Monday, January 10, 2011

Political deep freeze endures – even in hypothetical fantasyland

A disunited left and an uninspiring right have conspired to elect three successive minority governments in Canada, with listless polls showing voters on track to install a fourth in 2011 or 2012. While the Conservatives have no competitors for support on the right, the existence of four parties to the left of the Tories has many musing on the possibility of various hypothetical scenarios. But estimations of what electoral results these scenarios would yield demonstrate it will take more than a merger or two to get Canada out of its political logjam.

The rest of the article can be read on The Globe and Mail website.

Regular readers might consider the premise of the article familiar. That's because it is. That blog post, however, was about the 2008 election and how other scenarios might have played out. This article is about the next election, using my current projections and then adjusting them.

For those interested, here is the regional breakdown for each scenario (WC = Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and the North):

No Green Party

Conservatives: 18 BC, 48 WC, 46 ON, 8 QC, 8 AT
Liberals: 7 BC, 4 WC, 43 ON, 13 QC, 21 AT
New Democrats: 11 BC, 7 WC, 17 ON, 1 QC, 3 AT
Bloc Québécois: 52 QC
Other: 1 QC

United Federalist Left

Conservatives: 17 BC, 45 WC, 42 ON, 6 QC, 11 AT
United Left: 19 BC, 14 WC, 64 ON, 13 QC, 20 AT
Bloc Québécois: 56 QC
Other: 1 AT

Liberal/NDP Merger

Conservatives: 22 BC, 47 WC, 45 ON, 6 QC, 7 AT
Liberal Democrats: 14 BC, 12 WC, 61 ON, 14 QC, 24 AT
Bloc Québécois: 55 QC
Other: 1 AT


  1. Globe mobile site is down. Can you replay here?

  2. Don't think the G&M would like me posting the entirety of the article here. I'm sure they'll have it up and running again soon.

  3. The Liberals are "left"?

    Oh, right, this is "fantasyland".

  4. Relatively speaking, of course.

  5. Anonymous,

    I think the Globe is in the process of changing their mobile site. It's hit and miss whether you can get into it, by try typing in the globe address directly.


  6. It will be extremely interesting on which ridings the latest "Talking to Canadians" tour takes Mr. Ignatieff.

    These are supposed to be the ridings that the Liberals have targeted for gains.

    Where will the Liberals plan to go toe-to-toe with their "leftist buddies"?

  7. From the G&M:

    Among the targets for Mr. Ignatieff are Tory-held ridings in Winnipeg South, Richmond, B.C., and Kitchener, Ont., the NDP-held riding of Acadie-Bathurst in New Brunswick and the Bloc’s Montreal-area riding of Jeanne-Le Ber.

    However, he will start his tour on Wednesday by taking the fight to the Ottawa doorstep of one of Mr. Harper’s most valued and influential ministers, Government House Leader John Baird.

  8. Wow. A Lib-NDP merger produces more CPC seats in BC than the status quo?

    BC surprises us once again.

  9. These are all Liberal pipe-dreams. Dream on . . .

  10. Fantasyland, pipe-dream...

    My article ends with the real point I was trying to make. If the Liberals or NDP want to form the next government, they simply need to convince more Canadians to vote for them. Even if the left was united, they would still have some work to do.

  11. hey eric - once again an intriguing and thought provoking article... obviously one of the points taken is that a merged ndp liberal party woulld not retain all the support that the two individual parties now hold.. one possibility that I have always thought would work the best would be to have a formal level of cooperation between the liberals and ndp... no merger of the parties but a scenario where in ridings with a liberal incumbant the ndp would not field a candidate.. in ridings with an ndp incumbant the liberals would not run a candidate.. in ridings with a conservative mp the two cooperating parties would field a liberal or ndp candidate depending upon which party was more competitave in the previous election... the ndp leader and liberal leader could gang up on Harper in debates and on the campaign trail and just put forth the idea to voters that the strategic placement of your vote for either the liberal or ndp candidate in your riding is basically a vote for your chosen party... would there be voter attrition in the same way as if you had a united liberal democrat party? would it alleviate the left of centre vote split that is keeping Harper in power?
    any thoughts?
    also it could turn harpers coalition arguement against itself where the talking point would be - what coalition, steve? all we are doing is pursuing a renewed level of cooperation.. what's your problem with something as intrinsically Canadian as that Mr. Harper?
    that's my political fantasy scenario!

  12. I'm not sure. It might keep Liberal and NDP voters in each riding, but could backfire. A "Liberal Democrat" candidate might have a better chance of attracting a larger number of Liberal and NDP voters than a Liberal or NDP candidate. I can see a scenario where NDPers don't want to vote for a Liberal (but could a Lib Dem) and so vote Green. And Liberal voters who wouldn't want to vote NDP and instead vote Conservative.

  13. On the Iggy-2011 Canada tour, from today's Globe:

    "Mr. Ignatieff’s itinerary confirms that whenever that elections comes, it will be decided in the Greater Toronto Area and Southwestern Ontario. Half of the 11-day tour will be spent there.

    Things begin, though, in the capital, with a visit to Government House Leader John Baird’s riding of Ottawa West-Nepean...

    Then Mr. Ignatieff is off to Vancouver and Winnipeg, followed by four days devoted almost exclusively to the Toronto and Southwestern Ontario. There are three days in New Brunswick and Quebec, after which Mr. Ignatieff returns to the GTA for the final weekend."

    I can't help but notice that those are generally (i.e., with the exception of New Brunswick) regions where Liberal riding are located. This isn't a tour intended to win new ridings, this is a Liberal party on the defensive.

  14. I imagine it is a bit of both.

  15. Eric said: "I imagine it is a bit of both."

    Except Iggy isn't visiting areas where lots of non-Liberal seats are located (i.e., the Praries outside of Winnipeg, BC outside of Vancouver, rural Ontario - I suspect "South-Western Ontario" means Kitchener and London - and, although the globe article doesn't say as much, I suspect Quebec outside of Montreal). Moreover, many of the Tory ridings ( in those regions are ridings that aren't all that vulnerable (at least, not to the Liberals), although maybe some of the NDP ridings might be (in Winnipeg, perhaps?).

    Typically when you're trying to take lots of seats from your opponent, it helps to campaign in those regions where your opponents have lots of seats, and, ideally, seats that you might be able to win.

  16. I think he is going in areas where they have a good chance of winning new seats. Kitchener is a perfect example - but he'd be wasting time in other parts of Ontario.

    More gains in Winnipeg is a possibility, winning outside of Winnipeg isn't so much of a good bet. Taking seats from the Bloc in and around Montreal is possible, going into the francophone rural areas would be wasted effort.

    And, undoubtedly, they want the local press that serves the ridings that they currently hold to be covering his tour as well.

    It might not be ambitious, but it is efficient.

  17. Eric: "I think he is going in areas where they have a good chance of winning new seats."

    We can agree on that. I suppose the point is that the number of "areas where they have a good chance of winning new seats" is so limited. If that's the case, and the Liberals believe it, they have written themselves off in large swaths of Canada. It's in sharp contrast to the Tories who are quite publicly assauting Liberal bastions in the Toronto area.

    If nothing else, it adds to my doubts as to the Liberal commitment to forcing an election in the spring. Although, the fact that Iggy is out visiting "target" (are we still allowed to use that term?) ridings might suggest that they're thinking about an election, would they really trigger an election if they only believe that there are only a dozen odd seats in play for them? I suppose they might if they think things can only get worse.

  18. I have a really hard time believe the NDP winning 34 seats in Quebec. If you look at the NDP's best pre-BQ results, in 1988, they won *zero* seats in Quebec. Do that many BQ voters really list the NDP as their second choice, or is this based on assuming that the left-of-center BQ voters would vote NDP?

  19. Carl, I think the Liberals are (internally) realistic. They realize that going for broke probably won't work, but if they can win 100 seats then they may be able to do something. And if they can win 100, maybe a Conservative campaign gaffe can propel them to a small minority.

    At this point, the Liberals need to ensure they keep what they have and make a few gains. They aren't in a position to take the lead from the Conservatives. Baby steps, in other words.

    jbailin, I've looked at Layton's numbers in Quebec and his performance in 2008 was on par with Broadbent's in 1988. I think he's now gone beyond Broadbent, considering the Outremont win and the polls that put his party at 20%. His French is also better.

    And yes, it is because of how many Bloc voters choose the NDP as a second choice. It is no accident that Layton is, by far, the most popular federal politician in Quebec after Duceppe. By my calculations, the NDP would garner about 40% of the Bloc vote at this point.

    I think the change since 1988 is that the Bloc has been very successful in putting Quebec's social democratic bent to the forefront. When the Bloc came along it ripped the heart out of the conservative nationalism of the PCs and the Quiet Revolution-style nationalism of the Liberals.

    But with Duceppe at the helm, the party has merged Quebec nationalism with the province's social democratic nature. If the Bloc suddenly disappeared, the NDP would take its place, as neither the Conservative nor Liberal styles of federalism have much appeal in Quebec anymore.

    The NDP has also done a good job courting francophone public opinion with their support of extending Bill 101 to federally regulated institutions in Quebec and the idea of mandatory bilingualism for our Supreme Court judges.

  20. They realize that going for broke probably won't work, but if they can win 100 seats then they may be able to do something. And if they can win 100, maybe a Conservative campaign gaffe can propel them to a small minority.

    Eric Your absolute best prediction,as the headline to your website, is for the Liberals to win 96 seats.

    The way you phrase it in the above excerpt you make it seems that they will have to work hard and get all the breaks to reach the number of seats the polls say they will get.

    This also happens when you go into the details of the 20 seats they need to gain while hanging on to their own bubble seats. A close lose in 2008 like Shelly Glover in St.Boniface has to be going Liberal. Is that realistic?

    I have the Liberals as close second in 44 ridings.

    I have the Liberals as narrow wins in 38 ridings.

    If the Liberals convert half of the close ridings to wins they hit 97.

    If the CPC covert half of their 46 close seconds to wins they end up with a solid 165 seat majority.

    when the Liberals play these same numbers they come to the fantasy of a Liberal-NDP merger where they basically wipe out the NDP and hold all their own vote.

  21. Here is the situation in the low hanging fruit ridings that Mr. Ignatieff (in his role as Don Quixote) is targeting in this tour:

    I could only find 7 of the 20 targeted ridings mentioned. Realistically the Liberal's have a great chance to win 2 of the 7. If this is the low hanging fruit they are targeting they are truly in trouble.

    Ottawa West – John Baird – won by 8.9 % - NDP had 11.9%

    Winnipeg South –Rod Bruinooge – won by 14% over Liberal star candidate John Loewen, NDP had 11.4%

    St. Boniface – Shelly Glover – beat incumbent Liberal in 2008 by 11.2% - NDP vote was 13.1.%

    Richmond - Alice Wong defeated Liberal incumbent by 19%. – NDP had 11.9%

    Acadie Bathhurst – NDP Yvon Godin won by 35.6 % the Liberals were basically tied with CPC for 2nd with 22 and 19% respectively

    Kitchener- Stephen Woodworth defeated Liberal incumbent Karen Redman by 339. Finally what I would consider a winnable riding.

    Jeanne-Le Ber -Thierry St-Cyr BQ incumbent won by 2.7% over Liberal with NDP get 15.7%

  22. If the Liberals are going to take seats from the NDP, it will probably be in Toronto.

    And if they're going to lose seats to the CPC, it will probably be around Toronto.

    Sticking around Toronto makes sense for the tour, but it does reinforce the perception out west that the Liberals are a Toronto-centric party that offers nothing to the rest of the country.

  23. Well it seems the wishful thinkers from the right are out in full force yet all the trend lines and other data say stagnation.

    Stop drinking the Kool Aid and accept reality.

  24. "At this point, the Liberals need to ensure they keep what they have and make a few gains. They aren't in a position to take the lead from the Conservatives. Baby steps, in other words."

    I'm not sure that nibbling around the edges is really a good long-term strategy for them. I mean, so what if they pick up a couple of seats in their targeted regions? There are only so many seats in those regions that they can win, and picking up those extra seats doesn't really help them make inroads in the parts of the country from which they're effectively shut-out (i.e., basically between Vancouver and Winnipeg), rural Ontario and Francophone Quebec.

    You called it a "realistic" strategy, and maybe it is, but it's realistic in the sense that the Liberals are acknowledging their weaknesses. I guess my only observation is that, while it recognizes the Liberal's weakness, it's a strategy which doesn't try to address that weakness. And this is the problem that the Liberals have faced ever since 2006. They're so scared of Harper getting a majority government that they adopt a defensive strategy (i.e. rolling over to the Tories, targeting ridings in regions where they are already relatively strong) which all but ensures that Harper will stay in power as long as he wants, even if he doesn't win a majority.

  25. Ira said: "Sticking around Toronto makes sense for the tour, but it does reinforce the perception out west that the Liberals are a Toronto-centric party that offers nothing to the rest of the country."


    For god's sake, half the Liberal caucus (and a number of Iggy's more competent colleagues) are from the Toronto area. If there's one region in the country in which the Grits have a reasonably deep talent pool, it's the Toronto area. Iggy shouldn't have to be touring these ridings to round up support. That would be like having Stephen Harper do a tour of Canada stopping in Edmonton-Strathcona and Wascana. It might help win those ridings, but so what?

  26. Peter

    It is somewhat disingenuous to just say the facts point to "stagnation" and then call any discussion partisanship.

    The facts as presented by Eric are calling for a 20 seat Liberal gain. That should hardly be considered stagnation.

    This 20 seat gain is largely based on his December weight average polls and has :

    Conservatives - 35.3%
    Liberals - 27.8%
    New Democrats - 16.2%
    Bloc Québécois - 10.2%
    Greens - 8.8%
    Others - 1.7%

    This weighting is totally dominated by one pollster who likely has an anti-CPC bias as their automated polling costs no more take much larger samples. I feel that you often get what you pay for.

    Taking the December weighted average of Nanos, AR, IR and Abacus, I get

    CPC 38 Lib 28 NDP 17 Blo 10 Green 8

    This compares very favourably (for the CPC) with the 7 polls taken August 2008.... just prior to the election being called:
    CPC 34.4 Lib 31.4 NDP 15.7 Blo 8 Green 9.7

    3 of the 7 polls had the Liberals ahead by 1,1 and 2 %. That is why Dion was running off about forcing an election. History seems to be repeating itself but with Ignatieff in the Dion role and Harper and the CPC polling considerably better at this point of the campaign than in 2008.

    In the week after the election was called there were 20 polls. The CPC jumped to 38.0% and the Liberals dropped to 27.4
    The campaign did very little to change the end result of CPC at 37.6 and Liberals 26.2

  27. I think that this whole hypothetical idea of a united left is a bit out there since most Liberals would rather merge with the Greens than the NDP since the Greens are actually a centrist party that likes to cling to environmental issues such as a solution to climate change.

    I think however if a party were to be created it would probably be in the centre and would not cling to environmental issues as its sole reason for existence but instead vie for a true alternative to the Conservative party such as a successor the Progressive Conservative party but nationwide.

    The party that would be the successor to the Progressive Conservatives would most likely subscribe to fiscal responsibility, moderate tax cuts, standing up for manufacturing jobs, single-tiered health care, investing moderately in post secondary education, finding ways to cut the budget and balance the books, and finally having a balanced solution to law and order, foreign affairs, the military and finally on the environment.

    I think that if a party challenged the Conservatives on those issues then the Liberals would be forced to merge with the New Democrats and then Canada would have three moderate parties vying for the leadership of this country.

    The reason I say the NDP and Liberals would be forced to merge is because I have heard people discuss about a possible red tory/blue liberal type party popping up sometime in the future and that could force the people in the Liberal party to want a merger with the NDP to save the party in one way or another and have moderates in the NDP and Liberals to have that merger.

    Therefore a merger is never out of the question but there are many roads that could lead to one.

  28. Carl -

    Harper has already lead the longest-serving minority federal government in Canadian history (he's outlasted Pearson and King).

  29. why is the second option so different from the third, considering they're both merging the same parties? Or did I misunderstand something here?

  30. Carl I think baby steps is the only viable Liberal strategy at the moment.

    If Harper is denied a majority and the Liberals win a few NDP/BQ seats and a couple Ontario CPC seats then it'll allow them to act like an opposition party again.

    No more voting for Tory budgets. Better fundraising. Less internal divisions.

    The first election since 2000 in which they haven't lost seats would be a HUGE deal.

  31. JD,

    The second option has the Liberals, Greens, and NDP together. The third option has a merger of the Liberals and the NDP only. It means a lot of support is (uselessly, seat-wise) bled to the Greens.

  32. I think the best case might fall a bit next month for the tories.

    AR is out with a poll today

    6 point lead. 34-28-17

    Wondering if Ontario was a (13 points reduced to 2) (and Newfoundland) blip up last time a blip down this time? or a bit of both.

  33. Considering the Liberals to be "left" is buying into the propaganda of the Tories, as well as the neanderthal political discourse of the United States in which the rhetorically centrist of the two pro-corporate, pro-war parties is "left".


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