Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chisholm and Dewar gain endorsements

A few endorsements were handed out over the last week to candidates in both the NDP and Bloc Québécois leadership races.

The biggest gainer this week was Robert Chisholm, an MP from Nova Scotia and former leader of the provincial party there.

Chisholm picked up the endorsement of Ryan Cleary, an MP from Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as the Newfoundland and Labrador CUPE. This particular union is small, only 6,000 members, so it isn't worth very much. But overall, with the one-term Cleary, Chisholm has picked up 2.9 points and now stands at 22.4 overall, giving him 5% of the available endorsement points.

Chisholm is not the only candidate scooping up support in Atlantic Canada, however. Peggy Nash has the endorsement of NL NDP leader Lorraine Michael and former federal NDP leader Alexa McDonough, who hails from Nova Scotia. Dominic Cardy, leader of the New Brunswick NDP has opted for Thomas Mulcair, while New Brunswick MP Yvon Godin has sided with Brian Topp.

As there are about 4,300 members in Atlantic Canada, out of a total of some 95,000 nationally, this is a small pie to cut up between these candidates.

The other gainer this week was Paul Dewar, who got the endorsement of former MP Tony Martin. That bumps him up two points to 4% of the total. He has also moved from sixth to fifth, over-taking Niki Ashton.

(Click here for a description of the point system and here for a breakdown on how points are assigned.)

But how the membership breaks down provincially is something that will be absolutely crucial when the votes are counted. Let's do a simple exercise to demonstrate why.

Let's assume that every endorsement is equal, and divide up the membership by the proportion of endorsements from each province that have gone to the various candidates. For example, when the NDP last reported their membership numbers earlier this month there were 5,558 members in Quebec. There have been 43 endorsements from Quebec, and Thomas Mulcair has 31 of them, or 72%. If we give him 72% of the member votes in Quebec, that is 4,007.

If we do that for all the candidates, Brian Topp comes out way ahead with a total of 34,657 votes. His endorsements in British Columbia, 20 of the 27, gives him a huge lead as the province has 31,456 members.

Second is Mulcair with 16,227 votes, demonstrating that being far ahead in Quebec gives him very little. His greatest vote haul in this simple calculation comes from Ontario, and he gets more from Saskatchewan than he does his home province.

Third is Paul Dewar with 11,705 votes, thanks to his support in Ontario, British Columbia, and Manitoba.

Peggy Nash comes in with 9,385 votes, followed by Nathan Cullen (5,825), Niki Ashton (5,416), Robert Chisholm (3,172), and Roméo Saganash (388). Chisholm being so low, despite having good support in Atlantic Canada, indicates how regional bases of support can only go so far, particularly if your region does not have a large proportion of the federal party's membership.

A couple of endorsements were also handed out to the Bloc Québécois leadership contenders this past week, but with voting having been closed on Monday they may have had very little effect.

Daniel Paillé got the endorsement of former MP Thierry St-Cyr while Jean-François Fortin got the endorsement of former MP Hélène Alarie. This bumped up both candidates by two points.

There are now 100 endorsement points available in the Bloc race, so the share of the points matches the number of points each candidate has: Paillé leads with 44%, Fortin has 36.5%, and Maria Mourani has 19.5%. The end result could be different, but my gut tells me this could be close.

If Fortin becomes the leader there shouldn't be too many consequences. The race hasn't been dirty enough to force André Bellavance, who supported Paillé, or Mourani to resign from the House of Commons. Fortin will be in the news a little bit more and Quebecers will have four years to get to know him.

If Paillé wins, however, there could be some reverberations. I still don't think either Fortin or Mourani would resign, but Louis Plamondon could. He has sat in the House of Commons since the 1980s, and so has more than put in his time. He may choose to resign to give Paillé a chance to win the by-election and enter the House of Commons. But would the Bloc win that race? It's a good riding for the Bloc in terms of its profile, but Plamondon has been there so long that his support may not so easily shift over to Paillé. However, the NDP is down a touch in the polls and voters may feel that having the leader of the Bloc, small as it is, as their MP may be more worthwhile than the 60th NDP MP from the province. It would be an interesting race, though, as the NDP would not have a hard time finding a quality candidate.

We shall found out what will happen soon enough, as the results of the Bloc's leadership vote will be revealed on December 11.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Redford/McGuinty vs. Smith/Hudak

Ontario and Alberta are two important provinces in a period of political flux.

The governing Alberta Tories have a new leader at the helm in Alison Redford, who hails from the more progressive side of the Progressive Conservative Party. She has a feisty challenger in Danielle Smith, leader of the right-wing Wildrose Party.

In Ontario, the Liberals were re-elected but with only a minority government, and the province could be heading to the polls at any time. Premier Dalton McGuinty’s main opponent at Queen’s Park, Tim Hudak, comes from the more conservative wing of the Ontario’s PCs.

Two provinces with premiers from different parties, and yet they have a lot in common.

You can read the rest of the article on The Huffington Post Canada website here.

What Alison Redford and Dalton McGuinty don't have in common, however, is their standing in the polls. The most recent numbers out of Alberta, reported last week by the Calgary Herald, show that the Alberta Tories are outpacing their rivals by 32 points.
The Environics telephone poll shows that the Progressive Conservatives have dropped only three points since July, and lead with 51%. Redford wasn't the party leader at that point, so that is good news for her.

The Wildrose Party is up three points to 19%, while the NDP is unchanged at 14%. The Liberals have slipped one point to 13%.

Details in the Herald report are slim, but it appears that the NDP is running second in Edmonton with 21%. That falls nicely in line with the most recent data from Lethbridge College and Angus-Reid. Wildrose is running second to the Tories in Calgary, as would be expected.

The seat projection model for Alberta is still in a rudimentary stage, and needs to be revamped entirely. But as it stands, these results would give 81 seats to the Progressive Conservatives, four to the NDP, and two to Wildrose. I imagine, though, that the more sophisticated model, once it is complete, would show a slightly different result.

What we can say confidently is that with 51% and a very divided opposition the Progressive Conservatives have a good shot at a virtual sweep. The NDP is doing well enough to retain, and perhaps even grow, its toehold in Edmonton, while the Liberals are looking to be in trouble. If under Raj Sherman the Alberta Liberals see a drop in support next year, it would be the trifecta of the provincial Liberal decimation in the Prairies after the elections in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

It is still very, very early going for Alison Redford and this kind of bump is to be expected. Ironically, in the interview I mention in the Huffington Post article, Danielle Smith made the same argument, saying that this kind of honeymoon in the polls comes with the territory of being a new leader. What she could have added is that she knows this by experience, as her party had a bump after she took on the leadership. But Wildrose is now far removed from where it was a year ago.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Can Quebec’s new party win over non-francophones?

Though the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) was officially launched as a political party only two weeks ago, it would virtually sweep the province of Quebec if an election were held today – but only if Gilles Duceppe stays on the sidelines.

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

Quebec is the place to be in Canadian politics right now. In addition to the CAQ, there is Jean-Martin Aussant's Option Nationale that could be a nuisance for the Parti Québécois as well. The political geography of Quebec could be very, very different after the next election.

Or, it could revert to type and François Legault's experiment will fall flat on its face. Most pundits out of Quebec do find it somewhat puzzling that Legault is so popular. He is not known for having much charisma, and he is only a few years removed from the PQ. And then there is the Gilles Duceppe factor, who would win a majority according to my projections based on CROP's numbers, seven months after voters rejected him at the polls. It is a bit of a head-scratcher.

In the Globe piece I averaged the Léger and CROP polls. Here's the full breakdown of this averaging:
The colour chosen in this graph (and future graphs) for the CAQ is based on the dominant colour of their logo. With the PQ, the ADQ, and now ON there is a lot of blue in Quebec politics.

But for Jean Charest and Pauline Marois, it's just the blues. Sorry.

These are the first real poll results including the CAQ, so it is a very interesting starting point. Note that the CAQ is strongest around Quebec City and outside of the two main urban centres. It's the same problem the ADQ had. Also note that the CAQ is not having any traction among non-francophones. The Liberals still own that vote.

What's most exciting is that this Globe article features the first projection by the new projection model for Quebec. The model is regional, using the data from the CROP and Léger polls to make projections based on regional support in Montreal RMR, Quebec RMR, and the rest of the province. Thankfully, and I confirmed it, both CROP and Léger use the same regional breakdown for their polls.

But how to include the CAQ? That is a bit of a trickier affair, as we have nothing to base their support upon. If they end up merging with the ADQ, the easiest thing would likely be to use the ADQ's support as the base. But in the meantime, the regional support levels are being applied uniformly throughout each region, with small variations based on the shifting support of the other parties. Quite interestingly, the CAQ's regional support in each riding usually fills the empty space created by proportionately dropping the support of the other parties almost perfectly.

After using this system, I noticed that the CAQ was winning some ridings in Montreal from the Liberals that just seemed unnatural. So, a first for ThreeHundredEight, the projection model in Quebec is also taking into account the linguistic profile of some ridings.

In any riding that has a disproportionately high percentage of non-francophones, the CAQ's support is determined by their support among the two linguistic groups. This means that in the West Island, particularly in ridings where non-francophones make up the vast majority of the population, the CAQ is not projected to do very well. Without using these linguistic profiles (and Elections Quebec has a wonderful amount of data on the population profiles of ridings in the province), the Liberals lose a lot of ridings that they simply won't lose.

What's great about this new model is that it allows me to use every scrap of data that can be pulled from a Quebec provincial poll. If an ADQ-CAQ merger is on the books I'll need to do some re-jigging, but I think the model should provide a very good guide of the likely outcome of the next election.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Bloc leadership race comes to a close

The votes need to be in the mail by Monday, but it will not be until December 11 before the ballots will be counted and the next leader of the Bloc Québécois will be announced.

At one time a prestigious post, the leadership of the Bloc Québécois is not what it used to be, with only four MPs in the House of Commons and fundraising slowing to a trickle. Nevertheless, three candidates are vying for the job.

You can read the rest of the article on The Huffington Post Canada website here.

Coincidentally, this morning CROP has a new poll out in La Presse. The provincial data is fascinating, and I'll get to it next week, but let's take a look at the federal results for Quebec.
CROP last reported in mid-October, and since then the New Democrats have dropped nine points to 37%. This is the fourth consecutive poll (the others being from Harris-Decima, Ipsos-Reid, and Léger Marketing) putting the NDP below 40%, so we can say this is confirmed. Where the other parties are, however, is up for debate.

CROP sees the Conservatives up one point to 23% and the Bloc up six points to 21%. All of these recent polls have shown the Bloc up over 20%, and with Léger this is the second poll to show the BQ up a significant amount since October.

But Conservative support is pegged at anywhere between 15% (Léger) and this 23%, so there is a lot less of a consensus there.

Having the Liberals at 15% squares well with other polls, and for CROP that is a gain of two points. So, we're seeing the Tories and Liberals stable and the Bloc making gains at the expense of the NDP.

In terms of seats, these numbers would net the New Democrats 54 seats (down five from their current haul) and the Conservatives 13 seats (up eight). The Liberals would take five seats and the Bloc Québécois three.

These recent polls show that the Bloc is not quite dead yet. It is still on life-support and needs something to shock it back into cognizance, but taking over its leadership is not quite the poison pill it appears to be. The problem is, however, that the NDP and Bloc are contesting a lot of the same ridings and both parties have generally uniform support. This means that even with a closer race like we saw in the Léger poll the NDP is still able to take virtually all of the NDP/BQ contests. Unless the Bloc Québécois can get itself back over 30%, or drag the NDP down below it, they are unlikely to win enough seats to reach official party status in the House of Commons.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A proposal for the House and the Senate

The Conservatives, Liberals, and New Democrats have all proposed changes that could be made to how seats are allocated and distributed in the House of Commons.

The Conservative proposal aims to improve representation by adding 30 seats to the House, while the New Democrats have proposed to give Quebec more seats than are being offered by the Tories in order to keep the province at the same level of representation it had when it was recognized as a "nation within a united Canada."

The Liberals then came forward with a proposal to keep the number of seats in the House at 308 to reduce costs, and change the allocation of seats within that 308 to improve representation. They are the only party to suggest removing seats from certain provinces.

All of these proposals are aimed at improving representation, but all of them fail to give each province proper representation. Due to the senatorial clause requiring that a province have at least as many seats in the House of Commons as they do in the Senate, changes of real substance are impossible. In order to give each province proper representation but keep Prince Edward Island at four seats, the number of MPs needs to be increased to over 900.

In other words, all of these solutions are temporary, incomplete solutions that pass the problem on to the future. If we want proper representation in the House of Commons (and that is up for debate as well), something bolder needs to be attempted.

If there was no senatorial clause and no fear of removing seats from a province, proper representation could be easily achieved. But those are two major obstacles.

In order to get the senatorial clause off the books, the provinces would need to agree. As there are a lot of provinces that stand to lose seats for no other gain that is a non-starter.

To make a change to representation in the House of Commons requires a removal of the senatorial clause, and in order to remove the clause something needs to be given to the provinces in return. Taking this into consideration, here is my humble proposal and I invite readers to pick it apart.

I should point out that this is my proposed solution to this particular problem, if it is a problem that needs a solution. I am not advocating that either the House or the Senate needs substantial reform. It just seemed like an interesting puzzle to tackle.

Firstly, let's look at how to change the House of Commons formula for allocating seats. We will assume that the senatorial and grandfather clauses have been negotiated away (more on that later).

The proposal is a simple one. Every ten years, the number of seats each province receives is determined based on the newest data from the last census.

The proportion of the national population made up by each province and territory is calculated, and then applied to the number of seats in the House of Commons at the time of the re-distribution. In other words, there are 308 seats in the House now and if a province has 10% of the country's population, the province receives 30.8 seats. All decimals are then rounded-up, so this would give the province 31 seats. Using the latest estimates from Statistics Canada, this would give us the following seat distribution:
There are two reasons for rounding-up across the board. For one, it ensures that the territories would each have at least one MP. Secondly, it increases the size of the House incrementally every ten years, ensuring that MPs aren't representing huge ridings several decades from now but also ensuring that the House isn't growing by 30 seats every ten years.

Now, to the Senate. In order to get this kind of change approved by some of the provinces that stand to lose seats using this new formula, they need to be given something in the Senate. My proposal envisions a complete overhaul of how senators are chosen.

There would be 100 senators in this new Senate, with 10 from each province. This is similar to the U.S. Senate, where each state is represented by two senators. In this proposal, the House of Commons provides representation by population while the Senate is our chamber of second thought - an assembly of the provinces.

Senators, however, are not simply appointed by the federal government in this proposal. To get representation by population in the House, the federal apparatus gives up a little power in the Senate. In this proposal, the federal government chooses 40 of the senators while the remaining 60 are chosen by the provincial governments.

But in order to give the Senate a longer view towards the legislation it reviews, senators are not chosen en masse.

Each province would appoint two senators after each provincial election, meaning that senators would serve for three "terms". Each term begins and ends with a provincial election. This means senators would be entering and leaving the Senate at different times. A string of majority provincial governments would mean a senator's term could last 15 years (or 12 in the case of fixed-election provinces), while a string of minority governments could reduce a senator's term significantly. With each new provincial election, two new senators are appointed by the provincial government and the two longest serving senators from that province are dropped.

The purpose of giving the provinces the choice of 60 of the Senate's 100 members is to give them a reason to get on board. Provincial governments would actually have representatives, chosen by the provincial party leaders themselves, in Ottawa. While some provinces would lose representation in the Senate, they would gain influence as those members would be directly responsible to the provincial governments.

It would be the same system for the federal appointees, though they would sit for four terms. After each federal election, 10 federal senators (one from each province) would be appointed to the Senate, with the  longest serving federal senator from each province leaving the Senate.

But the Senate should not be a place to reward political operatives, and it should be accountable to the population. To reflect this, in addition to nominating candidates in provincial and federal ridings, parties would be required to nominate the people they would appoint to the Senate during an election campaign. This would prevent defeated candidates for the House of Commons being appointed to the Senate, since both riding candidates and senatorial candidates would need to be named for the vote is held.

For example, in the last election campaign each party would have nominated one senator per province that they would appoint if elected as the government. So, in addition to the 308 candidates they would also have 10 senator candidates. This would give voters an extra thing to consider when heading to the ballot box, and force parties to choose worthy senatorial candidates in order to help their parties' electoral chances.

Provincial parties would do the same during their election campaigns, nominating the two senators they would appoint to the Senate if elected.

One of the objections some provinces have to an elected senate would be removed in this manner. Elected senators would compete with the provincial government as a voice for the province. Provincial senators appointed by provincial governments would not be in competition with their governments - they would be answerable to them.

To avoid cases where senatorial nominees would resign immediately after being appointed in order to give the government in power the opportunity to appoint someone else, first-term senators would not be replaced if they retire. Only in case of death would a first-term senator's vacated spot be filled by the government, while vacancies arising from the death or retirement of two-, three, or four-term senators would be filled by the government in power but these appointees would be considered to have sat for as long as their replacement.

In other words, the replacement of a retiring fourth-term senator would only sit out that remaining term. Of course, the governing party could nominate this senator again in the next election campaign.

This system would retain the long-term view that senators can currently take into account, as terms could be as long as 16 years for federal senators. It would also make the make-up of the Senate different from the House, giving it a different point of view, both in terms of the staggering-in of appointees and the different parties represented.

Assuming that no senators would have died or retired and that this system had already been in place for the last four federal elections and three provincial elections, the make-up of the Senate would be as follows:
This would certainly give a lot of legislation sobre second thought, particularly considering that the voting blocks would not be as monolithic as they are now. The 56 Conservative/Progressive Conservative/Saskatchewan Party senators, along with the six B.C. Liberals, would be expected to vote together on a lot of legislation, but if the federal government is proposing things that are not in line with the interests of, say, Atlantic Canadian provinces, the coalition of 62 conservatives could fall apart. If the 16 Progressive Conservatives from Atlantic Canada voted with the opposition, for example, they could send a bill back to the House for revision.

In this way, the Senate would be more useful and also more accountable, as senatorial nominees would play a role in ensuring that their provincial or federal parties have success in elections and they would also play a role in ensuring that they can be joined by like-minded senators in subsequent elections. A senator that enrages the population may hurt his party's chances in the next election, meaning the balance of power within a provincial delegation could be changed. But at the same time, as a senator is in for at least three terms, they would be able to do what is right rather than what is popular from time to time.

By giving the provinces an incentive to remove the senatorial clause, this proposal improves representation within the House. It also makes the Senate a potentially more effective chamber with far more diverging points of view and senators not accountable to the federal government. It also has an aspect of electoral support thrown in, giving senators greater legitimacy.

Is our current system dysfunctional? Perhaps not, and these changes are not required. But it is, I hope, an interesting alternative solution.

Over to you readers for comment and criticism!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ashton, Dewar, and Paillé pick up new endorsements

Manitoba is putting its weight behind two candidates for the race to be the next New Democratic leader, though that hasn't changed the breakdown of the three frontrunners, while the Bloc Québécois moves into the final days of its leadership campaign.

Niki Ashton is this week's big mover, as she has picked up the endorsement of a smattering of Manitoba MLAs (including her father) as well as the MP for Joliette, Francine Raynault. Ashton has jumped up 7.5 points in the endorsement rankings, now giving her a total of 17.5 points, or 4.0% of the total. She has moved from seventh to fifth in the rankings.

Paul Dewar is also up this week, thanks to more endorsements from the Manitoba NDP. He also picked up the endorsement of Catherine Bell, former NDP MP from British Columbia. This puts him up 5.5 points for a total of 16, or 3.6% of the total. He is still in sixth.

Also moving this week but not due to any new endorsements is Robert Chisholm. The Nova Scotia MLAs who endorsed him along with their premier, Darrell Dexter, have been added to the endorsement rankings. This does not move Chisholm from fourth, but gives him an extra 4.5 points for 4.4% of the total.

Moving downwards is Nathan Cullen, who has dropped from fifth place to seventh in the endorsement rankings.

These are small movements when taking into account the gap that exists between the top tier candidates (Brian Topp, Thomas Mulcair, and Peggy Nash) and the second tier candidates. With the endorsement of Pierre Ducasse (who I haven't added to the rankings, as he doesn't fit into any of the categories), Nash is looking like a good compromise candidate if the party splits between Topp and Mulcair.

Chisholm, Ashton, Dewar, and Cullen look to be the second tier candidates, with Chisholm getting much of the Atlantic Canada vote, Ashton and Dewar the Manitoba vote, and Cullen some of the British Columbian vote. This puts Ashton and Dewar at a disadvantage, as they appear to be fishing the same pond, though Dewar is likely to get more Canada-wide support as well.

There has also been a little movement in the race for the Bloc Québécois leadership. The last debate was held last night, and for all intents and purposes the campaign is as good as over. The deadline for submitting the mail-in ballot is Monday.

The only change this week is Daniel Paillé's pick-up of former MP Raynald Blais. This might seem relatively mundane, but it is a more important endorsement than it appears at first glance.

Blais was the MP for Gaspésie - Iles-de-la-Madeleine before the 2011 election, and he also had the good sense to resign before the debacle. He doesn't have the stigma of having been rejected by the voters, but more importantly he is a former MP from the Gaspésie, the same region as Jean-François Fortin. The Gaspésie is a close-knit community, so for Blais to opt for the Montreal-based Paillé rather than a fellow Gaspesian is not insignificant.

(Click here for a description of the point system, and here for a breakdown on how points are assigned.)

But though the Bloc Québécois race is coming to an end, the New Democratic race is just getting started. The first debate is scheduled for next month and attention is going to turn from these preliminary maneuvers to the nitty-gritty. It should be an interesting contest.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Another incumbent victory, but Vancouver isn't attached to status quo

Gregor Robertson continued the winning ways of Canada’s incumbents over the weekend, being re-elected as Vancouver’s mayor. 

Mr. Robertson captured 53 per cent of votes cast and all seven of his Vision Vancouver Party candidates won their council seats, with the remaining three going to opposition parties.

After the federal Conservative victory in May and the re-election of sitting governments in Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Saskatchewan this fall, Gregor Robertson makes it 7-0 for incumbents in major elections in 2011.

But the thirst for the status quo is not ubiquitous among Vancouverites. Not even a fresh take on the party in charge has improved the fortunes of the governing B.C. Liberals.

You can read the rest of the article on The Huffington Post Canada website here.

But to switch over to the other side of the country, Léger Marketing has some new federal numbers out for Quebec today. They show that the New Democrats are losing a little bit of their shine in Quebec, echoing the drop in support that Harris-Decima and Ipsos-Reid identified earlier this month.
Léger was last in the field between October 11 and 12, and since then the NDP has dropped six points to 37%. The Bloc Québécois has taken advantage and is up six points to 27%, the narrowest gap between the two parties since the May election.

The Liberals are up four points to 15%, while the Conservatives are down four points to 15%. Some of the follow-up questions Léger asked concerning unilingual auditors general and the long gun registry give an idea of why the Tories might have slipped in Quebec.

The New Democrats are down among both linguistic groups and in every region. Among francophones, they are down five points to 40%, only seven points ahead of the Bloc (up eight). The Conservatives have shed five points and stand at 13% among francophones.

Among non-francophones (i.e., virtually a poll of the West Island), the Liberals are up eight points to 37%, leading the NDP (down six to 28%) and the Tories (up five to 24%).

In the Montreal region itself, the NDP is down two points to 37% while the Bloc is up five to 27%. In and around Quebec City, the NDP is down 11 points to 32%, trailed by the Conservatives at 28% (unchanged) and the Bloc at 24% (+8). Finally, in the rest of Quebec the NDP and Bloc have swapped eight points, and the gap stands at 10 points (39% to 29%).

With these numbers, the New Democrats would still hold on to most of their seats but more than a few are held by tiny margins. The NDP would win 54 seats, with eight apiece going to the Bloc Québécois and the Liberals and five to the Conservatives.

As the Bloc is also in the midst of a leadership race, the absence of a New Democratic leader cannot entirely explain why the NDP appears to be bleeding support to the Bloc. Undoubtedly, the choice of leader for the NDP will play a big role in determining whether the New Democrats can get themselves back over 40% support in Quebec, but the four months or so where the Bloc will have a leader and the NDP will not could be very important.

The Liberals still seem to be very solid among non-francophone Quebecers and the Conservatives are competitive in Quebec City, meaning the two parties are still in a strong position to fight for their fortresses. It does not seem unlikely that the NDP may have peaked in Quebec with 59 seats. The boundary re-distribution could become very significant going into the 2015 election, though, as there are many close NDP/Liberal ridings in Montreal, NDP/Conservative ridings in Quebec City, and NDP/Bloc ridings in the rest of Quebec.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Will by-election boost Charest before battle with Legault begins in earnest?

Though François Legault launched his new Coalition-Avenir-Quebec party last week, voters in the eastern Quebec riding of Bonaventure will not see CAQ on the ballot when they vote in a by-election on Dec. 5. That is good news for Jean Charest. 

The leaders of the two main parties in Quebec’s National Assembly have both been unbalanced by the new arrival on the political scene. The by-election that was forced by the resignation of Liberal cabinet minister Nathalie Normandeau has come at a difficult time for both Mr. Charest and Pauline Marois.

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

This piece looks at a recent poll by Segma Recherche on the Bonaventure by-election, as well as the by-elections that have taken place since Jean Charest was first elected in 2003. This is the 21st by-election to take place in those eight years in Quebec, which might seem like a remarkable amount but 20 federal by-elections have also taken place since 2003. However, perhaps Quebec is more volatile, as eight of those 20 federal by-elections took place in the province while 14 of the last 39 by-elections (stretching back to 1998) took place in Quebec.

The province certainly accounts for more than its fair share of by-elections, at least over the last 13 years.

This one will be poured over, as it is somewhat of a test for both Jean Charest and Pauline Marois. One wonders how the CAQ would have performed in Bonaventure. According to the Segma poll: not very well. It seems it would have gotten something like 22% of the vote, which would have put it in a strong third or a weak second if it stole that vote primarily from the Parti Québécois.

But Bonaventure is not a good riding for the CAQ in general, since it has a long history of sticking to the Liberals (and, in particular, their well-known, long-serving, and popular MNAs) and even in their banner year of 2007 the ADQ did not do much better than 12% support. It was probably a good thing for the CAQ that François Legault did not do what was necessary to enter a candidate into the race. His launch would have been quite the let-down if it was closely followed by a third-place finish in its first electoral test.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Keystone, Alberta, and the NDP

The NDP's concerns over the Keystone XL pipeline are not likely to make the party many new friends in Alberta. 

But are the New Democrats writing off the province, or speaking for an unrepresented portion of the population?

You can read the rest of the article on The Huffington Post Canada website here.

Alberta isn't the most exciting political battlefield in Canada - actually, it is probably the least. But with the New Democrats poised to be the main alternative in 2015 and with the party already occupying one seat in the province, Alberta could be a bit more interesting in four years' time.
Harris-Decima and Ipsos-Reid were the two polling firms to report so far in November, and their Alberta results overlap each other taking into account the margin of error. Though the Conservatives are, in these polls, somewhere between 58% and 66%, their lead is clear and the effect on their electability in its 28 (or, soon, 34) ridings is not changed either way.

But for the other parties it is pretty consistent. The New Democrats have around 19% support in Alberta while the Liberals are between 9% and 10%. Green support is harder to peg, but it is likely closer to Harris-Decima's result than Ipsos-Reid's.

It is interesting to note that prior to the 2011 federal election this was the sort of breakdown we often saw, but with the Liberals in the place of the NDP. They've swapped in Alberta, like they have done in several other parts of the country.

But what would it take for the New Democrats to win a second seat in Alberta in its current 28-seat make-up? Let's play around with the projection model to find out.

The Conservatives only took less than 50% support in two of the 27 seats they won, so the likelihood of some combination of opposition parties winning a big swathe of seats from the Tories in Alberta is very low. What needs to change?

Let's start from the average of these two polls (62% CPC, 19% NDP, 9.5% LPC, 8.5% GPC) and go from there. Let's first assume that the Tory vote is unassailable, and the NDP only takes from the Liberals and the Greens. By giving the NDP 0.5 points at a time each from the Liberals and the Greens, the second NDP seat becomes winnable at 24% for the NDP, with the Liberals at 7% and the Greens at 6%. The second seat is, of course, Edmonton East.

What about a third? Edmonton Centre becomes winnable for the NDP at 32% provincial support, pushing the Liberals to a bare 3% and the Greens to 2%. A fourth seat, Lethbridge, falls in the NDP column when the party reaches 35%, with the Conservatives still at 62% and the Liberals and Greens at 1.5% and 0.5% apiece.

But what if the NDP were able to take votes away from the Conservatives as well as the Liberals and the Greens? Let's bump NDP support up by one point at a time, taking 0.5 from the Conservatives, 0.3 from the Liberals, and 0.2 from the Greens.

With this incremental change, Edmonton East turns orange at 59% CPC, 23% NDP, 8.3% LPC, and 7.7% GPC. Edmonton Centre falls at 56% CPC, 29% NDP, and 6.5% apiece for the Greens and Liberals. The fourth seat, Lethbridge, goes NDP at 54.5% CPC, 32% NDP, 5.9% GPC, and 5.6% LPC.

So, it is plainly obvious how far we are from more than two seats voting anything but Conservative in Alberta. The new boundaries could change things, though, depending on how Edmonton's seats are re-distributed.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Newfoundland & Labrador: Projection vs. Results

Time flies, but a little over a month ago Newfoundlanders and Labradorians went to the polls. It was a difficult election to project, as public opinion polls pegged support at ranges of up to eight points for each of the parties. How the vote would breakdown regionally in a small province like Newfoundland and Labrador was also key, and in the end the voters did something surprising.

It wasn't that they gave Kathy Dunderdale and the Progressive Conservatives a majority government, it was that they placed the Liberals as the Official Opposition over Lorraine Michael and the New Democrats. Usually that would be nothing surprising in Newfoundland and Labrador, but they did so while giving the NDP more of the popular vote and not electing Liberal leader Kevin Aylward in his own riding.
ThreeHundredEight projected 42 seats for the PCs, four for the New Democrats, and two for the Liberals. In other words, the NDP would form the Official Opposition.

The result (37 PCs, 6 Liberals, 5 NDP) was not strikingly different but was different for an important reason, as it meant a Liberal opposition. The error was a total of 10 seats, or 3.3 seats per party. Stacked up against other projections for past elections, that is not a bad result. The 77.1% (or 37 out of 48 correctly called) accuracy rating for the individual riding projections, however, was quite bad.

Using the actual provincial vote result gave a better projection with the Liberals as the second party. The riding accuracy drops to 75%, however. So there would have been more individual errors but they would have cancelled each other out for a better error per party of 2.7 seats.
The seat range was slightly better, as it forecasted the five seats for the NDP. It still didn't put the Tories under 40, however, and limited the Liberals to only three.

The seat ranges with the actual vote was far better, with ranges of 35-43 for thee Progressive Conservatives, 2-9 for the Liberals, and 3-4 for the New Democrats.

The vote projection model worked well for the Progressive Conservatives with a difference of only 0.9 points, but was off for the Liberals and New Democrats, as were the final polls of the campaign (none had the NDP at less than 27%). It is here that the vote seems to have swung, with the Liberals taking five points and the Tories only one from the New Democrats (as a net result, of course).

Accordingly, the average error per party of 3.9% was the worst of the elections that ThreeHundredEight has called.

The chart below shows a few quick facts about the projection at the riding level.
In the 11 incorrect calls made by ThreeHundredEight, the average margin of victory was 10.7 points, so this was not a factor of races being close.

Only 35.4% of individual riding projections for the Tories were within 5% of the result, and overall the projection over-estimated the Tories by an average of 4.6 points in each riding. In the 48 ridings, their vote was over-estimated in 31 of them and under-estimated in 15, with two correct calls.

For the Liberals, the riding projections were better with 45.8% of them being within 5% of the result. They were under-estimated by an average of 2.9 points. In all, they were under-estimated in 27 ridings and over-estimated in 17, with four correct calls.

Finally, the New Democrats were called to within 5% of their result in one-third of ridings, but were under-estimated on average by 1.8 points. They were over-estimated in 20 ridings, under-estimated in 26 (primarily in the St. John's region), and called correctly in two.

On average, the riding projections for each party had a margin of error of +/- 10.2%, which is not good at all.

But there were a few highlights. Here are the top three projected ridings:
Humber East was the best as the NDP was only missed by two points while the Tories and Liberals were on the money. Burgeo-La Poile and Mount Pearl North were off by a little more.

There was nothing that could have been done to have the incorrect ridings called correctly. The level of error was too high for any adjustments to have corrected. Overall, Newfoundland and Labrador was a miss for ThreeHundredEight. A regional model would have worked much better for Newfoundland and Labrador, as it would have had an easier time forecasting the Liberal strength in western Newfoundland and the NDP strength in St. John's. A regional model will be developed for Newfoundland and Labrador, as elsewhere.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fortin moves into second in endorsement race

Jean-François Fortin has moved into second in the Bloc Québécois endorsement race, but Daniel Paillé stays in front thanks to the support of four-term MP André Bellavance.

Meanwhile, the addition of union support into the endorsement rankings has inflated Peggy Nash's numbers, though she still ranks third.

As always, right-click and open the leadership charts below in a new window in order to magnify them.

With the addition of several former MPs and a swathe of Parti Québécois MNAs (primarily from eastern Quebec, provided to me by the Fortin campaign), Fortin now has 34.5 points in the endorsement ranking (36.7% of all available points) and has vaulted ahead of Maria Mourani, who has fallen to 20.7% of the total.

But Daniel Paillé is still leading, thanks to the support of Bellavance. Paillé now has 40 points, or 42.6% of the total. This indicates a first ballot win for Paillé is no sure bet.

For the New Democrats, there have been no new endorsements but what has changed is the addition of union support.

Unions make up an important part of the NDP's support base, and many union members are also members of the NDP. Though unions won't have a set portion of the ballot as they did in 2003, their influence will nevertheless be important.

Peggy Nash has the support of the presidents of two unions: the Canadian Auto Workers and CUPE Ontario. Brian Topp has the support of the United Steelworkers.

After looking into the 2009 Ontario NDP race, I've decided to award 0.06 points to every 1,000 members of a union that is endorsing a candidate. I'll get into why I did that a little further on in the post.

But thanks to this addition to the rankings, Peggy Nash is now in a far more impressive third place.

Brian Topp still leads with 181.5 endorsement points, or 42.8% of all available points. Thomas Mulcair is second with 104 points, or 24.5%, while Peggy Nash is third with 81.5 points, or 19.2% of the total.

There have been no other major changes. Robert Chisholm, Nathan Cullen, Paul Dewar, and Niki Ashton all have between 10 and 15 points, putting them at between 2.4% and 3.5% of the total.

Now why the need for a change? First, let's look at how the endorsement system would work for the three most recent provincial NDP races. For the purposes of these races, I have treated MLAs and MPPs the same way as I do MPs.

Let's start with British Columbia, which is the most problematic (especially for the BC Liberal leadership race).
I jumped ahead to the second ballot as Dana Larsen had no endorsements and so dropping him off the first ballot made no difference.

As you can see, Mike Farnworth was the favourite to win. He actually was during the campaign as well. He had more caucus and federal support than either Adrian Dix or John Horgan, which led to him being favoured in the endorsement rankings. Nevertheless, the final result on the third ballot was close.

The Manitoba leadership race, however, worked much better with this system.
Greg Selinger had, by far, more support within the Manitoba NDP caucus than did Ashton, and the system overstates his support. But it does see him winning easily on the first ballot - thanks in part to the support of CUPE Manitoba.

In Ontario, both Gilles Bisson and Andrea Horwath had some union support, while Peter Tabuns had the support of Ed Broadbent. In the end, it seems that union support tipped the scales in Horwath's favour, as well as her good support within the caucus.
Though the system overstated Tabuns's support in the first and second rounds, the system worked well enough. After the first ballot, Michael Prue threw his support behind Bisson, while after the second ballot Bisson threw his support behind Horwath. That was the clincher, but without including union support the system would have suggested that Tabuns would have won on the first ballot.

Going through the permutations found that 0.06 points per 1,000 union members yielded the best result. At 0.05 points per 1,000, Tabuns still would have led on the first ballot.

The chart on the left lays out the points system, and now includes union support. Obviously, this is really only an important factor for the New Democrats (though the FTQ could get involved in the Bloc race). I think it will help the rankings and they look, to me, pretty plausible. But the caveats described in the first post on the endorsement ranking system still apply - especially since the NDP and Bloc will be using a OMOV system, meaning the results in December and March could look very different.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Two polls show NDP slipping in Quebec, Tories in Ontario

If an election were held today, the Conservatives would probably lose their majority in the House of Commons. But the New Democrats would not be much closer to replacing them.

Two polls released over the last few days by Ipsos-Reid and Harris-Decima show small shifts in support from the May 2 election, but not enough to completely overturn the results. A Conservative slip of between three and four points, however, puts them solidly in minority territory.
You can read the rest of the article on The Huffington Post Canada website here.

The national results of these two polls are strikingly similar, a difference of no more than two points for any of the main parties. The regional results are slightly more different, so I invite you to check them out in the article and the reports on the Ipsos-Reid and Harris-Decima numbers.

Turning these polls into seats also doesn't make a huge difference, both putting the Conservatives in a minority. But there are enough changes around the margins to make them interesting.

In the Ipsos-Reid poll, the Conservatives would win 145 seats, with 102 going to the NDP and 55 to the Liberals. The Bloc Québécois would also win six seats.

In the Harris-Decima poll, the Conservatives win 133 seats, with 108 going to the NDP and 63 to the Liberals. The Bloc wins three and the Greens one.

If we take the best and worst results for each party in each region and combine them, we get some interesting seat ranges.

The Conservative best and worst scenarios out of these two polls is between 126 and 152 seats, so still outside of a majority. Regionally, their ranges are 17-21 in British Columbia, 27 in Alberta, 13-19 in the Prairies, 51-57 in Ontario, 7-10 in Quebec, and 10-17 in Atlantic Canada.

The New Democrats could win between 95 and 115 seats with these two polls. Their regional ranges are 11-14 in British Columbia, one in Alberta, 6-10 in the Prairies, 18-24 in Ontario, 53-54 in Quebec, and 5-11 in Atlantic Canada.

The Liberal range is between 42 and 76 seats, so a repeat of the 2008 election is possible. Their regional ranges are four in British Columbia, none in Alberta, 3-5 in the Prairies, 25-37 in Ontario, 5-12 in Quebec, and 4-17 in Atlantic Canada.

It is worth noting that in both the Ipsos-Reid and Harris-Decima scenarios the Liberals and NDP are able to command a majority of seats in the House on their own. It also worth noting how the NDP range spans only 20 seats, while that of the Tories spans 26 seats and that of the Liberals 34. The NDP seems a bit better placed to hold what they have.

Some interesting results, but the first person who comments that this doesn't matter as the next election is four years away loses.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Provincial election results reinforce Liberal pain, Tory and NDP gains

Fewer total votes were cast in favour of conservative candidates in the five provinces that went to the polls this fall than the federal Conservative Party received in those same five provinces in the spring federal election. But the results in the provinces are part of a trend of faltering support for the Liberals and gains for the Conservatives and the New Democrats over the last four years. 

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

On the endorsement front, it is worth noting that André Bellavance, MP for Richmond-Arthabaska and apparently the only sitting Bloc MP that will endorse one of the candidates (Jean-François Fortin and Maria Mourani being the sitting MPs running for the leadership, and Louis Plamondon stating he will stay neutral), has said that he will announce his decision as to who he will endorse this week.

As a four-term MP, he will be worth 10 points in the endorsement rankings. That won't be enough to put anyone ahead of Daniel Paillé, but if he opts for Mourani the two will be neck-and-neck. Bellavance recently had a fund raising event and both Paillé and Mourani attended and gave speeches, Fortin having another engagement.

In this little game of endorsements, Bellavance is the biggest fish to land unless Gilles Duceppe, Lucian Bouchard, or a former leader of the PQ endorses one of the candidates. But Plamondon, who is the longest serving MP from any party in the House of Commons, would be worth 22.5 points.

Friday, November 11, 2011

NDP and BQ leadership endorsement rankings

With the provincial elections behind us, the leadership races for the New Democrats and the Bloc Québécois now stand as the two most important political events scheduled for the next five months. With this in mind, ThreeHundredEight now turns to these leadership races.

A few weeks ago, I read an interesting piece on Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight that talked about Republican presidential nominee endorsements, and how they are a good indicator of who is likely to perform well in the primaries. It got me thinking how this could be applied to leadership races in Canada.

That leads me to present ThreeHundredEight's endorsement rankings, which will be maintained and updated throughout the race for both the NDP and the Bloc, and perhaps the Liberals once that campaign gets started. You'll also see charts tracking leadership polls in the right-hand column for the NDP race.

A few caveats: this is, in no way, a scientific method that is meant to have any precise predicting capability. It is just one way to interpret the endorsements and what they might mean in the respective leadership races. And they are just to make the race a little more fun.

So how does it work?

Points are assigned for each endorsement received by a candidate. The amount of points assigned, much like Nate's system, is somewhat arbitrary. But, I did use the 2006 Liberal and 2003 NDP leadership races to calibrate the points system, so they are based on something real.

The chart on the left spells out the points system. Having the endorsement of a former party leader is most important. For every election the former leader led the party, 20 points are assigned.

The endorsements of Members of Parliament are also very important. For every election they have won, 2.5 points are assigned to the leadership candidate. This means an MP who has been around for a long time is worth more than one who was just recently elected.

Former MPs give a candidate two points, while senators (though I don't expect any to come forward in these two races) are worth one point.

Having the support of a current or former provincial premier or party leader is also quite important, but that importance is based on what province the leader comes from. For the NDP race, Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia are considered "first tier" provinces. Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and Manitoba make up the second tier, New Brunswick and Newfoundland & Labrador make up the third tier, and PEI is in the fourth tier. The territories are in a fifth tier of their own. These tiers were determined by the number of votes received in the 2011 election, as well as the strength of the party brand in each province and whether the party is in government.

Obviously, these are somewhat arbitrarily chosen. And this is why I emphasise that this is not a scientific exercise, it is just a spot of fun. But the points were not chosen completely out of the air. Let's look at how the system performs for the 2006 Liberal leadership race.
As you can see, aside from Scott Brison earning more points than Ken Dryden, the points sytem does a good job of estimating first ballot support. Of course, this should be expected. The Liberals used a delegate voting method where endorsements were the name of the game. But there were still some delegates undecided going into the first ballot.

After the first ballot, Joe Volpe and Scott Brison went over to Bob Rae while Martha Hall Findlay went over to Stéphane Dion.
Assigning their endorsement points accordingly gives us a good result, with the order of the candidates correct and their share of the points closely lining up with the results of the second ballot. After that ballot, Dryden went over to Rae and Gerard Kennedy went over to Dion.
After assigning their endorsement points, Dion moves to the top ahead of Michael Ignatieff and Rae drops to third. Again, their share of the endorsement points matches up well with the third ballot result.

After the third ballot, Rae dropped out but didn't lend his support to any other candidate. Dryden and Volpe went over to Dion while Brison went over to Ignatieff.
And after assigning their endorsement points, Dion wins more than half of them and his share of the points matches well with the fourth ballot result.

After using the Liberal leadership race to calibrate the points system (which did not need too much tweaking after my own estimates to start the process), I moved to the 2003 NDP leadership race. It used a bit of a mixed system of delegates and one-member, one-vote (OMOV). So, it was a different kettle of fish.

The big difference in this race was that Bill Blaikie had most of the individual endorsements, but Jack Layton had the support of Ed Broadbent. That was crucial, and so I was able to calibrate the points system by taking into account Broadbent's influence.
As you can see, aside from the vote share of the three bottom candidates, the points system matches up relatively well with the results of the first, and only, ballot.

I understand that the points system is fitted for these past leadership races, so they should line up well. But that it can be used across two different kinds of leadership races with generally good results indicates that the endorsement ranking I will be using for the next five months is not meaningless. Will it predict the outcome closely? Probably not, but that is not its purpose. It is simply an interpretation of the endorsements that tells us something about the race. Having endorsements generally means a better and/or more motivated organization, and a better and/or more motivated organization will more successfully deliver votes on the metaphorical convention floor.

So, now that the explanation is out of the way, let's look at how the endorsements stack-up in the Bloc Québécois leadership race.
Daniel Paillé, who is probably best known considering his background as a cabinet minister in Quebec, leads the endorsement ranking with 30 points, or 50% of all available endorsement points. Maria Mourani has 19.5 points to 32.5%, while Jean-François Fortin has 10.5 points ot 17.5%.

This endorsement ranking actually lines up pretty well with the only poll we have, taken in early September. It put Paillé at 11% among BQ supporters, ahead of Mourani (6%) and Fortin (3%). 

As you can see in the chart to the left, this race is not very dynamic. There are only four sitting MPs and two of them are in the race. Their own "endorsements" for themselves are the most important factors. All the other endorsements come from former Bloc MPs.

Perhaps if a few MNAs step-in or one of the former PQ leaders stands behind one of the candidates things could get a bit more interesting. But as it stands, Paillé has the backing of more former MPs than any other candidate.

Now, onto the New Democratic leadership race. This is a much more dynamic one, as endorsements have come in from provincial party leaders, sitting premiers, former federal leaders, and provincial legislators from across the country.
Not surprisingly as he is seen as the "establishment" candidate, Brian Topp has the most endorsement points with 166, or 43.3% of all endorsement points currently on the table. If this result was repeated on voting day, Topp would not win on the first ballot.

Thomas Mulcair comes in second with 104 endorsement points, or 27.2%. He has the most individual endorsements, but as most of them are from first time MPs from Quebec they are not worth as much as Topp's. This, I think, will reflect the organizational weakness the NDP has in the province, as well as its low number of members (though that number is going to increase as the campaign drags on).

(Right-click and open the chart to the left in a new window to be able to magnify it.)

Coming in third is Peggy Nash, thanks in large part to the support of former leader Alexa McDonough. She comes in at 56 endorsement points, or 14.6%.

If we can consider Topp and Mulcair to be first tier candidates and Nash a second tier candidate, we then get into the third tier. Now, any one of these could move up as the campaign goes on. Some of them have just jumped into the race recently. And the fact that someone like Nathan Cullen or Paul Dewar does not have a lot of endorsements might not mean anything in a OMOV system if they have good grassroots support, but the rules of the game being what they are, we have Robert Chisholm, Cullen, and Dewar as what I would consider the third tier candidates.

Chisholm is narrowly on top of the others due to his support from Atlantic Canada (i.e., Darrell Dexter), while Cullen and Dewar so far are relying on endorsements from provincial MLAs in British Columbia and Manitoba, respectively.

Niki Ashton and Roméo Saganash round out the main candidates, in what I'd call a fourth tier. Both of them have the support of two sitting MPs, but Ashton's longer time in the House of Commons puts her ahead of Saganash. Martin Singh has no endorsements at this point.

There we have it. The endorsement rankings put Brian Topp and Daniel Paillé ahead of the others for their respective parties. But I hope the killjoys out there won't take it too seriously. Does it have limitations? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean we can't have some fun with it. And since this isn't set in stone, I'm happy to hear your suggestions on how it can be improved.

The Bloc race is going to be wrapped up in a month, but the NDP race is just getting started. It will be interesting to see how the rankings twist and turn over the next five months.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

October 2011 federal poll averages

There wasn't a lot of polling done at the federal level in October, with two national polls (both from Nanos Research) and two Quebec polls released during the month. But altogether, these four polls surveyed 4,416 people.
The Conservatives averaged 38.4% support in October, down 0.7 points from September.

The New Democrats averaged 29.5% support, down two points, while the Liberals were up 4.5 points to 24%.

For the Liberals, that is their high watermark since the May election.

The Bloc Québécois averaged 3.5% support nationally, while the Greens were down 1.3 points to 3.3%.

The Conservatives gained 3.3 points in British Columbia and averaged 42.3% in October, well ahead of the Liberals (up 7.2 points to 26.1%) and the New Democrats (down 9.6 points to 24.2%). The Greens were down 0.4 points to 6.9%. This Liberal gain and NDP drop is quite dramatic, and reverses what had been the state of affairs since April. It is something to keep an eye on.

Alberta and the Prairies are less interesting. The Conservatives are down 5.3 points in Alberta and 8.5 points in the Prairies, leading with 60.3% and 48.0%, respectively. The New Democrats are up 1.8 and 5.9 points to 19.4% and 32.4%, respectively, while the Liberals are up 2.9 and 3.4 points to 13.9% and 18.4%, respectively. Not much of a major shift in support, especially considering that we are working from smaller samples.
Ontario is the major reason for the national Liberal gain, as they are up 5.6 points to 31.2% in the province. The Conservatives still lead, gaining 2.4 points to hit 41.7%, but the New Democrats are down 5.6 points to 22.8% support. This is the lowest NDP monthly average in Ontario since April, and the best performance by the Liberals since then. Another province to keep an eye on.

Quebec, however, had almost zero changes. The New Democrats are down 0.2 points to 44.5%, the Conservatives are unchanged at 19.6%, the Bloc is down 0.4 points to 17.4%, and the Liberals are down 0.6 points to 13.2%. So, steady as a rock in the province. Aside from a blip in August, it has been that way since the election.

Finally, in Atlantic Canada the Conservatives are down 2.2 points to 35.5%, ahead of the New Democrats at 30.7% (-4.8) and the Liberals at 29.4% (+4.9).

With these numbers, the Conservatives would win a minority of the seats in the current House of Commons with 149. The New Democrats would win 101 and the Liberals 56, with one seat apiece for the Greens and the Bloc Québécois.

Compared to September, this is an eight seat drop for the Tories and a nine seat drop for the New Democrats, with 17 more seats going to the Liberals.

The Conservatives win 22 seats in British Columbia, 27 in Alberta, 19 in the Prairies, 58 in Ontario, eight in Quebec, 14 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north.

The New Democrats win seven seats in British Columbia, one in Alberta, six in the Prairies, 20 in Ontario, 60 in Quebec, six in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north.

The Liberals win six seats in British Columbia, three in the Prairies, 28 in Ontario, six in Quebec, 12 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north.

In a 338-seat House of Commons, I estimate that these numbers would be transformed into 167 seats for the Conservatives, 108 seats for the New Democrats, 61 seats for the Liberals, and one apiece for the Greens and Bloc. In other words, still a minority for the Tories but a much slimmer one.

This could be a simple bump in the road that will easily be corrected, but there is a bit of a theme in the October averages. The New Democrats have taken a step backwards in British Columbia, Ontario, and Atlantic Canada, and in every case it has benefited the Liberals. Whether this is something that might continue into the future is worth watching.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

BC Liberals fall as BC Tories rise

Late last week, Angus-Reid released a new poll for British Columbia, a province currently in flux. We've already seen that the BC New Democrats have supplanted the BC Liberals in the most recent Ipsos-Reid poll, but Angus-Reid shows how the rise of the BC Conservatives has eaten into their support.
The last poll from Angus-Reid for British Columbia was released in March of this year, and since then the NDP has hardly moved, gaining an insignificant two points to stand at 40% support.

But the BC Liberals have dropped 12 points since then, and now trail with 31% support.

The big beneficiary has been the Conservatives, who are up 13 points to 18%.

That the Conservative gain almost mirrors the Liberal loss exactly is no accident. Fully 21% of British Columbians who voted Liberal in 2009 have switched over to the Conservatives, according to this Angus-Reid poll.

But there is an oddity in the numbers, an oddity that was also present in Ipsos-Reid's poll. Though Adrian Dix's NDP have a lead over the Liberals, he personally trails Christy Clark on the leadership question. While 25% of people say she is the best person to be premier, only 19% say the same for Dix. While the NDP leader has a lot of time to turn his personal numbers around, it would be problematic to enter into a campaign with this kind of gap.

Regionally, the New Democrats are leading across the board, with important margins in Metro Vancouver (43% to 31%) and on Vancouver Island (39% to 30%). It is much closer in the Interior and the North, but having more widespread support is good news for the NDP, as they usually trail the Liberals in some parts of the province when they lead in others.

The strength of the Conservatives is remarkable, hovering between 17% and 20% throughout the province. Could they come in a strong second or third in every riding without winning one? It's possible, but it seems that the Conservatives stand a good chance of electing a few MLAs.

The projection model for British Columbia is not fully calibrated to take the presence of the Tories into account, but it is a rudimentary regional model. It will be improved and perfected as we approach the 2013 election.

But in its current form, the BC New Democrats would win a majority government with Angus-Reid's poll, taking 50 seats and leaving 33 for the BC Liberals. One independent and one BC Conservative MLA are also sent to Victoria.

The New Democrats take 27 seats in Metro Vancouver, 10 on Vancouver Island, nine in the Interior, and four in the North.

The Liberals take 13 seats in Metro Vancouver, 12 in the Interior, four on Vancouver Island, and four in the North.

When you see numbers like this, you understand why Clark decided against an election this year. She said her own numbers put the two parties closer together, and perhaps they did at the time, but it seems confirmed that the New Democrats currently hold a statistically significant lead in British Columbia.

The one intangible, however, is the performance of the BC Conservatives. Is it a flash in the pan? Will it hold in a campaign if it looks like the BC New Democrats might be elected? That the NDP is leading is good news for them, but that they are leading with 40% is not a sign that they would be elected with any great enthusiasm.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The stakes of the Bonaventure by-election

The last by-election in Quebec saved Pauline Marois’ leadership of the Parti Québécois. Will the next one end it?

The September resignation of Nathalie Normandeau, cabinet minister in Jean Charest’s Liberal government, has triggered a by-election in the riding of Bonaventure for December 5. 

The riding on the Gaspé Peninsula in eastern Quebec had been held by Ms. Normandeau since 1998, and aside from a brief PQ period between 1994 and 1998, has been a Liberal fortress since the 1950s.

In the 2008 election, Ms. Normandeau won the riding with 64 per cent of the vote. The PQ finished second with 29 per cent.

By any measure, this is a riding that the Liberals should be able to win easily. They have enlisted a local mayor, Damien Arsenault, to run as their candidate against the PQ’s Sylvain Roy.

But the last by-election in Quebec was also supposed to be a Liberal lock.

You can read the rest of the article on The Huffington Post website here.

The election in Saskatchewan last night was not much of a surprise. In the end, the inclusion of the last Forum Research poll suggested a closer race than was the case. Without it, the 49-9 result would have been closer to the 44-14 projection of Sunday and well within the seat ranges that were determined at that stage.

Overall, only six ridings were called incorrectly giving the projection an 89.7% accuracy rating, and the vote projection was only off by 1.2% per party, making it the second best of the five provincial elections called this year. A full post-mortem will be completed soon.

What was most interesting, however, was that the projection I made using Forum's regional results would have been very close to the mark. I had it at 47 seats for the Saskatchewan Party and 11 for the NDP.

This has confirmed to me the need for a regional model going forward in every province. I have a system in mind for incorporating both regional and province-wide data into such a model, and it should even be able to take into account riding polls and sub-regional data when available. I'll construct these models as the provincial elections that are scheduled for the next few years come along, and hopefully by 2015 I will have a very precise model in place for the federal election. I'd like to have that model calibrated to the sub-regional level as well.

Alberta and Quebec are the next ones on the docket, so I will be focusing on them going forward. I will also be taking a look at the leadership conventions for the Bloc Québécois and New Democrats, with something special in mind. Look for that in the coming weeks.

This fall provincial election season had its ups and downs. At the very basic level, three calls need to be made for any election: who will form the government, who will form the opposition, and whether it will be a majority or minority legislature. That means 15 calls needed to be made across the five provincial elections this fall, and ThreeHundredEight made 13 correct calls out of those 15 (the minority in Ontario and the Liberal opposition in Newfoundland and Labrador eluded me).

Of the 297 ridings at stake in the five elections, 259 were called correctly for an accuracy rating of 87.2%. That is a great improvement over the 76% in the federal election.

This site has always been an on-going project, so improvements will be made and hopefully in the next series of elections the accuracy will be upped yet another notch. Each election is a new learning experience!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Final Saskatchewan Projection: Wall's SP wins majority government

The Saskatchewan Party under Brad Wall will win a majority of the 58 seats up for grabs tonight, while Dwain Lingenfelter's New Democrats will form the Official Opposition. It is no gamble to make either of these statements, as no other party is likely to win a single seat and there is virtually no chance that the NDP will overtake the SP in tonight's vote. What is unknown, however, is how large the NDP opposition will be.

Forum Research released a poll yesterday that indicates the New Democrats might form a larger opposition than some had feared. While the gap is still enormous (28 points), it is far from the 40 point gap that some polls taken at the end of October suggested.

With this poll included in the model, ThreeHundredEight projects that the Saskatchewan Party will win a larger majority government than what they had at dissolution.
ThreeHundredEight projects that the Saskatchewan Party will win 62.4% of the vote tonight, with the New Democrats taking 33.6% and the Greens 3.1%. The Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, and Western Independence Party will take the remaining share of the vote.

The Saskatchewan Party is projected to win 43 seats, up five from dissolution. The New Democrats are projected to win 15 seats, down five.

The Saskatchewan Party wins 19 seats in southern Saskatchewan, 12 in northern Saskatchewan, seven in Saskatoon, and five in Regina.

The New Democrats are projected to win six in Regina, five in Saskatoon, three in northern Saskatchewan, and one in the south.

With the addition of the new Forum poll, the number of close ranges has been reduced. The Saskatchewan Party leads in three close races and trails in one, giving them a range of between 40 and 44 seats. The New Democrats have a range of between 14 and 18 seats.

However, one of the problems with the projections this fall has been the need for a regional model. This proved to be the case in Prince Edward Island, Ontario, and Newfoundland and Labrador. It could very well prove to be the case as well tonight in Saskatchewan.

Forum Research indicates that the Saskatchewan Party leads the NDP in Regina and Saskatoon with about 58% to the NDP's 37%. In the 2007 election, the two parties were very close in Saskatoon but the NDP had a 12 point edge in Regina.

So if we take the numbers from Forum Research for Regina and Saskatoon and apply them to the model, we get a different result.

Not in Saskatoon, however. Even with Forum's numbers, the SP is still projected to win seven seats in Saskatoon with the NDP taking the remaining five. It increases the number of close races, though, with three NDP seats being considered close.

In Regina, on the other hand, it changes things radically. From five seats, the SP is bumped up to nine, with the NDP reduced to only two seats in Regina.

What this means is that instead of a 43-15 split, the regional model would show 47 seats for the Saskatchewan Party and 11 seats for the New Democrats. The seat ranges would be shifted to between 41 and 51 seats for the SP and between seven and 14 seats for the NDP.

This regional model projection is based solely on Forum's numbers, however. A fully operational regional model would make a vote projection for the two main cities that would be based on all available data. So, it isn't the "official" projection but acts instead as another plausible result of tonight's vote.
We don't have a whole lot to go on. While four polls were released during the campaign, which is quite good for a relatively small province, most of them were taken in the last week of October, making most of the data more than a week old going into the election. Forum's data is much newer, and perhaps is an indication that in this final week some Saskatchewanians have recoiled from the idea of a virtual SP sweep.
That is what this chart indicates, at least. The Saskatchewan Party has been coasting pretty well since August, but this latest set of numbers from Forum is the best result we've seen from the NDP in this campaign. It could be a factor of the poll's margin of error, but it does seem to suggest that the race has turned into less of a landslide in the final days. We saw something like this in Prince Edward Island, where voters apparently decided that having no real opposition would not be a desirable outcome. We shall see.

What will determine the size of the NDP opposition tonight will be the results in Regina. If Forum has it accurate, and NDP support has dropped by a significant amount in the city (with virtually all of the old Liberal support going to the Saskatchewan Party), they could be in for a very rough night. If they hold tough in the provincial capital, I think they should comfortably keep themselves in the double-digits. Historic bests and worsts are still possible for both Brad Wall and Dwain Lingenfelter, but if the race has narrowed slightly we might be looking at more of a repeat of the 2007 election, with SP gains in Saskatoon and Regina.