Wednesday, January 12, 2011

December Best and Worst Case Scenarios

With January yet to provide us with a new poll (though that is likely to change tomorrow), what better time to take a last look at December through its best and worst case scenarios for each of the three main federal parties?

These best and worst case scenarios calculate each party's best and worst projection results in each region.

For example, if the Conservatives had their best result in the western provinces 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 would take each of these bests and combine them. And the same goes for a worst case scenario.

In other words, these projections are the best and worst possible results each party could have gotten had an election taken place last month, based on the available polling data.

These best and worst case scenarios are in terms of total seats only, and not necessarily about how a party would fit in with the others in Parliament.

Let's start, as always, with the New Democrats. They did not have a stellar month, and this is reflected in their best case scenario. The party would win 24.1% of the vote, a high watermark for them, but would only win 40 seats. The Conservatives would win 139, the Liberals 80, and the Bloc Quebecois 49. In other words, more or less exactly what the situation in the House of Commons is right now.

The NDP would win 11 seats in British Columbia, one in Alberta, four in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 17 in Ontario, two in Quebec, and five in Atlantic Canada. But with the jump in votes cast, the party would still only be making a tiny seat gain.

Their worst case scenario, however, is disastrous. With only 12.4% of the vote, the NDP would win only 15 seats, barely being recognized as an official party. The Conservatives would win 147 seats, the Liberals 94, and the Bloc Quebecois 52. Safe to say that Jack Layton would find himself out of a job.

The NDP would win two seats in British Columbia, none in Alberta, two in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 11 in Ontario, none in Quebec, and none in Atlantic Canada.

This gives the NDP a range of between 12.4% and 24.1% support and 15 to 40 seats. It is worse than November's range of between 13.9% and 24.1% of the vote and 22 and 50 seats. If we take the midway point in these ranges, we get 19% and 36 seats for November compared to 18.3% and 28 seats for December. So a step backwards.

For the Liberals, it was a relatively stable month. Their best case scenario would give them 32.4% of the vote and 110 seats, but not enough to propel them into a minority government. The Conservatives would win 129 seats, the Bloc Quebecois 51, and the NDP 18. This is an especially troublesome outcome as the combination of the Liberals and NDP would still be less than the Tory total.

The Liberals would win nine seats in British Columbia, two in Alberta, six in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 48 in Ontario, 16 in Quebec, and 27 in Atlantic Canada.

Their worst case scenario would make Stéphane Dion look like a political genius. With only 23.9% support, the Liberals would eke out 68 seats, almost handing the Official Opposition role to the Bloc Quebecois. The Conservatives would win a small majority with 158 seats, while the Bloc would win 52 and the NDP 30.

The Liberals would win seven seats in British Columbia, none in Alberta, one in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 30 in Ontario, 12 in Quebec, and 16 in Atlantic Canada. It would be even worse than 2008.

The Liberal range has changed only slightly from November. It has improved in popular support, going from 23.2% to 31.3% in November to 23.9% to 32.4% in December. But in terms of seats it has worsened, going from 73 to 110 seats in November to 68 to 110 seats in December. It appears that, for whatever reason, 110 seats is the Liberal ceiling for the time being. For an average result, November had the Liberals at 27.3% of the vote and 92 seats, compared to December's 28.2% and 89 seats.

Finally, the Conservatives. December was a good month for them. So good, in fact, that it puts a majority within sight. With 41.8% of the vote, the Conservatives would win 162 seats and a majority government. The Liberals would be reduced to 72 seats and the NDP to 21, while the Bloc would increase its seat totals to 52.

The Conservatives would win 25 seats in British Columbia, 28 in Alberta, 23 in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 64 in Ontario, nine in Quebec, and 12 in Atlantic Canada. A majority without Quebec - I didn't think it was possible.

On the flip side, the Conservatives could be manhandled. But they would still come out on top, at least in terms of seats. With 30.6% support, the Conservatives would win 117 seats. The Liberals would win 102, the NDP 33, and the Bloc Quebecois 56. It would not be enough to hold on to the reins of government.

In this scenario the Conservatives win 18 seats in British Columbia, 25 in Alberta, 20 in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 46 in Ontario, three in Quebec, and four in Atlantic Canada.

For December, this puts the Tory range at between 30.6% and 41.8% of the vote. The seat range is between 117 and 162 seats, far better in both cases than November's 29.2% to 38.4% and 107 seats to 147 seats. While November's average was 33.8% and 127 seats, December's was 36.2% and 140 seats.

For the opposition, these are troubling results. The NDP can only make marginal gains or risk losing everything, while the Liberals could do worse than 2008 or still be behind the Conservatives if everything goes right. And a Conservative majority could also be possible.

For the Tories it is high risk, high reward. They could be ousted by a coalition, or they could form a majority. Both Jack Layton and Michael Ignatieff have shown, up to this point, that they aren't prepared to roll the dice with so much at stake. But is Stephen Harper a gambling man?