Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mulcair nabs western endorsements

Four candidates picked up major endorsements over the last week as the campaign enters its final stage. Thomas Mulcair made the biggest splash, however, gaining support from a former premier and a slew of party luminaries in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.
The biggest name added to Thomas Mulcair's campaign was that of former British Columbia Premier Mike Harcourt, who led the province from 1991 to 1996 and the provincial party from 1987 to 1996. Mulcair also received the endorsements of a great deal of other party members in the province, but none that are recorded in this system.

Saskatchewan also plumped for Mulcair in huge numbers, with four former Saskatchewan MPs (John Burton, Ron Fisher, Vic Althouse, and Ray Funk) recorded in the rankings. Mulcair got the support of several former MLAs as well, some of them former cabinet ministers, but the eight points he gained from these four former MPs should represent his new-found Saskatchewan support well enough.

Brian Topp also landed some important endorsements this past week, gaining the support of the 130,000-strong Communications, Energy, and Paperworkers Union of Canada. He also received the endorsements of Rachel Notley, an NDP MLA from Alberta, and Warren McCall, an NDP MLA from Saskatchewan. These are, to my knowledge, the first provincial legislators from these two provinces to make an endorsement.

Nathan Cullen expanded his support outside of British Columbia with the endorsements of former Ontario MP Lynn McDonald and the current Manitoba Minister for Healthy Living and Seniors, Jim Rondeau.

Finally, Peggy Nash received the support of Ontario MPP Jonah Schein.

(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.)

Brian Topp has gained 8.8 endorsement points, allowing him to tread water at 29.9% of all currently assigned endorsement points. He remains at the top of the leader board.

Thomas Mulcair has gained 18 endorsement points and has surpassed Peggy Nash to re-take second spot. He now has 24.9% of the points, a gain of 1.5 percentage points since last week. This is his highest share since January 4.

Peggy Nash gained one endorsement point but dropped 0.8 percentage points to 22.6%, her lowest share since January 18.

Paul Dewar did not gain any endorsement points and so dropped by 0.5 percentage points to 13.5%, his lowest mark since January 25.

Nathan Cullen gained 2.5 endorsement points to reach 5.8%, his highest share of the campaign so far, while Niki Ashton dropped to 3.4%. Martin Singh remains without a single endorsement point.

When Forum polled Quebecers recently, they asked who they would like to see as the next leader of the NDP. The result may (not) shock you.
Thomas Mulcair is the choice of 46% of Quebecers, 48% of francophones, 26% of non-francophones, 58% of New Democratic supporters in Quebec, and 82% of decided NDP supporters in the province. He is absolutely dominant, surpassing the "don't knows" in every demographic except non-francophones (49% of them are undecided).

While Brian Topp may very well be doing better among the NDP's membership in the province, he does not pose much of a challenge for the hearts and minds of Quebecers. Though he is within the MOE of the other candidates, he is the consensus second choice with 5% support among Quebecers, 4% among francophones, 9% among non-francophones, 6% among NDP supporters, and 9% among decided NDP supporters.

There is no real third choice, especially considering we're talking about a range of 2% to 4% for the third place finishers in each group. For what it is worth, and it is worth very little, Peggy Nash comes up third or tied for third among all Quebecers, francophones, and decided NDP supporters. Paul Dewar is tied for third among all Quebecers, Nathan Cullen is tied for third among all Quebecers and francophones, and Niki Ashton is third or tied for third among all Quebecers and non-francophones.

Though it seems unlikely that Thomas Mulcair will get the support of as much as 82% of the NDP's 12,000+ members in Quebec, he is probably going to receive a comfortable majority of the province's support. That puts him in a strong position, particularly considering his inroads this week in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, home to 50,000 NDP members. I do believe that the endorsement rankings are correct in making Brian Topp the "establishment" favourite, but Mulcair is probably alone at the top among the members as a whole. There are still a few debates to go and Mulcair's campaign is set to announce another caucus endorsement at noon today. The race continues.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Alberta Tories in driver's seat

CTV released a new poll by ThinkHQ Public Affairs for the Alberta provincial election last week, and it echoes what some other polls have been showing. Also released last week were a few riding polls for Lethbridge, indicating that the Tories are on track to sweep the city after it was closely contested in 2008.
ThinkHQ found that the Progressive Conservatives lead with 42%, 13 points up on Wildrose who trail with 29%.

The New Democrats come in third with 13% while the Liberals are fourth with 12%.

This poll was added to the projection on February 25.

This seems to give further indication that the race in Alberta is much more competitive than some other polls have suggested. Nevertheless, the Progressive Conservatives are very comfortably ahead.

Their widest lead is in Edmonton, where the Tories have 40% support to 20% for Wildrose and the NDP. The Liberals trail with 17%.

The margin between the PCs and Wildrose is only six points in Calgary, with 41% to 35%. The Liberals are third with 14% while the NDP stands at 7% in the city.

I reverse-engineered the results in the rest of Alberta as ThinkHQ did not provide them in their report. By my estimate, this poll would have put the Tories at 45% outside of the two main cities. Wildrose would be at 31%, the NDP at 13%, and the Liberals at 6%. I emphasize that this is an estimate, but it should be correct to within a point or three.

Both Alison Redford and Danielle Smith have net positive approval ratings, with Redford scoring a +21 (53% approval to 32% disapproval) and Smith a +13 (43% approval to 30% disapproval). Brian Mason (-15) and Raj Sherman (-11) have net negative approval ratings.

We've heard from Lethbridge College before. Polls being produced by colleges and universities are wonderfully common in the United States, but unfortunately Lethbridge College seems to be the only Canadian school that regularly puts out polling data. They polled the two ridings in Lethbridge, of note due to Bridget Pastoor's floor-crossing from the Liberals to the Tories in 2011.
The chart compares the results of the Lethbridge polls to the current projections for these ridings. They line-up generally well, and aside from the NDP in Lethbridge East and the "Others" in Lethbridge West are all within the projected ranges. But since the results for the NDP and the Others in these two ridings are not within the ranges, I will be adding this riding poll to the projection. I have not done so yet, so this comparison between poll and projection does not include the riding poll data.

Riding polls are added to the projection to provide a benchmark for adjustments going forward. The projections for Lethbridge East and West will be weighted to partially include this poll, whose data will be adjusted as voting intentions shift at the regional level. In other words, riding polls are not added as a snapshot in time but rather a starting point for further shifts in support.

The poll itself shows that in Lethbridge West the Tories lead with 35.8%, well ahead of the Liberals (24.3%) and the NDP (20.6%). Compared to the 2008 election, however, the Tories are down eight points and the Liberals are down 11. Both Wildrose and the NDP have more than doubled their support, an indication of the changing landscape province-wide.

In Lethbridge East, Pastoor has taken a lot of her support with her to the Tories, as she stands at 45.6% to 23.4% for Wildrose and only 15.3% for the Liberals. The PCs have picked up six points since 2008 while the Liberals are down a whopping 31. But it appears likely that, as a result of Liberals moving over to the Tories, some Tories have moved over to Wildrose - they are up 17 points. The NDP is also up from 6% to 13.4%.

From a projection stand-point, I'm quite pleased that the mechanism I have for estimating the support of floor-crossers has worked so well in Lethbridge East.

Both the ThinkHQ and Lethbridge polls show that the Progressive Conservatives are still very much in control of the situation and that their brand is strong. But it also shows that Wildrose's increase in support is very real - from 7% and 6% in Lethbridge West/East they have gone to 15% and 23%, respectively. If this sort of increase occurs across the board, Wildrose will be able to do very well in ridings in which they have a solid base of support.

What these polls also show is that the race for third is not going well for the Liberals. Provincially they are at risk of dropping behind the NDP in the popular vote, as well as the very real possibility they will be the fourth party in the legislature when the dust settles. Their support in Lethbridge, just one example, has plummeted from 35% and 46% in the two ridings to only 24% and 15%. Considering the margin of error, they also at risk of falling behind the NDP in Lethbridge, after outpacing them by between 25 and 40 points in 2008. The race at the bottom may mark a shift in Alberta politics just as much as the race for the top.

Monday, February 27, 2012

PQ leads by one. Or nine?

A CROP poll released last week got quite a bit of attention as it placed the Parti Québécois narrowly ahead of Jean Charest's Liberals. Another poll that I noticed today on Forum's website shows that the PQ leads by nine points over the Liberals and that François Legault's CAQ has dropped to only 19% support.

In my article for The Globe and Mail today I combined the Léger and CROP polls to make a more well-rounded projection of the situation in Quebec. You can read it here.

I wrote about the Forum poll for Le Huffington Post Québec here. The article is in French. I think I was the first person to notice the poll, or at least write about it, as I can't find any mention of it elsewhere.

CROP was last in the field January 17-21, and since then the Parti Québécois has picked up a whopping nine points to lead with 30%. Though this shows a huge gain in support for the PQ, CROP's polling was well below what Léger was finding, so it is more likely that the PQ at 21% in CROP's last poll was at the lower end of the margin of error.
The Liberals are unchanged at 29%, while the CAQ is down five points to 26%.

Québec Solidaire is down three points to 8% while the Greens are down two to 3%. Option Nationale is unchanged at 2%.

The Parti Québécois leads in the regions of Quebec with 35%, up 15 points since mid-January. They are second in Quebec City with 31% (+13) and in Montreal with 26% (+4).

The Liberals lead in Montreal with 37% (+8) but are trailing in third in Quebec City with 18% (-8) and the rest of  Quebec with 22% (-8).

The CAQ leads in Quebec City with 40% (-1), is second in the regions with 28% (-3) and is third in Montreal with 22% (-7).

The PQ is up 12 points to 36% among francophones, while the CAQ and Liberals are down three points apiece to 31% and 18%, respectively.

Jean Charest and François Legault are tied at 21% on the leadership question, while Pauline Marois is close behind with 19%. Support for sovereignty was at 39% in this poll.

With these numbers, the Parti Québécois would form a minority government with 55 seats. The Liberals would win 39 seats and the CAQ 29, with two seats going to Québec Solidaire (both in Montreal).

The PQ wins 13 seats in and around Montreal, four in Quebec City, and 38 in the rest of Quebec.

The Liberals win 34 seats in and around Montreal, none in Quebec City, and five in the rest of Quebec.

The CAQ wins nine seats in and around Montreal, seven in Quebec City, and 13 in the rest of Quebec.

In other words, this poll is very similar to Léger's and shows the same sort of battle evolving: Liberals in Montreal, CAQ in Quebec City, PQ everywhere else. But increasingly we're seeing that the PQ is going to be able to challenge the Liberals in and around Montreal and the CAQ in the suburbs of the city, meaning that the PQ is best placed to form government.

Now to the Forum poll, which argues that the PQ is back to where it was in early 2011.
As far as I can tell, Forum hasn't waded into the provincial scene in Quebec before. This is their first Quebec poll, and it is quite an unusual one - or at least compared to what other polls have shown.

Forum has the Parti Québécois at 39% to 30% for the Liberals, 19% for the CAQ, and 6% for Québec Solidaire.

The poll, however, was conducted on February 23. That was the same day that La Presse published the new CROP poll that put the CAQ in third place, four points behind the leading PQ. It is unlikely that this news could not have had a big effect on the poll, and this is always a danger when polls are conducted on one day only.

Nevertheless, the Parti Québécois leads in Montreal with 35% and on the "North Shore" (47%) and "South Shore" (46%). I've tried to find out how exactly Forum defines these regions, but I assume it is the Montreal and Quebec City CMAs with the North/South shores representing those areas north and south of the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Rivers. The PQ is second in Quebec City with 30%.

The Liberals lead in Quebec City with 33% and are second in Montreal (33%), the north shore (27%) and the south shore (24%).

The CAQ is in third across the board, with 18% support in Montreal and the north shore, 19% support on the south shore, and 26% in Quebec City.

Forum gives the PQ a huge lead among francophones: 43% to 25% for the Liberals and 21% for the CAQ.

Jean Charest has the worst approval rating at 28% to 61% disapproving, a negative 33 rating. François Legault splits at 31% to 42% for a negative 11 rating, while Pauline Marois has 38% approval to 47% disapproval, for a net -9.

Forum put a twist on the usual sovereignty question, giving respondents four options. They are somewhat differently worded compared to what you usually see in Quebec polls, but boil down to sovereignty, sovereignty-association, distinct society, and status quo.

A majority chose the first two options (26% sovereignty, 25% sovereignty-association) while 20% chose a distinct society and 24% the status quo. Of PQ voters, 78% chose the first two options while 71% of Liberal voters chose the last two options. The CAQ was divided every which way: 17% sovereignty, 29% sovereignty-association, 26% distinct society, 25% status quo.

There are many ways to read this. Support for sovereignty among CAQ supporters could be read as 17% or as much as 46%. Or support for a change of status of some sort hits 72%. On the other hand, support for a future aligned with Canada among CAQ supporters is 80%. These numbers can be spun in any number of ways.

Assuming that Forum divides the province geographically as I've spelled out above, this poll would deliver 75 seats to the Parti Québécois and a majority government. The Liberals would win 40 seats and the CAQ only eight - one fewer than they have right now. Québec Solidaire wins two seats, both in Montreal.

Regionally, the PQ wins 28 seats in Montreal, two in Quebec City, and 45 in the rest of Quebec.

The Liberals win 28 seats in Montreal, six in Quebec City, and six in the rest of Quebec.

The CAQ wins no seats in Montreal, three in Quebec City, and five in the rest of Quebec.

So instead of a PQ minority and a respectable third-place showing for the CAQ, Forum sees a PQ majority and a disaster for François Legault. I imagine the truth is somewhere in between, but that a poll can produce such a result indicates just how soft the CAQ's support truly is and that Legault is fighting Marois for the hearts and minds of fence-sitting Quebecers, not Charest. Jean Charest looks to be stuck at around 30% and has a solid base, which is not a horrible position for the strong campaigner. He could turn that into 35% and squeak out another victory, but the campaign could turn against him and the PQ could romp to a majority win.

This might all be resolved in a matter of months if Jean Charest calls an election. But if he doesn't, and we have to wait until the fall or the spring of 2013 for a resolution, the roller coaster ride will continue.

Friday, February 24, 2012

NDP leads in Quebec in CROP polling

No, this isn't a re-post of the infamous CROP poll that came out during the campaign, marking the beginning of the NDP's rise in the province. But considering that the last poll we saw coming out of Quebec put the NDP in second behind the Liberals, it is worth noting that they are still on top according to CROP.
CROP was last in the field January 19-23, and since then the New Democrats have gained two points to sit at 31%, just above the psychological bar of 30%. It is also, in my estimation, an important bar for seats. Once the NDP drops below 30%, they start to lose seats in bunches.

The Bloc Québécois is up two points to 24%, while the Conservatives are down two to 22%. The Liberals are up one to 20%.

This might seem to completely dispel the most recent Forum poll which put the Liberals ahead in the province. While the poll certainly has the Liberals at a lower mark in Quebec, it is nevertheless the best result for the Liberals in a CROP poll since October 2010. It seems safe to say, then, that the Liberals are doing relatively well in Quebec.

This 24% is also the highest that the BQ has registered in CROP's polling since the May 2011 election, while the 30% satisfaction rating of the Conservative government is the lowest since April of last year.

In the all-important francophone demographic, the New Democrats hold a narrow edge over the Bloc with 31% to 29%, a net gain of two points for the Bloc on the NDP since the end of January. The Conservatives are down one to 19% while the Liberals are unchanged at 17%.

With the small sample sizes of non-francophones, wide variations are to be expected: the NDP has gained 10 points in this demographic since January while the Tories have lost 13. But it is interesting to note that the three parties are virtually neck-and-neck. It makes the West Island a bit of a free-for-all, with a possibility that all three parties could win a seat on the island.

But in the Montreal region as a whole, the New Democrats are up four points and lead with 33%. The three other parties are tied at 22%, but that is a gain of three points for the Liberals and a drop of one for the Tories and two for the Bloc.

In Quebec City, the Conservatives are down one but still comfortably lead with 37%. Their closest rival, the NDP, is down two points to 23% while the Bloc is up five to 20%. This is actually very bad news for the New Democrats, as CROP's definition of Quebec City does not extend to the Lévis area where the Tories hold their seats. In other words, the NDP risks being swept from Quebec City with these numbers.

In the rest of the province, the NDP is up one to 31% while the Bloc is up five to 27%. The Liberals and Conservatives are tied at 19%, with the Tories dropping four points.

This would likely result in the New Democrats winning 41 seats on the current 75-seat map, with the Liberals winning 13, the Conservatives 12, and the Bloc Québécois nine.

While 48% of Quebecers were undecided or responded "none of the above" on who is best suited to be Prime Minister, 19% of Quebecers feel that Stephen Harper is the best option. Liberal Bob Rae comes up a close second with 16%, despite his interim status. By comparison, Nycole Turmel (a francophone Quebecer to boot) scores only 8%. Daniel Paillé registered 7%, his highest so far and the highest any Bloc leader has polled (whether undefined or identified as Vivian Barbot, who was president of the party) since Gilles Duceppe's resignation. His numbers are still well below Duceppe's, but he appears to be gaining a little bit of traction.

This poll breaks a streak of four consecutive surveys pegging NDP support at below 30% in the province, which is good news for the party. That they hold a seven point edge over their nearest rival is also positive, after trailing in one recent poll and leading the Bloc by only one point in another. They are still not out of the woods, however, as they are losing ground to the Bloc Québécois among francophones and it does not appear that they are in a position to hold on to Quebec City. That is nothing new - they haven't lead in the region in any Léger or CROP poll since November.

New Democrats should keep the champagne cork in the bottle for now. Since the election, CROP has generally pegged NDP support higher than other polls taken at around the same time. Their NDP numbers have been, on average, about 3.3 points higher. Whether CROP is on the money while the others are incorrect is certainly possible, and CROP has often been closer to Léger's polling than those of the other firms that are not Quebec-based and poll nationwide, but it would appear that CROP is probably near the high range of likely NDP support in Quebec.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Double-digit lead for B.C. New Democrats

I'm catching up a little with this Ipsos-Reid poll done for Global News earlier this month, but its findings are worth taking a peek at.
This poll was conducted well before Premier Christy Clark dropped B.C.'s budget this week. Heavy on restraint, the budget could lure some B.C. Conservatives back to the B.C. Liberals, but whether it will be good enough to hold the centre for the Liberals remains to be seen.

The B.C. New Democrats led with 44% in this survey, well ahead of the Liberals at 32% and the Conservatives at 16%.

Ipsos-Reid was last in the field between September 28-October 3 of last year, and since then the NDP has slipped only one point.

But the Liberals have dropped six, demonstrating the big problem for the party of late. The NDP has not roared ahead so much as the Liberals have fallen behind, primarily to the benefit of the Conservatives, up four since last autumn.

The B.C. New Democrats lead in Vancouver with 43% (-2), on Vancouver Island with 50% (-4), and in the Interior/North with 42% (+3). The Liberals are up three points to 38% in Vancouver, down 10 to 21% on Vancouver Island, and down 15 in the Interior/North to 31%. This is where the Liberals have been bleeding support.

With these levels of support, the B.C. New Democrats would win 55 seats and form a majority government, with the B.C. Liberals winning 29 seats and the B.C. Conservatives only one.

This poll has good personal numbers for Clark, however. Her approval/disapproval rating is split at 47%, but she scores 31% on the Best Premier question, compared to 25% for Adrian Dix. He has the better approval rating, though, at 45% to 36%.

John Cummins of the Conservatives has an approval rating of 24% to 29% disapproval, with only 11% saying he would be the best person to be Premier.

But with the new budget, British Columbia could be in flux. The Liberals have been trying to portray Dix as a profligate spender, and now with a very fiscally conservative budget on the books they are at least in a position to cast themselves in a different light by comparison. We'll find out in the coming months whether it will stick, and whether British Columbians are in the mood for austerity in the first place.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Topp, Dewar make endorsement gains

A relatively quiet week on the endorsement front was compensated for by the release of the number of NDP members eligible to vote in the leadership contest. Party membership ballooned to almost 130,000 members, but the party did not hit the 20,000 members in Quebec that Thomas Mulcair targeted. Instead, a little over 12,000 members from Quebec will be eligible to vote for the next leader of the NDP, a slightly smaller group than the number of people who voted in the Bloc Québécois leadership race in December.
As for the endorsements, Brian Topp landed some new ones this week, the first time he has received some extra points in my rankings for quite awhile.

He received the support of former Manitoba MP Rod Murphy as well as Nova Scotia MLA Gary Burrill. The endorsement of two former BC MPs, Lynn Hunter and James Manly, was also added to the rankings. I can't find any announcement of when these endorsements took place, but they were mentioned in a rundown of Brian Topp's endorsements from British Columbia this week.

Paul Dewar also landed two significant endorsements: Hélène Laverdière, the MP from Laurier-Sainte-Marie, and Hoang Mai, MP for Brossard-La Prairie. They are both rookie MPs from Quebec but they are also some of the brighter ones from the province. They certainly help with Dewar's stature in Quebec after questions about his French.

Nathan Cullen received the endorsement of Taras Natyshak, an MPP from Essex in Ontario. Along with Brian Masse, this is Cullen's second endorsement from the province.

Thomas Mulcair also received the endorsement of Charles Taylor, a very well known academic in Quebec and a former candidate for the NDP. He isn't recorded in my rankings, but it is definitely an important endorsement in the province.

(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.)

Brian Topp has gained 0.4 percentage points in the share of endorsement points and still leads with 29.9%. He is followed closely by Peggy Nash (down 0.5 points to 23.4%) and Thomas Mulcair (down 0.4 points to 23.4% as well). Paul Dewar is up 0.4 points to 14.0%, while Nathan Cullen is unchanged at 5.7%. Niki Ashton has dropped 0.1 percentage point to 3.5%, while Martin Singh remains endorsement-less.

But the share of endorsement points is calculated nationwide, regardless of the number of members in each province of the country. What if we weigh the share of endorsement points regionally by membership?

This is a little difficult as some of the endorsers (i.e. national unions and federal leaders) aren't defined regionally. In those cases, their points have been portioned out proportionately according to the membership numbers across the country.

Regionally, Brian Topp has the largest share in New Brunswick (83.1%), Saskatchewan (64.5%), and British Columbia (53.1%), and is second in the territories (36.6%), Alberta (26.3%), Manitoba (25.2%), Nova Scotia (24.3%), Quebec (16.0%), and Prince Edward Island (13.4%).

Peggy Nash has the largest share in Newfoundland and Labrador (64.0%), Nova Scotia (55.2%), Alberta (45.6%), the territories (48.6%), and Ontario (35.7%). She places second in Saskatchewan (16.6%).

Thomas Mulcair has the largest share in Prince Edward Island (75.8%) and Quebec (62.5%). He places second in Newfoundland and Labrador (27.3%) and New Brunswick (13.8%).

Paul Dewar has the largest share in Manitoba (27.6%) and places second in Ontario (24.8%).

Nathan Cullen has his largest share in British Columbia, where he places second with 15.5%. Niki Ashton's largest share is in Manitoba (19.7%).
Taken together, Brian Topp's big advantage in endorsements in British Columbia, along with good support in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba help him take 33.8% of endorsement points when weighted for regional membership totals. This shows how key British Columbia is in this race.

Peggy Nash's support in Ontario and Alberta allow her to place second comfortably with 24.7% of weighted endorsement points.

The high level of caucus support Thomas Mulcair has in Quebec, however, does not give him much as the province represents less than 1 in 10 members. He places third in the weighted share of endorsement points with 16.7%, while Paul Dewar places fourth with 15.1%.

Nathan Cullen ends up with 6.4% of endorsement points while Niki Ashton gets 3.3%.

But based on the polling that has been released, it would appear that Thomas Mulcair is doing much better than this - which should come as no surprise. Quebec doesn't have as large a share of the NDP's membership as its population and representation warrants, but some members from across the country are undoubtedly recognizing Mulcair's strength in the province and the importance of Quebec to the NDP's future. This is one reason why the endorsement points system is somewhat abstract. It doesn't merely represent the ability of an individual to sign-up new members or pull-in support on voting day. It also accounts for the significance endorsements can have. Does a member in British Columbia care that the MP for a rural francophone riding in Quebec supports Thomas Mulcair? Probably not. Does he or she care that Mulcair has the largest amount of caucus support? Maybe.

If Brian Topp does end up with less than 20% support on the first ballot, as the internal polls from the Dewar and Mulcair campaigns suggested, he will have seriously under-performed expectations. From all of the information that is available (internal polls, polls of supporters, fundraising, membership numbers, endorsements, buzz) it seems relatively clear that if the vote were held today Thomas Mulcair would end up on top with some 25% to 30% support, while Peggy Nash and Paul Dewar would place strongly in the second tier somewhere around 20%. Nathan Cullen looks like he'll have solid support in the low-to-mid teens.

But where Topp ends up is the mystery - could he really have first ballot support in the mid-teens, after having the best fundraising totals and extensive establishment support? The placement of the other four major candidates seems far more predictable, but where Topp finishes could be far more important. Topp is seen to be closer to Peggy Nash on the spectrum and both are based in Toronto. But there's also some talk about the need to have a Quebecer, either Mulcair or Topp, as the next leader. If he is placed second to Mulcair on the first ballot, will he get subsequent ballot support from Nash's voters? If he is placed nearer to the bottom, will his supporters swing to a fellow Quebecer, or will he bolster Nash's chances?

With four candidates almost splitting the vote between them, and with a fifth (Cullen) seemingly having a good chunk of support as well, the final result is difficult to predict. Add to that the pre-determined preferential ballot and the voters who will cast their ballots the day of the convention and things are wildly unpredictable. Imagine a situation where Paul Dewar is the consensus second choice on the preferential ballots submitted before the convention but he makes a mistake in the final days or throws his support to another candidate on the convention floor. He would still be the consensus second choice on the ballots that are already locked in but not on the ballots cast on March 24.

And this potential exists for every candidate, twisting the results in confusing ways. The possibilities boggle the mind.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Toronto--Danforth on track for repeat

On Wednesday, the Toronto Star released the details of a new Forum Research poll for the riding of Toronto--Danforth. The by-election to fill Jack Layton's vacant seat is scheduled for March 19. The poll shows that voters intend to cast their ballots almost exactly the way they did on May 2, 2011.
The poll indicates that Craig Scott, the NDP candidate, has the support of 61% of respondents, identical to the 60.8% who voted for Jack Layton in the last election.

Liberal Grant Gordon has 19% support while Conservative Andrew Keyes has 14%. This compares to the 17.6% and 14.3% that their parties each received in May 2011.

Another 4% intend to vote for the Green candidate Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu, the only major returning candidate from the last election. She got 6.5% at that time. Finally, 2% said they will vote for someone else. They will have the option, as another half-dozen names will be on the ballot.

It does not appear that it will be an exciting election night, with no variation in support of more than 1.5 points since last year.

Demographically, Scott gets his best numbers among voters aged 18-34 (67%) and 55-64 (70%). It could be coincidental, but Jack Layton was 61 when he passed away.

Scott also over-performs among women at 68% support.

Grant Gordon does better among men than he does women, but his numbers are generally uniform across all age groups. This is also the case for the Liberal Party itself in most national polls.

Andrew Keyes does best among the oldest cohort of voters (65+), with 22%.

Somewhat oddly, the poll asked respondents how they would vote if either Thomas Mulcair or Justin Trudeau were leaders of their respective parties. Neither case changes much for the NDP, as Scott would receive 58% of decided support in both scenarios. It improves slightly for the Liberals with Mulcair leading the NDP (22%) and somewhat more with Trudeau leading the Liberals (24%). Of course, Trudeau has already said he isn't interested and the NDP leadership race comes to an end after the by-election.

The New Democrats could actually end up with a higher level of support when the votes are counted. The poll shows that 54% of its respondents voted for the NDP in the last election, rather than the actual 61%. The poll could have under-sampled NDP voters. It does not appear likely that people would be reluctant to admit that they voted for Jack Layton. Voters who say they voted for another party were over-represented (6%), but it could be that these people were just not willing to divulge who they voted for.

The poll also says that 2% of respondents did not vote (rather than the actual 35%), but this may simply show that undecideds and people who do not respond to polls also tend to be non-voters. Though it would have been better had respondents lined up more closely to the results of the 2011 election, the population has undoubtedly changed over the last nine months. The population of students, for example, would be quite different in the months of February and May.

In any case, the poll quite clearly shows what everyone expects from the riding - it is a safe NDP seat. My history of the riding makes that clear. The Conservatives may have liked to portray this as a seat for the Liberals to lose, but that was a little far-fetched. And as my article in the Globe showed yesterday, the retention rate for incumbent parties over the last half-century is more than two-thirds in by-elections. Barring a huge upset, Craig Scott will be Toronto--Danforth's next MP.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Parti Québécois minority?

The latest numbers from Léger Marketing, published in the Journal de Montréal yesterday, caused quite a stir. They placed the Liberals, Parti Québécois, and Coalition Avenir Québec in a three-way tie, suggesting that the CAQ is slipping and the PQ, written off only weeks ago, is on the upswing.
Léger was last in the field January 23-25, so only a few weeks ago. Since then, the Liberals have gained three points and are tied with the Parti Québécois at 29%. The PQ has picked four points since Léger's last poll.

The CAQ, meanwhile, has dropped again - this time by four points to 28% support, putting them in third. Since the party was launched in November, no poll has put the CAQ at anywhere but first place, while the PQ was last tied for the lead in Léger's polling in June 2011.

Québec Solidaire is down one point to 8% while the Greens are down two to 4%.

This is a huge change in Quebec. The PQ was on the road to catastrophe, following in the footsteps of the Bloc Québécois's debacle in May 2011. The CAQ was going to romp to victory, but instead we have a close three-way race between the parties, meaning anyone could come out on top.

But at the moment the PQ has the advantage. That is because they lead among francophone Quebecers with 35% to 32% for the CAQ. That is a gain of five points for the PQ and a drop of four for the CAQ. The Liberals trail with 19%, up one point since the end of January.

This lead among francophones gives the PQ a big advantage outside of Montreal and Quebec City. They lead there with 37%, up 11 points since the end of January. The CAQ is down eight to 30% while the Liberals are down one to 20%.

The Liberals lead in the Montreal RMR with 35% (+5) against only 25% for the CAQ (-1) and 23% for the PQ (-2). The Liberals are tied with the CAQ in the Quebec City RMR with 32% (+5 for the Liberals, -1 for the CAQ). The PQ is well behind at 22%.

But Léger also released more detailed regional data, which they acquired thanks to their large sample size. I've removed QS, the PVQ, and the Others from the chart to make it a bit easier to read (QS and the PVQ are generally uniform anyway).
What this shows is that the province is very clearly divided up between the three parties. The Liberals lead in Montréal, the Montérégie, and in the Outaouais, while the CAQ leads in the Capitale-Nationale, Chaudière-Appalaches, and Laval/Laurentides/Lanaudière.

The PQ leads in the rest of the province: Bas-Saint-Laurent/Gaspésie, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Mauricie, Estrie/Centre-du-Québec, Abitibi-Témicamingue/Nord-du-Québec, and the Côte-Nord.

Put more simply, the Liberals lead in Montreal and south of the city as well as in the Outaouais (the more federalist and anglophone parts of Quebec), the CAQ leads around Quebec City and north of Montreal (francophone middle-class areas that the ADQ performed well in back in 2007), and the PQ leads in the rest of the province (francophone, rural, and more isolated parts of the province).

If we look at it in terms of regions where parties are doing better than they are in Quebec as a whole, we see that the Liberals are doing well in the Chaudière-Appalaches (south of Quebec City) region as well as in the three regions in which they lead. That means that the CAQ will have some competition in one part of the province that is supposed to be more of a fortress for them.

It also shows that the PQ will be competitive in the Laval/Laurentides/Lanaudière regions north of Montreal, another part of the province that is supposed to be CAQ-territory.

The CAQ is also over-achieving in the Mauricie, Estrie/Centre-du-Québec, Montérégie, Abitibi-Témiscamingue/Nord-du-Québec, and Côte-Nord regions. This indicates that the CAQ will be able to put up a fight against the PQ in some of the francophone parts of the province and against the Liberals in the southern suburbs of Montreal.

In other words, an extraordinarily competitive election. The island of Montreal is safely Liberal, the PQ is safe in the Lac-Saint-Jean and northern Quebec regions, and the CAQ is well-positioned (but not dominant) in ADQ-friendly territory in and around Quebec City. But aside from that almost every riding will be hotly contested.

And this means a very divided National Assembly. Though the Quebec projection model is not 100% completed yet, it has been updated to reflect the new electoral boundaries. By-elections are also taken into account but not all factors have been applied.

With these numbers, and thanks to their lead among francophones, the Parti Québécois wins 49 seats, enough for a minority government if the CAQ decides not to prop-up the Liberals, who win 41 seats. The CAQ wins 33 seats and Québec Solidaire takes two.

But these are very close seat results, suggesting that any outcome is possible. The most likely scenario, however, points to a PQ minority with the Liberals forming the Official Opposition and the CAQ not far behind.

The Parti Québécois wins most of its seats in the regions of Quebec with 38. They take another 10 in the Montreal RMR and one in and around Quebec City.

The Liberals win most of their seats in and around Montreal, taking 33. They win four in Quebec City and another four in the rest of the province.

The CAQ wins 13 seats in and around Montreal, six in and around Quebec City, and 14 in the rest of Quebec.

What is interesting about this projection is how it demonstrates what the change in the electoral boundaries does. When writing my Huffington Post article yesterday I did a quick projection using the old boundaries and came up with 53 PQ, 41 PLQ, and 29 CAQ seats. With the boundaries being tweaked and the Montreal area gaining a few extra seats that have been removed from rural parts of the province, the result is that the PQ is penalized to the benefit of the Liberals and the CAQ, who are stronger in and around Montreal.

With demographics favouring the metropolis, the electoral advantage the Parti Québécois has enjoyed in the past due to its support among francophones is being reduced somewhat. With the voting intentions of Quebecers being split three-ways, and with Québec Solidaire strong enough to siphon off enough support to play the PQ spoiler in more than a few ridings, the next election in Quebec could result in something completely unexpected.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

PC landslide not so certain in Alberta

With the release of a new poll from Forum Research, the Alberta projection has been updated and has swung somewhat significantly to the benefit of the Wildrose Party.

The poll itself shows very little change from the firm's last survey of January 17, and it being the newest data the model has shifted to take into account the latest information available. But with Forum's numbers diverging so widely from polls that have come from other firms, particularly that of Léger Marketing, the level of volatility is high enough that a whole swathe of outcomes can be envisioned.

The Progressive Conservatives are now projected to have the support of 41.1% of Albertans, a significant drop since the Tories were projected to take almost 46% of the vote on February 7. It is still enough for Alison Redford to win a comfortable majority government of 67 seats.

But Wildrose has benefited greatly and are now projected to win 27.2% of the vote and 17 seats, a robust opposition compared to the current situation in the Alberta legislature.

The amount of movement among the Liberals, New Democrats, and the Alberta Party has been relatively insignificant.

However, since the polls have been ranging very wildly of late, there is an extremely slim chance that Wildrose could actually take more of the vote than the Tories. Wildrose's high range currently stands at 34.2% to the Tories' low range of 33.1%. However, the Progressive Conservatives could take as much as 49.1% of the vote and Wildrose as little as 20.2%.

The Liberals stand at between 12.7% and 15.7% while the NDP is between 11.8% and 12.8%, according to the projection.

But with a huge degree of disparity in the regional polling, particularly in Calgary and the rural parts of the province, Wildrose could finish ahead of the PCs in both regions. This would put them in a position to win as many as 50 seats and form the government, though this outcome is very unlikely. But the level of uncertainty is quite high at the moment.

This has also opened up a bit of an opportunity for the Liberals, who were projected to win no more than a single seat on February 7. Though that has dropped to zero, the level of volatility gives them the potential to win as many as four.

Things are relatively clear in Edmonton, where the Tories are projected to have 45.6% of the vote and are on track to win 26 seats. They are followed by Wildrose (19.4%), the Liberals (15.8%), and the NDP (14.5%), the last of which are projected to win three seats.

Calgary is less clear cut, but the Tories are projected to have an eight point lead over Wildrose, with 41% to 32.9% support. In the rural parts of the province things are even less certain, but the projection puts the Tories at 39% to 34.6% for Wildrose. These two regions will be the major battlegrounds for Wildrose and the Progressive Conservatives.

I have added two charts to the right-hand column, showing how the vote ranges for the parties have overlapped so far in the projection, and also tracking the precise vote projection province-wide and in each of the three regions of Alberta.
This Forum poll puts the margin between the Tories and Wildrose at only seven points, compared to 22 points in the recent RoI poll and 37 points in the Léger poll. This explains why the high and low ranges for the two parties are so far apart.

But compared to their January 17 poll, Forum only finds the PCs slipping one point with Wildrose gaining one, while the Liberals and NDP hold steady.

The PCs have picked up six points in Edmonton while Wildrose is up two, compared to a drop of two points for the Liberals and a drop of three for the NDP.

In Calgary there has been little change, with the PCs down two and Wildrose up one. The result is a tie at 36%. There was virtually no change in northern Alberta as well.

In southern Alberta, however, the Tories slipped 10 points to fall one point behind Wildrose, up five points to 35%.

According to the poll, roughly one-third of PC voters in 2008 have gone over to Wildrose, explaining the rise in support for the party. The Liberals, however, have lost relatively uniformly, with about 1/5th going to the Tories and 1/10th to the NDP and Wildrose each.

Alison Redford's approval rating is good, at 44% to 37% disapproving. She has a net positive rating among women, Tory and Liberal voters, as well as in every part of the province. Danielle Smith of Wildrose also has a good approval rating at 42% to 29% disapproving, with positive ratings among both men and women, voters older than 35, among Wildrose voters, in Calgary, and in both northern and southern Alberta.

Raj Sherman has an approval rating of 30% to 34% disapproval, but has net positive numbers among women, supporters of the NDP, Liberals, and Alberta Party, as well as in Edmonton.

The budget that came out last week was received positively, with 40% saying it would be good for the economy and 27% saying it would be bad. That 40% is more than enough for Redford to win a majority against such a divided opposition.

But while this poll shows relative stability and a small uptick for Wildrose, it continues to muddy the waters in Alberta. Whether it is a close race as Forum argues or a landslide like Léger has recently found is difficult to determine, particularly as Forum's findings are virtually unchanged since their last report. This points to an election result that could be very hard to predict unless the polls start to agree with one another a little more.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cullen, Mulcair, Nash receive more caucus support

It is safe to say that we can call this past week one of the most interesting so far of the NDP leadership campaign. In addition to some caucus support being handed out to three of the candidates last week, there was the withdrawal of Roméo Saganash from the race, a debate in Quebec City, and a flurry of polls from the campaigns of Paul Dewar and Thomas Mulcair, followed by a war of words.

I'll take a look at the two polls later, but first let's get to this week's endorsement rankings update. UPDATE: This post has been edited since the version posted this morning. It neglected to include the endorsement of Pierre Dionne Labelle.
Endorsements recorded this past week came exclusively from NDP MPs, and Nathan Cullen made arguably the most important splash by getting the support of five-term MP Brian Masse from Windsor West.

Though Nathan Cullen's fundraising and, now, poll numbers have been surprisingly good, his support within the party establishment has been quite thin. All of it had come from British Columbia, but with Masse's support Cullen has broadened his base of endorsers outside of his home province. It also gives Cullen another experienced supporter. His three caucus supporters have won a combined total of 10 elections.

Thomas Mulcair also expanded his caucus support with the endorsements of Denis Blanchette (Louis-Hébert), Ruth Ellen Brosseau (Berthier-Maskinongé), and two-term Sudbury MP Glenn Thibeault. He also received the support of Pierre Dionne Labelle, the MP from Rivière-du-Nord who had previously endorsed Roméo Saganash. This now puts his publicly declared caucus support at 40 MPs, or more than two out of every five NDP MPs not vying for the party leadership.

Peggy Nash also received some more caucus support with the endorsements of Laurin Liu (Rivière-des-Milles-Îles) and Elaine Michaud (Portneuf-Jacques Cartier). This puts her caucus support at 8 MPs.

This makes Nathan Cullen and Thomas Mulcair this week's winners, with a boost of 12.5 points apiece. Peggy Nash gains five endorsement points.

(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.)

In terms of the endorsement rankings, Brian Topp is still first but he has dropped a percentage point to 29.5%. This is the first time his establishment support has dropped below the 30% mark.

Peggy Nash is unchanged at 23.9% of all endorsement points, while Thomas Mulcair makes a 1.1-point gain to reach 23.8%, just behind Nash. Paul Dewar drops 0.4 points to 13.6%.

Nathan Cullen makes the largest gain in point share with a 1.7-point boost to 5.7%, his highest of the campaign so far. Niki Ashton drops 0.1 point to 3.6% while Martin Singh remains at zero. Roméo Saganash had 1.1% of endorsement points before his withdrawal.

The endorsement rankings do not line up with the two polls released by the Paul Dewar and Thomas Mulcair campaigns, they though do identify the five frontrunners correctly, put Peggy Nash in second, and Paul Dewar about where the polls have him. But the endorsement rankings aren't meant as a predictor, rather they are more of another way to gauge the race. It may end up being much closer to the results once the campaign is over and all the endorsements have been made, however.
The poll from the Paul Dewar campaign on Monday quickly got people's attention, and perhaps deflected attention away from Dewar's relatively poor performance at the French-language debate on Sunday in Quebec City.

I watched the debate and felt that of the seven candidates only Paul Dewar and Martin Singh seemed to be in great difficulty when not relying on their notes. While Nathan Cullen's French is also rough, he speaks it with confidence and at the very least would be capable of keeping up with Stephen Harper in a French-language debate. Peggy Nash and Niki Ashton's French was quite good, while Topp is fluent. Mulcair is still, by far, the most comfortable in both the debate setting and in the language.

The Dewar poll is a large poll conducted by Solus One, a call centre, but taken just before Saganash's withdrawal and the Quebec City debate. It shows Thomas Mulcair in front with 25.5%, followed by Peggy Nash (16.8%) and Paul Dewar (15.1%). Nathan Cullen comes up fourth, surprisingly, with 12.8%, while Brian Topp took 12.7% support.

The Topp campaign disputed these figures immediately. But Thomas Mulcair's campaign then came forward with their own poll, conducted a few days before Dewar's and using a smaller (but still respectable) sample. Mulcair's poll found that he was leading with 31.1%, followed by Nash (17.5%), Topp (14.8%), Cullen (14.2%), and Dewar (13.8%).

Those first ballot results are actually quite tightly grouped with the findings of Dewar's poll. If we round those off, we get Thomas Mulcair at 26%-31% support, Nash at 17%-18%, Dewar at 14%-15%, Topp at 13%-15%, and Cullen at 13%-14%. With the support of the four candidates in the teens not varying by more than two points, it does seem like this could very well be the state of the campaign.

If we average the two polls out, we get:

28.3% - Thomas Mulcair
17.2% - Peggy Nash
14.5% - Paul Dewar
13.8% - Brian Topp
13.5% - Nathan Cullen

In other words, no candidate with a chance to win on the first ballot and four candidates bunched up in second. With the margins of error and the weeks that remain in the campaign, the first of the five frontrunners to be dropped off the ballot is anyone's guess. One would imagine that Brian Topp's fundraising would give him the edge in these final weeks, but the NDP's members are certainly the type to be put-off by anything that doesn't smell like grassroots.

With no first ballot winner, that means we go to a second ballot. Here the two polls are not in full agreement. The poll from the Dewar campaign puts their guy in first on the second ballot with 21.2%, followed by Peggy Nash (19.4%), Thomas Mulcair (16.7%), Nathan Cullen (14.4%), and Brian Topp (12.4%). Those are good numbers for Dewar and Nash, good enough for Mulcair, and anemic for Topp.

But the Mulcair campaign finds that Peggy Nash has the strongest second choice support with 25.4%, followed by Mulcair (21.0%), Topp (19.7%), and Dewar (13.7%). Great numbers for Nash, good enough for Mulcair and Topp, and problematic for Dewar. While the Dewar poll indicates that Topp would likely fall off the ballot first, Mulcair's poll points to Dewar being the first to fall by the wayside.

These are far more widely grouped: 19%-25% for Nash, 17%-21% for Mulcair, 14%-21% for Dewar, and 12%-20% for Topp. They do seem to suggest, however, that the top four candidates generally have decent second ballot potential with Peggy Nash being the strongest positioned.

Averaging out the second choice polls (unfortunately the results for Nathan Cullen, Niki Ashton, Roméo Saganash, and Martin Singh were not reported with Mulcair's poll), we get:

22.4% - Peggy Nash
18.9% - Thomas Mulcair
17.5% - Paul Dewar
16.1% - Brian Topp

Mashing the first and second choice numbers together, we find Thomas Mulcair to have the highest potential at between 43% and 52% choosing him as their first or second choice. That's just enough to give him the win. Next is Peggy Nash (36% to 43%), then Paul Dewar (28% to 36%) and finally Brian Topp (25% to 35%). Adding up the first and second choices to give total first-second choice support averages, we get:

47.2% - Thomas Mulcair
39.6% - Peggy Nash
32.0% - Paul Dewar
29.9% - Brian Topp

This would seem to point to a final ballot of Mulcair and Nash. Cullen would likely not be too far behind Topp. As Mulcair/Cullen and Nash/Topp seem to be the most likely pairings, it means a very close finish between Thomas Mulcair and Peggy Nash. This seems a very plausible outcome.

There are only a few days left before the cut-off for new members to be able to vote in the leadership race, meaning there is little time left for candidates to sign-up dedicated supporters. The campaign now turns to getting down-ballot support and the nod from undecideds and fence-sitters. On the one hand, that means playing nice. On the other, it means the gloves need to come off. It should be an interesting 5 1/2 weeks.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

NDP up in BC, down in Quebec

On Friday, The National Post reported on a new Forum Research poll that looked at the federal voting intentions of Canadians. It also peeked at who Canadians think should be the next leader of the NDP.

Of course, yesterday was quite the day in NDP polling, as internal numbers from the Dewar and Mulcair campaigns were released. I'll go into more detail on them tomorrow when the endorsement rankings are updated, but in the meantime you can read my article about them at The Huffington Post Canada here.
Forum was last in the field on January 13, and since then there has been very little change at the national level. The Conservatives are up one to 36%, the New Democrats are unchanged at 28%, and the Liberals are up one to 26%.

The Bloc Québécois is steady at 6% while the Greens are down one to 3%.

Things are also steady in Ontario, where the Conservatives are at 42% (+1), the Liberals are at 29%, and the NDP is at 24% (-1).

But there have been big shifts in Quebec and British Columbia. On the West Coast, the New Democrats have picked up seven points and now lead with 39%, well ahead of the Conservatives. And this despite them gaining two points to hit 32%. The Liberals have made the room, dropping six points to 24%.

Quebec is the most significant change, as the Liberals have moved into first place ahead of the NDP. They are up seven points to 28% while the New Democrats are down four points to 25%. The Conservatives are up two to 24% and the Bloc is down three to 20%.

Could it be? While Forum is the first and only polling firm to put the Liberals ahead of the NDP in Quebec, they are not the first to show an increase in Liberal strength in the province as well as a decrease in support for the NDP.
This chart shows results in Quebec for the Liberals and NDP since the beginning of December (not spaced out correctly for time, but you get the idea). While the results are somewhat of a scatter shot, an uptick in Liberal support coupled with a slip in NDP support has become apparent.

This is somewhat surprising, though not because the New Democrats may have slipped into second. They have been on a downward trajectory since October-November. What is surprising is that the Liberals, the party of the sponsorship scandal, may have moved into first. Many had suspected that Quebec was lost to the Liberals and would be for a very long time. Perhaps a rebound of the Bloc Québécois is not inevitable, and in the absence of a consensus alternative to the unpopular Conservatives it is the Liberals that will benefit.

The rest of the poll shows pretty standard fare, the Conservatives well ahead in the Prairies (including Alberta) and a three-way race in Atlantic Canada.

The Conservatives win 150 seats with the results of this poll. The New Democrats win 84 and the Liberals take 67, which is quite problematic for them. With a total of 151 seats, the NDP and Liberals are not in a position to form a majority coalition government. For one, the Conservatives are too high in Ontario, but the NDP and Liberals are also shooting each other in the foot by running so close together as the alternative option.

The Conservatives win 13 seats in British Columbia, 26 in Alberta, 16 in the Prairies, 64 in Ontario, 16 in Quebec, 14 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north.

The New Democrats win 16 seats in British Columbia, two in Alberta, nine in the Prairies, 22 in Ontario, 28 in Quebec, six in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north.

The Liberals win six seats in British Columbia, three in the Prairies, 20 in Ontario, 25 in Quebec, 12 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the north.

The Bloc Québécois wins six seats in Quebec and the Greens win one in British Columbia.
Now to the NDP leadership race, which Forum has been polling for some time. Their findings have been waved off as irrelevant since they are polling all Canadians or NDP supporters (as if their opinions are irrelevant!), but surprisingly the most recent figures from Forum actually line-up generally well with the recent internal polling from the campaigns of Paul Dewar and Thomas Mulcair. Aside from a slight under-estimation of Nathan Cullen's support and an over-estimation of Thomas Mulcair's, Forum's polling of NDP supporters is actually not too far off what polls of NDP members have indicated.

In this survey, Mulcair leads the pack among decided NDP supporters with 38%, followed by Peggy Nash at 17%, Paul Dewar at 14%, and Brian Topp at 12%. If we take out the undecideds, Mulcair has the support of 19% to 8% for Nash, 7% for Dewar, and 6% for Topp. Canadians generally share that opinion, though there is a tie among the three that appear to have been identified as running in a close race for second in Dewar's and Mulcair's polling.

Since Forum has begun tracking these numbers, there has been very little change. Mulcair was at 19% among all NDP supporters in early January as well, while the others have been going up or down a tick over the past few months without any clear trend. It would appear that NDP supporters are most apt to prefer Mulcair but aside from that no other candidate is building up a head of steam, at least in the opinion of the general public. But it is interesting to see that their opinion is not so out of step with that of the NDP's membership, at least at this stage of the game.

Monday, February 13, 2012

What U.S.-style primaries might look like for the NDP

The excitement surrounding the NDP leadership race pales in comparison to the headline-grabbing contest for the Republican nomination in the United States. But what if the New Democrats adopted U.S.-style primaries to choose their next leader? 

You can read the full article on The Globe and Mail website here. Once you do that, come back to read the details of this hypothetical NDP primary.

Politicos in Canada are spoiled being by so close and having so much access to the political drama that unfolds every two years in the United States. The mid-terms are an appetizer but the presidential race is a true meal, lasting over a year. The 2012 Republican primaries are about as roller coaster as they come, yet here in Canada the race to choose our next leader of the Official Opposition is not nearly as exciting.

Because of the way our parties do things, leadership races here are very much aimed at the party and their members and little else. Whereas in the United States some primaries allow registered Republicans, independents, and even Democrats to vote (i.e., everyone), here in Canada the privilege is limited to members only. The chances that a party will choose someone that doesn't have wide appeal always exists, because a leader has to hit the right notes among the party faithful in order to be chosen. Whether a message that resonates with the party faithful will also resonate with a plurality of Canadians is, sometimes, a secondary consideration.

So what if the New Democrats held primaries in each province in order to choose their next leader, allowing anyone who supported the NDP to vote? I thought that would be a fun and interesting exercise.

How did I calculate the results? Four factors were weighted equally to come up with the support each candidate would get in each province. The four factors were the recent Forum Research poll of NDP supporters, the recent Abacus Data poll of which candidates would make people more likely to vote NDP, ThreeHundredEight's endorsement rankings divvied up by province, and the endorsement rankings adjusted by the Q3 and Q4 fundraising totals for each of the candidates. Those were combined together to give a vote share for each province. Delegates were divided up proportionately across the 13 provinces and territories to total 1,000, and delegates were awarded to each candidate proportionate to their vote share.

The Globe piece provides a narrative with a few US-inspired touches, but let's look at the actual results this exercise gave for each of the provinces, in the order that the primaries are deemed to have been held in this hypothetical scenario. The schedule was determined mostly by the debate schedule of the NDP leadership race. And if these graphics resemble those of a certain American 24-hour news channel, that is not exactly by accident.
Thanks in large part to good endorsements in the province and decent polling numbers in the region, Thomas Mulcair wins the first primary in PEI (scheduled January 24) with 43%, with Brian Topp trailing with 28%, Paul Dewar with 13%, and Peggy Nash with 8%. Niki Ashton heads the bottom tier with 4%. With this first win, Mulcair takes two delegates to one for Brian Topp and one for Paul Dewar.
With the debate in Halifax on January 29, primaries are held in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick on January 31. Brian Topp has the strongest polling numbers in Atlantic Canada, and with good endorsements in New Brunswick he wins 57% of the vote in the primary, followed by Mulcair at 17%, Dewar at 12%, and Nash at 5%. Ashton comes up fifth with 4%.

In Nova Scotia, Peggy Nash's endorsements give her the win with 31%, followed closely by Topp at 29%, Mulcair at 19%, and Dewar at 13%. Again, Ashton comes up fifth with 4%.

With these two primaries, Brian Topp moves into the lead with 21 delegates, followed by Mulcair with 11, Nash with nine, Dewar with seven, Ashton with two, Martin Singh with two, and Nathan Cullen with one. Romeo Saganash has zero, and in real life he pulled out of the race after the dates I scheduled for the first three primaries. So he was dropped off for future primaries.
After unofficial debates in Saskatoon on February 7 and a forum in Edmonton on February 8, the next primary is held on February 14 in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Topp's good polling in Alberta and Nash's labour support make them the two top finishers in the province, with 35% for Brian Topp, 25% for Nash, 19% for Dewar, and 13% for Mulcair. Ashton finishes fifth with 6%. In Saskatchewan, Topp's endorsements allow him to walk away with it with 51% to 25% for Mulcair, 10% for Ashton, and 9% for Nash. Dewar finishes with 7%.

This puts Brian Topp further in the lead with 75 delegates. Peggy Nash is second at this point with 40, followed by Mulcair with 32, Dewar with 30, Ashton with 12, Singh with three, and Cullen with two. One can already imagine the grumbling in the Mulcair and Dewar campaigns after a few bad finishes.
The primaries in the territories and Newfoundland and Labrador are then held on February 21, with Peggy Nash winning both of them thanks to her endorsements in both areas. Nash wins 31% in Newfoundland and Labrador, with Mulcair taking 25%, Topp 23%, and Dewar 12%. Ashton finishes fifth with 4%.

In the territories, Nash takes 38% to Topp's 24%, Mulcair's 20%, and Dewar's 12%. Nathan Cullen finishes fifth with 2%.

At this stage, Brian Topp would still lead in the delegates with 79. Peggy Nash closes the gap a little with 46, while Mulcair (37), Dewar (32), Ashton (13), Singh (3), and Cullen (2) trail.
After the Winnipeg debate on February 26, Manitoba holds its primary on February 28. In the Prairie provinces, Mulcair, Topp, and Ashton have polled the best but in Manitoba most of the endorsements have gone to Dewar and Ashton. The result is a narrow Mulcair win with 28%. He's followed closely by Paul Dewar (one can imagine this being Dewar's first "big effort" province) at 23%, Brian Topp at 22%, and Niki Ashton with 17%. Nash follows in fifth with 9%.

This win gives what would have been Mulcair's sagging campaign a boost, but Topp would still lead in the delegate count with 87. Peggy Nash follows at this stage with 49, with Mulcair (47) and Dewar (40) not far behind. Ashton lands six delegates in Manitoba and is at 19 at this stage, with Cullen and Singh at three apiece.
The first big primary is then scheduled for March 6, after the debates in Quebec City (February 12) and Montreal (March 4). Obviously, this one is Mulcair's to win and he does with 69% of the vote. Brian Topp finishes second with 17%, with Nash at 8% and Dewar and Singh at 2% apiece.

With this big win, Mulcair moves to the front of the pack with 206 delegates to 126 for Topp, 68 for Nash, and 45 for Dewar. Ashton follows with 22 delegate to Singh's seven and Cullen's five. The race would change complexion here with Mulcair now the frontrunner.
And then comes what I dubbed Super Tuesday in my article, the primaries in British Columbia and Ontario on March 13. With the majority of the delegates at stake, the race would be won or lost here.

In British Columbia, Brian Topp and Nathan Cullen lead in both the polls and the endorsements, meaning that Brian Topp wins with 45% of the vote to Cullen's 19%. Mulcair trails in third with 13%, followed by Nash (11%) and Dewar (7%). It's a big win for Topp and gives Cullen a boost.

In Ontario, the polling is far more favourable to Nash and Dewar and they are the two frontrunners. Nash edges out Dewar with 32% to 26% of the vote, followed by Topp at 18%, Mulcair at 15%, and Cullen at 4%. Dewar or Nash had to really win big in Ontario to have a shot at overtaking Topp or Mulcair.

After the last primary, Thomas Mulcair still leads the delegate count with 282, but he is far short of the 501 needed to win. Brian Topp takes 256 delegates to the convention, with Peggy Nash claiming 208 and Paul Dewar 154. After his good performances in Ontario and British Columbia, Nathan Cullen pulls ahead to stand fifth with 47 delegates, while Niki Ashton has 35 and Martin Singh 18.

There you have it - a plausible description of what might happen if the New Democrats held primaries to choose their leader and opened up the race to all supporters, rather than just members. Does it tell us anything about the race itself? Not really, though it does give an indication of the regional pockets of strength each candidate might be expected to have. It is really more of a fun little exercise that shows how much more interesting primaries would be than the current model our parties use here in Canada.