 18-24 months, there is a big risk of finding themselves with fewer seats than the combined total of the Liberals and NDP. While a coalition of that sort is not preferred by the Liberal leader, it is still a distinct possibility, particularly if the Conservatives take a severe drubbing on election night.

We're still seeing too much uncertainty and volatility for any of the parties to want to pull the trigger prematurely. Far more likely is that the parties will putter along until the spring or next fall. The next Conservative budget will either be one of austerity or pre-election spending, both of which can easily be attacked by the opposition for being too harsh or too irresponsible. If Jim Flaherty takes a more middle-of-the-road stance, it will be difficult for the government to promote itself with such an unexciting budget, and if the global economic situation has stabilized, the party's new-found sense of fiscal responsibility will fall flat.

But, then again, Ignatieff could don a hair-net and the Tories could be swept to a majority. Either way.


  1. "If I were them (the NDP), I would hold off on an election until my best case scenario number was in the high-40s to the low-50s. There's just too much to lose for them."

    I think that's a very superficial analysis. The NDP has started almost every election campaign of the last 40 years somewhere in the 15% to 20% range. Polls in a non-election period bounce around and fluctuate based on who has been in the news that day. Ultimately, you don't decide whether its time to pull the plug because Ekos says 19% as opposed to 18% - you decide to pull the plug because there is an issue that demands it, and you look at factors like the state of party funding and organization, candidate recruitment.

    All through 2005, the federal Tories under Harper were trying desperately to force an early election - even though just about every poll kept on giving the Liberals under Martin a healthy lead! Conversely, back in late 2007 and early 2008, the federal Liberals were PETRIFIED of an election even though many polls at the time showed the Liberals in a dead heat with the Tories. Liberals knew that whatever Harris-Decima was saying that day - the fact was they were broke and in disarray and Dion's performance was not improving.

  2. Bravo, only us politcos will get the hairnet reference. Hilarious!

  3. Time to give up on Quebec:

  4. Lots of stuff we cannot know for certain affecting how the big 3 react over the next time frame.

    The Globe has an article suggesting that no one will call until the new seats are out there (30 total) as without those 30 non-Quebec seats a majority is almost impossible.

    There is also the GOTV ability of the CPC and the focus that the NDP has on key ridings (and Bloc has on one province) that makes a big difference too. Unmotivated voters = big trouble for the Liberals.

    The next election, if held in the fall, will test the organizational strength and strategy of all of the parties (except the Bloc). If held off until the spring there might be some issue that gets the average voter engaged enough to give the Liberals a real shot.

    In truth, for the parties it probably makes a lot of sense to ignore Alberta (95% CPC) and Quebec (mostly Bloc) and focus on BC and Ontario. Some attention to the Atlantic Canada and the prairies but the big difference makers are BC & Ontario. Will any of the big 3 take the chance and write off efforts (beyond token local member efforts) in BC & Alberta? Time will tell.

  5. "The Globe has an article suggesting that no one will call until the new seats are out there (30 total) as without those 30 non-Quebec seats a majority is almost impossible."

    I have news for you. According to the Canadian constitution, the absolute maximum term of office for a parliament is FIVE YEARS. That means that even if all the parties in the house wanted to stall an election as long as possible - we MUST have an election by Oct. 2013. Unless, Harper wants to try to amend the consitution to extend his term beyond five years which is a constitional amendment requiring unanimous consent of the provinces!

    Any new electoral map cannot come into effect until 2014 at the very earliest since they need to wait for the report on the 2011 census which won't be issued until 2012 and then strike commissions to recommend new boundaries etc...

    We have discussed this before. The next election will be fought on the current boundaries - 100% certain no scenario where it could be any difference.

  6. OK everyone help.

    This is the second media reference i've seen recently to the notion that an election won't be held until AFTER redistribution.

    But my understanding was that the time frame is literally impossible because new seats wouldn't be added until after the census count is done and there's a public comment waiting period and then a 1 year phase in for any new seats.

    And an election MUST be held by fall 2012.

    Is the media wrong ? Or does the bill to add new seats take effect right away, without waiting for normal census redistribution ?

  7. I thought there was a problem with delaying until those 30 seats were added. Thanks for the details DL.

    Funny that the new seats depend on census data - still, it would be based on the short form (people of voting age who are Canadian citizens) not the long form so it wouldn't be affected.

    There still is some value in delaying though, if you feel those 30 are vital, as the later this election occurs the more likely the next one after it would have those new seats available (assuming a minority parliament).

    So many tea leaves to read, so little time.

    As to Green hopes - iirc there has been a poll recently putting one seat in BC and another putting one in Ontario thus the GPC best hope is 2 seats at this time. Sad that 10-12% could result in just 2 seats.

  8. I disagree with Eric's analysis.I think the only party to lose in a fall/spring election will be the cons. Unless they get a majority, which looks unlikely, they will lose seats in Ontario Quebec and the Maritimes, mostly to the libs, and in the west mostly to the NDP. Duceppe is a much better campaigner now, so the bloc will stay about the same. In any election all the opposition parties will be attacking Harper, his right wing agenda and his obsession to control, and this will have some effect on the outcome. When they lose seats, the divisions in the Cons between PCs and reform will start to erupt in infighting and Harper will lose control of the party and power. I think they had their best shot at a majority in 2008, and people are getting a bit sick of them.

  9. they need to wait for the report on the 2011 census

    I thought it was based on the 2006 census ??

  10. "they need to wait for the report on the 2011 census"

    "I thought it was based on the 2006 census ??"

    The last bill was. I don't know, is there a cutoff where it has to be based on the more current (future) census? What might the differences be in the 2011, might there be 35-40 seats instead of 30? Might there be some population shifts to areas less affected by the recession that might benefit one party or another?

  11. I gave up on Quebec long ago.

    I work for a charity, and Quebeckers give less to charity than the residents of any other province.

    On average, Quebeckers donate only 0.33% of their income to charity. Compare that to the Canadian average (0.79%), or Ontario (0.84%) or Alberta (0.86%). The most generous province is Manitoba (1.02%).

    Having Quebec around benefits me not at all.

  12. Sad that 10-12% could result in just 2 seats.

    Why is that sad? That's how our electoral system works. You need to represent the plurality of a community's opinion in order to get elected. It's a great system.

    If the Green supporters would congregate in one area, they could elect a large block of MPs. That they don't do that makes me question their commitment to the party.

  13. Shadow: "Is the media wrong ?"

    Do flowers bloom in spring?

    I bet you 90% of the National Press Gallery could not explain the process by which redistribution works, or the time-frame for it. It's just the flavour of the month to write about, right now.

    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Shadow.

    DL is completely right on the calendar. This will teach you to trust anything Jane Taber writes about the mechanics of elections!

    Oh, and to the other commenters: the next redistribution will be based on the 2011 census. Whatever's left of it by then.

  14. Ira the people of Quebec aren't completely to blame for their comparative lack of charity.

    High taxes and generous social services tends to reduce the impulse to give.

    Its one of the reasons why when a lefty screams that we must raise taxes to help various disadvantaged peoples I reframe the question as follows:

    Do you really think that a large, one size fits all, top down government bureaucracy could identify and serve people's needs better than a network of private community based charities run by volunteers?

    People often complain about the overhead costs associated with donating to charity.

    Yet they rarely remark upon the ridiculous administrative costs and extravagant public sector salaries associated with government directed assistance.

    If anyone truly wishes to assist the disadvantaged then slashing government spending and taxes would be the ideal route to take.

  15. Will have a post tomorrow refuting Taber's column and Wright's comments.

  16. Redistribution is done every ten years based on the census done in the '1 year. Past redistributions were based on the censuses of '71, '81, 91' and '01. The next one will be based on the 2011 census. The bill the Tories want to pass only affects the formula for calculating how many seats each province gets - but the actual map drawing has to wait until after the 2011 census. As a point of reference, the 2004 election just barely happened late enough to be under the new map. If it had been called just a couple of months earlier - the election would have been fought on the old map.

  17. Eric cancel that article.

    I think John Northey has misread Jane Taber.

    I carefully parsed the article in question and nowhere does she mention an election call, its timing, and certainly not its timing in relation to redistribution.

    IN the actual interview with The Mark John Wright clearly says that the changes will not occur in time for the next election.

    Jane fails to mention that.

    But she also doesn't mention election timing either.

    Wright's comments require no refutation.

    Taber's column is unclear but not wrong.

  18. then slashing government spending and taxes would be the ideal route to take.

    Only a neo-con/Tea Partier would say a thing like that.

    You've finally positioned yourself correctly !! well done

  19. Shadow, as you can see, my post is not about the timing issue.

  20. Ira, surely you jest ... ?

    You suggest that Green supporters are uncommited to their party because they're mostly unwilling to drop their jobs & move to a new community in order to circumvent the restrictions of the FPP system.

    Employing this logic in another context: Canadian Conservatives living in ridings which are opposition strongholds are unhelpful and unloyal to the conservative movement.

    If they truly cared, they would be willing to pack up their lives and congregate in battleground ridings. This would propel the Conservatives well into majority territory.

    Hmm ... "That they don't do that makes me question their commitment to the party."

  21. SK: Ira, surely you jest ... ?

    This comment notched up my respect for Ira. I like deadpan satire. Hint: read Swift's "Modest Proposal".

  22. Ira, about charity donations, does that include church donations? Quebecers have a very low church attendance rate. If your numbers include the $10 people give on a weekly basis to their local church in rural Manitoba, then I don't think they are indicative of generosity.

  23. Hmm ... a good possibility, John, hence the ellipsis and question mark in my opening statement. I'm not on the comment board often enough to know where Ira actually stands and actually had Poe's 'Law' in mind when I was reading her comment!

    If you're correct, kudos to you for your astuteness and Ira for her wit. Dunce cap to me.

  24. No, Éric, just registered charities. At least, that's my reading of the study (the Fraser Institute's 2009 Generosity Index).

    And regardless, Alberta and BC are the two provices with the highest proportion of self-identified non-religious people, and yet they score far better than Quebec on philanthropy.


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