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?

18 comments:

  1. An election is a big risk for Harper. He would need all the stars to align for a majority, and if he falls short of a majority there's a chance that the opposition would combine to force him out of office. Not much incentive for an election.

    For Ignatieff, the best and worst he can foresee is remaining opposition leader. Not much incentive for an election.

    For Layton, at best he increases his caucus a little, at worst he loses his job. He can't want an election.

    For Duceppe, an election would result in very little change. Why do 100 hour weeks and spend all of the party's money on an election, for little change?

    Unless some numbers start to shift, don't count on an election.

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  2. New AR Poll:

    http://www.angus-reid.com/polls/43747/conservatives-drop-back-lead-liberals-by-six-points-in-canada/

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  3. Tend to agree with GI if you are being logical.

    However who ever said politics was logical??

    To a large extent it will really depend on the Budget. Any sign of a "poison pill" and we're going to the polls.

    The real question that interests me is what happens if Harper comes back with a reduced minority??

    Because there are two separate scenario's at play then.

    First is the obvious, will the coalition force the CPC out of Govt??

    Second is will the CPC remove Harper for failing to deliver a majority after 6 years?? Particularly if they lose Govt as well ??

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  4. I think an election at this point depends entirely on the Conservatives. A majority is possible but when one months polls give such a wide range for them it suggests that internal polling (by methods they feel they can trust) will be vital in determining their course of action.

    The Bloc & NDP have little to gain by another election, but given their machines and small areas to cover (winnable ridings only) they have little to lose as well (I suspect the NDP will be very good at holding seats). The Liberals are the wildcard. Does Ignatieff feel the pressure to go into an election and have the confidence that he can take on Harper one-on-one and push everyone else (NDP & Green mainly) to the sidelines?

    The next budget will tell the story.

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  5. I think Chantal Hebert had a story a few months ago which suggested that Duceppe might want out of Ottawa to take over Pauline Marois' job as leader of the PQ.

    If so (and presumably Marois would have a thing or two to say about it), an election this spring would be ideal for him. He can get out on a winning note (since he'll take 50-odd seats again) in time to reshape the PQ in his image before the next provincial election (which he would almost certainly win). Besides, it's not as if Duceppe has to work all that hard, or spend on that much money to win his 50-odd seats (and besides it's federal money anyhow).

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  6. Based on the close ridings in the 2008 election (15% Margin of Victory) here are my highs and lows.

    The absolute highs are based on holding all the close seats, and winning all the close second places. This would happen with a 5+% increase in voting popularity (example CPC 42.5 or Liberals getting 32%

    The realistic high is holding the close seats and winning half the second place seats. This would happen with a 3-4 % increase in share. Ie the CPC getting 40.5% or the liberals getting 30%

    The realistic low is holding the safe seats and losing half the close seats and not winning any close second place seats. Drop in 3-4 % CPC getting 34.5 or Liberals getting 23%

    The absolute low is losing all the close seats and would happen on a drop of 5+% --- example CPC 32% Liberal 21%

    Party - absolute high - realistic high- realistic low - absolute low
    CPC - 190 – 167 – 124 – 103
    Lib - 121 – 99 – 55 – 33
    NDP – 51 – 44 – 26 – 16
    Bloc – 55 – 52- 40 - 33

    For example if the Liberals go up 5 points and the CPC down 5 points the Liberals would get 121 seats (Liberal absolute best) and the CPC would get 103 seats.(CPC absolute worst) both at 32%.

    This would be the reason Mr. Ignatieff would be pushing for an election and the CPC would be wary. On the other hand the CPC only needs a small increase in popular vote to get the majority by winning the many close seconds they have targeted and appear ready to take. A small drop in Liberal popular vote leaves them at really have to rebuild seat count of 55.

    The Bloc look to improve based on polling but if for some reason in the campaign they drop by 2% (Federalist cash for arena/HST announced in election campaign)) they will lose 6-7 seats. They just won so many close seats (13)

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  7. ARS has the first poll of the new year.

    http://www.angus-reid.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/2011.01.12_Politics_CAN.pdf

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  8. these polls have very little to do with an election being called.

    Liberals have to vote against the budget or look incredibly weak and whining for another full year.

    There will be no mention of corporate tax rates being increased and no spending on F-35s. There is no spending planned on the F-35s until 2016. That is a 4-year majority mandate away.

    As far as the Bloc getting bribed by Harper to support the budget:

    Do the pundits think that Harper is an idiot????

    Which way does the money into Quebec out work better? Bribe Quebec now and let Quebec figure out what more to ask for in 2012.

    OR

    Let the BLOC vote with the coalition against the budget as they said they would and force an election. As part of the CPC campaign promises is a cross Canada arena infrastructure stimulus package that the Quebec arena would qualify for and 1.8B for Quebec to join the federalist HST plan IF the CPC gets a majority. If no majority it will not happen. That will give harper at least 2 of the 4 close seats they lost to the Bloc in 2008 as well as Smith's seat in Montreal from the Liberals

    It is up to the brains and driving force behind the coalition: Jack Layton, to find a rationalization to allow the NDP to support the budget.

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  9. BC Voice of Reason what is this coalition of which you speak? I know of no coalition party in Canada. Did you stumble in here by accident from a British political website?

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  10. Peter,

    First is the obvious, will the coalition force the CPC out of Govt??

    I doubt it. The coalition lasted only two weeks, and that was when all three leaders' interests aligned. Unless Ignatieff feels his leadership threatened after the next election, he would prefer to stay on as opposition leader, in the hopes that by 2016, voters would have tired of the CPC and be ready to give the Liberals an actual mandate.

    Second is will the CPC remove Harper for failing to deliver a majority after 6 years?? Particularly if they lose Govt as well ??

    Hard to see a caucus revolt against Harper even after an election loss. The large majority of his caucus have never had another leader, and MPs that have earned the wrath of Harper have ended up in Helena Guergis-style career purgatory. Even those who led the Stockwell Day revolt are gone. It's not like the Liberals, who have had four leaders in 8 years and so loyalties remain divided.

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  11. GI,

    I think your right. Even if Iggy becomes PM as a result of coalition, I'd bet Harper and his party would proceed on the basis that such a government wouldn't last long and that they'd be perfectly positioned to pound the Liberals once it collapsed. It would be different if the Liberals somehow managed to win more seats on their own than the Tories (the Martin-'06 scenario), but right now no one thinks that's even a possibility.

    I think the Tory strategy is going to make forming a coalition very difficult for the Liberals. Basically, it's going to be a Tory version of the Liberal "hidden agenda" strategy from 2004 (hey, it worked the first time).

    The Tories campaign will say (already is saying) that Iggy will form a coalition with the NDP and the Bloc, if possible (with ads containing nice juicy references to the letter Iggy signed back in 2008 and excerpts from the 2008 coalition agreement).

    Iggy wil have three options to respond, he could say: (1) yes, we will (or might) form a coalition with those parties, if possible, (2) no, we won't form a coaltion with those parties, even if we can, or (3) umm, we'll have to play it by ear.

    But any of those positions would be problematic. If he says (1), then he plays into the hands of both the Tories(coalition with seperatists and socialists = bad, if you're not a socialist or separatist, bette vote for us) and the NDP (if you vote for us, we'll be part of the government that brings down Harper and we'll keep the Liberals honest - it is this message that Iggy is trying to combat with his current tour by telling voter that only a vote for the Liberals can keep Harper out of power). Either way, the risk is that support on both the left and right would bleed away from the Grits.

    If he says (2) (and is believed - not a sure thing), then he might be able to guard his wings against poaching by the Tories and the NDP. But, he'd have a hard time garnering sufficient legitimacy to actually form a coalition after the election (look what happened to the BC Liberals when they ran an election, didn't mention the HST, then turned around shortly thereafter and said they'd be implementing it - the perceived lack of legitimacy of that policy, whatever it's actual merits, sank Gordon Campbell and, despite the best efforts of the NDP, might still sink the BC Liberal party). Moreover, in that case, query whether the governor general might say "I'm not going to allow you to form a government that you said you wouldn't form in last months election, let's go back to the polls and campaign on the basis of your proposed coalition".

    And if Iggy says (3), then its the "hidden agenda" scenario all over again. Iggy's opponents will be able to impute to him whatever policies serve their needs. The Tories and NDP will tell their voters than Iggy will form a coalition (if not, why wouldn't he say so?) Moreover, by waffling on the question, Iggy doesn't do much to enhance the legitimacy of any future coalition.

    My guess is that Iggy will say (2), because that's the safest option for the Liberal party (though how credible that denial will be is perhaps debatable given Canadian's apparent lack of trust in the Liberal party). And my guess is that, having said that, Iggy will not try to form a coalition right after the election.

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  12. Carl,

    My guess is that Iggy will say (2)

    Agreed. He has no choice. He can never say he might coalesce with the other parties while he is campaigning against them. Political suicide.

    Moreover, in that case, query whether the governor general might say "I'm not going to allow you to form a government that you said you wouldn't form in last months election, let's go back to the polls and campaign on the basis of your proposed coalition".

    The G-G has no discretion to refuse a coalition government. By convention, the G-G must offer the current PM the first chance after the election to win a vote of confidence in the House. If he can't (or he resigns as PM beforehand, which usually happens), then the G-G must offer the Leader of the Opposition the chance to form a government and win a vote of confidence.

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  13. "The G-G has no discretion to refuse a coalition government."

    Not the case, the royal perogative is just that, the absolute right of the monarch (or the GG on her behalf) to choose whomever they like as PM. He could, in theory, offer you or I the role as Prime Minster. The practice, of course, is quite different, but it has never been suggested that he has no discretion.

    GI: "By convention, the G-G must offer the current PM the first chance after the election to win a vote of confidence in the House."

    Agreed, that is the convention flowing from Byng-King. However, it depends on the circumstances, I doubt the GG of the day would have allowed Kim Campbell to try to form to government in 1993. So clearly, it isn't an absolute rule.

    GI "If he can't (or he resigns as PM beforehand, which usually happens), then the G-G must offer the Leader of the Opposition the chance to form a government and win a vote of confidence."

    The GG need not do anything of the sort. Although the take-away from the Byng King affair was that the GG won't allow a defeated prime minister to call an election immediately after another election, there's no suggestion that that rule is absolute or applies in all circumstances. It is generally accepted, for example, that where no plausible coalition is apparent (a judgement, presumably made by the GG, although likely in consultation with opposition leaders - that clearly indicates a degree of discretion in the matter.

    Moreover, think about the implications of that purported convention. Would the GG be required to offer the Bloc leader the opportunity to form the government in the event that he or she is the leader of the opposition? (Not so implausible, Bouchard was the opposition leader in the 1990s) Clearly not. Similarly, I'd suggest that a GG faced with a possible coalition government led by a person who, during the election, explicitly rejected the possibility of forming such a coalition, would be fully entitled to grant a dissolution of parliament, on the basis that such leader lacked the democratic legitimacy to form such a government. Certainly, that leader would be harm-pressed to complain about the GG holding him to his word.

    Again, though, it would depend on the circumstances. If the opposition leader was only a few seats short of a majority, or his party received more votes, or more seats than the governing party, or if the promise to not form a coalition was not material to his or her election (such that a new election would produce the same results), then maybe he might have sufficient legitimacy to pull it off.

    The beautiful think about constitutional conventions is that they can be both rigid (i.e., of high pursuasive value such that they will almost always be followed with little or no dispute) but, at the same time, flexible enough such that they can evolve as circumstances change. Their existence is one of the charming quirks of Canada's constitutional regime and evidence that we are indeed a civilized society.

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  14. "By convention, the G-G must offer the current PM the first chance after the election to win a vote of confidence in the House."


    The GG doesn't "offer" anything.

    After an election or a prorogation the PM of the day meets the house.

    The PM is the PM before, during, and after an election.

    (Its why he's only sworn in once until he resigns.)

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  15. Of course he'll say 2), i.e. no coalition.

    Instead, if necessary, he'll form a government with an accord involving the other parties. Recall that Ontario had a Liberal-NDP accord to remove the PCs from office. It was not a coalition, despite Rae favouring such. Peterson would not have accepted it, and neither will Iggy. Agreeing to implement some pet policies as Peterson did is a far cry from Cabinet seats.

    Despite what our CPC friends repeatedly say, the 2008 coalition was one between TWO parties. The Bloc only agreed not to topple the two party coalition for a period of time, nothing more.

    So it is quite conceivable to have no coalition, with one or two other parties only agreeing not to topple the Liberals for a reasonable amount of time. Given that the NDP actually took power in Ontario in the second election after that accord, they could agree to an accord again, this time at the federal level. Despite no seat at the table, the Ontario accord showcased the NDP viewpoint, dispelled the radical commie label, and gave them the legitimacy that led to their coming to majority power in 1990. Meanwhile, the Bloc knows it cannot win power, but it would naturally support the government that will do the least damage to Canada, rather than a party that would ruin Canada, part of which they hope will eventually be their new country.

    Once Harper is defeated on a confidence motion right after an election, Ignatieff does not need any kind of agreement with the other parties, he only needs to win a confidence vote. In such a situation, given the CPC had just lost such a vote, it would be reasonable for the GG to allow someone else to try to win one before requiring another election.

    The 2008 coalition agreement was putting the cart before the horse. They should not have made such a formal agreement before defeating Harper in a confidence vote. At the time, they had the same sentiment that you see from Tea party types, that drastic action is needed to save the country. Given the global economic situation they were right at the time, and in fact were able to scare Harper enough that he implemented the stimulus rather than put Canada into depression.

    But now the situation is different, and cooler heads are finally starting to prevail all over. I'm sure Dmitri will be busily trying to redefine accord to mean coalition, but Ontario remembers the accord and won't buy his fear mongering.

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  16. liberal supporter why would the NDP settle for an accord when they were offered a coalition in '08 ?

    Jack Layton holds all the cards on this one, not powerless Ignatieff.

    I doubt he'll settle for anything less than a senior ministry.

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  17. Wow, I'm not the only person in the world who thinks that constitutional conventions are interesting. Hmm.

    Carl,

    I doubt the GG of the day would have allowed Kim Campbell to try to form to government in 1993.

    While it would have been a complete waste of time to hold a confidence vote on Kim Campbell's "government", the GG would not have had any basis in convention to refuse her one. She would have been defeated 299-2 and the GG would then have offered Chretien the premiership.

    Would the GG be required to offer the Bloc leader the opportunity to form the government in the event that he or she is the leader of the opposition? (Not so implausible, Bouchard was the opposition leader in the 1990s) Clearly not.

    I would disagree. While constitutional conventions are flexible, by far the most rigid one is that the sovereign is not partisan. That the Bloc does not want Quebec to remain part of Canada cannot be any factor at all.

    The Leader of the Opposition's only constitutional function is to have the opportunity to form a government if the current one collapses. That function has largely been dormant since an election almost always follows a lost confidence vote. But the function still exists.

    The beautiful think about constitutional conventions is that they can be both rigid (i.e., of high pursuasive value such that they will almost always be followed with little or no dispute) but, at the same time, flexible enough such that they can evolve as circumstances change. Their existence is one of the charming quirks of Canada's constitutional regime and evidence that we are indeed a civilized society.

    That's an interesting perspective. I have always thought of Canada's constitutional conventions as unclear rules which work well when things are going smoothly (which fortunately in Canada is most of the time) but when things go wrong they are of little guidance and basically unenforceable, ie., the worst possible type of legal rules.

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  18. GI there's no requirement the oppo leader be asked next.

    When Mulroney resigned why didn't the opposition leader become PM ??

    The current Prime Minister, as his last act, advises the GG who to appoint as the new PM.

    This advice is almost always taken, although the GG has reserve powers that allow for independent action.


    Example that's been discussed in the media:

    Opposition form a coalition after the next election on the condition Bob Rae become PM.

    Harper is defeated. Bob Rae becomes PM. Leader of the opposition Ignatieff isn't asked.

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