Friday, November 5, 2010

Conservative disaster in Saskatchewan averted?

The day before the federal government decided to block BHP Billiton's bid to take over Potash Corp., I wondered whether the claims that the Conservatives could stand to lose some or all of their 13 seats in Saskatchewan if the deal was allowed to go through had any merit.

Premier Brad Wall was giving every indication that he would fight the government tooth and nail over it, and the potential for an "Anything But Conservative" (ABC) campaign in Saskatchewan like the one that destroyed the Conservatives in Newfoundland & Labrador in 2008 was clear.

An Insightrix poll in mid-October pegged opposition to the deal at 55% in the province, while Angus-Reid found that 62% of people in Manitoba and Saskatchewan were in support of Wall's position. It's quite likely the numbers in Saskatchewan alone were quite higher than in Manitoba.

The latest provincial poll I could find for Saskatchewan was taken in November of last year, and it had Mr. Wall's Saskatchewan Party at 62%, followed by the New Democrats at 21%.

As the Saskatchewan Party held a pretty solid 60% throughout 2009, I decided to use that as my baseline.

Assuming Brad Wall could've conducted a similarly successful ABC campaign as Danny Williams did in 2008, what would be the result in Saskatchewan? As Williams' support is usually in the mid-70s, I assumed that Wall would be 80% as successful as Williams (60/75=0.8).

Now, I've described the success of the ABC campaign in Newfoundland before. But to sum it up, it sank the Conservatives in the province from 42.7% support in 2006 to only 16.6% in 2008. It cost the Conservatives about 65,000 votes, as the party went from 97,159 to 32,261. Because of the drop in turnout, we can assume that about 50% of voters stayed home, while the other 50% voted for the Liberals or the New Democrats.

It cost the Conservatives the three seats they held of the province's seven, and knocked the Tories out of contention in the three other seats that they had lost by 15 or fewer points in 2006.

The Conservatives' vote share dropped by 61.1%.

Using that as my base and reducing it by the 20% disparity between Wall's and Williams' popularity, I came to the figure of a vote drop of 48.9% for the Conservatives in Saskatchewan. I then portioned the lost votes to the other parties according to their share of the vote in each riding in 2008.

The result?From 13 seats, the Conservatives would be reduced to only two, with the Liberals picking up one seat and the NDP picking up the other ten.

The Conservatives would be reduced from 54% to 28% of the vote, with the NDP rising from 26% to 40%, and the Liberals from 15% to 23%.

The two ridings the Conservatives would retain are Cypress Hills-Grasslands and Souris-Moose Mountain. In the former, the Tories would hold a 33% to 30% lead over the NDP. In the latter, the vote would be split at 36% apiece, with the Tories having the tiniest of advantages.

The Liberal pick-up would by Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River, with 43% of the vote against 24% for the Conservatives, while Raplh Goodale would cruise in Wascana.

The Tories would be in the running in a few other ridings, namely Saskatoon-Wanuskewin (29% to the NDP's 40%) and Yorkton-Melville (35% to the NDP's 43%), while they would be within 13 points of the NDP in Battlefords-Lloydminster and Blackstrap.

It's hard to believe, but few would have thought it possible for the Conservatives to be so roughly handled on the Rock, and Western Alienation might just be as strong a force as Newfoundlander provincialism (nationalism?).

Of course, this was just a rough exercise. More plausibly the Conservatives would be reduced from 13 seats to the six that I mentioned above, or more. But the potential for catastrophic loss is there.

It appears that the Conservatives made some of the same calculations that I did. And considering that Wall has allies in the premiers of Alberta and Manitoba, there was a risk that a Wall-led ABC campaign could have spilled over into neighbouring provinces, which wasn't a risk with Williams.

In the end, Wall was profuse in his thanks to the federal government for blocking the deal, so this ABC campaign will not come to pass. But it is an interesting look at what could've happened, and an indication of how powerful a popular provincial premier can be.

21 comments:

  1. BTW, the latest Tweet from the Regina Leader-Post reveals that a new public opinion poll will soon be released in Saskatchewan with this early teaser:

    "Which leader would make best premier:

    Wall 73.3%;
    Lingenfelter 16.7%;"

    http://twitter.com/leaderpost

    Those are almost Danny Williams numbers!

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  2. Just to point out, Eric, the Liberals managed 15% in Saskatchewan last election, not 12%.

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  3. Whoops, got it right in the text, not in the graph. Will fix.

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  4. Here's an opportunity for Iggy to do something wildly unpopular in Saskatchewan where the Liberals never win any seats, but could be popular in the 905-area where they desparately need seats to regain power:

    Come out as hard and strong as possible against this Conservative decision, say that it's chasing away international money that would help the recovery, say that it's turning Canada into an international economic backwater, etc. etc. Link it up with the United Arab Emirates fiasco and make it a big theme in the next few weeks. The Liberals can only gain by trying to drive a wedge between conservative free-marketers in Ontario and protectionist CPC supporters in Saskatchewan.

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  5. Goaltender that would have been possible if the Liberals had not already come out against this sale.

    Such an about face, like the one suggested they do for the HST, would only serve to undermine Ignatieff.


    More likely with the Liberals providing them cover the Conservatives would have allowed the deal. Much like the HST.

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  6. I don't think the Tories would ever have lost as many seats in Saskatchewan as they did in Newfoundland in the first place. The Tories were down to just three out of seven seats in NL even before Danny Williams went on his ABC campaign and several of those were relatively marginal to begin with. On top of that Williams was always very much a red Tory with no particular affinity for Harper or anything he represents.

    In contrast in Saskatchewan - the Tories start at a much much higher level and you probably have a pretty big chunk of people - especially in rural Sask. who just don't have it in their DNA to ever vote Liberal or NDP. In contrast, Newfoundland politics is no non-ideological and personality based that most people there would probably consider voting for any party under the right circumstances. Brad Wall is a an old Reform Party loyalist and he is joined at the hip to Harper - I'm sure it pained him to have to go through this pantomine of attacking and threatening his good friend.

    If harper had allowed the PCS deal to go through - it might have increased the odds of the Tories losing 3 or 4 seats - a couple of which they may still lose. But i don't think an 1 for 14 massacre was ever in the cards.

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  7. GI,

    That sounds nice on paper, but there's not enough votes to be had because of it. Free-trade Conservatives that care about this decision aren't going to jump over to the semi-free-trade Liberals.

    Besides, we've already come out against the deal itself. Too late to turn back the clock.

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  8. Goaltender Interference: Here's an opportunity for Iggy to do something wildly unpopular in Saskatchewan where the Liberals never win any seats, but could be popular in the 905-area where they desparately need seats to regain power:

    Or, he could really stand out from the crowd. He could say,

    "Whatever the motivation, Stephen Harper has made two good decisions in a row. Before blocking the Potash sale, he blocked the Prosperity Mine in BC. We have been highly critical of a long string of bad decisions that the current government has made. However, that's because of the decisions, not the government making them. When they do the right thing--as they have recently--we will applaud them and support them. We do so now."

    Now that would win votes nationwide from an electorate utterly sick of bickering and sniping. However, those kinds of noises are not coming from Michael Ignatieff these days. No, they're coming from--wait for it--Stephen Harper, he of my-way-or-the-highway fame. "The leader of the NDP raises questions about the act and whether it should be reviewed, and while I do not agree with all things in the NDP motion, the act should be reviewed," Harper told the Commons in response to a question from NDP leader Jack Layton.

    That sounds downright prime ministerial. I'm skeptical that this attitude of confidence and even leadership will last, but it's delightful while it's here.

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  9. Don't we have someone on here who regularly accuses me of using talking points and says I agree with the government on EVERY. SINGLE. ISSUE ?

    Well let's debunk that right now.

    Prosperity mine = horrendous decision.

    Blocking potash = ditto.

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  10. DL,

    Two of the St. John's seats lost by the Conservatives in 2008 had been tory for the large majority of time since confederation. There was a pretty solid Liberal vote there so they could do alright with a strong candidate but losing those two seats were big losses for the Conservatives.

    I'd say the two seats could be compared to Liberal seats in suburban Toronto.

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  11. "Goaltender Interference said...

    Here's an opportunity for Iggy to do something wildly unpopular in Saskatchewan where the Liberals never win any seats, but could be popular in the 905-area where they desparately need seats to regain power:

    Come out as hard and strong as possible against this Conservative decision, say that it's chasing away international money that would help the recovery, say that it's turning Canada into an international economic backwater, etc. etc. Link it up with the United Arab Emirates fiasco and make it a big theme in the next few weeks. The Liberals can only gain by trying to drive a wedge between conservative free-marketers in Ontario and protectionist CPC supporters in Saskatchewan."

    There are two problems with this theory. First, the number of people who are likely to be hopping mad about the BHP decision (forget the GTA,anywhere in Canada) is probably limited to a few hundred investment bankers and corporate lawyers (some of whom I know) who would have reaped a fortune in fees from the transaction - none of whom live in the 905, and many of whom already vote Liberal - and maybe a handful of Ayn Rand-ites, who aren't going to vote Liberal anyhow. So, there's no real upside to taking that position. Free-trade (and free-capital flows) are good policy. But politically, they've never been a huge vote getter.

    Second, the Liberals were already on record of urging the government to bloc the deal. Ralph Goodale - THE DEPUTY LEADER OF THE LIBERAL PARTY - and handful of other Liberal bigwigs (Coderre, Garneau, Hall-Findley) had already come out strongly against the deal on October 20th. And of course, there's also the little problem of a certain Michael Ignatieff - remember him, the LEADER OF THE LIBERAL PARTY - accusing Harper of "selling out" Canada if the deal wasn't blocked on October 22. Don't you think Iggy and the Liberals would look awfully stupid (and totally lacking in credibility) if, a week later, they turned around and tried to tee off on the Conservatives for doing exactly what the Liberals wanted them to do?

    The BHP decision is probably lousy economics and policy, but the politics are perfect. The government is Teflon on this one.

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  12. Mmmm potash

    As a Saskatchewan holder of the resource... probably a good thing not to offer foreign nationals that kind of control over a resource which we hold more than 1/2 the world supply.

    As a shareholder of PCS.... Well, I sold those shares the second the market opened. ... and saved myself the $20 a share they dropped that day. Who wants to invest in something where the upside is limited by preventing some bidders from bidding. That's not maximizing $$ for shareholders.

    hmmm.. And for that matter, as an investor, what other companies should I stay away from on the same grounds? What else might suddenly lose the upside by the government meddling? (atleast it didn't get nationalized.... it might have had the provincial NDP been in power)

    And third on the list. Canpotex. From the description this month, it would appear that the function is to push the price up by limiting the production of the few companies that produce the product here. In other words. Basically a cartel. As a consumer of potash on the farm.... Sign me up for the class action suit.



    As to the political situation. A good move by Brad Wall. A national presence now. And maneuvering the Harper governments decision. (not many can say they did that). And everyone can now stand up and say western concerns were listened to.

    Would Wall have gone ABC? I doubt it. He may have fought the issue though the courts and the media for some time. (but what do I know... I was sure it was hardball negotiation for a better deal)

    And if he did? The tories would have lost some seats. A couple. Definitely not 11. btw Eric, I disagree with your quick model that assigned that much of the vote to the NDP based on proportion of the last election. People do hate the liberals, but the province is basically split 60-65% right, 30-40% left as a rule. The provincial NDP doesn't really win more than that. I don't think that many people would jump all the way to the NDP. Many would just stay home. I could see maybe 1/2 changing hands at the outside.

    But that is a moot point since everyone is patting each other on the back for a "good" (if it can be called that) decision.

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  13. Johnny Quest.

    I am not surprised at the leadership numbers.

    Well, actually I am a bit. I didn't think Wall could break 70% with the NDP bloc voting against him.

    But Lingenfelter is old guard from the NDP. He won the leadership with 54% of the party support. I think there is more than 1/3 of the party that dislike him, and some of his politics. I am really not surprised his numbers are so low. But like the National liberals... the party support can only go so low even tho they have a leader that part of the party doesn't like. I would be surprised if the NDP support is below about 28%

    I would expect the Saskatchewan poll numbers to shake out about 65% Saskparty, 28% NDP, 7% liberal.

    (although the liberal support could be lower given the byelection result a couple weeks back.)




    "The latest provincial poll I could find for Saskatchewan was taken in November of last year, and it had Mr. Wall's Saskatchewan Party at 62%, followed by the New Democrats at 21%."

    There was one in April 58.4 - 28.7 which would leave others (liberals probably being the bulk) short of 13%

    Of course, the best premier numbers that Johnny Quest got from the leader post would seem to indicate that has widened since then.

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  14. Hey, the leaderpost posted the poll tonight.

    Its a sigma analytics.

    http://www.leaderpost.com/business/POLL+year+before+election+lead+Premier+Brad+Wall+Sask+Party/3785060/story.html


    57.3 Saskparty (down 2)
    29.4 NDP (up 3)
    8 liberals
    5 greens

    (last election was 51-37-10-2)


    huh.. i would have thought the saskparty would be higher with a 73% score on best premier by Wall...... That is more that 100% of the non-NDP vote. And Lingenfelter at only 16.7%? 1/2 his party don't think he is the best.

    I think that is an odd split.

    However: Lingenfelter, chosen NDP leader in 2009, was also selected by 60 per cent of respondents as the leader they would not want as premier. Wall was rejected by 19.9 per cent.

    That is very good news for the Saskparty with a election less than a year off.


    Even with that 14 point swing though. I am not sure the Saskparty has a chance at more than 4 more seats. (Saskparty holds 38, NDP 20) There is a big divide in support between the seats that each party holds.

    For example Dan D'Autremont won with 77% of the vote... and a 60 point spread over the NDP. And Jan Beatty won with 66%... 43% over the sask party challenger.

    There is very few swing seats. Most of them are super-majorities. only 18 of the 58 races (about 1/3) were won by less than 20% over the nearest challenger. Only 11 (about 1/5) were within 5%.



    ------------------------------

    In other news 30% of people prove they are not informed enough and not smart enough to be allowed to vote:

    "nearly three in 10 respondents identified the publicly traded company as a Crown corporation."

    If they haven't figured out that basic fact in the 21 years since the very high profile privatization happened... perhaps we should revoke more than just their voting ballot.

    People voting with that level of knowledge devalues everyone else's votes...

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  15. One last thing since I can't sleep and am stuck watching "According to Jim" (yes I know. I am very bored).

    Does anyone else look at Toronto Mayor-elect Rob Ford and see Cheryl's brother Andy?

    ...Maybe I should try sleeping again...

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  16. I'm not sure why anyone is "surprised" by the provincial vote numbers in the Leader Post. There was a byelection a few weeks ago in a suburban Saskatoon seat and the Sask. party retained it - and the I think the NDP even gained a couple of points in the popular vote. Regardless of what people think of the the leaders, there is a certain % of people in Saskatchewan who will vote NDP no matter what. Just like no matter who personally unpopular Dion was - Liberal support has a floor that i a lot higher than the percentage of people who thought Stephane Dion ought to be PM.

    All that being said, there are at least two seats in Saskatchewan that the Tories will really struggle to hold on to in the next election: Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar - which they only won by 150 votes last time and which includes the most bedrock NDP areas of downtown Saskatoon and Palliser where the NDP had a very solid showing last time, the Tory incumbent is very old and feeble and the NDP is pouring in resources - and its always a mystery what will happen in the northern seat that is mostly FN.

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  17. Barcs,

    "nearly three in 10 respondents identified the publicly traded company as a Crown corporation."

    If they haven't figured out that basic fact in the 21 years since the very high profile privatization happened... perhaps we should revoke more than just their voting ballot."

    Perhaps some of these people should be shifted to a certain airline operating out of Hong Kong!!!! Perfect fit, I'd say...

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  18. @ Barcs, and others, re: Canpotex.

    I've looked into this alleged "cartel" situation.

    This label really doesn't fit Canpotex.

    First, consider that there are already a very few players in the potash production business, this is due to a few realities about the location of potash resources and the rather high capital costs that a new market entrant must pay.

    Secondly, Canpotex does not operate domestically, or in the United States. It only sells potash to global (non-NA) markets. In fact, that majority of potash produced in Canada goes to the United States independent of Canpotex. Canpotex, then, is really only marketing a minority portion of Saskatchewan potash production.

    Thirdly, Canpotex competes for contracts against other global potash producers.

    Fourthly, Canpotex does not control production. It buys potash from Mosaic, Agrium, and PotashCorp and resells it internationally. These three companies also own Canpotex. The idea here is to coordinate transportation and create marketing efficiencies. Mosaic, Agrium and PotashCorp make production decisions independently of Canpotex operations.

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  19. Should Ralph Goodale even bother running facing the now united Sask/CPC political machine with the people of Wascana-Regina beholding to PM Harper for standing up for their stated Potash position?

    That would be one seat that wasn't being counted on in the CPC majority calculations.

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  20. BCVoR

    Goodale is not going to lose his seat over potash. If he didn't lose it over the Green shift, it is his until he retires.




    "Fourthly, Canpotex does not control production. It buys potash from Mosaic, Agrium, and PotashCorp and resells it internationally. These three companies also own Canpotex"

    ... That sounds exactly like a cartel.....


    "Thirdly, Canpotex competes for contracts against other global potash producers."

    ... How big of "other global producers"? The companies that make up Canpotex control nearly 1/2 the world supply.



    "It only sells potash to global (non-NA) markets. In fact, that majority of potash produced in Canada goes to the United States independent of Canpotex."

    Are you saying it isn't that important a player? Why was it such a big sticking point? Why was BHP controlling production and therefore price such a big deal then??? "Going full out on production and lowering the price" That was one of the charges leveled against them.

    The two statements conflict... Is Canpotex in control of pricing? Would BHP be?


    I go back to my original statement. A company, owned by several of the biggest producers in the world.... who control nearly 1/2 the worlds entire supply of a product marketing their product through a single entity... which they control. And want to retain control because "BHP will come in and go full out production and lower the price". That means that atleast they think they are holding the price up some,... doesn't it??


    That IS a cartel. By every definition I can find.

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  21. Absolutely. It's a cartel. The government of India even filed a formal complaint to the UN about it (India manufactures fertilizer and sells it to Indian farmers at artificially low prices, so when the price of potash is driven up by the cartel they lose billions).

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