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.