Saturday, April 23, 2011

Week 4 Ceilings

This fourth week of the campaign has been, without a doubt, the most interesting. We've seen polls flail wildly but what has been unmistakable is that the NDP is making some gains - some huge gains.

Up to this point, I only looked at the ceilings of the Conservatives and the Liberals. One reason was in order to save some time, but the main reason was because the ceilings give us some ability to answer two important questions: can the Conservatives form a majority? Can the Liberal form a minority?

But after receiving many, many requests for NDP ceilings and in light of the NDP's gains, I think a third interesting question deserves an answer: can the NDP form the Official Opposition?

The ceilings are established by taking the best regional results for each party from all of the polls released during the week, and running seat projections with those results. Of course, these calculations are greatly influenced by the smaller samples of regional polls. But we can still draw some useful information from these ceilings, as it is unlikely that the parties are capable of outpacing the best polls when you consider that the best polls are likely a few points higher than reality thanks to the MOE.

Before getting to the NDP, let's take a look at the Conservative ceiling. It does provide a glimpse of one potential consequence of the NDP's gains, and that is a Conservative majority.

Based on receiving 45% of the vote nationally (48% in British Columbia, 72% in Alberta, 62% in the Prairies, 46% in Ontario, 24% in Quebec, and 44% in Atlantic Canada) the Conservative ceiling is 170 seats, or a comfortable majority government.

This is a drop of eight seats since last week, but is generally where the Tories have been since the start of the campaign. The Conservatives win 24 seats in British Columbia, 28 in Alberta, 24 in the Prairies, 61 in Ontario, 15 in Quebec, and 17 in Atlantic Canada.

The Liberals, with 61 seats, still form the Official Opposition while the New Democrats, with 43 seats, take third-party spot. The Bloc is reduced to 33 seats, while one independent is elected.

The poll used for Quebec featured a real four-way split (28% NDP, 27% BQ, 24% CPC, 20% LPC) and demonstrates how wonky that can be in a first-past-the-post system: 33 seats for the Bloc, 15 each for the Liberals and Conservatives, and 11 for the NDP.

The Liberal ceiling is based on 31% national support (34% in British Columbia, 22% in Alberta, 23% in the Prairies, 37% in Ontario, 24% in Quebec, and 41% in Atlantic Canada). With this level of support, the Liberals would win 91 seats, 10 fewer than their ceiling from last week and very far from a minority.

The Liberals win 11 seats in British Columbia, one in Alberta, four in the Prairies, 38 in Ontario, 18 in Quebec, and 18 in Atlantic Canada.

With 138 seats, the Conservatives still outpace the combined total of the Liberals and NDP (35). The Bloc, with 43 seats, retains third-party standing.
And now the New Democrats. It's been a stellar week, and though I haven't gone back to run the numbers I can say with confidence that we wouldn't have seen anything close to this week's ceiling for the NDP earlier in the campaign.

With 29% of the vote (32% in British Columbia, 22% in Alberta, 35% in the Prairies, 24% in Ontario, 36% in Quebec, and 38% in Atlantic Canada), the New Democrats would win 83 seats. Yes, that's right. They would win 11 in British Columbia, two in Alberta, eight in the Prairies, 19 in Ontario, 31 in Quebec, and 11 in Atlantic Canada. It would be about twice their historic best.

The Conservatives would still win 145 seats and have first crack at a minority government. The Liberals would be reduced to 50 seats while the Bloc Québécois would win only 30. Jack Layton becomes the Leader of the Official Opposition, and the first man the Governor-General turns to if the Conservatives are unable to get a Throne Speech or budget passed.

The NDP's numbers west of Quebec are not outlandish, but those in Quebec and in Atlantic Canada are a bit of a stretch. Or are they? The NDP certainly has been up in the polls in Quebec and it isn't unusual to imagine Atlantic Canadians jumping on the bandwagon.

This scenario has the NDP winning the most seats in Quebec, but even if we prune that back a little to 20 seats and cut their Atlantic Canadian gains in half, we still have a scenario where the NDP forms the Official Opposition. So this possibility isn't based solely on a rogue poll.
The chart above shows how the Conservatives have been holding steady, and how the Liberals' hopes have diminished as the campaign goes on. The New Democrats' best-case-scenario before the campaign was only 45 seats, and in Week 4 they stand ready to supplant the Liberals. It is really quite remarkable.

Week 5 will be determinant. Has the NDP peaked too soon? Will the sort of pull-back we have often seen when the Conservatives have approached majority territory happen to the NDP? It's possible many former Bloc and Liberal supporters will return to the fold once they see that their traditional parties are about to be humiliated.

Or, will voters now see the NDP as the alternative and flock to the orange banner? This campaign was supposed to be a snorer, but instead it looks like it could be the most surprising finish since 1993.


  1. Wow.... What a pickle for Iggy and the Grits

    PM Layton...? Am I actually typing that?


  2. I wonder what the "floors" are? Is it possible that the Liberals could face a Kim Campbell-like annihilation?

  3. It is indeed quite amazing, assuming it isn't simply an accumulation of freak polls.

    One interesting question is what to make of Conservative attacks on the NDP at this point. Maybe they really are worried about losing seats to the NDP out west.

    Alternatively, they think attacks on NDP will both shore up the enthusiasm of their own supporters and... drive a few more Liberal votes to the NDP in Ontario. (By focusing attention on the NDP, angering left-liberals etc.)

    Anybody noted which provinces/regions the Conservative ads are running?

  4. what's the ceiling for the Greens? 1-3?

    Bruce Grey Owen Sound


  5. I too am interested in the "floors". I also wonder what the BQ high and low might look like. Personally, I put the Conservatives 151, Liberals 67, NDP 45 and BQ 44 with 1 independent. That being said, I'm looking at things in a much less structured way than you.

  6. One wonders whether Iggy might be happier supporting a Tory minority than paving the way for Prime Minister Jack Layton . . .

  7. Well there could be a few seats in the West the Conservatives have now that could possibly go NDP.

    Denesthe-Missinippi-Churchill River
    Edmonton East
    Surrey North
    Vancouver Island North

    Not to mention Esquimalt Juan De Fuca which is a vacant seat held by the Liberals recently that will likely be a CPC/NDP battle and maybe even Nunavut where the NDP were only about 7 points behind.

    Though it would be pretty tough for the NDP to win these 6-8 ridings they are certainly not safe seats by any means for the Conservatives and that may be why they are attacking the NDP out west.

  8. I will never forgive Jack for helping bring in Harper by bringing down Martin. Having said that, it is important to vote NDP where it has the best chance of beating the Cons. In Quebec, it could split the vote and result in Con wins there. Wouldn't it be something that the Cons got a majority with the NDP as a useless official opposition?

  9. Even more interesting then the floors, would be the ceiling of the NDP+Libs, who would have more seats in that scenario, and if they could get to 155 together.

  10. "With 138 seats, the Conservatives still outpace the combined total of the Liberals and NDP (35)."

    Any reasonably possible scenario in which the CPC total doesn't surpass combined NDP/Lib total? Starting to look like that's completely out of question.

    Doug Johnson Hatlem

  11. One more request to see the "floors"!

  12. I think the Tory attack ads against the NDP are just a variation of their original strategy. Their strategy all along has been to say "you have a choice between voting for us, or voting for a government that includes the NDP (and the bloc)". The rise of the NDP plays into that strategy, indeed it reinforces it, since - to potential Tory voters - a Layton-led coalition sounds a lot worse than an Iggy-led coalition. Emphasizing the NDP is a way of peeling right-wing "blue" Liberals away from Iggy and further stressing the importance of a Conservative majority (incidentally, Liberal attacks on the NDP will have the same effect).

  13. Here's another "me too" for wanting to see "floors" along with the ceilings. Also, I'm guessing the regional support basis doesn't lend itself to generating this numbers for the Bloc or Greens - is there any comparable number that would allow showing high and low possibilities for all parties?

  14. Its not like Iggy would be around to make that decision...

  15. Dio, Of course that is extremely likely. Who else have they supported over the last couple of years? On top of that the back room corporate power brokers will be going over the top wondering which heads to knock together in the case of an real NDP surge, and their potential to wield a real influence over the government levers of power. It's a genetic part of the Canadian electoral tradition.

  16. @ Anonymous 17:44

    That old lie about the NDP helping to bring Harper to power is old, tired and anti-democratic. The government came down because Martin refused to agree to the NDP request, a simple one, to more rigorously enforce the Canada Health Act. Martin would not agree to protect public delivery of health care. And then the voters made a decision - they decided that they didn't want the Liberals in government any more, and elected a plurality of Conservatives. This is a democracy, and the people decide. The Liberal Party doesn't have some God-given right to govern.

  17. Ontario Dipper

    Based on the massive turnout for Jack's rally in Montreal tonight (in the middle of Gilles Duceppe's own riding no less) I would suggest that in Quebec, the Orange Juggernaut is still rolling. If this starts to pick up momentum in staid old Ontario, that dipper ceiling could jump some more. No wonder Iggy is desperately trying to slag the NDP platform that a few weeks ago he cribbed from so shamelessly, and no wonder Steve is rushing off to BC to shore up Conservative cabinet ministers in imminent danger of being imolated in the Orange Inundation!

    Jack the Giant Killer Indeed!

  18. Answering my own question (though clearly not as well or authoritatively as Eric could) ... If I were present at a secret deal that would hypothetically take place tonight between top NDP and Lib strategists, I would strongly argue that Layton should spend at least part of every day between now and May 2 in Quebec and Iggy should do the same for Ontario.

    Taking the 20 seat NDP Quebec possibility Eric mentioned above, a look at 308s individual riding numbers suggests Quebec would look something like (11-12 CPC, 8 LPC 20 NDP 34-35 Bloc). In my limited experience, were Layton to be doing this well in Quebec, he'd practically be able to pick up the three seats he's most likely to challenge the CPC on in the current model in BC (Vancouver Island North, Burnaby-Douglas, Surrey North) on account of how much BCers would enjoy him thrashing the Bloc.

    If Liberalism doesn't work in Ontario, it doesn't work anywhere. Suppose a concentrated effort there allows Libs to defend all seats currently in danger in the 308 riding prediction plus pick up all seven seats in which they currently are within 4 points of the Cons. Then add in Welland (the seat most likely, it appears, to go CPC on account of a NDP-Lib split).

    At that point, if my calculations are correct (and I'm just working with pen and paper here), CPC sits at 139 and an NDP-Liberal combination at 133. That leaves the combo with about ten ridings in which to hope to overcome the six seat gap. (The ten I'm thinking are Egmont in PEI; South Shore, West Nova, and Central Nova in NS; St. Boniface in MB; Nunavut; Haldiman-Norfolk, Ottawa-Orleans, and Oshawa in ON; and perhaps a hope that one of the two independent wins in Edmonton-Sherwood Park (AB) or Simcoe-Grey (ON)).

    Likely? No, not really. Reasonably possible? I guess that all depends on your view of 'reasonably'!

    Doug Johnson Hatlem

  19. What happens to the leaders if these were the results on May 2nd? Do we get a refresh of everyone but Jack?

  20. The NDP surge is probably most likely to hurt the Bloc. The only Tory seat that could be in danger is Pontiac while for the Liberals it would be Hull-Aylmer. Although considering that Pontiac is 40% Anglophone and their votes tend to move more in sync with Ontario then Quebec I still think the Tories would hold this. As for Ontario and British Columbia, the polls show them more or less around where they were at this point last time around. Quebec has never had an NDP provincial government, whereas Ontario and BC have and their experiences were not exactly good, thus why voters in those provinces may be a little more reluctant to vote NDP than in Quebec. I can see the NDP coming in second in votes, but in seats I am almost positive the Liberals will win more as their vote is more concentrated than the NDP. Even in Quebec, the Liberals still might get more due to the concentration of their vote.

  21. SUN TV makes a major impact scooping CTV CBC and Global on Ignatieff getting booed at a hockey game in Mississauga.

    All of the other media outlets were forced to carry this after getting made to look biased and/or irrelevant.

    The media entourage didn't think that Ignatieff campaigning at a hockey game was significant so they were not there.

    Even if SUN doesn't catch it they are forcing the old boys to report newsworthy events.

    No free ride in the last week for the NDP and Liberals.

  22. The impact on the RoC on the NDP break through in Quebec is greatly exaggerated.

    Imagine a BCers disappointment voting for the NDP based on the NDP support in Quebec and finding out that the NDP only picked up 1 or 2 seats in Quebec.

    Using the influence of Quebec argument: When the CPC went from 0 to 10 seats in 2006 taking away the BLOC seats they should have swept the RoC.

    The NDP would be ecstatic if they actually get 10 seats in Quebec.

  23. @Eric

    When you did the ceilings did you just look at the highest vote percentage, or did you look at the various vote spits?

    For example, 42 - 28 - 25 for the Tories in Ontario would likely get them more seats than say 45 - 35 - 18 would......

  24. Guelph advance poll shows 35% increase over last year. That kind of difference could seriously, seriously impact the accuracy of polls. Assume Guelph is and will be slightly higher than others on account of vote mob hijinks. Still very important.

    Doug Johnson Hatlem

  25. Eric:
    Are your riding by riding projections based on individual riding polls or by taking the support for a region and extrapolating that support to give a prediction for each riding? I guess a simpler question would be, "What is your methodology for individual riding projections?"


  26. Will the people of Canada ever finally decide that Socialism does NOT work? Government cannot create a bigger pie. Only the private sector can create more wealth. Sooner or later the Socialists run out of other people's pockets to pick and the whole country becomes poor.
    The CPC may or may not be a sad lot, but they are the ONLY choice to create a bigger pie for all Canadians.

  27. Anonymous 18:48,

    Links to methodology are listed below the LE DEVOIR image. Here's a direct link that should answer your question:

  28. Sinced the advanced polls aren't cloed yet and are open tomorrow, it is impossible to tell if they have increased voter turnout, which could also be affected by the holiday weekend and the end of the school year before students move, particularly in Guelph. I'm not sure anything can be extrapolated from higher advanced poll turnout even if true, which I am doubting without a link to a source.

  29. Which party is socialist??? Not the NDP, they havent been a true socialist party since 1956 and the Winnipeg Declaration. They are only a center left lower middle/middle class party now. If you disagree you should read the Regina Manifesto from the 1940s and compare that to their platform in 2011. Unfortunately socialist fearmongering still has legs thanks to elements of the Cold War middle class who are older now but somehow see any non-conservative party as the second coming of the Soviet Union and continue to find a few gullible believers as time goes on. Only the minor Canadian Marxist Leninist/Communist parties are true socialists.

  30. The pie grew at a larger rate under so-called socialist Keynesianism (1950-1980) than it did under the neoliberal right wing free market era (1980-). The latter period also featured more stock market crashes, panics, volatility and full-blown crises.

  31. Anonymous @ 23:14,

    Here's your link:

    Notice the story specifically compares advance voting from first two days of 2008 to first two days of this year. If we can't extrapolate at all, it's because of the major controversy around advance polling in Guelph. Some of that, however, has been replicated nation wide. And it gives numbers to anecdotal evidence of higher turnout nation wide.

    Doug Johnson Hatlem

  32. Voters
    filled with dashed hopes

    According to results obtained to date, only 20 per cent of
    Canadians can be described as “invigorated” by the current political
    scene and these are almost exclusively Conservatives — happy with
    politics the way it is, as long as their chosen party is in power, the
    poll found.
    “That’s Stephen Harper’s base, right there,” Mukerji said.
    The other 80 per cent were scattered between mistrust,
    cynicism and alienation, with only 13 per cent described as hopeful,
    “mid-left” voters. These were the type more likely to say that politics
    was a positive force and that government’s job was to help out people
    less fortunate.
    By far, the largest clump of voters were found at the
    mistrustful middle, in which well over 80 per cent agreed that
    politicians were less honest and that current political leadership in
    Canada was disappointing. No one party has an advantage with these
    voters — roughly 30 per cent are leaning Conservative, 30 per cent are
    leaning NDP and 20 per cent are leaning Liberal.

  33. Ekos's new poll has the Tories at 33.7%.

    I checked,_2011 and I see that the three lowest Tory poll results in this election (out of like 80 polls) are all by Ekos!

    What do you guys think of that?

  34. Well, the NDP also often fades near election day . . . but that's usually because of plausible Liberal claims that to stop the Cons you have to vote Lib, NDP have no chance etc., leading to some combination of tactical voting and staying at home among NDP partisans.


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