Friday, December 30, 2011

CAQ up, NDP stable in CROP polling

Federal and provincial polls for Quebec were released by CROP and La Presse two weeks ago, but considering that the most recent Nanos poll (released this week) was taken only a day after this CROP poll, it isn't as relatively out of date as it might look. Let's take a peek at the federal results first.
Contrary to what some other polls have shown, CROP does not have the NDP in free-fall in Quebec. Instead, they have them at 36%, down only one point from their last polling conducted November 21-23.

It does put CROP at the high end of NDP polling in Quebec for December, as others have had them between 26% and 33%, and all of them have shown them dropping by a significant amount.

But compared to the Léger poll taken December 13-14, so on the same days as this CROP poll, there is not much difference. Aside from the NDP being a few ticks higher here and there, CROP and Léger show virtually the exact same results across the board, particularly when taking into account the margin of error.

CROP does not have any of the other parties varying by more than one point provincially. The Bloc is up one point to 22%, the Conservatives are down one point to 22%, the Liberals are up one point to 16%, and the Greens are up one point to 4%.

Among francophones, the NDP has dropped four points to 35%, while the Bloc Québécois is up one point to 27%. Among non-francophones, however, the NDP is up eight points to 38%. The Conservatives have dropped by eight points to 28%, putting them only three points up on the Liberals.

In and around Montreal, the NDP is up one point to 36%. But the Bloc is gaining more, with a three point jump to 23%. In and around Quebec City, however, the NDP is down nine points to 28%. The Conservatives have roared forward with a six point gain to 45%. In the rest of Quebec, the NDP is down three points to 37% while the Bloc is down one to 24%.

The New Democrats would win 53 seats with these numbers, with 11 going to the Conservatives, seven to the Liberals, and four to the Bloc Québécois.

The CROP cross-tabs allow us to look at the numbers at a deeper lever. For example, support for sovereignty stood at 36% in this poll. But among Bloc voters, that support stands at 90%. So while the Bloc is clearly getting the support of sovereigntists, they are not getting the support of every sovereigntist.

The Conservatives and Liberals get the support of a few sovereigntists, at 13% and 11%, respectively. But these are very small numbers. Instead, it is the New Democratic Party that is getting the support of a lot of sovereigntists: fully 32% of NDP voters support independence. This means that the NDP's voter profile is actually quite similar to the profile of the average Quebecer. But keeping that 32% of voters happy is going to be difficult if Daniel Paillé bangs the sovereigntist drum, as he has promised to do.

Now to the provincial scene, where things are in a state of flux.

Whereas CROP and Léger found little to disagree upon at the federal level, provincially it is a different situation.

Léger found that the CAQ had a strong lead over the PQ, which had itself rebounded slightly. CROP instead sees the PQ continuing to slide, and the CAQ holding a lead over the Liberals, who have rebounded slightly themselves.

Which is true? That is a bit of an unknown at the moment.

For CROP, however, the CAQ has gained six points since November and now leads with 39%. The Liberals follow with 28% (+1) while the Parti Québécois is well behind at 18% (-1). The big difference between CROP and Léger seems to be that the ADQ's voters went en masse to the CAQ in CROP polling, while they split among the three main parties according to Léger.

Québec Solidaire is up three points since November to 9%.

The CAQ holds a very important lead among francophones, standing at 44% (+4) to the PQ's 21% (-3). They also lead in and around Quebec City with 54% (+6) to the Liberals' 23% (+8) and in the rest of Quebec, at 45% (+8) to the Liberals' 22% (-1).

The Liberals still lead among non-francophones with 68%, as well as in the Montreal region with 33% to the CAQ's 30%.

That Liberal support in Montreal is concentrated on the island, however. According to CROP, the Liberals have 36% support on the island to the CAQ's 26%, while in the suburban areas the CAQ leads with 36% to 30%.

But who is a supporter of the CAQ? While 94% of PQ voters and 72% of QS voters support sovereignty, the CAQ's voters support sovereignty to the tune of 35%, or about the same as the Quebec population as a whole. But though they have this in common with the NDP, they are not the same as NDP voters.

Why? According to the cross-tabs, only 46% of the CAQ's voter pool supports the NDP. They draw 25% of their support from Conservative voters and 14% from Bloc Québécois voters. Only 7% of their voters support the Liberals, meaning that the CAQ's support is not as uniform as it might be. Instead, it is more NDP/CPC and less LPC/BQ than the average Quebecer.

And this is why I don't agree with the La Presse report saying that the CAQ would win 100 seats. Instead, my model shows them winning 65 seats with this level of support - a majority but nowhere near a landslide. The Liberals win 45 seats and the Parti Québécois only 12, with Québec Solidaire winning three. Recall that the model is using the current electoral boundaries, not the ones that will come into effect early in 2012. As the suburbs of Montreal are gaining the extra seats, we could bump up the CAQ a couple at the expense of the PQ/PLQ.

But on the older map, the CAQ wins 17 seats in Quebec City, 15 in Montérégie, 14 in western Quebec, 13 in central Quebec, six in eastern Quebec, and none in Montreal or Laval. That is their major problem - they do not seem poised to win in Montreal.

Or do they? With a ten-point spread between the PLQ and CAQ on the island of Montreal, that means the CAQ could potentially win some seats in the francophone parts of the island as the Liberals are running up the numbers in the western parts. The projection model is not yet designed to go into this level of detail, but it will before the next election. Nevertheless, the sample sizes begin to get quite small at these levels.

The Liberals win 26 seats in Montreal and Laval, seven in western Quebec (primarily along the Ottawa River), four in Montérégie, three in central Quebec, three in eastern Quebec (the Gaspésie), and two in Quebec City.

The PQ wins six seats in eastern Quebec, four in Montreal and Laval, and two in western Quebec.

The three QS seats are won in Montreal.

But the potential for a bigger win for François Legault exists. Of the 12 seats projected to go to the PQ, seven of them are extremely close CAQ/PQ races. Close enough that in some cases we are talking about less than 1%. If a few PQ MNAs decide not to run again or the CAQ puts up some good candidates, these seven seats could easily go to the CAQ, bumping them up to 72 seats and the PQ down to only five.

There are a few close CAQ/PLQ seats as well, making the potential for the Liberals to win fewer than 40 seats and the CAQ more than 80 relatively significant. But I don't see 100 seats for the CAQ happening just yet, particularly when there are fewer than 100 seats outside the island of Montreal. Even if the CAQ manages to steal half-a-dozen seats in Montreal, they would still need to run the table in the rest of the province. I simply don't see Legault winning everything from Abitibi to the Outaouais to the Saguenay to the Gaspésie on a right-of-centre platform.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

NDP up in Ontario, down in Quebec

After a vote that dramatically changed the federal political landscape and elections in half of the country’s provinces, 2012 promises to be a quieter year than 2011. But there are still a few things to keep an eye on over the next 12 months.

You can read the rest of my article on what to watch in 2012 at The Huffington Post Canada here.

But before looking at 2012, let's take a look at what the (likely) last federal poll of 2011 tells us.
For Nanos Research, which was last in the field in mid-November, there hasn't been much change at the national level. The biggest shift has been a 2.5-point drop for the Liberals to 25.6%, putting them behind the Conservatives (36.5%, +0.9) and the New Democrats (28.7%, +1.4). But all of these variations are within the margin of error.

Most of the regional shifts are also within the margin of error, except in Ontario. There, the Conservatives are at 34.5% but the Liberals have slipped seven points to 31.8%. The NDP has taken advantage, gaining 9.9 points to reach 29.5%.

The Conservatives have been on a bit of a downturn in Ontario in Nanos's polling, and this isn't the first poll to put the NDP at a decent amount of support after slipping to the low 20s in September and October.

In Quebec, the New Democrats have dropped again to 33.4%, echoing what other recent polls have shown. The Liberals are second with 22.9%, while the Conservatives stand at 20.8% and the Bloc Québécois at 19.9%. That is Nanos's highest result for the BQ since the election, but is still somewhat lower than what other surveys have suggested. Nevertheless, Nanos has been showing the Bloc on the rise of late.

The race in British Columbia is close, with the Tories at 34.4% and the NDP at 33.2%. The Liberals are up to 22.8%, while in the Prairies the Conservatives are doing quite well, as they are also doing in Atlantic Canada.

On the 308-seat map, the Conservatives would win 135 seats with this level of support. The New Democrats would win 97 seats and the Liberals 74, making them the big gainers. The Greens keep their one seat in British Columbia while the Bloc Québécois is reduced to one seat.

The Tories win 16 seats in British Columbia, 27 in Alberta, 21 in the Prairies, 46 in Ontario, 10 in Quebec, 14 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north.

The NDP wins 13 seats in British Columbia, one in Alberta, two in the Prairies, 26 in Ontario, 49 in Quebec, five in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north.

The Liberals win six seats in British Columbia, five in the Prairies, 34 in Ontario, 15 in Quebec, 13 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north.

On the 338-seat map (yet to be determined), we're looking at roughly 151 Conservative seats, 104 NDP seats, and 81 Liberal seats.

The year closes with three things to watch in federal polling. Firstly, will Ontario continue to be a close race, will one party move ahead, or will it return to a two-horse contest? Secondly, where is the NDP going in Quebec? And thirdly, who is going to take the lead for good in British Columbia? The battlegrounds and story lines for 2015 may already by forming.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mulcair, Dewar win new endorsements

This week's NDP leadership endorsement rankings update sees Thomas Mulcair and Paul Dewar making gains. But both contenders remain in the second and fourth positions, respectively.

Understandably, the leadership race has been somewhat quiet over the holidays. Brian Topp, however, has recently said he is moving to the second portion of his campaign. The first was meant for endorsements, so that means we may see no more major endorsements for Topp unless he knocks it out of the park in future debates. On the other hand, Dewar has said he will have endorsements to announce in the new year, which should give him some momentum.

But, for now, Thomas Mulcair has made the biggest gain this week with the endorsements of two sitting MPs from Quebec: Ève Péclet, from La Pointe-de-l'Île, and Paulina Ayala, from Honoré-Mercier.

This gives Mulcair a five point boost to 119.3, or 25.5% of the total share of available endorsement points. That is a 0.7 percentage point gain for Mulcair since last week. Perhaps more importantly, this now gives Mulcair the support of the majority of the NDP's Quebec caucus.

Mulcair is now 68.7 points, or 14.6 percentage points, behind Topp. He needs a few high profile endorsements to close the gap. A few MPs with a lot of experience in the House of Commons, particularly from Ontario, remain uncommitted, as do Greg Selinger, Premier of Manitoba, Darrell Dexter, Premier of Nova Scotia (at least since the withdrawal of Robert Chisholm), and provincial leaders Andrea Horwath and Adrian Dix. A smattering of MLAs, MHAs, MPPs, current and former leaders remain on the table as well.

Paul Dewar also made a gain this week, picking up the endorsement of the Ottawa and District Labour Council, a body representing 50,000 members. This gives him an extra three points, but as I mistakenly gave him the points of a former MLA (who did, indeed, endorse him but I am not assigning points from former provincial legislators), Dewar has a net gain of 2.5 points this week.

Last week, it was brought to my attention that the points I assigned Dewar from the Manitoba Federation of Labour were being double-counted, as it is an umbrella organization already partly represented by the endorsements given by other bodies. I've decided to let that stand - unions overlap quite a bit and I don't want to overly complicate things. If it means double-counting certain union members, so be it. That two unions commanding the allegiance of one person have stepped into the debate means, I imagine, that this union member is doubly motivated to cast a ballot.

So, this puts Dewar up 2.5 points to 25.9, or 5.5% of the total. That is a 0.4 percentage point gain since last week, putting him still well behind Peggy Nash. But there is now some light between him and Niki Ashton. If Dewar's promised endorsements start piling up in the new year, we will probably see him close in on Nash and force the three frontrunners down in their point share quite a bit.

The new endorsements for Mulcair and Dewar have already pushed Topp down 0.7%, Nash 0.3%, and Ashton 0.1%.

(Click here to learn more about the endorsement system and here for how the points are awarded. And, as always, you can right-click the list of endorsers and open in a new tab or window to magnify it.)

There has been a lot of talk recently about Brian Topp being a weaker candidate than many have thought. The fact remains that Topp's list of endorsers is impressive, including the likes of  Ed Broadbent, Roy Romanow, and some of the NDP's most experienced MPs. Only one of the debates has already taken place so there is still a lot of impressing (or disappointing) for Topp and the other candidates to do. Though the race is now more than half-way through, it really has only just begun.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Three to five months out, Redford on track

The next province heading to the polls looks set to continue the winning streak for incumbent governments.

But as in Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador, the incumbent party will be led by a new leader who represents both change and continuity.

Alberta's Premier Alison Redford was named leader of the Progressive Conservatives in October. Before the leadership campaign had started, the Alberta Tories were bleeding support away to Danielle Smith’s Wildrose Party, and an end to the uninterrupted period of PC rule stretching back to 1971 seemed possible.

But the leadership campaign itself rejuvenated the party and under Redford's leadership the Tories are on track to win another majority government in the province.

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

It'll sneak up on us, but the Alberta election might be as near as three months away! I think it might be sneaking up on Albertans, too, as Alison Redford looks like she'll win another majority without any problem.
This is Forum's first foray into the Alberta scene. They have the Progressive Conservatives leading with 38%, well ahead of Wildrose at 23%.

The New Democrats and Liberals trail with 13% and 12% apiece, while the Alberta Party stands at 6%.

Unfortunately, the number for the "other" parties is huge: 9%. If we take that out and distribute the 9% to the other parties proportionately, we get 42% for the PCs and 25% for Wildrose.

That is a solid lead for the Tories, though not completely comfortable for the PCs. However, with the Liberals so low the Tories will likely be able to pick-up a lot of new seats, even if Wildrose does steal a dozen or more from them.

Calgary, however, will be a bit of a battlefield. The Tories lead with 35% to 27% for Wildrose (or 38% to 30% without all the others), while in Edmonton the battlefield is for second. The Progressive Conservatives have the edge with 33%, but the Liberals (22%) and New Democrats (21%) are very much in the race. However, that is quite a drop for the Liberals, meaning they will be hard-pressed to hold on to their seats.

In northern Alberta, the Tories lead with 42% (49% without the Others), well ahead of Wildrose. Southern Alberta is a bit closer, with the Progressive Conservatives at 41% to 28% for Wildrose.

The projection model for Alberta is not yet complete, so for now I am using a simple swing model at the provincial level based primarily on the old boundaries. With that model and these poll numbers, the Progressive Conservatives win 65 seats and an easy majority.

Wildrose wins 15 seats and forms the Official Opposition while the New Democrats win six seats and become the third party in the legislature. The Liberals are reduced to a single seat.

Before the election rolls around, and according to this poll 68% of respondents approve of having fixed election dates (or, at least in this case, fixed election seasons), I'll have the new projection model up and running. It will be quite a departure from what I've used in the past. It'll be regionally based and, if I have the time, sub-regionally based as well. I don't imagine that there will be many, if any, riding polls for Alberta but the model will be designed to be able to incorporate them. The vote projection will also be different, in that it will attempt to estimate how the polls will be off, rather than only averaging them out with a weighting.

It will be an interesting race. Alison Redford, Danielle Smith, and Raj Sherman will all be leading their parties into a general election for the first time - that means that, more than usual, anything might happen.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

CAQ minority?

Last Friday, Le Devoir/Montreal Gazette released a new Léger Marketing poll on the political situation in Quebec at the provincial level. With an election rumoured for 2012, though I can't imagine why Jean Charest would want to rush into anything at these numbers, where the parties stand right now is very important. This is the first poll, along with La Presse's CROP, to show the landscape since the announced merger of the CAQ and the ADQ.
Since Léger's last poll taken between November 14-17, the Coalition-Avenir-Québec has gained two points and now leads with 37%. It appears that either all of the 8% the ADQ scored in the last poll has not gone to the CAQ, or that the CAQ has lost some of the support it had before the merger.

I imagine that is the case. With the ADQ now melded into the CAQ, the party is now more obviously right-of-centre, whereas before François Legault spoke of a "gauche efficace". It would not surprise me that more than a few Quebecers were not pleased that Legault aligned himself with the ADQ.

The Parti Québécois, for example, has gained three points and now trails the CAQ with 24%. As Gérard Deltell had taken the ADQ in a definitively federalist direction, it is possible that the CAQ has lost some of its more sovereigntist supporters with the merger.

The Liberals are unchanged at 22%, while Québec Solidaire is up one point to 9%. The Greens are up two points to 5%.

Adding further evidence that the merger of the CAQ and the ADQ has cost Legault support in some quarters, his party is down three points in the Montréal region to 31%. The Liberals are up six to 27%, while the PQ is down one point to 21%.

On the other hand, the CAQ is up big in the Quebec City area and in the other regions of Quebec. They now lead with 43% (+14) in Quebec City and 43% in the rest of Quebec (+7). The Liberals trail in Quebec City with 22% while the PQ is up nine points to 28% in the rest of the province.

Among francophones, the CAQ is up two points to 42% with the PQ up four points to 28%, while among non-francophones the Liberals lead with 53% to the CAQ's 15%.

With these regional numbers, ThreeHundredEight projects that the CAQ would win 59 seats on the old 125-seat boundaries. As the new boundaries aren't officially in place yet, I am holding off on making projections based on the new electoral map.

The Liberals would form the Official Opposition with 32 seats, while the PQ would win 31 and Québec Solidaire would win three.

That means a minority government for François Legault. It would be a difficult proposition to govern in such a situation - it is unclear to me who Legault would turn to for support. Perhaps he would be able to lure four or five PQ and Liberal MNAs to his side.

Now, it may come as a surprise that I am projecting a CAQ minority with these numbers. Firstly, the projection model is a regional model, and the CAQ's lead in the Montreal region is quite small. It generally assumes that the CAQ's Montreal strength is in the suburbs and not on the island, while its "rest of Quebec" strength is disproportionately concentrated in the area between Montreal and Quebec City, leaving the western and eastern edges more to the PQ.

Secondly, the CAQ's support is based on the ADQ's 2008 support base. This means that in some areas there is very little growth for the CAQ, even if the party is doing two or three times better than the ADQ did in 2008.

The old model I was using that had both the ADQ and CAQ included assumed that the CAQ's support was more uniform, like the NDP's support was in the 2011 federal election. This was a safe assumption because the CAQ was almost as new to Quebec as the NDP was in May, and because Legault embodied that same element of change.

But now that the CAQ and the ADQ have joined forces, I think that the party will be identified more with the right-of-centre political spectrum, and will have its best performances in areas where the ADQ performed well in 2007. The recent by-election in Bonaventure gives us some evidence. The area was never good ADQ territory, and the party did horribly in the by-election. But polls indicated that a CAQ candidate would have only gotten around 15% support - almost exactly what my current projection gives the CAQ in Bonaventure.

The CAQ and the NDP have only their novelty in common. There is no reason to think that the civil servants of the Outaouais, a perhaps natural clientele for the NDP, would vote for the CAQ, or that Gaspesians, who have some of the province's better ranked hospitals while also being among its poorest residents, are going to warm up to the public/private health care proposals of the CAQ.

The CAQ follows in the ADQ's footsteps by winning in its traditional areas of support: 13 seats in Quebec City, 12 in central Quebec (Mauricie, Centre-du-Québec, Cantons de l'Est), and 12 in Montérégie. The party also wins 12 seats in western Quebec (Laurentides, Lanaudière, primarily). But like the ADQ, the CAQ has less luck in eastern Quebec, winning only two seats. But unlike the ADQ, the CAQ actually breaks into the metropolis with two seats in Montreal and Laval.

The Parti Québécois is strongest in the parts of Quebec where the Bloc Québécois performed well in the federal election, primarily in eastern Quebec. The PQ wins 12 seats there, with seven in western Quebec, three apiece in Montérégie and Montreal/Laval, and two apiece around Quebec City and in central Quebec.

The Liberals win 22 of their seats in Montreal and Laval, with another three coming in Montérégie, two apiece in Quebec City and western Quebec (the Outaouais), and one apiece in eastern Quebec and central Quebec.

Québec Solidaire wins all three of its seats on the island of Montreal.

Is the potential for a bigger CAQ sweep there? Absolutely, as with the older model of uniform CAQ support the party would win more than 90 seats at these numbers. But I don't believe that their support will be uniform. Their message will find resonance particularly in the ADQ's traditional strongholds. What Legault brings to the table is the ability of the CAQ to breakthrough into areas the ADQ was never competitive. But I do not think that Legault will have the widespread appeal that Jack Layton did, and the 2012 election will look more like 2007's provincial vote than it will the 2011 federal result.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dewar, Mulcair gain endorsements

EDIT: This post has been updated since this morning due to the withdrawal of Robert Chisholm from the race today.

It's Wednesday, so that means it is time to update the NDP leadership endorsement rankings. It's been a quiet week on the endorsement front. Only two new endorsements have been added to the system, and one of them just went unnoticed last week.

But the withdrawal of Robert Chisholm from the race brings the list of candidates down to eight. It also means that everyone has gained in the share of points, as Chisholm's 27.4 points are now taken off the table.

As always, you can right-click on the image to the right and open it in a new window to magnify.

Paul Dewar is this week's big winner after landing the support of the Manitoba Federation of Labour. Not only did Dewar get the support of the current president of the MFL, he received the support of the three preceding presidents.

The union numbers some 90,000 members (almost as many as the NDP itself!) and so this gives Dewar a gain of 5.4 points. He now has a total of 23.4 points and ranks fourth behind Peggy Nash. He has moved ahead of Niki Ashton, and I imagine quite definitively - at least for now. He and her have been swapping places for months.

Dewar now has 5.1% of all available endorsement points.

Thomas Mulcair has also gotten a small boost in the endorsement rankings. The support of Newfoundland and Labrador MHA Dale Kirby has been added to the system, but this means a gain of only 0.25 points (or, rounded up, 0.3).

Mulcair is now at 114.3 total points, 73.7 behind Brian Topp and 18.9 points ahead of Peggy Nash.

(Click here to learn more about the endorsement system and here for how the points are awarded.)

It is good to see Paul Dewar picking up some endorsements because I think the points system is under-estimating his support within the party. He has mentioned that he will be announcing new endorsements in the new year, as I imagine other candidates will be doing. But hopefully that will push Dewar up into the top tier of Mulcair, Topp, and Nash, where I think he belongs.

He is now, at least, in actual fourth place with the withdrawal of Chisholm. If Chisholm decides to endorse someone, I will assign half of those points to the person he chooses to endorse. If any of the people who endorsed Chisholm take their support to another person, the half-points will be removed from the person receiving Chisholm's support.

That means that Robert Chisholm alone is a big fish - worth 13.7 points until any of the people who have endorsed him go elsewhere. Darrell Dexter and Howard Hampton, worth 10 and 5 points, respectively, would also be good people to land if they are willing to hand their support out to another candidate. Another 4.5 points are available from the NDP members of the Nova Scotia legislature who lent their support to Chisholm.

The race has gotten a little more interesting, an undoubtedly the front benches of the Opposition will be happy to have an experienced person like Chisholm back in the House asking questions.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mulcair leads by wide margin in new poll

With the NDP’s support beginning to slip in Quebec, a recent survey from Forum Research indicates that among the party’s supporters Thomas Mulcair is the leadership candidate seen as the best person for the job. 

The poll, conducted on December 13 and surveying some 300 NDP supporters, suggests that roughly half (47 per cent) of the party’s voters are unsure who would make the best leader. But of the 53 per cent who expressed an opinion, Mulcair garnered 45 per cent support, well ahead of fellow MP Peggy Nash (16 per cent). 

You can read the rest of the article on my thoughts on what these numbers mean at The Huffington Post Canada here.

For all of the actual numbers from the poll, keep reading. But before we get to the leadership numbers, let's look at the voting intentions of those surveyed in this IVR Forum poll.
This is the first federal poll that Forum Research has released since the election, so we don't have anything to compare it with. Nevertheless, the Conservatives lead in this poll with 33%, six points ahead of the NDP at 27%.

This six-point gap has been repeated in other surveys.

The Liberals stand at 21% while the Greens are at 8%.

This poll is marred a little, however, by an overly large "Other" response. One imagines that this is something to expect in IVR polling, and much of that other (5% nationally) probably represents undecided voters.

Forum has the Conservatives down to 33% in Ontario, with the Liberals trailing at 27% and the NDP at 23%. The one remarkable number is the 12% for the Greens, which would be enough to put them in striking distance of a seat in the province - though we're likely talking about the outside edges of the MOE.

In Quebec, the New Democrats are down to only 28%, the second poll to put them below 30% support. The Bloc Québécois stands at 22% while the Liberals and Conservatives are almost tied with 19% and 18% support apiece. But these numbers are deceptive, as 8% of respondents said "Other". Sorry folks, François Legault isn't running federally! Portioning out that 8% more reasonably boosts the NDP to 30% and the Bloc to 24%.

Forum has the Conservatives and New Democrats tied at 39% apiece in British Columbia and the three main parties neck-and-neck in Atlantic Canada. The pollster has also taken on Nanos's bad habit of lumping Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba together. In this Albersaskitoba the Conservatives stand at 51% to the NDP's 23%.

These numbers would give the Conservatives 143 seats, the New Democrats 94 seats, the Liberals 61 seats, the Bloc Québécois nine seats, and the Greens one.

The Conservatives win 19 seats in British Columbia, 27 in Alberta, 19 in the Prairies, 52 in Ontario, 11 in Quebec, 14 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north, putting them 12 short of a majority and 23 seats short of their current standing. In the 338-seat House of Commons their number would probably increase to 159, or 10 short of a majority.

The New Democrats win 15 seats in British Columbia, one in Alberta, six in the Prairies, 23 in Ontario, 42 in Quebec, six in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north.

The Liberals win one seat in British Columbia, three in the Prairies, 31 in Ontario, 13 in Quebec, 12 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north.

Of note is that a combination of Liberal, NDP, and Green seats would total 156, or a majority. In a 338-seat House they might win 170, or one above the majority threshold.

Now, the NDP leadership poll. Forum asked supporters of the NDP in the 2011 federal election who they thought would be the best leader of the New Democrats. Fully 47% were undecided, but of the 53% who were decided Thomas Mulcair came out on top with 45% support. Peggy Nash followed with 16%.

After that, we get into the dregs. With a margin of error of about 8%, we can only really say with real confidence that Mulcair is definitely ahead and Nash is probably ahead of the peloton.

In that peloton is Brian Topp and Niki Ashton at 8%, Roméo Saganash at 7%, Martin Singh at 5%, and Paul Dewar, Robert Chisholm, and Nathan Cullen at 4%.

As I mention in my article, this could be all about name recognition. It isn't a predictor of who will win the race, since it is members and not voters that will decide. But if Brian Topp wins with 8% name recognition among decideds (or 4% among undecideds) that is a wee bit of a problem.

The chart at the top of the page that tracks the leadership support of NDP voters does not take out the undecideds. If we keep the undecideds in the calculation, we get 47% without an opinion and approximately 24% support for Mulcair, 8% for Nash, 4% for Topp, Ashton, and Saganash, 3% for Singh, and 2% for Dewar, Chisholm, and Cullen.

At the very least, if the NDP chooses Mulcair, Canadians will have a good idea of what they are getting, or at a minimum will know the name of the Official Opposition leader. If the NDP chooses Topp or Dewar or Nash, the party will need to work on defining their new leader and getting Canadians to know him or her. That means lost time and an opportunity for the Conservatives to do what they did so successfully to Michael Ignatieff.

It will be interesting to see how these numbers move as the leadership race continues.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Leger sees NDP slide in Quebec

While new Bloc Québécois Leader Daniel Paillé and former New Democratic Party president Brian Topp do not have much in common, they both are without a seat in the House of Commons. If Mr. Topp wins the NDP leadership race, this will put him and the Bloc chief squarely in the minority of Canada’s political leaders since Confederation.

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

Brian Topp has said he will run in Quebec if he wins the NDP leadership, but the latest polls show that he'll have some work cut out for him. While a recent CROP suggested that the NDP was alright at 36% or so, new surveys from Harris-Decima, Forum Research, and Léger Marketing indicate that the bottom may be falling out for the NDP in Quebec. Let's look at the Léger survey today.
Léger was last in the field between November 14-17, and since then the New Democrats have dropped four points to 33% in the province.

Around November, we were seeing the NDP slipping from the low-to-mid 40s to the high 30s. Now, it appears that the New Democrats are slipping again, though this time to the low-30s or high-20s.

The Bloc Québécois has not, in this survey at least, made any gains. They've actually dropped one point to 26%.

Instead, the Conservatives have made a three-point gain and now stand at 18%, compared to 17% for the Liberals (+2).

Though they would still lose between 10 and 20 seats, the NDP can still work with this kind of lead - they are still the dominant party in the province. But any lower and a lot of bubble seats get flipped to the Bloc.

This is primarily because the francophone vote is now split between the two parties. The NDP has dropped seven points among francophones to 33%, now just one point ahead of the Bloc (down one point themselves).

The New Democrats are leading once again among non-francophones, but these are always small samples. The NDP is up eight points since November to 36% while the Liberals are down nine points to 28%. It could be coincidence, but with the calls the Conservatives were having made in Irwin Cotler's riding it is perhaps not a surprise that the Tories have dropped six points to only 18% among non-francophones in Quebec.

Regionally, there has been little change in the Montreal region, with the NDP still holding a lead over the Bloc. In Quebec City, however, the NDP's support has dropped by nine points to 23%, behind the Bloc at 25% (+1) and the Conservatives at 33% (+5).

There has also been little change in the rest of Quebec, with the NDP and Bloc taking a small step backwards to the benefit of the Conservatives.

With this seven-point lead over the Bloc Québécois, the NDP would win 45 seats of the 75-seats in Quebec. That is still a large portion, but down 14 from their current standing. The Bloc Québécois would win 12 seats, making them an officially recognized party in the House, while the Liberals win 10 and the Conservatives eight.

The last couple of weeks have shown just how fragile the NDP's support in Quebec can be. A new leader may turn the tide and push the New Democrats back to dominance in the province, but it is far from a sure bet. A misstep could easily push the NDP down into second place in Quebec. They don't have to worry much about third or fourth again, however, as it does not appear that the Liberals or Conservatives are resonating very much.

Friday, December 16, 2011

NDP support collapses in Quebec without Layton - or does it?

With an election years away, polls provide a reflection of what Canadians are thinking but have little bearing on what happens in the House of Commons. Unlike the seven years that preceded the May federal election, the country is not on the brink of a new election with every passing season.

But even with the next vote far beyond the horizon, a poll can have a real impact on the political landscape.

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

Check out the article for my thoughts on the implications of the poll, but before you do let's look at the numbers of this new Harris-Decima survey.
Their last poll was taken between October 27 and November 6, and there has been very little national change since then: the Conservatives are down two points to 34%, the New Democrats are down one point to 28%, and the Liberals are unchanged at 22%. All variations within the margin of error.

But in Ontario and Quebec some interesting things come out of this poll.

In Ontario, the Tories are down two to 36% and the Liberals are also down two to 31%, but the NDP is up six points to 27%. This gain is an important one because the party has lost so much support in Quebec.

There, the NDP is down 10 points to 26%, tied with the Bloc Québécois (up six points). The Liberals are up two to 20% and the Conservatives are down one to 17%. It's a very crowded field.

But is the NDP really down to 26%? Harris-Decima surveys 2,000 people over two weeks so the sample in Quebec is likely some 500 people, so not a horrible number. But CROP has a new poll out today maintaining the NDP at 36% - so is Harris-Decima just an outlier? I suppose we'll find out after a few more polls come out.

In British Columbia the Conservatives and Liberals are each up two points to 37% and 18% respectively, while the NDP is down five to 31%.

The Conservatives have rebounded in the Prairies with a ten point gain to 47%, while the NDP is down two to 34% and the Liberals are down five to 11%. Things have changed a lot less in Alberta, where the Conservatives have 63% (-3) and the NDP has 20% support (+2).

Finally, in Atlantic Canada the three-way race continues.

Now for something completely different - with these numbers we are looking at a very divided parliament, reminiscent of what we were familiar year with for most of the seven years before the last election.

The Conservatives win 138 seats, the New Democrats win 75, the Liberals win 65, the Bloc Québécois wins 29, and the Greens win one seat. The NDP remains the Official Opposition but the Liberals make big gains and the Bloc returns to prominence in Quebec.

The Conservatives win 18 seats in British Columbia, 27 in Alberta, 20 in the Prairies, 50 in Ontario, 11 in Quebec, 11 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north.

The New Democrats win 13 seats in British Columbia, one in Alberta, seven in the Prairies, 24 in Ontario, 20 in Quebec, nine in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north.

The Liberals win four seats in British Columbia, one in the Prairies, 32 in Ontario, 15 in Quebec, 12 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north.

So, the most important change is, of course, in Quebec. The Bloc goes from four to 29 seats while the NDP goes from 59 to only 20. Even the Liberals make big gains, all in and around Montreal.

It is worth noting where the New Democrats make their retreat. They still win seats in western Quebec and a good deal of seats in the Montreal region and between Montreal and Quebec City (Mauricie, Estrie, Montérégie), but they are pushed completely out of eastern Quebec and keep only one seat in the Quebec City region. The Tories return to Quebec City in force and win a few seats in eastern Quebec, while the Bloc takes seats in every part of the province.

It makes for a messy political landscape in Quebec - Montreal is Liberal, the western half of Quebec is NDP, the eastern half is more Conservative, and the Bloc has seats here and there throughout.

Of course, it'll probably be completely different by the time 2015 rolls around. But it is interesting to see how quickly the political waters in Quebec have been muddied.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Redford's approval ratings up

Unless Jean Charest jumps the gun, and he even has the option to wait until the end of 2013, the next province to go to the polls will be Alberta. Under new leader Alison Redford, the Progressive Conservatives will be launching the next election campaign sometime between March and May of next year. Though the PCs hold a comfortable lead, it should be an interesting race.

ThinkHQ Public Affairs is out with a new poll today for the Calgary Herald, unfortunately bereft of voting intentions numbers. But in the increasingly leader-led Canadian political landscape the approval ratings of the leaders of the four major Alberta parties is perhaps just as useful.
She's had the job for a few months now, so while Alison Redford's honeymoon with Alberta's voters might still be underway, she has been around long enough for most Albertans to form an opinion about her. And, so far, that opinion is good: she enjoys a 59% approval rating, which bodes well for her party's chances in the next election.

Danielle Smith, leader of the Wildrose Party, has an approval rating of 40%. It isn't enough to compare with Redford, but it does look like Wildrose is on course to form the Official Opposition in the province.

Raj Sherman, leader of the Liberals, and Brian Mason, leader of the New Democrats, each have an approval rating of 31%. The two parties will be fighting it out for third spot unless Wildrose falters. The NDP seems to have a better concentration of support in Edmonton and so could come out on top and ahead of the Liberals in the spring.

In terms of the government's approval rating, Redford has bumped it up from 36% in September to 45%. She has also lowered its disapproval rating from 55% to 48%. Those are still negative net numbers, and Albertans seem to have a problem with the waste in the government's spending (an important theme for Smith), but Redford is certainly heading in the right direction.

The spring election may just coincide with the end of her honeymoon with the province, or it might carry on long enough to give her a mandate of her own. But there is still a lot up in the air - Wildrose led the PCs for a brief period two years ago and if Redford stumbles on the campaign trail Danielle Smith may be able to take advantage once again. And then there is the fate of the New Democrats, who seem to be on the upswing, and that of the Liberals, who seem to be on the decline. Though a PC victory is likely a safe bet in Alberta, the race will nevertheless have its charm.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mulcair, Nash, Topp, and Chisholm gain endorsements

A number of endorsements were handed out over the last week, ranging from British Columbia all the way to Newfoundland and Labrador. As the leadership candidates took part in a debate organized by the BC New Democrats this week, many of the endorsements that were landed in the past few days came from that province. But a few other big fish were landed.

As ever, you can right-click on the chart to the left listing all of the endorsements to date and open in a new window to magnify it.

Thomas Mulcair was this week's big winner, with a jump of 10 endorsement points. Mulcair is now up to 114 points or 23.6%, a gain of 0.8 percentage points since last Wednesday. He still trails Brian Topp by 74 endorsement points or 15.3%, but these are the first new endorsements he has gained in some time.

Mulcair's biggest gain came from the endorsement of Ed Schreyer. He is a former MP, former NDP Premier of Manitoba, and former Governor-General. Mulcair also picked up the endorsements of former BC MP Lyle Kristiansen and current BC MLA Claire Trevana.

The next biggest gainer was Peggy Nash, up 6.4 endorsement points to 95.4, or 19.8% of all currently available endorsement points. That is a gain of 0.3 percentage points. However, while Nash was steadily gaining on Mulcair, the gap has widened between them by 3.6 endorsement points.

Nash's most important endorsement this week came from the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, which counts some 65,000 people as members. In addition, Nash also got the support of Quebec MP Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet.

Brian Topp gained 5.5 points and now stands at 188, or 38.9%. That is a drop for Topp of 1.1 percentage points, as others have made larger gains. He earned the support of Quebec MP Isabelle Morin (who is also the chair of the NDP's youth caucus), as well as that of BC MLAs Kathy Corrigan, Raj Chouhan, and Lana Popham.

Finally, Robert Chisholm got the endorsement of former Ontario NDP leader Howard Hampton. This bumped Chisholm up five points to 27.4, or 5.7% of the total. That is a 0.8 percentage point gain for Chisholm, who despite his problems in the French debate has managed to pick-up the support of two former or current provincial leaders.

(Click here to learn more about the endorsement system and here for how the points are awarded.)

None of the other contenders gained any important endorsements, and there have been no changes in position from last Wednesday.

To follow all of the updates to the endorsement rankings, you can click on the tag at the bottom of this post or on the link in the "Special Coverages" section in the right-hand column. You can also check out the posts on the now completed Bloc leadership race.

Let's break the NDP endorsement rankings down by region:

British Columbia: Topp 57.5, Cullen 14.0, Nash 10.0, Mulcair 3.0, Dewar 2.0, Ashton 1.0
Prairies: Ashton 10.0, Mulcair 9.0, Topp 7.0, Dewar 5.5
Ontario: Topp 93.5, Nash 31.5, Mulcair 17.5, Dewar 10.5, Chisholm 5.0
Quebec: Mulcair 82.0, Topp 15.0, Saganash 7.5, Ashton 7.5, Nash 5.0
Atlantic Canada: Nash 48.9, Chisholm 22.4, Topp 15.0, Mulcair 2.5

This gives us an idea of the strength of each campaign in each part of the country. Topp is clearly in front in British Columbia and Ontario, but is also present in the Prairies, in Quebec, and in Atlantic Canada. Mulcair, like Topp, has some support in every part of the country but is less of a factor on the two coasts.

Nash is doing well in Ontario and in Atlantic Canada, where she leads thanks to the support of Alexa McDonough and Lorraine Michael. Chisholm's strength is also based in Atlantic Canada.

And then we see the regional bases of the next tier of contenders. Ashton is strongest in her home region of the Prairies, while Dewar is also present there and in Ontario. Cullen is the main opponent to Topp in British Columbia while Saganash pulls some support from the Quebec membership.

Endorsements are, of course, only one part of the picture. But I think they do give an idea of what may be happening on the ground. I imagine, however, that Paul Dewar is doing far better among the party's members than he is doing among the party's elite.

I also imagine that a good deal of endorsements are still coming. There are still many MPs who have not sided with one candidate or another (and they may continue do so right up to the vote), and we have not heard from some of the current party leaders (British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and PEI) and many former leaders. The Ontario NDP has also been very quiet, with only two MPPs making endorsements. There are still a lot of points on the table.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dexter's NDP gains in Nova Scotia

Last week, the Corporate Research Associates released their quarterly poll for the four Atlantic provinces. The details of the polls for Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador are available at their website. As all of these provinces are many years away from the next election, I invite you to check out the polls directly.

But before you do, let's take a look at the results for Nova Scotia, where the next election is scheduled for 2013.
Darrell Dexter's New Democrats have gained four points since CRA's last poll in August, and now lead with 45%. That is the highest that they have been in at least a year.

The Progressive Conservatives are down one point to 29%, while the Liberals are down four points to 22%.

The Greens are unchanged at 4% support.

For Dexter, this is the kind of support he enjoyed in the 2009 election. But the Liberals have been losing ground, primarily to the Tories. The Liberals had beaten the PCs by about 27% to 25% in that last election.

Dexter's numbers are very good, as 55% of Nova Scotians are satisfied with his work as Premier. That's up six points since August.

He is also doing quite well in the Best Premier poll, at 36% (up five points since August). Stephen McNeil of the Liberals is down one point to 22% while Jamie Baillie of the Tories is up one point to 18%.

McNeil is probably ahead of Baillie because he is better known. He led the Liberals in the last election, while Baillie took over from Rodney MacDonald last year.

Though Dexter's personal support is lower than his support among decided voters, that is merely because of the inclusion of the "none of the above/don't know". If we took those out, Dexter gets 44% on the Best Premier question.

A new riding model for Nova Scotia is now ready, though it isn't a regional model just yet. As CRA doesn't break down their polls by region, at least not until a campaign is under way, a regional model would not make any difference at this point.

With these numbers, the New Democrats win 31 of the 52 seats in the Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly, unchanged from their current standing. The Progressive Conservatives win 11 seats, one more than they did in 2009 and four more than they currently have, while the Liberals win 10, one fewer than the last election and three fewer than they currently occupy.

The New Democrats dominate the Halifax region with 15 seats. The Liberals take the three others.

In the Annapolis Valley and the South Shore, the NDP win seven seats, the Liberals four, and the Progressive Conservatives three, while in the Fundy and Central regions the NDP wins seven and the Tories four. Cape Breton Island is most split, with four seats going to the PCs, three to the Liberals, and two to the NDP.

The New Democrats are about half-way through their first mandate in Nova Scotia, and it appears to be smooth sailing. At this point, it looks like Darrell Dexter is on track to avoid being a one-term premier.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Quebec-born leaders give federal parties a significant electoral edge

While the nine NDP leadership hopefuls have to wait till March before a winner is named, the Bloc Québécois announced Sunday that Daniel Paillé will be taking the reins of the sovereigntist party. His main opponent in the province will be decided after New Democrats cast their ballots and history suggests that his chances will be greatly improved if they opt for a non-Quebecker. 

You can read the rest of the article on The Globe and Mail website here. You can also read my column in this week's Hill Times here (subscription required, but it is money well spent!), and my piece on what Paillé's victory means at The Huffington Post Canada website here.

Daniel Paillé won the Bloc's leadership race yesterday on the second ballot, defeating Maria Mourani and Jean-François Fortin. Paillé isn't a Member of Parliament but he is in no rush to become one, meaning that a by-election in Quebec is not going to be forced by the resignation of one of the Bloc's four sitting MPs.

Paillé is calculating that he is not going to get much attention in the House of Commons as head of a party without official status. Instead, he can do interviews in Montreal and Quebec City and make preparations for 2015. Jack Layton, after all, spent more than a year outside of the House of Commons after he became leader in 2003. We shall see how it works out for Paillé, but the deck is already stacked against him.

His leadership run, though, was quite successful.

About 38% of the Bloc's members voted, or some 14,000. But the party has been losing members since the election as members allow their memberships to lapse. Undoubtedly, many of the 62% of Bloc members who did not vote are not going to be members this time next year. Though I imagine we won't know how many members the Bloc has in June 2012, that actually might be the better number to determine the participation rate of the Bloc's membership in the leadership race.

Daniel Paillé took 44.1% of the vote on the first ballot (I've seen 44.5% reported elsewhere, but the Bloc's website says 44.05%), with Maria Mourani beating out Jean-François Fortin by only 39 votes to take 28.1% to his 27.8%. That means Fortin was dropped off.

With the preferential system, the second choice of Fortin's supporters was then determined. Roughly 60% of Fortin's voters opted for Paillé, giving him 61.3% of the vote to Mourani's 38.7%.

What is really interesting to contemplate is what would have happened had Fortin received 40 more votes. Mourani would have been dropped off, and I think there is a much better chance that Mourani's voters would have gone to Fortin rather than Paillé. Mourani was the candidate promising to shake things up the most, while Paillé was the "establishment" candidate. Fortin being somewhere in the middle means he could have taken a good swathe of Mourani's support. I imagine Paillé was too close to the 50% mark to lose after the first ballot, as Fortin would have needed about 80% of Mourani's support, but it probably would have been a lot closer.

The endorsement system did its job, which was to gauge support within the party apparatus and give us an idea of the frontrunner. It isn't meant as a predictive model, but it tells us what the party elites think. Often, based on my tests of past leadership races, the party elites reflect the opinion of the general membership. This could be because they are of the same mind, because the elites don't want to be at odds with the membership, or because the membership respects what the elites think. It is probably a combination of all these factors, which is why an endorsement system like this will, more often than not, reflect the eventual result. There are always cases, though, where the membership and the elites do not see eye-to-eye.

What the endorsement system also shows us is how candidates performed within their own membership compared to the elites. Fortin was about par for the course, while Paillé was not as popular among the Bloc's membership as he was among the party's elites. Mourani was the outsider's candidate, as she greatly over-performed expectations. Her support from the Bloc's youth wing, usually the more dedicated supporters of any party, was probably a major factor.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Conservatives up in Abacus poll despite troubles

Despite Peter MacKay’s helicopter ride, admitting to spreading false rumours of an impending resignation of an MP in Montreal and the troubles in Attawapiskat, the Conservatives still hold a comfortable nine-point lead over the opposition New Democrats, according to a poll released this week by Abacus Data.

The online survey was taken between December 2 and December 4 in the midst of these developing stories. Yet, compared to Abacus’s last poll dating from mid-August, before the death of Jack Layton, the Conservatives are up two points to 40 per cent support.

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

For my full analysis of the poll, check out the article. In the meantime, here are the details:
As you can see, things haven't changed too much since the last election in May. And, from Abacus's perspective, there hasn't been much change from August. The biggest national shift has been the two point gain for the Conservatives.

Regionally, there have been a few larger changes: a drop of 16 points for the Tories in the Prairies, a drop of 10 points for the Liberals in British Columbia, and a gain of nine points for the Greens in the Prairies. The most important shift, though, is likely the six point NDP slip in Quebec.

As you can see, I've made a few minor stylistic changes to the graphics as well.

This Abacus poll would not deliver a very different House of Commons. The Conservatives win 162 seats with these numbers, while the New Democrats win 100 seats and the Liberals win 37 seats. The Bloc Québécois doubles its caucus and wins eight seats while the Greens take one.

The Conservatives win 20 seats in British Columbia, 26 in Alberta, 23 in the Prairies, 70 in Ontario, 11 in Quebec, 10 in Atlantic Canada, and two in the north.

The New Democrats win 15 seats in British Columbia, two in Alberta, two in the Prairies, 23 in Ontario, 51 in Quebec, six in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north.

The Liberals win no seats in British Columbia or Alberta, three in the Prairies, 13 in Ontario, five in Quebec, 16 in Atlantic Canada, and none in the north.

There are also a number of seats in Quebec that are on the bubble between the NDP and the Bloc Québécois, so it is possible that the Bloc could manage official party status with these numbers.

Steady as she goes, though, for the most part. A bit of a tighter race in Quebec and British Columbia looks interesting, but this is generally what we saw on election night.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

November 2011 federal poll averages

Six federal polls were released for the month of November, three of them national, two of them for Quebec, and one for British Columbia. In all, 6,804 Canadians were surveyed during the month. The weighted average of these polls indicates that, compared to the October averages, the Conservatives have shed the most support, but it is the Greens and the Bloc Québécois that have made the gains.
The Conservatives averaged 36.1% national support in November, down 2.3 points from October. The New Democrats and Liberals each dropped 0.5 points, to 29.0% and 23.5%, respectively.

The Greens made a 1.9-point gain and stood at 5.2%, while the Bloc Québécois was up 1.4 points to 4.9% nationally.

At this level of support, the Conservatives are back to where they were in August, when the death of Jack Layton resulted in a bump of sympathy for the New Democrats. At 29%, however, the NDP is at their lowest level of support since April.
The Conservatives dropped 3.6 points in Ontario and stood at 38.1% in November, ahead of the Liberals who, at 33.1%, were up 1.9 points. This is the highest the Liberals have reached in Ontario since before the federal election. The New Democrats were up 0.1 point to 22.9%, while the Greens were up 0.2 points to 4.5%.

In Quebec, the New Democrats dropped 7.5 points from October to November, a major shift in support. They averaged 37% last month, their lowest level of support since April. The Bloc Québécois gained 5.5 points to reach 22.9%, their highest since the election, while the Conservatives slipped 0.6 points to 19.0%. The Liberals were up 2.8 points to 16.0%, and the Greens were up 1.2 points to 3.2%.

The Conservatives dropped 5.6 points to 36.7% in British Columbia, allowing the New Democrats to pick up 8.3 points to reach 32.5%. The Liberals fell 8.7 points to 17.4%, while the Greens were up 6.2 points to 13.1%. This is the highest level of Green support in the province since January.

In Alberta, the Conservatives are unchanged at 60.3%, while the New Democrats are down only 0.7 points to 18.7%. The Liberals were down 2.1 points to 11.8%, and the Greens were up 5.1 points to 7.1%.

There was more change in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, as the Conservatives fell 7.5 points to 40.5%. The NDP picked up 1.7 points and stood at 34.1%, while the Liberals were down 0.4 points to 18.0%. The Greens were up 3.6 points to 4.8%. This is the lowest level of support I have for the Conservatives and the highest for the NDP in the Prairies since I started calculating monthly averages in January 2009. Have I been at this for that long?

Finally, in Atlantic Canada, the Conservatives fell one point to 34.5% while the New Democrats gained 4.1 points to reach 34.8%. The Liberals dropped 4.2 points to 25.2% and the Greens were down 0.2 points to 2.6%, below the 2.9% for "Others".

As you can see, I have changed the positioning of the parties on the seat projection pie chart. I placed the parties according to the left-right spectrum, since it gives a little more information than the random placement I had before. Placing the parties in this manner allows people to, if they wish, look at it from the perspective of left vs. right. You could say that on this chart the left-centre has a strong majority, or you could say that the right-centre has an even stronger majority. Or, you can not look at it this way at all. At least it provides the option.

With the November averages, the Conservatives are projected to win 134 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons, a drop of 15 seats since October and 32 seats from their current standing. The New Democrats win 102 seats, up one from October and unchanged from their current standing, while the Liberals win 68 seats, a gain of 12 since October and a doubling of their current representation. The Bloc Québécois wins three seats, up two from October and down one from their current standing, while the Greens win one seat, unchanged.

The Conservatives take 19 seats in British Columbia, 27 in Alberta, 15 in the Prairies, 51 in Ontario, eight in Quebec, 13 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north. A rough estimate gives them 150 seats in the 338-seat House of Commons that is planned for the 2015 election.

The New Democrats take 12 seats in British Columbia, one in Alberta, eight in the Prairies, 19 in Ontario, 53 in Quebec, eight in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north. Their 338-seat estimate is 110.

The Liberals win four seats in British Columbia, none in Alberta, five in the Prairies, 36 in Ontario, 11 in Quebec, 11 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north. Their 338-seat estimate is 74.

The Bloc's three seats are, of course, in Quebec while the Green seat is in British Columbia. They would still win this many seats in the 338 scenario.

November was a bit of a rough month for the Conservatives, as they dropped in every part of the country except Alberta. Their slips in Atlantic Canada and Quebec were insignificant, but British Columbia, the Prairies, and Ontario look to be important battlegrounds going forward. Yes, I include the Prairies as I believe that Saskatchewan will be a much more competitive province in 2015.

For the NDP, they are looking good in the West and on the Atlantic coast, but they need to be doing much better in Ontario if they ever want to form government. Their drop in Quebec is not too worrisome just yet as the Bloc hasn't really taken off, but if they choose the wrong leader from the province's perspective things could get dangerous for them.

And the Liberals are not looking very good anywhere but in Ontario. They are generally back to where they were there prior to the May debacle, but they are shedding support in Atlantic Canada, the one region they salvaged in the federal election.

Of course, things are going to be shaken up on Sunday when the Bloc names its leader and in March when the NDP names theirs. But any gains will need to be maintained by these new leaders and any losses will need to be made good, making their current standings in the polls not insignificant.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Nash and Ashton gain endorsements

The New Democratic leadership hopefuls held their first debate on Sunday. It was a generally polite affair, but with two debates (one in French, one in English) between nine candidates squeezed into 120 minutes there wasn't much time to really get into it.

If I'm not mistaken, subsequent debates will be either all in French or all in English, which should give the participants more time to get into detail.

I thought it not a bad debate to get things started. But with the buzz about Nathan Cullen's performance, Brian Topp's targeting of Paul Dewar, and the trouble with Robert Chisholm's French, one is led to believe that the endorsement rankings may be a few notches below actual support for several candidates.

One hopes that a poll or two might be commissioned now that the debates have begun. While it won't tell us what NDP members think, it will give us an idea of what Canadians and NDP supporters think. These kinds of polls may not predict the race's outcome, but it will give us something to compare what the voting public wants to what the members decide.

But this being Wednesday, it is time for an endorsement update.

As always, you can open the images on the right in a new window to magnify.

Peggy Nash is this week's big winner, as she gained the endorsement of three-term Victoria MP Denise Savoie. Though she may not be a household name, Savoie does have quite a bit of respect on Parliament Hill as Deputy Speaker.

Savoie gives Nash an extra 7.5 points, bumping her up to 89 overall, or 19.5% of currently available endorsement points.

Nash is now only 15 points behind Thomas Mulcair, who has not picked up an endorsement in some time. Topp, too, has been quiet on this front. There are still 43 sitting NDP MPs that have not endorsed any candidates, so there are still plenty of points to go around, not to mention the support of NDP party leaders in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Prince Edward Island and the myriad of MLAs, MHAs, and MPPs in those provinces.

Niki Ashton is also up one point thanks to the endorsement of British Columbia MLA Guy Gentner. This gives Ashton 18.5 points to 4.1% of the total, pushing her back into fifth place ahead of Paul Dewar.

None of the other candidates have picked up any endorsements this week. Will the debate shake any fence sitters loose? I imagine we'll get another round of endorsements after the holidays to get the ball rolling on 2012.

(Click here for an explanation of the point system and here for the value of various endorsements.)

The Bloc Québécois leadership race comes to a close on Sunday, as the winner will be announced. The race is effectively over, as votes were due last week.

EDIT: Sorry for the mistake, this is not true. For the life of me, however, I am sure that the Bloc originally stated that mailed-in ballots had to be post-marked by November 28. Now, votes need to be received by December 10. Did they change the rules mid-campaign, or am I remembering incorrectly? I imagine it is the latter, as it would have been noticed more widely. It seems there was a misunderstanding somewhere.

EDIT Part 2: On further review, it seems that a statement on the Bloc's website ("Les bulletins de vote devront être expédiés au plus tard le 28 novembre 2011.") was misinterpreted by many people, including myself. It says that the ballots should be sent at the latest by November 28. The statement is referring to the Bloc sending out the ballots by November 28, not that voters need to send them out by then. The more detailed rule document makes this clear. Apologies for the error. 

But that hasn't stopped the endorsements from pouring into Daniel Paillé's campaign. Shortly after my last update, Paillé emerged from a meeting with the Parti Québécois's caucus with the endorsement of 21 PQ MNAs.

This has given him a big 21-point jump, pushing him up to 53.7% of all available points. Jean-François Fortin has dropped down to 30.2% while Maria Mourani is now at 16.1% of the total available.

These endorsements indicate that if Paillé wins he will have good support inside both the PQ and the BQ.

Sunday's result could be a bit of a surprise, though. The race has been relatively low-key and it is difficult to get a gauge on what the members think. After May's defeat, how many of the party's 36,000 or so members are still engaged enough to vote? Are the ones who are engaged looking to change the party, which would benefit Fortin and Mourani, or are they the never-say-die, veteran base, which would benefit Paillé?

It will be interesting to see the results. I'd say that Paillé is most likely to win, but it is very possible that Fortin could also pull through. I don't think Mourani has much of a chance, but no outcome can be completely ruled out.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Charest wins, Marois loses, neither does good enough

Before getting to last night's results in Bonaventure, I invite you to take a look at my article at The Huffington Post Canada on Sunday's NDP debate.

Normally, Bonaventure does not showcase gripping electoral races. Nathalie Normandeau and Gérard D. Lévesque were both long-time and popular local MNAs, and the riding is solidly in the Liberal camp. But with Jean Charest's numbers tanking, Pauline Marois's doing worse, and the emergence of François Legault's CAQ, all eyes were on the by-election. RDI, Quebec's equivalent of CBC News Network, kept a running tally of the votes as they were coming in.

To many, this election was a test of Marois's leadership, which is already on the rocks. She could have lowered the stakes in Bonaventure, but instead she spent a lot of the campaign beside her candidate, Sylvain Roy. This made it personal. And the results are in the uncertain gray area of not good enough, but not bad enough to topple her.
This first chart compares the vote share of the parties in the 2008 general election and last night's by-election, with the 2008 result on the left and the 2011 result on the right.

As you can see, it was a much closer race between the Liberals and the PQ. The Liberals dropped 14.7 points to below the 50% threshold, while the PQ picked up 8.1 points.

Legault's CAQ did not present a candidate. Marois said that had he done so, the federalist vote would have split and the PQ would have won. I'm not sure I agree, as the last poll from Segma (which turned out to be very close to the result) showed that the CAQ would take more support away from the PQ than it would the Liberals.

The ADQ dropped 1.2 points while the Greens did not run a candidate in 2008.

Québec Solidaire improved its score dramatically, picking up 5.7 points to go from 3.2% to 8.9%. Bonaventure is part of the federal riding that elected an NDP MP in May, so this may not be surprising. Patricia Chartier, the QS candidate, even works for the federal NDP. But that QS can do as well as this in a rural riding is a good sign for them. Their generally decent poll results, at least compared to their election results, seem to be for real.

I don't think the PQ was ever in the running to take this riding. If the Parti Québécois was more popular at the moment this Liberal fortress could have easily fallen as Charest is extremely unpopular. It happened last year in Kamouraska-Témiscouata. But Marois's troubles always made a PQ victory here unlikely.

This puts her in a gray area. There was some talk that after being defeated in Bonaventure a whole swathe of PQ MNAs would resign from caucus. If the PQ had gotten over the 40% threshold I would have thought that Bonaventure would have been an unmistakeable moral victory for the PQ and Marois. Below 35% would have been only a few ticks better than 2008 and so would have sunk her. But at 37%, Marois neither did badly enough to force her opponents within the party to act nor did she do well enough to shut them up completely.
Turnout in Bonaventure was actually quite good for a by-election: 54.6%. Accordingly, there were only 725 fewer valid ballots cast in the by-election than there was in the last general election in the riding. This makes it easy to compare total votes.

The difficulty for Charest to claim anything but a disappointing victory is clear. Damien Arsenault, the new MNA for the riding, took 2,820 fewer votes than did Normandeau only three years ago.

The Parti Québécois gained 1,091, a modest but positive amount, while Québec Solidaire almost tripled their vote haul, going from 533 to 1,422.

The only winner from last night's vote is, in my view, Québec Solidaire. They increased their support by a significant amount in the kind of riding that isn't supposed to be fertile territory for QS. Had this by-election taken place in central or eastern Montreal, we might have easily seen a second QS MNA elected.

Both the Liberals and the PQ can't take too much from last night's vote. The Liberals won, yes, but they were always supposed to win. Their vote dropped significantly, and had the CAQ been in the race it would have dropped even more. For the PQ, it was a good showing but not nearly as good as it should have been if Pauline Marois really isn't the problem. To have the party leader in the riding for much of the campaign during the tenure of a supremely unpopular government and for the PQ to only gain eight points is not much to boast about. But at the same time, it is not a step backwards.

The big loser then, has to be the ADQ. The ADQ took fewer votes from a slightly smaller pool. While this isn't a mark against the CAQ, which is in talks for a merger with the ADQ, it certainly doesn't give Gérard Deltell a lot of bargaining power. A merger now more easily becomes a takeover.

The Bonaventure by-election was probably not going to be a decisive moment in Quebec's politics. The next 24 hours could prove me wrong, but it appears that things are still in limbo for the time being.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Farmers better represented in the House than the field

The House of Commons sealed the fate of the Canadian Wheat Board last week, removing the organization’s control over grain sales in Western Canada. The decision that will have a profound effect on the lives of thousands of farmers was approved by a House made up of, among others, lawyers, doctors and career politicians. But farmers, too, voted to end the board’s 76 year monopoly. 

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

The House of Commons has historically been seen as a debating club for lawyers, but that isn't quite the case. Though lawyers have been the most common occupation of MPs, farmers come in second. They used to make up a larger proportion of the House than they do today, but that was also the case in the general population as well. The Globe article looks at this in light of the demise of the Wheat Board.

But in the course of my research, I noticed a few amusing little tidbits. Some of you may have seen me write about this on Twitter last week.

In the House of Commons' 144-year history, 27 MPs listed "gentleman" as their occupation. This was an "occupation" more common to a bygone era, but Peter Stoffer, current MP for Sackville-Eastern Shore has listed his occupation (at least in the past) as "country gentleman"!

Fans of There Will be Blood may find it funny that five MPs listed their occupation as "oilman". Surprisingly, only one of them was from Alberta - the other four were from Ontario.

There have been eight students, six of them currently sitting in the ranks of the New Democratic Party. The other two were first elected in 1921 and 1974.

Nine MPs have been "persons of independent means" and three were undertakers.

All of this information, and the information used for this Globe article, was gleaned from this website. Click around and you'll find a lot of interesting stuff.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Liberals in second?

With an election almost four years away, the stakes are low. But are the Liberals really back in second place?

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

Nanos released a new poll earlier this week. Putting the Liberals in second place ahead of the New Democrats, it got some attention.
Nanos was last in the field October 20-24, and since then the Conservatives have dropped 2.1 points. They stand at 35.6% in this poll, a level of support the party was very familiar with for the year prior to the May 2011 election.

The Liberals, at 28.1%, have gained 4.7 points while the New Democrats, with 27.3%, have dropped 2.7 points.

The Bloc Québécois and Greens are at 3.9% apiece.

The most interesting result is in Ontario, where the Liberals are up 8.3 points to 38.8%. The Conservatives are down 5.2 points to 37.2%, while the NDP is down 2.9 points to 19.6%. This is a remarkable result for the Liberals, but it is difficult to attribute this to the Ontario election. The big jump in Liberal support has come since that late October poll, which was done well after the provincial vote. There could be a bit of delay, but it doesn't seem to explain away all of this increase. It appears that Ontario is reverting to its pre-2011 status of the Liberals and Tories neck-and-neck and the NDP at 20% or lower. An Ontario-based NDP leader like Brian Topp, Peggy Nash, or Paul Dewar might help in that department.

In Quebec, Nanos confirms what four others polls have shown: the NDP is below 40%. They've dropped 7.4 points to 37.7%, while the Liberals are up 5.4 points to 23.6%. That is a much higher result than other polls have shown. The Conservatives are up five points to 20.1% while the Bloc is up 0.7 points to 15.9%. Nanos continues to be the only pollster showing the Bloc at such a low level of support.

Elsewhere, the Conservatives are down a point in British Columbia but still lead with 39.4%. The New Democrats are up 2.7 points to 28.8% while the Liberals are down 5.8 points to 20.4%. The three-way race in Atlantic Canada continues, while in the Prairies (which Nanos lumps Alberta into) the Conservatives are down 7.3 points to 48.6%. The NDP is down 2.2 points to 24.3% while the Liberals are up 6.6 points to 21%.

In the 308-seat House of Commons, the Conservatives win 132 seats with these poll numbers. The New Democrats take 94 seats and the Liberals 81, with one seat going to the Greens in British Columbia.

The Conservatives win 20 seats in British Columbia, 25 in Alberta, 17 in the Prairies, 46 in Ontario, nine in Quebec, 14 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north.

The New Democrats win 11 seats in British Columbia, one in Alberta, six in the Prairies, 17 in Ontario, 52 in Quebec, six in Atlantic Canada and one in the north.

The Liberals win four seats in British Columbia, two in Alberta, five in the Prairies, 43 in Ontario, 14 in Quebec, 12 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north.

Yes, two Liberal seats in Alberta. In vain, I will try to head-off the incredulity that this will cause. I already see the "two Liberal seats in Alberta?!?!" comments coming.

Nanos doesn't separate Alberta from the two other Prairie provinces like every other pollster does. Because of this, I need to separate the results myself, and doing so with this poll gives the Conservatives 52% and the Liberals 18% in Alberta. This means a drop of more than 1/5th for the Tories and a doubling of Liberal support. With that happening, the Liberals gain Calgary Northeast and Edmonton Centre.

Do I think this would actually happen? No. But that is what the numbers show. Double the support of the Liberals and drop the Tories by almost one quarter, and, surprise surprise, the Conservatives don't sweep everything but Edmonton-Strathcona.

With a 338-seat House of Commons, a quick estimate gives the Conservatives 148 seats, the New Democrats 100 seats, and the Liberals 89, with the Greens still winning one.

This is only one poll, and there isn't enough information yet to say that the Liberals have definitely moved into second place, or even whether they are in a tight race with the NDP. Yes, the next election is almost four years away and, yes, the NDP has no leader, but this poll is what it is. What it suggests is that the Liberals are not dead and do have potential to make a comeback, while the Conservative lead is quite wobbly.