Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ontario seat ranges and margins

Prompted by reader comments, I've taken a deeper look at the Ontario projection. By looking at close races, the projection can give some plausible seat ranges. I've also looked at what kind of margins are needed to prevent the Progressive Conservatives from forming a majority government and what's needed to install the New Democrats as the Official Opposition.

I will update the seat ranges with each new projection. They are established by identifying ridings in which the margin of victory is less than 5%. This will be a good guide for what is possible, as the projection is subject to the margins of error of the polls used as well as the unpredictable nature of local politics.

The following seat chart shows the number of seats in which each party is leading or trailing by less than 5%.

A lot of the races, even with a 10-point Tory lead, are toss-ups.

The Progressive Conservatives are leading by less than 5% in 13 races, while the Liberals are leading by less than 5% in 10 ridings. In other words, 23 of the 107 seats in the province are being decided by less than 5% in the projection. The 18 seats in which the NDP leads are all relatively safe.

The PCs are trailing by 5% in nine ridings, the Liberals in 13 ridings, and the New Democrats in two ridings.

For the Progressive Conservatives, that means that they could win as few as 48 seats if all of the ridings in which they lead by less than 5% went the other way. That is still likely to give them a plurality, however, and with the nine ridings in which they trail by less than 5% going to the Tories they could win as many as 70 seats.

For the Liberals, it is boom or bust. If they win all of the races in which they trail by less than 5%, they could win 41 seats. This would still put them behind the Tories but probably allow them to govern with the help of the NDP. But if things go badly for the Liberals, they could be reduced to only 18 seats and probably place third in the province.

There is less opportunity for growth for the NDP, with their high seat range being 20. That is still double what they currently have, however.

With a lead of 10 points, the Tories are comfortably in majority territory. But what kind of lead do they need to win 54 of the province's 107 seats?

Assuming the New Democrats are at 19.9% support, a gap as low as eight points between the PCs and the Liberals would still deliver 57 seats to the Tories. But if the margin is reduced to seven points, the PCs win only 54 seats - the bare minimum for a majority. At a gap of six points, the Tories win 53 seats and a minority government.

But what of the NDP's chances to supplant the Liberals as the Official Opposition, as they have done at the federal level?

That would require quite a bit more movement. Assuming the Progressive Conservatives remain at 41.3% support, the Liberals would still win 27 seats to the NDP's 18 with a gap of 10 points separating the two parties. The Liberals are still in a comfortable position if that lead drops to six points - this would deliver 23 seats to the Liberals and 19 to the NDP, with the PCs at 65.

However, if the gap between the Liberals and the NDP drops to five points, the Liberals win only 21 seats in the projection to 20 for the NDP. And at a gap of four points, the New Democrats win 21 seats, the Liberals 17, and the PCs 69.

We're a long way from either of these two scenarios playing out. But the seat ranges and these margin tests show how much is still up for grabs in Ontario.

UPDATE: After receiving so many requests for individual riding projections, I decided in the end to include the riding projections on the site. I invite you to read the disclaimer with the riding projections. 


  1. I like this format and analysis.

  2. If the NDP were to poach votes from the Conservatives instead of the Liberals, how much would they have to close the gap to hold the Conservatives to a minority?

  3. Because it is a bit of work, I tried reducing the PCs by five points and giving those points to the NDP. Doing so resulted in 47 seats for the PCs, 38 for the Liberals, and 22 for the NDP.

    So, we're probably talking about a four-point swing from the PCs to the NDP, with the Liberals staying steady, to reduce the PCs to a minority.

  4. As seen in previous the provincial elections of 95, 99, 03 and 07, the 905 area votes as a block. I suspect most of the thirteen seats the Liberals are closely trailing is located in the GTA. If the Liberals play defence here, they can deny the Tories a majority.

    I think the Ontario Liberals can keep ridings that their federal counterparts in poorly in such as like Essex, Brant and Glengarry—Prescott—Russell.

    - Maple

  5. Just glanced at the seat by seat projections. You have the PC's winning Don Valley West by 12 points!? That seems wayyy off. Even federally that only went by a few hundred votes to the Tories. Plus, its held by a high profile Liberal incumbent.

  6. And I regret it already.

  7. You shouldn't regret it, Eric - it's what the readers want!

    I think its a good guide anyways, to see how the votes will move in an election. Personally, I think these may even be correct more than not; 2011 will likely be a "wave" election, meaning an aggregate swing model will probably be pretty accurate in the end.

  8. @Eric



    The PCs won that seat by 7% in 1999 when they only won the province by 5%. Is it that big of a stretch to see the PCs winning it by 12 when they are up by 10 in the province?

  9. No need to regret posting the projections. It is a great in-depth outline of what may happen during this fall election.

    I find three Toronto area projections to be a little off; Vaughan, Don Valley West and Scarborough Rouge-River.

    In Vaughan, while the PC vote was only 19% in 2007, I feel like the PCs would garner much more than 26% this time around. The federal Tories managed to win this riding 56% to 30% in the last election. Also, I doubt the NDP can win 15% in Vaughan, when it is one of the weakest NDP ridings in the province.

    Don Valley West used to be one of the most Tory friendly ridings in Toronto, but those days are over. The federal Tories barely won this riding in the recent election. Kathleen Wynne is one of the strongest Liberal cabinet members, and I doubt she will be defeated.

    Scarborough Rouge-River is an interesting riding. No one would have predicted that the NDP would have won the riding in the last election with a 26 point swing from 2008. One of the reasons is that the NDP candidate was of Tamil origin, in a riding with a strong Tamil community. Also, the NDP has gotten stronger in Scarborough.

    The NDP will target ridings in Scarborough, especially this one. The NDP has another Tamil candidate, who previously served as a school trustee. I expect this riding to be a close race between the Liberals and NDP.

    - Maple

  10. Im thinking that the Liberals might be shut out in the Northern Ridings, with the NDP swamping them in most of them. Probably Sudbury stays red but I think Sault Ste Marie will be won by the NDP in a splt vote situation with the PCs getting 20% or so and the NDP edging out the Liberals with both around 35-40%. Unless things change dramatically polling-wise.

  11. I'm certainly not prepared to stick my neck out far enough to predict that Rick Bartolucci is headed for certain defeat in Sudbury yet, but I can assure you that he's nowhere near as safe as your projection (or Five 0 Six's) would have it.

    In reality, there's a lot of dissatisfaction and anger in Sudbury these days with Bartolucci's handling of a lot of issues (the Vale strike, etc.) -- even my mother, who's by no means the most politically engaged person I know, derisively referred to him as "Mr. Photo-Op" the last time he came up in conversation. In actual fact, there's a very real sense that he's become as much of a "past-his-prime" spent force as Diane Marleau was in the lead-up to the 2008 federal election -- which, remember, she lost.

    Of course, a Liberal in Sudbury will always have somewhat of an advantage, but it's by no means an insurmountable one; Bartolucci is, in fact, at a *very* real risk of being defeated if one of the other parties can gain traction with the message that it's time for new blood.

  12. Due to Sandra Pupatello's retirement, I also expect the NDP to make a major push for Windsor West this time -- your projection does have them within striking distance, so that's almost certainly a seat to keep watching as the election nears.

    It is, of course, always easier to flip an open seat than it is to defeat a reoffering incumbent, so I'm not prepared to call Windsor--Tecumseh as strong an opportunity for them, but they may very well manage to at least hold Dwight Duncan to a narrower margin than 40-29, too.


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