Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Harris-Decima poll: 3-pt CPC Lead (down one)

A few days ago, the media reported on a new Harris-Decima poll that showed a small gap between the Liberals and the Conservatives. Harris-Decima posted the details of that poll on their website yesterday, and it tells a story of Liberal gain.Compared to Harris-Decima's last poll taken at the end of July and in early August, the Conservatives have dropped one point, standing at 33%. The Liberals have gained two points, and have reached the 30% mark.

The New Democrats are up one to 16% while the Greens are down two to 10% and the Bloc Québécois is stable at 9%.

Though we're talking incremental gain at the national level, this is good news for the Liberals. It wouldn't seem right for them to lead a government, even a coalition, with less than 30% support.

In Ontario, the Liberals are up two to 36% while the Conservatives are unchanged at 35%. The NDP is up two to 18%.

The Bloc has dropped two points in Quebec and is now at 37%. This is a bit of a trend we've seen lately, with the Bloc moving away from the 40%+ they were enjoying throughout the summer. The Liberals are up three to 28% (very good for them) and the Conservatives are up one to 15% (not good). The NDP is down three to 9%, which is a bit of a problem.

The Conservatives have dropped five points in British Columbia and hold a narrow lead with 32%. The NDP is up 10 points and is at 30%, while the Liberals are down one to 21%. The Greens are down five to 15%.

The Liberals are riding high in Atlantic Canada with 45%, up seven. The Conservatives followed with 28%, down six.

The Conservatives lead in Alberta with 63%, followed by the Liberals at 18% (up five).

And in the Prairies, the Conservatives have dropped five points but still lead with 44%. The Liberals are at 27% and the NDP is at 21%, up seven.

The Conservatives would win 63 seats in the West and North, 43 in Ontario, six in Atlantic Canada, and five in Quebec for a total of 117. That would be their worst result since 2004.

The Liberals would win 48 seats in Ontario, 24 in Atlantic Canada, 19 in Quebec, and 16 in the West and North for a total of 107.

The Bloc would win 51 seats in Quebec.

The NDP would win 16 seats in the West, 15 in Ontario, and two in Atlantic Canada for a total of 33.

It would be difficult for the Conservatives to govern with only 117 seats and 33% of the vote. If the Liberals and NDP could come to an agreement, arguably a coalition of 140 seats and 46% of the vote, with one of the parties making huge gains, would have more legitimacy. If the Liberals and NDP were unable to come to an agreement, it is hard to imagine Stephen Harper remaining as Prime Minister for very long. We'd likely see the Opposition defeat the Conservatives and the Liberals installed in a minority government, as they are more likely to find support for their legislation than the Conservatives.

It will be interesting to see how things develop between now and the resumption of Parliament. The Liberals are getting good coverage lately, and Michael Ignatieff finally seems to "get" being a political leader. Good news is few and far between for the Tories and the NDP is going to take a beating with this long gun registry issue. I would not be surprised to see the NDP drop a tick or two to the Liberals. But, then again, I would not be surprised to see the Liberals drop back to 27% or so, which seems to be what always happens.

Day Six: Assigned Readings

The CBC reports that Shawn Graham won't say in which programs he will cut spending. It's like he's trying to avoid angering anyone. Is this what politics has become?

A look at the electoral contest in Fundy - River Valley, where Energy Minister Jack Keir faces an uphill battle. This local man sounds zen: "Hey, show me a man that makes no mistakes, and I'd like to see him," Cosman said. "If you're alive, you're going to make mistakes. And I'm not saying he's perfect, but he's done well."

The NDP would not make the same kind of tax cuts the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives are promising. Roger Duguay argues that those cuts will add over $200 million to the province's deficit. Because when you think fiscal responsibility, you think NDP. Calme-toi, st'un joke.

Won't somebody please think about the children?! I have yet to hear Duguay speak, but I like the cut of his gib: "The Conservatives must stop making promises they cannot keep, it's cynical and wrong," he said. "It is ironic that when the Conservatives were in government that Elizabeth Weir and the NDP put pressure on them, and on the Liberals before that, to create more child care spaces. When times were good, there was no money. Now that times are tough, they make promises they know they cannot keep." Courtesy of The Telegraph-Journal.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Ontario Liberals and PCs neck-and-neck

Last week, Ipsos-Reid released a new Ontario provincial poll. It showed a race that is as close as it can be, with the Progressive Conservatives leading the Liberals 36% to 35%. With my new Ontario projection model, that equates to a PC minority.Compared to Ipsos-Reid's last Ontario poll taken in May and June, the PCs are up four points. The Liberals are down two.

The New Democrats are down two to 18% while the Greens are unchanged at 11%.

The Progressive Conservatives lead in central Ontario (46%, up four), eastern Ontario (47%, up 14), and southwest Ontario (46%, up three). They stand at 29% in the Greater Toronto Area (up three) and are in third in northern Ontario with 24% (down one).

The Liberals lead in the GTA (42%, down one) and northern Ontario (34%, unchanged). They are down two in central Ontario (27%), ten in eastern Ontario (32%), and six in southwestern Ontario (20%).

The NDP's best region is northern Ontario, where they are second at 28% (up one). They are at 18% in the GTA, central, and southwestern Ontario, losing four in that latter part of the province.

The Greens are doing best in southwestern Ontario with 14%.

Interestingly, while the Liberals lead in the GTA 42% to 29%, outside of Toronto the PCs lead with 43% to 28%. It really is a Toronto/rest of Ontario divide. It's not even urban/rural, really, when you see that the parties are almost tied in urban areas (36% for the Liberals to 35% for the PCs). The Progressive Conservatives have a massive lead in rural Ontario, however, 47% to 25%. The NDP does better in urban ridings, with 19% to 11% in rural ones.

The Progressive Conservatives would win 51 seats with this poll, compared to 41 for the Liberals and 15 for the NDP. A minority government, or would Dalton McGuinty and Andrea Horwath work together?

Speaking of the leaders, Tim Hudak is the favourite for Premier, at 37%. McGuinty is next with 29% and Horwath is at 21%. Green leader Mike Schreiner is at 13%.

Hudak's best region was in central Ontario, where he got the nod of 42% of Ontarians. His worst was in southwestern Ontario: 31%. That is a little strange, as southwestern Ontario was one of the better regions for the party as a whole.

McGuinty's best is in the GTA, with 35%. His worst is in the north, with 10%. Again, also strange, as northern Ontario was the party's second best region.

For Horwath, the best is in northern Ontario with 45% (no surprise) and is worst in eastern Ontario with 10% (also no surprise).

So, a close race in Canada's biggest province. But McGuinty is a cat with nine lives, and Hudak still has a lot of unknowns. There's still another year before the next election, so anything can happen.

Day Five: Assigned Readings

In a CBC piece this morning, the NDP says that the Progressive Conservatives are promising more than they can afford. "The NDP is in favour of free this and free that in principle, but we can't afford free this and free that." Yes, that was the NDP that said that.

The Telegraph Journal explains how everyone in New Brunswick owes $11,000 apiece to pay down the debt - and it is due before September 1! Okay, maybe not. It also has some interesting numbers from Corporate Research Associates about how New Brunswickers feel about it.

That paper also reports on one of the campaign speeches of Shawn Graham. He's laying it on a little thick, talking about a 'turning point' election. But this is a good line: "[Alward]'s trying to make this campaign about the past, and that's because he has no plan for the future."

A good, but long, article on the campaign in the north.

The Times & Transcript sums up the weekend's political promises.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pollster House Effects - Angus Reid Update

I've updated the pollster house effects chart for Angus-Reid in Canada and Quebec, incorporating the polling from the month of July 2010.

Nationally, the most favourable pollster for the Conservatives remains Ipsos-Reid, who has results for them 3.5 points higher than the average of the other pollsters. Their worst pollster is Harris-Decima, 2.4 points lower than the average.

For the Liberals, their best is Environics (+3.2) while their worst is Angus-Reid (-1.9).

The New Democrats' best pollster is Angus-Reid (+1.9) and their worst are Ipsos-Reid and Environics (-2.2).

The Greens' best pollster is Strategic Counsel (+2.3) while their worst is Angus-Reid (-2.3).

In Quebec, the Bloc's best pollster is Harris-Decima (+2.8) while their worst is CROP (-3.7).

For Angus-Reid, the pollster I've updated this month, they are the 2nd best pollster for the Tories out of eight, the worst for the Liberals, the best for the NDP, and the worst for the Greens.

In Quebec, they are the 5th best for the Tories (out of nine), 8th best for the Liberals, 4th best for the NDP, 2nd best for the Bloc, and 7th best for the Greens.

Just for fun, let's tweak Angus-Reid's last national and Quebec numbers according to these latest findings:

CANADA

Conservatives - 31.5%
Liberals - 30.9%
New Democrats - 17.1%
Greens - 11.3%
Bloc Québécois - 10%

QUEBEC

Bloc Québécois - 35.3%
Liberals - 21.2%
New Democrats - 18.5%
Conservatives - 16%
Greens - 9.1%

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 "house effects". This is also not a scientific calculation of any kind, but it does give an indication of how each pollster tends to compare to others.

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 28, 2010

Day Three: Assigned Readings

David Alward promises to cancel the tax cuts aimed at businesses and high income earners, reports the CBC. To my ears, that isn't a very conservative idea. The plan hopes to reduce New Brunswick's deficit, which is about $750 million. Whereas the Liberals plan to cut the corporate tax rate to 8% from 11%, which would make it the lowest in Canada, Alward wants to cap it at 10%. Both the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives are making vague promises on cutting government spending, with one of the more tangible promises being Alward's pledge to have a 15-member cabinet rather than Graham's 20-member cabinet.

Dr. Dennis Furlong, former PC health minister, says that New Brunswick doesn't need to spend more money on the health care system but instead spend it better.

A little piece on a few young candidates running for election under the Liberal and PC banners.

The Times & Transcript warns us that it is too early to make any predictions. To that I say poppycock! Yes, I went there.

Friday, August 27, 2010

PQ holds 10-point lead over Liberals

Leaving the New Brunswick election aside for a few moments, let's look at a recent Léger Marketing poll investigating the provincial voting intentions of Quebecers. Generally speaking, it is the status quo - but the poll has some interesting findings.Compared to Léger's last poll in June, things have not changed much for the two main parties. The Parti Québécois is stable at 41% while the Liberals (PLQ) are up one to 31%. The Action Démocratique du Québec, however, loses four points and is down to 9%, tied with Québec Solidaire (up one). The Greens (PVQ) are up two to 7%.

But this poll was taken before the on-going Bastarache inquiry, in which former justice minister Marc Bellemare alleges that Premier Jean Charest was urging him to appoint judges who were donors to the Liberal Party. Léger has found that only 13% of Quebecers believe Charest in this matter, compared to 69% who believe Bellemare. Fully two-thirds of Quebecers think the Premier should resign.

But going back to this poll, the PQ dominates francophone voters with 51% (up two). The PLQ is down two to 21% in this demographic, followed by the ADQ at 11% (down three). Among non-francophones the PLQ dominates with 66%, followed by the PVQ at 13% and the PQ at 8%.

The PQ (down three) and PLQ (up one) are tied in the Montreal region with 37%. QS is in third with 9% (up three). In the Quebec City region the PQ leads with 32% (up one), followed by the PLQ at 28% (up ten) and the ADQ at 23% (down eight). While the ADQ has dropped a lot here, it is still their only area of strength.

In the rest of Quebec, the PQ leads with 48% to the PLQ's 25% and QS's 10%.

For best premier, Pauline Marois leads with 20% (up seven). Jean Charest followed with 18% (up one). Amir Khadir of QS is at 12% (up four) and Gérard Deltell of the ADQ is at 8% (up one). There are a lot of people who say "none of the above".

With this poll, the Parti Québécois would win 73 seats and form a majority government. The PLQ would form the official opposition with 46 seats. The ADQ would win four and QS would win two.

Léger also looked into who would be favourite to replace the Liberal leader. No one is the front-runner, but current federal MP Denis Coderre ended up on top with 11%. He was followed by former health minister Philippe Couillard at 10%, and cabinet ministers Nathalie Normandeau with 6% and Claude Béchard with 5%. When asked how these leaders would change their voting intentions, no one improved the PLQ's score. One wonders if that will change after the Bastarache inquiry.

Day Two: Assigned Readings

CBC's Spin Reduxit blog laments how polls can drive a campaign's narrative. But, really, is that all that bad (says the owner of a polling site)? More seriously, it mentions how two weeks into the 2006 campaign Corporate Research Associates was showing 37% as undecided. So yesterday's 41% seems to be par for the course.

The Daily Gleaner reports on David Alward's campaign launch. It does a good job of laying out what the Progressive Conservative message will be for the next month. Generally speaking, that message is "NB Power, deficit, and I-don't-like-Graham-very-much."

That paper also has a piece on Shawn Graham's promises to seniors. In a good bit of reporting, we get responses from all four other parties.

The Telegraph-Journal on how the Liberals have the advantage, at least according to history. My favourite line: "In the history of New Brunswick, the easiest way for a premier to get out of office was usually to resign or die." Is Graham taking the hard way out?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Liberals start campaign with lead

Corporate Research Associates has released a timely poll on the first day of the New Brunswick electoral campaign. However, the poll was taken throughout most of August, so this is merely a starting point for us.The Liberals have 41%, up four points from CRA's last poll taken in the last half of May 2010. The Progressive Conservatives have dropped six points to 36%, while the New Democrats are stable at 16%.

The Greens are up one to 6% while the People's Alliance comes in at 1%. This is their first mention in a CRA poll.

The amount of undecideds is huge at 41%. So anything can happen at this point.

With this result, the Liberals would win 33 seats and Shawn Graham would be elected to a second term. The Progressive Conservatives would drop to 20 seats while the New Democrats would win two.

Satisfaction with Graham's government is not high, at only 44%. That is down from 53% a year ago. Dissatisfaction is at 49%, so really the province is split.

As to who would make the best Premier, 29% of New Brunswickers give the nod to Graham. David Alward is not far behind at 22%. Roger Duguay of the NDP is at 8%, Jack MacDougall of the Greens is at 5%, and Kris Austin of the PA is at 3%.

Taking out the none of the above and don't know responses (34% in all), we get 44% for Graham, 33% for Alward, 12% for Duguay, 8% for MacDougall, and 5% for Austin. This indicates that the Liberals, Greens, and People's Alliance have room for growth, while the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats could be dragged down a little by their leader. However, I wouldn't put much stock into that for the NDP, as those who support the NDP are well aware that Duguay will not be the next Premier.

This new poll bumps the NDP and Greens up 0.8 points in the projection to 12.5% and 2.9%, respectively. The Liberals are dragged down 0.1 to 41.8% while the Progressive Conservatives fall 1.5 points to 42%. As a result, the Liberals pick up two seats from the PCs, who still take the most seats with 27 to the Liberals' 26.

Today's Assigned Readings

One thing I'd like to do during this campaign is highlight a few must-reads. These will be newspaper articles and blog posts, and will be updated throughout the day if I find something else that is worth your attention. And since I can't be everywhere at once, I would appreciate if my readers could point me towards some other interesting articles. If I think they should be read more widely, I will add them to the list in this post.

Today, just two. The first is a piece by the CBC on what Donald Savoie, Canada research chair in public administration and governance at the University of Moncton, thinks about the challenges the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives face concerning New Brunswick's budgetary issues.

The second is courtesy of the Telegraph-Journal. Point Lepreau, a nuclear facility in New Brunswick, needs to be refurbished but the federal government and AECL is passing along some of the costs to the province, which Premier Shawn Graham is a little peeved about. David Alward has criticized the Premier, and now Graham is asking whether the PC leader is with New Brunswick or with the Canadian Prime Minister. Considering that Alward opened his campaign today on a hydro-electric dam, it is pretty clear what one of the main issues will be.

There's also a poll by the Corporate Research Associates out, which I will post about it a few minutes.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

2010 New Brunswick Election Primer

New Brunswick's 57th general election campaign is set to start tomorrow. The gun goes off at 12:01 a.m. for what will undoubtedly be a close race. ThreeHundredEight.com will be covering this election as closely as possible. But with a population of only 750,000 people and the eighth largest economy in a country of ten provinces, readers can be forgiven for being a little uninformed. I needed to give myself a crash course on the topic to prepare for this campaign. Hopefully this primer will help you understand what's at stake and what to watch for in this election, and I invite my New Brunswick readers, who are far closer to the race than I am here in Ottawa, to give us your own local impressions.

ELECTORAL HISTORY SINCE 1982

The electoral fight in New Brunswick has always been between the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives. Governments have gone back and forth but usually when New Brunswickers choose a Premier they tend to keep him around for two or three terms.

This was the case in 1982, when Richard Hatfield ran to hold on to the premiership. He had held it since 1970 for the Progressive Conservatives, and won the 1982 election with 47.5% of the vote and 39 seats. He defeated Liberal leader Doug Young, who still took 41.3% of the vote and 18 seats. The New Democrats under George Little had 10.2% of the vote and only one seat.

Due in part to scandal, Hatfield was drubbed out of office in 1987 by Liberal leader Frank McKenna. The Liberals took 60.4% of the vote and all 58 seats - a clean sweep. The PCs were reduced to 28.6% while the NDP, still under Little, took 10.6%.

The 1991 election had a different face as the Confederation of Regions emerged out of the ruined Progressive Conservative Party. Nevertheless, McKenna held on to his post with 47.1% of the vote and 46 seats. The Confederation of Regions, a conservative, anti-bilingual party, placed second under leader Arch Pafford with 21.2% of the vote and eight seats. The Progressive Conservatives under Dennis Cochrane took three seats and 20.7% of the vote, while the NDP under new leader Elizabeth Weir won 10.8% and one seat (Weir's).

In 1995, McKenna improved on his 1991 performance and took 51.6% of the vote and 48 seats. The PCs rebounded under Bernard Valcourt with 30.9% and six seats while the NDP, still under Weir, earned 9.7% and one seat. The Confederation of Regions, now under Greg Hargrove, were reduced to 7.1% and no seats, and wouldn't be a factor in New Brunswick politics again.By the time 1999 rolled around, Frank McKenna was no longer leader and Camille Thériault was running the party and the province. He couldn't hold on to the job, however, as Bernard Lord's PCs won 53% of the vote and 44 seats, reducing the Liberals to 37.3% and 10 seats after 12 years in power. The NDP won 8.8% and one seat, still Weir's.The map above combines the results of the last four elections (the maps of which are courtesy of Wikipedia). The deeper the red and the deeper the blue means greater Liberal or PC support. Purple ridings have flip-flopped.

The 2003 election was a very close one, but Lord squeaked out a win with 45.4% and 28 seats. He was pressed hard by new Liberal leader Shawn Graham, who won 26 seats and 44.4% of the vote. The NDP improved their performance with 9.7% and one seat.This map shows which seats are currently Liberal or Progressive Conservative. The richness of the colour indicates how long each party has held the riding. This map shows that PC strength can be found in the southeast, southwest, and northwest corners of the province, while the Liberals are stronger in the northeast and along the Bay of Fundy.

In the 2006 election, the Liberals won 29 seats and re-took the reins of government, but with only 47.1% of the vote. The Progressive Conservatives, still under Lord, won 47.5% of the vote but only 26 seats. The NDP, under new leader Allison Brewer, did badly and won only 5.1% of the vote and no seats.

THE 2006 CAMPAIGN

While New Brunswick now has fixed election dates, like at the federal level the Premier still has the prerogative of choosing the date himself. This was the case in 2006, as Bernard Lord's slim majority was reduced to a minority due to resignations and by-elections. Faced with the potential of losing the government entirely, Lord sent New Brunswickers to the polls.

One important issue in this campaign, as it still is today, was energy.

The NDP campaigned with their new leader Brewer after Weir had run the party since 1987. They struggled and were eventually pushed out of the Legislative Assembly. One of the stumbling blocks was Brewer's inability to speak French. Radio-Canada refused to translate for her during the French debate (like Preston Manning used to do way back when) and so she did not participate in the two French debates.

The campaign was extremely close, with the Progressive Conservatives leading at the start of the campaign and the gap narrowing near the end of it. Some of the last polls had the Liberals in a slim lead. The 2010 election could very well be the same.

In the end the Liberals won more seats with slightly fewer votes, a good example of the shortcomings of the first-past-the-post system. The party bested the Progressive Conservatives in the northeast (54% to 40%) and the southwest (49% to 45%), while the PCs did better in central New Brunswick (48% to 46%), the northwest (54% to 42%) and the southeast (53% to 44%). The NDP performed best in central (6.3%) and southwest (6%) New Brunswick.

One of the factors that contributed to the Liberal win was the increase in support the party garnered from anglophones. Traditionally, the Liberals have been the party of the Acadian population while the Progressive Conservatives have been supported by English-speaking New Brunswickers. The 2006 election turned that on its head, and has muddied the waters for the future.

LIBERAL PARTY

Like it's federal counterpart, the Liberal Party of New Brunswick is centrist, though under McKenna's leadership it drifted into Blue Liberal/Red Tory territory. As a result of the infighting after McKenna's departure, and the bad performance of Thériault, Graham was able to come out of nowhere, a first term MLA who could reinvigorate the party.

Shawn Graham, 42, was born in Rexton in Kent County. His father was an MLA, and Graham attended the University of New Brunswick where he got a degree in physical education. He then supplemented that degree with another (in education) from St. Thomas University. He worked in the NB civil service and was elected in 1999. His 2003 campaign, though losing, was deemed a success as expectations were low and he managed to control most of the agenda.

His riding of Kent in southeastern New Brunswick has a population of about 12,000 people. It has a long Liberal history but is still tightly contested. Graham won it with 52% in 2006, compared to 45% for the PC candidate.

PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE PARTY

A right-of-centre but generally moderate party, the Progressive Conservatives have traditionally been the party of New Brunswick anglophones. This has changed since Bernard Lord was leader, and the party is now more competitive in francophone ridings.

The party has no formal link with the Conservative Party of Canada, though it is co-operative.

David Alward, 50, became leader of the party in October 2008. He garnered 56% of the vote against Robert MacLeod, the only other candidate for party leadership.

Alward was born in Massachusetts but moved to New Brunswick in his youth. He attended high school in Nackawic, a small town in central New Brunswick. He went to Bryan College in Tennessee, where he earned a degree in psychology. A Baptist, he has worked as a civil servant, has raised cattle, and was first elected in 1999. Alward was named Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Aquaculture in the Lord government.

His riding is Woodstock, which has been held by the Progressive Conservatives since 1999. The Liberals held it from 1987 to 1995, and before then it was in PC hands. The riding borders Maine, has a population of about 13,000 people, and is centred around the town of Woodstock.

NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY

A social democratic party linked to its federal counterpart, the NDP in New Brunswick has never held more than one seat. Their best performance was in 1944, when under the CCF banner the party won 11.7%. They consistently earned more than 10% between 1982 and 1991. They held Tantramar in 1982, East Saint John after a 1984 by-election win, and Saint-John Harbour (Elizabeth Weir's seat) from 1991 until the 2006 election. While these seats still give the party good vote hauls, Weir's personal popularity is demonstrated by the fact that from 52% in 2003 the party sank to 17% in Saint-John Harbour after Weir left.

The party, however, is upbeat. It is performing well in the polls and is confident. It intends to run a full slate of candidates, something the NDP did not do in 2006.

Roger Duguay, 46, was born in Maltempec on the Acadian Peninsula. He went to the Université de Moncton, where he earned a Bachelor's Degree and then a Master's Degree in theology. He has been a pastor (famously being evicted from the Catholic Church for running in a political contest) and a teacher, has been active in his community, and is the first francophone leader of the NDP. Supported by federal MP Yvon Godin, he became leader in October 2007, and has since gotten a 100% vote of confidence from the party. He has always done well in the three elections in which he has presented himself, and had 26% in 2006, the most of any NDP candidate.

He will be running for the first time in Tracadie-Sheila, not far from his birthplace. It is a very francophone riding, but had no NDP candidate in 2006.

GREEN PARTY

Only formed in November 2008, the party is led by Jack MacDougall. A former executive director of the New Brunswick Liberal Party, MacDougall is an experienced political organizer who has worked with the federal Green Party. Unilingual, he recognizes he is not the man to lead the party to electoral greatness, and has said he is more focused on building a foundation for the party. They intend to run in all 55 ridings. MacDougall will run in Fredericton-Nashwaaksis, where he lives. It is a Liberal riding, but also has a history under the Progressive Conservatives and Confederation of Regions.

PEOPLE'S ALLIANCE OF NEW BRUNSWICK

Kris Austin, a Baptist minister from Minto, leads this populist party. It was formed after the Liberal government signed a deal to sell NB Power to Hydro-Québec (which the party has since reneged on). One of its platform planks is not to build a second nuclear power plant at Point Lepreau. The party should run between 11 and 17 candidates but should not be a major factor.

THE ISSUES

As in 2003, energy is an important issue. NB Power is greatly in debt and its sale to Hydro-Québec would have helped that situation. Now that New Brunswick will be holding on to it, questions about the costs of maintaining its nuclear facilities are popping up. The Progressive Conservatives have promised to freeze energy rates for three years, something that will be difficult considering NB Power's indebtedness.

Along with the usual provincial issues of education and health care, the province's deficit will also be an issue. Shawn Graham's leadership, after more than a few missteps, will also be a factor.

RIDINGS TO WATCH

Dieppe Centre - Lewisville

With only 0.7 points and 57 votes separating the Progressive Conservatives from the Liberals, this was the closest riding in the province in the 2006 election. Centred on the city of Dieppe (near Moncton), this riding has a PC history but the sitting MLA, Cy LeBlanc, will not be running again. Can Dave Maltais hold on to it?

Rothesay

The margin here, 1.5 points and 88 votes, was the second closest in the province. The Progressive Conservatives have held this suburban Saint-John riding since 1999. Margaret-Ann Blaney will try to hold on to her seat against Victoria Clarke of the Liberals.

Fredericton-Nashwaaksis

This was the third closest race, with a margin of two points and 170 votes. This Fredericton riding was won by the Liberals and T.J. Burke, former Environment Minister, will be running again under the Liberal banner. It is a flip-flop riding, and will also be the riding of the Green Party leader. It will be interesting to see if the Greens will bleed support away from the Liberals and allow the PC candidate to slip through the middle.

York

The fourth closest race, with a margin of 2.4 points and 157 votes, this rural southwestern riding was won by the PCs in 2006. It has a history that meanders from PC to Liberal to the Confederation of Regions. The incumbent, Carl Urquhart, will face-off against Liberal Winston Gamblin.

Bathurst

The fifth closest race, with a margin of 2.8 points and 187 votes, this has been a Liberal riding for over 40 years. Nevertheless, it was a close race in 2006. Brian Kenney, Minister of Tourism and Parks, will have to grapple with PC candidate Nancy McKay.

Tracadie-Sheila

The margin was not very close in 2006, with 10.1 points and 762 votes separating the Progressive Conservatives from the Liberal challenger. But this will be the riding of NDP leader Roger Duguay. Incumbent Claude Landry has a very difficult fight ahead of him.

Quispamsis

The margin here was 7.3 points and 517 votes, but it is held by Health Minister Mary Schryer. Blaine Higgs will carry the PC banner, and he has a good chance considering that the riding was won by his party in 1999 and 2003. The riding is near Saint-John.

Fundy - River Valley

This was a close race, with the margin being only 3.3 points and 199 votes. Lying west of Saint-John, this riding was won by Jack Keir of the Liberals, who has been Minister of Energy. With NB Power being within his portfolio, this will be an interesting riding to watch. Jim Parrot, a retired surgeon, will try to take the riding from Keir, and he is aided by the riding's history as it was won by the Progressive Conservatives in 1995, 1999, and 2003.

BORING?

The last election was considered a bore, but I don't think this will be the case in 2010. Moncton will be a battlefield, as will Fredericton and Saint-John. And with the population in each riding averaging between 10,000 and 15,000 people (4,000 to 7,000 of whom vote), swings can happen anywhere.

The race will be close, and there are a lot of things to watch. Will Graham hold on to his government? Will Alward install his Progressive Conservatives in power? Will the NDP make the breakthrough they've been waiting for? I think the campaign will be anything but boring.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Old Léger Poll: 9-pt Conservative lead (down two)

Léger Marketing has finally put up the results of a federal poll taken between August 2 and August 4. The poll is now three weeks old and accordingly less relevant, but it is worth taking a look at nonetheless.

The poll has the Conservatives at 37%, up one from the previous Léger federal poll taken in April 2010. The Liberals are up three to 28% while the New Democrats are down four to 16%. The Bloc Québécois is unchanged at 9%, as are the Greens at 8%.

The Conservatives lead in Ontario with 41%, up two. The Liberals follow with a gain of four points and are at 34%. The NDP is down three to 18%.

In British Columbia the Conservatives are up seven to 48%, followed by the NDP and Liberals at 19% apiece. The NDP dropped five points and the Liberals dropped eight. The Greens picked up three to reach 11%.

In Atlantic Canada, the Liberals gained six points and are at 43%. The Conservatives dropped six to 24% and the NDP dropped nine to 20%.

The Conservatives lead in Alberta with 60%, followed by the Liberals at 20% (up six) and the NDP at 11%.

And finally, the Conservatives lead in the Prairies with 48%. The NDP and Liberals have 23% apiece, marking a six point gain for the NDP.

The Conservatives would have won 76 seats in the West and North, 55 in Ontario, 8 in Quebec, and 6 in Atlantic Canada for a total of 145.

The Liberals would have won 38 in Ontario, 23 in Atlantic Canada, 15 in Quebec, and 14 in the West and North for a total of 90.

The Bloc would have won 50 seats in Quebec.

The NDP would have won 13 seats in Ontario, 5 in the West, 3 in Atlantic Canada, and 2 in Quebec for a total of 23.

Now, what of the polling result for Quebec? This is where things get odd.This poll is available here, as it was conducted for Le Devoir. But the results of this poll, taken between August 16 and August 19, are exactly the same as the one taken between August 2 and August 4. Is that possible? The amount of people polled in the first survey (377 in Quebec, 1,500 Canada-wide) was much smaller than in this one, yet the results are exactly the same, down to the Greens and Other.

While it is certainly possible that Léger would get the same results, it is pretty unlikely. For that reason, I will be treating the Canada-wide poll and the Quebec-only poll as one poll for the projection, rather than two.

In this Quebec poll, the Bloc is down two points from June and leads with 37%. The Liberals are down one to 24% and the Conservatives are up three to 19%. The NDP is down two to 13% and the Greens are up four to 7%.

Demographically, the Bloc dominates among francophones with 44% (down one). Interestingly, the Conservatives are second among francophones with 18%, up three. The Liberals have dropped to 17% (down four) while the NDP is down one to 14%.

Among non-francophones, the Liberals dominate with 47% (up three). The Conservatives follow with 20% (down two) and the NDP and Greens are tied at 11% each. The Bloc is down four to 9%.

Regionally, the Bloc leads in the Montreal region with 32%, down nine. The Liberals are down one to 28% while the Conservatives are up seven to 18%. The NDP is at 13%, down one.

In the Quebec City region, the Conservatives have gained five points and lead with 33%. The Bloc follows with 29%, down three. The Liberals are up one to 18% and the NDP is down three to 15%.

In the rest of Quebec, the Bloc is up four to 43%. The Liberals follow with 20% (down three). The Conservatives are down one to 17% and the NDP is down three to 13%.

As to which leader garners the most confidence from Quebecers, Gilles Duceppe leads with 28%, followed closely by Jack Layton at 27%. Stephen Harper only has 11% while Michael Ignatieff has 9%. This shows that the two main federalist parties are not being helped by their own leaders, while the NDP has room for growth.

Monday, August 23, 2010

2010 New Brunswick Election Coverage

As you can see, the site has been changed to incorporate my projection and electoral coverage for the 2010 New Brunswick provincial election.

Above you see the projection itself. The upper pie chart shows the projected popular vote for each of the parties (Progressive Conservatives are blue, Liberals are red, New Democrats are orange, and the Greens are green) while the lower pie chart shows the projected seat totals. The projected seat total is based on the projected popular vote, and the result is achieved by comparing the projected popular vote to past elections.

The bar chart at the bottom of the above chart shows the amount of seats each party currently has in the Legislative Assembly.

Above right, you can see a chart that tracks voting intentions. The chart runs all the way from the 2006 election to the date of the 2010 election: September 27. Everything before the black line is pre-campaign, everything after is during the campaign. And while the pre-campaign section does not give equal space to equal time (instead, each tick is one poll), the campaign section gives one tick per date of the campaign. My intention with this chart is not just to show polling results, but also to track how they are changing over time.

For example, if a poll runs from September 1 to September 3 and has the Progressive Conservatives at 40%, I will have them running at 40% on the chart from September 1 to September 3, rather than just on September 3 as I am currently doing with the federal chart. If another poll runs from September 3 to September 5 and has the Progressive Conservatives at 50%, I will average them out and so have the PCs at 45% on September 3 and at 50% for September 4 and 5.

Here is a larger version of the chart, which you can also see by clicking on the image to the right.



Below the voting intentions chart, you can see who I project will be sitting in the 55 seats of the Legislative Assembly. And at the very bottom of the page you can see the full details of my projection, including a list of polls and electoral results running back to 1991. The polling results highlighted with light and dark colours marks each party's highest and lowest result.

For the projection itself, I am currently projecting a Progressive Conservative majority government under David Alward. The PCs would win 29 seats (with 43.5% of the vote) while the Liberals under current Premier Shawn Graham would be reduced to 24 seats and the opposition benches with 41.9%. The NDP, who have never elected more than one MLA, will elect two and make a (for them) historical breakthrough at 11.7%.

With the most recent poll being almost three months old, the projection is heavily weighted by past elections and old polls. This will change as polls are released during the campaign.

Later this week I will have a 2010 election primer in order to give everyone who doesn't follow New Brunswick provincial politics their bearings.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Projection: 129 CPC, 94 LPC, 52 BQ, 33 NDP

My last projection update was exactly a month ago, so it seems an opportune time to update the projection again. Particularly since starting Monday I plan to start focusing a bit more on the New Brunswick provincial election. It'll be the first real test of the basic workings of my projection model, and it will also give me the opportunity to test-drive a few ideas concerning how best to cover an on-going election. It helps that the New Brunswick election looks like it will be a close one. Either Shawn Graham or David Alward could end up as Premier at the end of September.

Anyway, to the projection.The Conservatives have dropped three seats in the projection and now stand at 129. That is still enough to outnumber the combined total of the Liberals (94, up two) and the New Democrats (33, up one). But just barely.

The Bloc Québécois is stable at 52 seats.

Nationally, the Conservatives have dropped 0.3 points and are now at 33.8%. The Liberals have dropped 0.1 points and are now at 28.3%. The NDP is also down 0.l1 and stands at 16.3%.

Those on the rise are the Bloc Québécois (up 0.1 to 9.7%) and the Greens (up 0.3 to 9.2%).

There have been no seat changes in Ontario but the popular vote has shifted downwards for the two major parties. The Conservatives still lead with 35.2% (down 0.4) but the Liberals are not far behind at 34.5% (down 0.6). The NDP is stable at 17.4% and the Greens are up 0.6 to 10.8%.

The Bloc has not moved from 39.3%, and still holds 52 seats. The Liberals are unchanged at 23.1% while the Conservatives are down 0.3 points to 16.6%. They are also down one seat and now stand to win six in the province. The NDP is down 0.3 points to 11.9% but has gained a seat and is now at two. The Greens have gained 0.4 points to reach 7.2%.

The Conservatives are up 0.2 points in British Columbia to 36.9% but are down one seat to 19. The NDP is down 0.4 points to 26.5% but the Liberals are up 0.5 to 22.6%. They have gained a seat and now stand at eight. The Greens are down 0.1 to 11.9%.

The Liberals have gained 0.6 points and one seat in Atlantic Canada. They are now at 38.3% and 20 seats. The Conservatives are down 0.5 points to 31.9% while the NDP is down 0.4 points to 22.0%. They have also dropped one seat and now have three. The Greens are up 0.4 to 6.2%.

The Conservatives are down 0.2 points in Alberta, where they lead with 59.8%. The Liberals are up 0.2 to 16.5% and the NDP is down 0.5 to 11.1%. The Greens have gained 0.6 points and now stand at 9.8%.

The Conservatives have lost a seat in the Prairies, as well as 0.2 points. They now stand to win 46.4% of the vote and 20 seats. The NDP makes the seat gain and now stands at four. They are also up 0.6 points to 23.3%. The Liberals are down 0.2 to 21.8% and the Greens are down 0.5 to 6.7%.

Finally, the Liberals lead in the North with 33.1%, unchanged. The Conservatives have dropped 0.1 points and now trail with 30.2%. The NDP is unchanged at 27.1% while the Greens are up 0.2 to 8.1%.

In terms of net gains/losses (i.e. the net change in the seven regions combined), the Greens come out on top with a net gain of 1.6 points. The highlight for them is the gain of 0.6 points in Ontario, where Guelph has the potential to go Green. However, their loss in British Columbia, even though it is only of 0.1 points, is not positive.

Next is the Liberals who have had a net gain of 0.5 points. Their biggest bump came in Atlantic Canada (0.6 and one seat) but they also gained 0.5 points and a seat in British Columbia. Their drop in Ontario is dangerous, however.

The Bloc was stable, so they stand at third in this projection update.

Then it is the NDP, who had a net loss of one point. While a gain of 0.6 in the Prairies and stability in Ontario are good things, their drop in British Columbia and Atlantic Canada do not bode well for the future.

And finally we have the Conservatives, who had a net loss of 1.5 points. Their only gain came in British Columbia, where they nevertheless lost a seat. They had big drops in Atlantic Canada and Ontario, both important regions for them, and are also down in Quebec.

I expect this trend to continue for a little while. The next projection update will, unless things change, likely have a greater Liberal and NDP seat total than the Conservatives.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

New EKOS Poll: 4.6-pt CPC Lead (unchanged)

It's that time of the week again, and so we have a new EKOS poll. Nothing too exciting, but once again we see growth for both of the two main parties. Is this an indication that Canadians are starting to get serious about the next election?Compared to EKOS's last two-week poll (though this poll encompasses only the last week), both the Liberals and the Conservatives have gained 1.1 points. The Conservatives now stand at 32.5% while the Liberals are at 27.9%.

The New Democrats are up 0.1 to 17.4%. The Greens drop 0.7 to 10.3% and the Bloc Québécois drops 1.2 points to 9.2%. The poll found that 15% of Canadians were undecided.

If we compare this last week of polling to polling done between August 4 and 10, we don't see much change. What we do see, however, is that the NDP jumped about two points between Week 1 and Week 2, in part due to better performances in Atlantic Canada. The Conservatives jumped in British Columbia while the Liberals and Conservatives headed in different directions in Ontario to the benefit of the Grits.

Compared to EKOS's release two weeks ago, however, the Liberals are up four points in Ontario to 35.7%. The Conservatives are down one to 32.4%. A lead in this province is BIG for the Liberals. The NDP is also down one to 17.6%. The Liberals lead in Toronto with 43.8% (followed by the Conservatives at 30.7%) and Ottawa with 49.3% (with the Conservatives at 30.4%). That Ottawa number is unlikely, though it would also not be surprising if the past few weeks have had an effect on the public service population in the capital.

The Bloc is down five points in Quebec to 36.2%, while the Liberals and Conservatives have gained two points apiece. They stand at 25.1% and 17.3%, respectively. The NDP is steady at 10.2%. The Bloc leads in Montreal with 40.3%, followed by the Liberals at 29.9%.

The Conservatives are up five points in British Columbia and lead with 41.1%, a good number for them. The NDP is down four to 23.5% while the Liberals are stable at 21.9%. The Greens are up one to 11.8%. The Conservatives lead in Vancouver with 32.5%, followed closely by the Liberals at 26.4%.

The Liberals lead in Atlantic Canada with 35.1%, followed by the Conservatives at 31.1%. The NDP have jumped six points here to 26.3%.

The Conservatives lead in Alberta with 55.2%. The Liberals are well behind with 17.6%.

The Tories also lead in the Prairies with 41.4%, which is a drop of seven points. The NDP is up 11 to 33.5% and the Liberals are down six to 14.2%.

The Conservatives win 72 seats in the West and North, 36 in Ontario, 8 in Atlantic Canada, and 7 in Quebec for a total of 123. Their performance in Ontario is a killer.

The Liberals win 52 seats in Ontario, 19 in Atlantic Canada, 17 in Quebec, and 12 in the West and North for a total of 100. A nice round number.

The Bloc wins 49 seats in Quebec.

The NDP wins 18 seats in Ontario, 11 in the West, 5 in Atlantic Canada and 2 in Quebec for a total of 36.

Relatively speaking, this is a good poll for the Liberals and the NDP. While the Conservatives still have the lead, their caucus would be reduced significantly. The Liberals would make a big gain while the NDP would maintain itself. Together the two parties would outnumber the Conservatives, making life difficult in the House of Commons if Stephen Harper remained as Prime Minister.

The Conservatives are still hobbled and with the recent news about the RCMP and veterans' affairs, they aren't going to be making any gains. The Liberals are still weak but are showing signs of life: most polls have had Michael Ignatieff's party on the upswing. With all that has been going on this summer (and it has been pretty tumultuous!) it sets up an interesting fall session of Parliament.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

PQ still in majority territory

On Saturday, Angus-Reid released a new poll looking into the provincial voting intentions of Quebecers. It was their first such poll since April.Compared to that poll four months ago, the Parti Québécois has dropped two points to 39%, but still hold a solid lead over the Liberals (PLQ) who are at 31%. That is a gain of eight points.

The Action Démocratique du Québec stands at 12% (down one) and is followed by Québec Solidaire (down two) and the Greens (down one) at 8%.

While this looks like a big Liberal gain coming from across the spectrum, it is worth pointing out that this Angus-Reid poll is very similar to the polls we've seen from other pollsters throughout May and June.

The real problem for Jean Charest's government is its approval rating. Only 23% of Quebecers are satisfied with the government, compared to 71% who are not.

With this poll, the PQ would be elected to a majority government with 69 seats. The Liberals would head the opposition with 48 while the ADQ would have six seats and QS would have two.

This poll doesn't really have anything new to say, though it does help confirm the narrative that other polls have laid out. Namely, that the PQ is well ahead around 40%, the PLQ is well behind at about 30%, and the ADQ has rebounded and weakly reclaimed the third spot in the low teens. QS is doing well and should be poised to elect another MNA (Françoise David).

The next election is still several years away, however, so much can change. But if more Liberal MNAs retire, step down, or are forced to resign because of scandal, Charest's government could be in danger. His party currently holds 65 seats in the National Assembly, 66 if we count ousted cabinet minister Tony Tomassi. When Jean-Marc Fournier wins in St-Laurent (and he will), that will bump the Liberal caucus up to 66 (or 67 with Tomassi). But it is a near-run thing, as the opposition currently holds 59 seats and would be quite happy to bring down the government, given the opportunity.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

New seats + ignore Quebec = Majority?

Yesterday, Jane Taber asked "Should Tories, Liberals and New Democrats just give up on Quebec?"

This was prompted by the comments of John Wright from Ipsos-Reid. His argument was that the federalist parties should forget about Quebec and focus on the rest of the country, where 30 new seats are going to be added in the next few years.

In short, with the 18 new seats in Ontario, seven new seats in British Columbia, and five new seats in Alberta, a majority can be cobbled together without Quebec. So why not ignore those Bloc-voting separatists?

Leaving aside the democratic and financial implications of doing such a thing for now, does John Wright have a point?

The current plan for redrawing Canada's electoral boundaries would increase the amount of seats in the House of Commons to 338, meaning 170 seats are needed for a majority. While we cannot know how the boundaries will be redrawn at this point, and so cannot predict how they will vote with a great deal of accuracy, there are a few things we can do to make some educated guesses.

First, let's start by distributing the 30 new seats according to the percentage of seats each party won in Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta in the last three elections.Using this method, no party would have formed a majority in any of the last three elections. The Conservatives would have come closest in the 2008 election, but would still be nine seats short of a majority. Obviously the 2006 election would result in no majority, while the 2004 election would not deliver a Liberal majority.

With the Bloc Québécois winning between 49 and 54 seats, there is still not a lot of wiggle room for the other parties. With 49-54 seats going to the Bloc, the governing party needs to win about 60% of the rest of the seats in order to form a majority. That is a tall order. In the last 50 years, only the 1993 Liberals and 1984 Progressive-Conservatives have won 60% of the seats up for grabs.

The situation is no better if we apply the same system to ThreeHundredEight.com's current projection. Doing that, we get 145 seats for the Conservatives, 102 for the Liberals, 52 for the Bloc, and 39 for the NDP. No majority there.

But distributing these seats according to province-wide numbers is not a very accurate way to go about it. Instead, let's look at what happens if we distribute the seats according to how each party has performed in the urban areas that are likely to get the new seats.

That means Toronto for Ontario, Vancouver for British Columbia, and Edmonton and Calgary for Alberta.

We'll start with the 2004 election in Ontario, when the Liberals had the chance of forming a majority government. In that election, distributing the seats according to the percentage of seats won in and around Toronto by each party, we would award 16 of the 18 in Ontario to the Liberals and split the remaining two between the Conservatives and the NDP. If we take urban Toronto out of the equation and focus on suburban Toronto, we get 17 going to the Liberals and one for the Conservatives.

In 2008, the distribution goes 14 Liberal, three Conservative, and one NDP, or 14 Liberal and four Conservative focusing on the suburban part of Toronto only.

For British Columbia in 2004, we get four going to the Conservatives, two to the Liberals, and one to the NDP. In 2008, the distribution would be four for the Conservatives, two to the NDP, and one for the Liberals.

As for Alberta, in 2004 we would have to award one seat to the Liberals and the remaining four to the Conservatives. In 2008, all five would go Conservative.So, for 2004 that means only 154 (or 155 using the suburban Toronto numbers) Liberal MPs, far from the 170 needed for the slimmest of majorities. In 2008, this only gives 155 Conservative MPs (or 156 using the suburban Toronto numbers). If we allow that maybe one or two of the seats would be in the Ottawa area and a few others in southwestern Ontario, both areas where the Conservatives perform strongly, we still only get to about 160 MPs.

No majority there.

So, we need to start desperately searching for a majority, as we aren't going to get one using reasonable methods. So, let's assume a sweep. The 2006 election is not good for this, as it was a very close one. Giving the Conservatives a full sweep of all 30 new seats still only gives them 154 in that 2006 election. In 2004, even with a sweep of all 30 new seats (that means all 12 in British Columbia and Alberta, too) the Liberals still only win 165 seats, five short of a majority. We finally get a majority in 2008 by giving the Conservatives all 30 new seats (including all 18, most of which will be in and around Toronto). But it is a majority of only three seats, and this in a climate where the Tories had an 11-point lead over the Liberals, who had their worst electoral result in history. We're talking best-best-best case scenario, and a virtually impossible sweep of the new seats, and still we only have a majority of three. A few people catch a cold and the government falls.

So in order for those new seats to deliver majority after majority, we need more than just the status quo. We need a dominate performance and the collapse of one or two parties. In other words, we need the parties to try to win the old-fashioned way and a complete redrawing of our political landscape. This can happen with 308 seats or 338 seats.

But wait, Wright (and the unquestioning Taber) asks "Why bother with Quebec?" If the Conservatives or Liberals are able to sweep all of these new seats west of the Ottawa River, they must be "ignoring" Quebec. Undoubtedly, ignoring Quebec is not going to gain a party any new seats. So, in this "ignore Quebec" scenario, let's give the Bloc the 54 seats they won in 2004. How does that change the situation?Obviously, 2004 doesn't change. The Conservatives are even further away from a majority in 2006. And they lose their majority in 2008, reduced to 168 seats. So, ignoring Quebec, the Conservatives still manage to win five seats in the province but are reduced to a minority in this 338-seat House of Commons.

But let's say that the politicians take Wright's suggestion by the letter. They ignore Quebec completely, burn every bridge. In such a situation, I estimate the Bloc could win 65 seats, what I consider their "ceiling". Think you can form a government without Quebec?You can't. The Liberals are pushed to 16 short in 2004, the Conservatives are a whopping 26 seats short in 2006, and seven short in 2008. So, to be brief, a majority can't be formed without some respectable Quebec representation, even with the extra 30 seats in Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta.

These are the results of cold calculations, which people who discard and denigrate Quebec do all the time. What good is our democracy if 1/4 of Canadians are ignored because some of them vote in a way that displeases the rest of the country? Quebecers who vote for the Bloc do so because they feel it speaks for them. If the federalist parties want Quebecers to vote for them, they need to reach out rather than expect them to tire of the party they have supported since Gilles Duceppe was first elected to the House of Commons 20 years ago.

Not good enough? What about the 1.5 million Quebecers who voted for federalist parties, hoping not to be ignored? That 62% represents almost five million people. Ignore them?

Alright, maybe some people are comfortable with that democratic deficit, but what about a party's finances? The NDP earned 440,000 votes in Quebec in 2008. Ignore them, and you also forfeit about $900,000 in funding every year. The Liberals got 860,000 votes in Quebec. That's about $1.7 million in funding.

And the Conservatives, who are being (and have been) most advised to ignore Quebec, would be throwing away the 785,000 votes they had in the province in 2008. That's $1.6 million in funding. Those votes are more than the votes the party earned in Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland & Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan combined. It's about as many votes as the party earned in Alberta and British Columbia each. More Conservatives were elected in Quebec than in Manitoba, as well as all of Atlantic Canada. Ignore them?

If such a thing ever happened, the Bloc Québécois would indirectly have given Quebecers the best reason for supporting independence.

And this fixation on the mythical 50 seats lost to the Bloc is unfounded. The party won only 44 seats in 1997 and 38 seats in 2000. If a federalist party works for it, they can win a good chunk of seats in Quebec even with the Bloc in place. The Liberals could not have won majorities in 1997 and 2000 without their strong performances in Quebec. The majority of seats in Quebec aren't lost to the Bloc - the Bloc wins them.

Ignoring Quebec is lazy, not smart politics. And banking on those new seats is not a smart investment.

The boundaries will only be redrawn after the constitutionally-mandated best-by date of this Conservative government has passed, so either way the parties will have to fight the next election with the current 308-seat House of Commons.

But if the Liberals and Conservatives think they can get a majority by ignoring Quebec and waiting until the boundaries are redrawn, they are sadly mistaken.

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.

Friday, August 13, 2010

New Angus-Reid Poll: 4-pt CPC Lead (down five)

Angus-Reid released its new poll yesterday. In terms of narrative, it aligns with most of the other recent polls we've seen. But the poll doesn't only demonstrate this with its voter intention numbers. It also does so with its leader numbers.Compared to Angus-Reid's last poll taken between July 6-8, the Conservatives have dropped three points and now lead with 33%. The Liberals have (finally) taken advantage of Tory weakness, and are up two points to 29%.

The New Democrats are down one to 19% while the Bloc Québécois is steady at 10% and the Greens are up two to 9%.

In addition to these top-line numbers, we see that Stephen Harper's approval rating has slipped five points to 26%, while his disapproval rating is at 47%. Taking out the "not sures" we get an approval/disapproval rating of 36/64.

While Michael Ignatieff's approval rating is still abysmal at 14%, his disapproval rating has been reduced by six points, and is now at 47%. Doing the same as with Harper, that is a rating of 23/77.

Jack Layton's approval rating has slipped four points to 27%, but his disapproval rating is only at 32%, giving him a "decided" rating of 46/54.

Those numbers aren't terrific for the Liberal leader, but they are heading in a positive direction. This is shown by the amount of people who said their opinion of him has improved: 10%. That is much higher than Angus-Reid's last poll and is greater than the number of people who said their opinion of Layton (7%) and Harper (6%) has improved. While it isn't a barn-burner yet, the bus tour seems to be helping Ignatieff's image.

Now, let's get to the regionals. The Conservatives are down one point in Ontario but still lead with 37%. The Liberals are up three to 34% and the NDP is down two to 18%. Good number for the NDP, and a close race between the Tories and the Grits. This has been the story in every other poll.

The Bloc is down two in Quebec and leads with 37%. The Liberals are down four to 20%, the Conservatives are down three to 16%, and the NDP is up three to 18%. Terrific number for the NDP. They are almost in a position to over-take the Liberals as the top federalist alternative - which means it is probably a statistical anomaly.

The Conservatives are up four points in British Columbia and lead with 39%. The NDP is down six to 27% and the Liberals are up nine to 25%. While that much of a jump is unlikely, improved Liberal numbers on the Pacific coast has been a trend. The Greens are down five to 8%.

The Conservatives lead in Alberta with 61%, while the other three parties are tied at lucky 13%.

The Tories are down 13 in the Prairies to 42% while the Liberals are up nine to 32%. This is the second poll where we've seen the Liberals doing very well in the Prairies. Could this be a new factor?

Finally, Atlantic Canada. The Liberals lead here with 65%...which is unlikely. But before you laugh it off, consider that Angus-Reid's last poll had the Liberals here at 50%. So this isn't even much of a jump, relatively speaking. While we can consider 65% to be an inaccurate number, we do not have to consider a large Liberal lead to be inaccurate.

The Conservatives win 65 seats in the West and North, 50 in Ontario, 6 in Quebec, and 4 in Atlantic Canada for a total of 125.

The Liberals win 17 in the West and North, 41 in Ontario, 14 in Quebec, and 27 in Atlantic Canada for a total of 99.

The Bloc wins 53 seats in Quebec despite slipping in support since the 2008 election. This is due to the very low Liberal and Conservative numbers.

The NDP wins 13 seats in the West, 15 in Ontario, 2 in Quebec, and 1 in Atlantic Canada for a total of 31.

Considering that EKOS, Ipsos-Reid, and Angus-Reid have all shown a similar storyline of the Conservatives slipping and the Liberals growing, we can reasonably assume that Harris-Decima's recent poll (which did show the Liberals up) was the odd-man out.

But this isn't the kind of spectacular movement we saw last summer. Political opinion is shifting by inches, and it is impossible to tell if it will bounce back, stabilize, or continue.

Will we have a fall election? I don't see anything in these recent numbers that I would want to take to the bank as a party leader. And with New Brunswick's election campaign running from August 26 to September 27 (of which ThreeHundredEight.com will be giving full coverage) that pushes us into October-November.

There is a lot of wait-and-see going on right now. No one is assured of victory, and everyone risks a crushing defeat. I don't think anyone will pull the trigger this fall without good reason.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

BC NDP still dominates, but Liberals show life

Last Friday, Angus-Reid released a new poll on the provincial political situation in British Columbia. While the gap between the opposition BC New Democrats and the governing BC Liberals remains an insurmountable 21 points, it is decreasing.Compared to Angus-Reid's last poll, taken between July 6 and 8, the BC NDP is up two points, leading with 48%. The BC Liberals are up four points, however, and stand at 27%. That is still very, very low for them.

The BC Greens are in third with 13% (down one) while the BC Conservatives are down two points to 6%.

The NDP's gain came mostly in Vancouver, where they are up seven points to 48%. They also gained four points in the North (40%) but lost one in the BC Interior (42%) and ten on Vancouver Island (57%).

The source of the Liberal gain was everywhere but the Vancouver region. They gained six points in the North (32%), seven points on Vancouver Island (16%), and 12 points in the Interior (33%). Nevertheless, they are still behind the NDP in every part of the province.

The Greens had a six point gain in the North, where they have 19%. That is their best region. The best region for the Conservatives is on Vancouver Island, where they are up four points to 9%.

The BC New Democrats comfortably lead in all demographics but one: the BC Liberals have a narrow lead among those who earn more than $100,000 per year. Not exactly something you want to trumpet from the rooftops.

Interestingly, Angus-Reid conducted the same poll twice again but put former Finance Minister Carole Taylor or Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts at the helm of the BC Liberals. It didn't change much, however. With Taylor leading the Liberals the gap is reduced to 42% to 34%, while with Watts it is 44% to 34%. Any way you slice it, it means an NDP government.

Speaking of which, this poll would give the BC New Democrats 70 seats. The BC Liberals would take the remaining 15, two more than they took in Angus-Reid's last poll.

Of course, with numbers like these the changes could very well be nothing but statistical noise. But the small increase in support the Liberals get with either Taylor or Watts as leader indicates that the party has more work to do than merely replacing Premier Gordon Campbell, who seems to be costing the Liberals only seven points.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New Harris-Decima Poll: 6-pt CPC Lead (up one)

And now for something completely different.

Harris-Decima has a new poll out, and it disagrees with both the most recent EKOS and Ipsos-Reid polls.Compared to Harris-Decima's last poll taken between July 15 and July 25, the Conservatives have actually gained three points, and now stand at 34%. The Liberals are also up two points to 28%. While the Conservative gain goes against what the other polls have found, the Liberal gain does not.

The New Democrats are the losers of this poll, dropping three points to 15%. The Bloc Québécois is down to 9% while the Greens are unchanged at 12%.

The Conservatives are up one point in Ontario and lead with 35%. The Liberals are steady at 34%. All of the pollsters seem to agree on the situation in this province. The NDP is down two to 16%.

The Bloc has dropped two points in Quebec and leads with 39%. The Liberals follow with 25% (up six) while both the Conservatives and NDP have gained one point and stand at 14% and 12%, respectively. That is a large Liberal gain between two recent polls of 2,000+ respondents.

And this is something I find odd about this poll. These were taken virtually continuously over the last four weeks and included a lot of people, yet we have a lot of movement. Isn't this supposed to be the dog days of summer?

For example, the Conservatives are up six points in British Columbia, leading with 37%. The Liberals are unchanged at 22% but the NDP is down ten to 20%! While that does correspond with the recent Ipsos-Reid poll, that is a big drop. The Greens are up seven points to 20%, putting them in a good position. Indeed, Elizabeth May seems to be safe for the time being as the Green Party has elected to keep her on as leader rather than put her through a leadership race at the end of the month.

But then in the Prairies we have the Conservatives up ten (to 49%), the Liberals up six (to 25%) and the NDP down 20 (!) to 14%. The Conservatives gain six in Alberta and lead with 61% while the Liberals are down eight to 13%. The Greens are actually second in Alberta with 14%.

Things are relatively stable in Atlantic Canada, however, with the Liberals ahead of the Conservatives 38% to 34%.

It is just slightly strange to have such large variations in two polls taken within a short time of each other and with relatively small margins of error. I don't think there is anything particularly untoward about this, it is likely that both this poll and the last one were on the outside edges of the accuracy spectrum, giving us exaggerated variations. Nevertheless, we rarely see this kind of movement in similar EKOS polling.

The Conservatives win 72 seats in the West and North, 46 in Ontario, 5 in Quebec, and 9 in Atlantic Canada for a total of 132.

The Liberals win 16 seats in the West and North, 45 in Ontario, 17 in Quebec, and 20 in Atlantic Canada for a total of 98.

The Bloc wins 51 seats in Quebec.

The NDP wins 6 seats in the West, 15 in Ontario, 2 in Quebec, and 3 in Atlantic Canada for a total of 26. Those numbers out west were horrible.

The Greens win one seat in British Columbia.

So, a reduced minority for Stephen Harper and a smaller caucus for the NDP. But a gain of more than 20 MPs for Michael Ignatieff, three new MPs for the Bloc, and the first elected Green MP. The only party who really comes out of this poll badly is the NDP as, despite their reduction in MPs, a minority of this size would buy the Conservatives another 18-24 months.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New Ipsos-Reid Poll: 3-pt Conservative Lead (down three)

Starving as we are for polling data, Ipsos-Reid has come along with a very interesting poll. It shows the Conservatives down, the Liberals up, and the gap between them within the margin of error.Compared to Ipsos-Reid's last poll taken between July 6 and 8, the Conservatives have dropped one point and now stand at 34%. The Liberals are up two to 31% while the New Democrats are unchanged at 15%.

The Bloc Québécois is down two to 9% and the Greens are down one to 9% as well.

The Conservatives lead among males with 37% to the Liberals' 31%, but among females the race is tied 31-31. And while Conservatives lead among those aged 35 or older, the Liberals are ahead among those aged 34 or younger. They just need to vote.

Things are mostly unchanged in Ontario, where the Conservatives lead with 36% and the Liberals follow with 35%. Both of those results are no different than a month ago. But the NDP is up three points to 16%.

The Bloc has slipped in Quebec, dropping seven points to 38%. That is still a big lead over the Liberals who are at 24% (down two). The Conservatives and NDP are both up one to 16% and 12%, respectively.

The Conservatives are stable at 38% in British Columbia, while the Liberals are up seven points to 33%. The NDP is down four to 20% and the Greens are down three to 8%. This contradicts some of the other polling we've seen, showing the race in BC to be between the Tories and the NDP.

The Liberals lead in Atlantic Canada with 42% (where the NDP has jumped six points) and the Conservatives lead in Alberta with 62% and the Prairies with 43%. There has been some movement in that latter region, as the Tories are down eight and the Liberals are up 17 to an unlikely 38%.

The Conservatives win 68 seats in the West and North, 47 in Ontario, 6 in Quebec, and 7 in Atlantic Canada for a total of 128. They need to be doing better out East and in Quebec if they want to get closer to 2008's result.

The Liberals win 22 seats in the West and North, 45 in Ontario, 15 in Quebec, and 22 in Atlantic Canada for a total of 104. The Liberals can't expect to take home 38% and seven seats in the Prairies, so they need to increase their support in Ontario.

The Bloc wins 52 seats in Quebec.

The NDP wins 5 seats in the West, 14 in Ontario, 2 in Quebec, and 3 in Atlantic Canada for a total of 24. Their results in British Columbia and the Prairies are disastrous.

This poll adds fuel to the fire in terms of the narrative of Liberal gains at the expense of the Tories. The census issue won't go away, and as Jeffrey Simpson writes today it isn't so much about the census itself but rather how the Conservatives have handled it and their reasoning behind it that is the problem. Michael Ignatieff has been getting relatively good coverage and it is likely the media is paying far more attention to him in the regional newspapers where he visits.

But the Conservatives still lead, and it will be easier for the Conservatives to hold on to enough votes to keep them in power than it will be for Ignatieff to bring people who haven't voted Liberal since 2004 back into the fold. Numbers like these will give the Opposition a little more bargaining power in the next session of Parliament, but the Prime Minister still has control. It doesn't help that few polls benefit all opposition parties equally, meaning that one or more of them could falter if push comes to shove.