Thursday, May 31, 2012

Obama vs. Romney, Canadian style

Angus-Reid released a new poll today, showing how Canadians and Britons feel about Barack Obama and the US Presidential Election. In short, Canadians like the American President. A lot.

Fully 60% of Canadians think Barack Obama's presidency has been good or very good for our country. He scores a majority on this question in every part of the country, rising to 74% in Quebec. Even 51% of Conservative supporters think Obama has been good or very good for Canada.

But who would Canadians vote for if they had a say in the American election? If Canada was the 51st state, we would be bluer than Vermont. We'd even give Washington, D.C. a run for being the safest electoral college votes for the Democrats.
In a straight-up vote between Obama and Romney, 65% of Canadians would opt for the incumbent president. Only 9% would vote for the Republican candidate.

27% of respondents said they weren't sure or would vote for neither.

If we take those out of the equation, we get decided support for Barack Obama sitting at 88%, with Mitt Romney garnering 12% support.

To put that in context, Washington, D.C. voted 92% in favour of Obama in 2008. The Democrats took 72% of the vote in Hawaii and 67% in Vermont. The President is scoring a little less than 60% in those two states right now.

Angus-Reid was kind enough to give me the regional breakdown of these voting intentions, and they are quite remarkable. Only in Alberta does Obama not get a majority, with 46% to 19% for Romney. Obama gets his best result in Quebec, where 76% would vote for him. Only 1% would vote for Romney - and he speaks French!

But that is with the large number of people who did not opt for either candidate. If we take those out, Obama scores 71% in Alberta, 73% in the Prairies, 85% in Ontario, 90% in Atlantic Canada, 91% in British Columbia, and 99% in Quebec. These are numbers that would make Danny Williams blush.

Before I got the details I had intended to run the numbers through the projection model, but suffice to say that Obama would likely win every single seat in the country with these levels of support.

But what would this mean in a hypothetical American election where Canada's 10 provinces were US states?

A quick calculation indicates that Canada's 10 states would total 58 electoral college votes, based on how they are portioned out in the United States. That bumps up the total number of votes in the US to 596, meaning 299 would be needed to win the election (I'm sure that Canada's 10 states would result in some changes to the calculations, but let's leave that aside for now).

We can safely assume that Canada's 58 votes are in the bag for Obama, meaning that he would only need to win 241 of the remaining votes, or 44.7% of those votes in the actual 50 US states.

Using the New York Times' Electoral Map, which currently allocates 217-votes' worth of states to Obama, we only need to give him Pennsylvania and New Hampshire to get him to the 241-vote mark. That means, with Canada plumping for the Democrats, Mitt Romney could win Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada of the "toss-up" states and still lose.

Of course, Barack Obama will not have the luxury of Canadian statehood when Americans go to the polls in November. But the Liberal Party of Canada will only be holding its leadership race sometime in 2013...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

PQ gains but race still neck-and-neck

A CROP poll released earlier this week by La Presse looking into the views of Quebecers on the student protests also looked at their voting intentions. The result was a significant gain for the Parti Québécois, putting them only a point behind the governing Liberals.
Compared to CROP's last poll of May 2-3, the Liberals are unchanged at 31% support. The PQ, however, is up five points to 30%.

The CAQ is down two points to 22%, while Québec Solidaire is up one to 9%. The Greens, down three to 5%, trail along with Option Nationale, unchanged at 2% support.

This survey puts CROP more in line with what Léger Marketing, Segma Recherche, and Forum Research have concluded. Since mid-April, their polls have not put the gap between the two parties at more than four points, with most showing a gap of two or less. CROP's six point lead in early May, then, was a bit of an outlier. But in the highly charged atmosphere of the protests, it might have been a telling snapshot.

Interestingly, this poll broke down the linguistic groups into francophones, anglophones, and everyone else. Though the sample sizes are smaller for the last two groups, the results show that Québec Solidaire does have some appeal among allophones, scoring 18%. That still puts them well behind the Liberals, who register 55% among this group. Among anglophones, the Liberals lead with 72%.

The Parti Québécois is up six points among francophones and leads with 36%, ahead of the CAQ at 26% (-3) and the Liberals at 23% (-1).

The PQ also leads in the Montreal region with 31%, a gain of six points. The Liberals are down three to 29% while the CAQ is up one to 20%.

In Quebec City, the Liberals are down one point to 34%, followed by the CAQ at 28% (-5) and the PQ at 26% (+2).

In the rest of Quebec, the Liberals are surprisingly ahead with 32%, a gain of four points. The PQ is up four points to 30%, while the CAQ is down five points to 23%.

This makes for a somewhat unexpected seat result. Because of their traditional lead among francophones, the Parti Québécois can usually turn a tie or close race into a seat plurality or even a majority. In this case, however, with the Liberals ahead in the regions and running very close to the PQ in the Montreal area, the Liberals manage the plurality.

They win 60 seats, three short of a majority, while the PQ wins 49, the CAQ 14, and Québec Solidaire two.

In and around Montreal, the Liberals win 28 seats to 26 for the PQ, two for the CAQ, and two for QS.

In Quebec City, the Liberals win seven seats to three for the CAQ and one for the PQ.

And in the rest of Quebec, the Liberals win 25 seats to 22 for the PQ and nine for the CAQ.

If the Parti Québécois is truly behind in the regions of Quebec, they have no shot at winning the election. The Liberals have a lock on a whole swathe of seats on the island of Montreal, and Quebec City appears to be flipping between the Liberals and the CAQ depending on the poll. The PQ has always been able to run up its numbers outside of the two cities, and if it can't do it in the next election they will be hard-pressed to defeat Jean Charest if the contest continues to be this close.

Their one advantage is that Charest is nearer to his ceiling than is Pauline Marois. CROP asked respondents what their second choice would be, and if we add the first and second choice numbers together we get a good idea of how much growth potential each party has.

After removing the undecideds and "would not votes", the PQ gets a total of 49%, well ahead of the Liberals' 41% "ceiling". That is actually very low for Jean Charest, considering he bested that score in the 2008 election.

But François Legault has the most potential growth. His first and second choice adds up to a grand total of 56% of the electorate. That might give his party some hope, but it is also an indication of how poorly they are doing compared to what they are capable of.

Québec Solidaire's total adds up to 29%, while the Greens manage 15% and Option Nationale 9%.

By region, the PQ has the highest "ceiling" in and around Montreal with 50%, compared to 48% for the CAQ and 39% for the Liberals, while the CAQ has the highest totals in Quebec City (61%) and the rest of Quebec (64%), compared to 53% and 40%, respectively, for the Liberals and 44% and 48%, respectively, for the PQ.

So, there are still a lot of votes at play. It appears that Jean Charest may have outlasted his welcome for too many Quebecers. His room for growth is small, making it all the more difficult for him to attract new supporters, but he does have the most experience. Marois has less room to maneuver than Legault, though he will be leading a party into an election for the first time. It would seem that these last two leaders have the most to gain (and perhaps to lose) during a campaign, but it might all come down to who manages the five-week gauntlet best.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

PCs move ahead in Ontario

A new poll by Nanos Research released on Saturday shows that the Ontario Progressive Conservatives are leading in provincial voting intentions, the first time Nanos has put the PCs ahead of the Liberals in Ontario since before the October 2011 election.
Nanos was last in the field on Apr. 14-15, and since then the PCs have gained 1.5 points to reach 33.6% support. That is a modest gain, but due to the drop of 4.4 points by Dalton McGuinty's Liberals down to 31%, the PCs are leading. The New Democrats are up two points to 28.5%, making this a very tight three-way race.

The Greens are down 0.4 points to 5.6%.

This is the first time since at least the election campaign that Nanos has been in general agreement with the conclusions of Forum Research, the only other pollster that has been consistently active in Ontario. Forum's poll from May 14 (released a couple of weeks ago) put PC support at 34% to 32% for the NDP and 27% for the Liberals. Though the order of the parties is still different, with the MOE they are all bunched up around 30%. It makes it a bit easier to say with some confidence that, firstly, the three parties are splitting the electorate almost three ways and, secondly, that the PCs are probably ahead.

With these Nanos numbers, the Progressive Conservatives win 43 seats to 37 for the Liberals and 27 for the New Democrats. It is another minority legislature, though one that is far more split than is currently the case. Who would emerge as the government in this scenario is difficult to determine.

The PCs win most of their seats in eastern, central, and southwestern Ontario while the Liberals dominate in Toronto and the GTA. The New Democrats do best in Toronto and northern Ontario.

Not surprisingly, considering the current fight between the McGuinty government and the Ontario Medical Association, healthcare has moved to the forefront as the top issue in Ontarians' minds: 34% said so, an increase of more than seven points in only a month. Concern about jobs and the economy has dropped 5.5 points to 17%, while the debt and the deficit has dropped by five points to only 7%, putting it behind high taxes and education as a top issue.

But with this conflict over healthcare still up in the air and the three parties running almost even, an election campaign could be incredibly volatile. McGuinty will survive for at least the rest of the year thanks to the support of the NDP, and if he manages to win the Kitchener-Waterloo by-election he could very well survive until 2015. If the PCs manage to hold on to the riding, however, all bets are off come 2013.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Why Harper should avoid ‘governments lose by-elections’ mantra

A troubled government can ill-afford to lose a by-election and even a seemingly secure party can be sent into a downward spiral by an unexpected defeat. Damage control can sometimes begin before the voting does, and the refrain that “governments lose by-elections” is often trotted out. But the truth of the matter is that a governing party is no more likely to lose a by-election than one on the opposition benches.

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

You can also read my column on why polls, even this far out from the next federal election, still have something to say, in The Hill Times. You need a subscription to read it online, but if you have a subscription you can find the article here.

In light of Ted Opitz's decision to appeal the Ontario Superior Court's voiding of his election in Etobicoke Centre, now is a good time to launch ThreeHundredEight's By-Election Barometer. The Barometer can be accessed by clicking on the image in the right-hand column. This will be constantly updated as new by-elections are called and new polls are released.

By-elections are notoriously hard to predict, and the Barometer is not a projection. But it is a way to track what the regional trends are pointing to for every by-election, as well as any polls that have been released for the ridings in question. The Barometer might also be an interesting measure against which to compare results to expectations. Kevin Lamoureux's win in Winnipeg North in 2010, for example, pointed to his individual appeal as a candidate. Julian Fantino's squeaker of a win in Vaughan and Robert Sopuck's landslide in Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette, on the other hand, were expected.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Liberals hit new low as NDP, Tories face-off

Two polls were released this week showing remarkably consistent results, both giving the Conservatives a narrow lead over the New Democrats. The two polls also show the Liberal Party below its 2011 electoral result, the first time since the weeks after the election that two polls taken over a short period of time have measured Liberal support so low.
The newer set of numbers, released by Angus-Reid yesterday, put the Conservatives at 37%, unchanged from Angus-Reid's last poll of Mar. 20-21. The New Democrats, however, are up four points to 33%, while the Liberals are down three points to 18%.

This is the first time that Angus-Reid has pegged Liberal support this far down the scale.

The Bloc Québécois is down one point to 7% while the Greens are unchanged at 4%.

Since Angus-Reid was last in the field before the NDP leadership convention, this is another poll where the trends point to what effect Thomas Mulcair has had on voting intentions.

The Conservatives lead in Alberta (61%, +5), the Prairies (49%, +2), in British Columbia (41%, -2), and Ontario (41%, +1), while they trail in second in Atlantic Canada with 32% (-4).

The New Democrats lead in Quebec with 43% (+10) and place second in British Columbia (40%, +7), Ontario (31%, +7), Alberta (23%, -2), and the Prairies (23%, -9).

The Liberals are leading in Atlantic Canada with 35% (+8) while the Bloc is second in Quebec with 27% (-4).

Thomas Mulcair has the highest approval rating of the three main leaders in this poll, with 46%. His disapproval rating is 34%, giving him the only net positive score. Stephen Harper splits 45% to 47% and Bob Rae 34% to 46%. But more importantly for Mulcair, 21% of respondents say their opinion of him has improved in the last month. Though that gives him a "momentum" score of -1 (as the number of people who say their opinion worsened was 22%), that is far better than Rae's score of -8 and Harper's score of -29.

In fact, Angus-Reid's momentum score is often quite pessimistic. Canadians simply don't like their political leaders very much. For Mulcair to have such a relatively benign score is actually a huge improvement over what numbers have usually been registered.
Abacus Data's numbers are about a week older, but show very similar results.

The Conservatives lead with 37%, unchanged from Abacus's last poll of Mar. 9-13, while the New Democrats are up seven points to 35%. The Liberals are down three to 17%.

The Bloc and Greens are each down two points to 6% and 5%, respectively.

The Conservatives lead in Alberta (68%, +4), the Prairies (55%, -5), and Ontario (38%, unchanged) while they place second in British Columbia with 40%, a gain of one point.

The New Democrats are ahead in Quebec (41%, +13), British Columbia (41%, +4), and Atlantic Canada (39%, +11) and are behind the Conservatives in Ontario (35%, +9), the Prairies (28%, unchanged) and Alberta (19%, +1).

The Liberals are second in Atlantic Canada with 31%, up four points, while the Bloc is trailing in Quebec with 23%, a drop of 10 points since mid-March.

Here again, Mulcair is the only leader to have a net positive favourability rating: 36% favourable to 21% unfavourable. Stephen Harper scores 37% to 49%, while Rae scores 22% to 38%.

Among their own party supporters, Stephen Harper has an 88% favourability rating, while Mulcair scores 73% and Rae only 61%. Harper and Mulcair have infinitesimal unfavourability ratings among their own party supporters (4% and 3%, respectively), while Bob Rae has a 13% unfavourability rating among Liberal voters.

In terms of seats, these two polls deliver similar results. With Abacus's two point Conservative lead, the Tories take 154 seats thanks to good scores out West and in Ontario. The New Democrats win 118, still a big gain over their current crop of MPs, while the Liberals win only 30 seats. The Bloc takes five and the Greens one.

With Angus-Reid's four point Conservative lead, Stephen Harper wins 155 seats to 109 for the NDP, 35 for the Liberals, eight for the Bloc, and one for the Greens.

In both polls, the Conservatives win 19 seats in British Columbia, 27 in Alberta, six in Quebec, and two in the North. Abacus gives them 25 seats in the Prairies, 67 in Ontario, and eight in Atlantic Canada, while Angus-Reid gives them 21, 70, and 10 seats in those regions, respectively.

The New Democrats win one seat in Alberta and one in the North in both polls, with Abacus delivering 15 in British Columbia, three in the Prairies, 31 in Ontario, 57 in Quebec, and 10 in Atlantic Canada. With Angus-Reid's numbers, they win 14, two, 26, 60, and five seats, respectively.

With Abacus's poll, the Liberals win one seat in British Columbia, eight in Ontario, seven in Quebec, and 14 in Atlantic Canada. With Angus-Reid's, they win two seats in British Columbia, five in the Prairies, 10 in Ontario, one in Quebec, and 17 in Atlantic Canada.

Abacus and Angus-Reid conducted their polling over a relatively similar period of time both this month and back in March, giving us some good data with which to look at the trends. Both surveys were also done online, providing some methodological consistency.

Looking at those trends, we see the Conservatives holding steady nationally and the New Democrats making a big leap forward, particularly at the expense of the Liberals but also the Bloc Québécois. This is the situation in Ontario (leaving out the Bloc, of course), as well as in British Columbia.

In Quebec, we see that the New Democrats made massive gains (10 points with Angus-Reid, 13 with Abacus), which can be attributed to Thomas Mulcair's leadership win. In both polls, the Liberals and Bloc have lost support as a result, while the Conservatives are generally steady. That is not too surprising, as they appear to be stuck with their Quebec base only.

The two polls also show agreement on how the genders feel about the parties. The Conservatives hold an 11 point edge on the NDP in Abacus's polling among men, while the lead is 15 points with Angus-Reid. The New Democrats, meanwhile, have a nine point advantage over the Tories among women in the Abacus poll and an eight point margin in Angus-Reid's polling. That is a stark contrast between the two genders.

In order to definitively pull away from their opponent, then, both the Conservatives and New Democrats need to find a way to appeal to the other sex. The party that manages that feat, without losing the support among the gender among which they currently lead, will be in a very strong position. We often focus on the region vs. region political battle, but this demographic split could be more important.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

PQ and Liberals neck-and-neck as CAQ falls away

Emotions are running high in Quebec at the moment, with the student protest continuing unabated and the provincial government coming down with a law seen by many as draconian, by many others as necessary. Over the last week, four polls on the provincial voting intentions of Quebecers have been released, and they all show that in the midst of this turmoil the Parti Québécois and governing Liberals are running neck-and-neck.
Starting with the oldest survey, conducted May 10-17 by Segma Recherche for Le Soleil, the Parti Québécois led in this poll with 32%, four points up on the Liberals.

The CAQ trailed with 19%, followed by Québec Solidaire at a very high 11%. The Greens were not far behind with 9%.

Segma has not been in the field for quite some time, so there is nothing to compare these results to.

But they generally jive with everything else we've seen. The PQ leads with 36% among francophones and is second among non-francophones with 14%, while they lead in the regions of the province with 37%. They trail the Liberals in Montreal with 29% and in Quebec City with 25%.

The Liberals are ahead among non-francophones with 55%, and lead in Montreal with 30% and Quebec City with 36%. They are running second in the regions with 25%.

This sort of divide, with the PQ ahead in the regions, the PLQ in Quebec City, and the two parties running close in and around Montreal, has been the case for months. What is interesting, however, is that Segma seems to suggest that the polls by Forum Research showing the CAQ in the doldrums were not so unusual.
Speaking of Forum, the firm released two polls over a few days as a result of the emergency legislation that came down late last week. Their poll from May 15 put the Liberals ahead of the PQ with 35% to 33%, while their poll from May 17 put the Liberals ahead by 34% to 33%.

Combining the two polls, we get the Liberals leading with 35%, unchanged from Forum's last poll of Apr. 24. The Parti Québécois trails with 33%, down two points, while the CAQ is up three points to 19%.

Québec Solidaire is up two points to 10% while the Greens stand at 3%.

The Liberals lead among non-francophones with 65% (-4), in Montreal with 36% (-5), and in Quebec City with 38% (+6). They are tied with the PQ on the north shore with 35% (+4) and trail in second with 30% on the south shore (unchanged) and among francophones (31%, +1).

The Parti Québécois leads among francophones with 35% (-4) and on the south shore with 37% (-6). They have dropped five points on the north shore to 35%, tied with Liberals, and trail in Montreal with 32% (+3) and in Quebec City with 26% (-4).

Both of these polls point to a minority government, but obviously the PQ is better placed with Segma's numbers. With those results, they win 62 seats to 49 for the Liberals, 10 for the CAQ, and four for Québec Solidaire.

The Parti Québécois wins 23 seats in and around Montreal, one in Quebec City, and 38 in the rest of Quebec, while the Liberals split their seats 29-9-11, respectively.

With Forum's numbers, the result is far closer. The Liberals squeak out a win with 59 seats (31 in Montreal, eight in Quebec City, 20 in the rest of Quebec) while the PQ takes 58 seats (25-1-32). The CAQ wins nine while QS takes two.

In both of these cases, the margin between minority and majority is so close that anything could happen. If we simply average out the two results, the PQ wins 60 seats to 54 for the Liberals. I wouldn't want to be projecting such a narrow gap the day before the election.
The newest poll, however, is probably more instructive. Taken May 19-21 by Léger Marketing, it encompasses some of the post-Bill 78 controversy and some of the violence of the weekend protests.

This poll puts the Liberals and PQ tied at 32%, representing a gain of four points for the Liberals and one point for the PQ since Léger's last poll of Apr. 30-May 2.

The CAQ is down three points to 21%. With Forum putting the party at between 18% and 19% support, Segma at 19%, and now Léger at 21%, it can be said with a good degree of confidence that François Legault's CAQ has indeed dropped from the mid-20s to around 20%.

Unfortunately, Léger did not release their regional results but we can see that the PQ leads among francophones with 39%, a gain of two points, while the Liberals are up three points to 25%. The CAQ is down two to 24%. Support among non-francophones has jumped by 10 points for the Liberals to 64%.

The Quebec seat projection model is regionally based, so I cannot make a projection for this poll. However, a Liberal/PQ tie would likely result in the Parti Québécois winning a few more seats than the Liberals but not achieving a majority.

The political dynamics in Quebec are getting quite interesting. The Liberals and Parti Québécois are in a death-grip while the CAQ is struggling to keep its head above water. At these levels of support, it can best hope to play the spoiler and be kingmaker in the next National Assembly, though the Liberals and PQ are weak enough that a campaign could turn everything on its head. And then there is the big chunk of support going to Québec Solidaire, which is now pushing the low-to-mid-teens around Montreal, and is almost certainly in third place on the island itself. That makes for a few interesting races - the Segma poll suggests the party could win as many as four seats.

The protests themselves look like they could last for at least another three months, while the inquiry into corruption in the construction industry has kicked off this week and will be returning in mid-September after a summer break. The inquiry is a hot commodity, some thinking it could be more explosive than Gomery, and it is supposed to report in October 2013. Jean Charest needs to call the election sometime between now and the end of 2013. And added to that can be two by-elections in June and another sometime before the end of the year due to the resignation of former education minister Line Beauchamp.

At this point, to call the political landscape of Quebec a minefield would be an understatement.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Federal NDP closes gap in Ontario

Last week, two national polls and two federal provincial polls were released indicating that the New Democrats and Conservatives continue to be running almost neck-and-neck in national voting intentions. Perhaps more significantly, however, they show that the gap between the NDP and the Tories has shrunk to between four and zero points in the important battleground province of Ontario.
Ipsos-Reid's hybrid telephone/online poll puts the Conservatives ahead with 37% support nationally, with the New Democrats standing at 35%.

Since Ipsos-Reid was last in the field Apr. 3-5, the Conservatives have picked up three points while the NDP has picked up two. The Liberals have dropped two points to 19%, where they stood on election night in May 2011.

The Bloc Québécois stands at 5% support while the Greens are at 3%.

In Ontario, the Conservatives are down five points to 36%, putting them only one point up on the NDP. They have picked up eight points and sit at 35% support, while the Liberals are down four to 23%. This is a horse race.

The Conservatives lead in Alberta with 63% (+4), British Columbia with 51% (+14), the Prairies with 49% (+8), and Atlantic Canada with 38% (+17). 

The New Democrats lead with 45% in Quebec (+4) and trail in second to the Conservatives in the Prairies (37%, +3), British Columbia (33%, -6), and Alberta (19%, -2).

The Liberals are running second in Atlantic Canada with 35% (+4) while the Bloc is second in Quebec with 23% (-5).

With the results of this poll, the Conservatives win 150 seats to 114 for the New Democrats, 40 for the Liberals, and four for the Bloc Québécois. While the NDP and Liberals could combine to out-vote the Tories, they would be one seat short of an outright majority.

The Conservatives win 27 seats in British Columbia, 27 in Alberta, 19 in the Prairies, 61 in Ontario, three in Quebec, 11 in Atlantic Canada, and two in the North.

The New Democrats win eight seats in British Columbia, one in Alberta, seven in the Prairies, 32 in Ontario, 60 in Quebec, five in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North.

The Liberals win one seat in British Columbia, two in the Prairies, 13 in Ontario, eight in Quebec, and 16 in Atlantic Canada.
Environics' telephone survey, meanwhile, pegged NDP support at 36%, up four points on the Conservatives. But like the Ipsos-Reid poll, this puts the gap between the NDP and Conservatives within the margin of error. Taking these two polls together, this indicates that the two parties are most likely almost tied.

The firm was last in the field Mar. 6-18, before the NDP's leadership convention. The trends, then, point to what sort of effect Mulcair has had on the party's support levels.

And that means a six-point national gain for the NDP, while the Conservatives are up two. The Liberals have fallen one point to 19%, while the Greens stand at 7% and the Bloc at 6%.

Again, Ontario shows a close race. The Conservatives still lead with 36%, up two points, but the NDP is up six points to 32%. The Liberals are down one to 26%. We are seeing the Tories and NDP vote levels converging while the Liberals fall away.

Elsewhere, the New Democrats lead with 45% in Quebec (+11) and 43% in British Columbia (+5), while they trail the Conservatives in Atlantic Canada (31%, -9), the Prairies (30%, -1), and Alberta (26%, +7).

The Conservatives lead with 54% in Alberta (-4), 44% in the Prairies (+1), and 38% in Atlantic Canada (+10) and stand in second in B.C. with 29% (-1).

The Bloc Québécois is second in Quebec with 25% (-5). The Liberals place third or worse in every part of the country.

A note about the Green results in the Prairies and Atlantic Canada: they are implausibly high, but the samples are small and the implications on the results are negligible.

Despite the four point NDP lead, the Conservative advantage in Ontario gives the party the plurality of seats nationwide: 139 seats to 124 for the NDP, 39 for the Liberals, five for the Bloc, and one for the Greens. This time, the NDP and Liberals can combine for a majority.

The Conservatives win 10 seats in British Columbia, 26 in Alberta, 21 in the Prairies, 56 in Ontario, four in Quebec, 21 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North.

The New Democrats win 20 seats in British Columbia, two in Alberta, seven in the Prairies, 27 in Ontario, 60 in Quebec, seven in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North.

The Liberals win five seats in British Columbia, 23 in Ontario, six in Quebec, four in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North.
Finally, buried in the results of the provincial voting intentions of Quebecers and Ontarians, Forum found that the federal voting intentions of these Canadians match closely with the conclusions of Ipsos-Reid and Environics.

In Ontario, Forum finds the NDP and Conservatives tied with 35%, with the Liberals at 22% and the Greens at 5%. Since their last poll of Apr. 24-25, the NDP is up four points while the Tories are down three and the Liberals six. But despite the neck-and-neck race, the Conservative vote is more efficient and delivers 62 seats to the Tories, with 32 going to the NDP and 12 to the Liberals.

This may sound surprising, but Forum finds that the Conservatives hold a substantial lead in eastern Ontario and leads in suburban Toronto and northern Ontario. The two parties are tied in southwestern Ontario (where the Conservatives have an incumbency advantage). The NDP only leads in the 416 area code.

In Quebec, the NDP leads with 39% (-3) to 21% for the Bloc (-2), 17% for the Liberals (+1), and 16% for the Conservatives (-1). This delivers 56 seats to the NDP, 10 to the Liberals, five to the Conservatives, and four to the Bloc Québécois.

These four polls show how the voting intentions of Canadians may be changing, but also how they are not. The New Democrats are back in front in Quebec in a big way and seem safe in the province under the leadership of Thomas Mulcair. The party is also doing well enough in every other part of the country to be running neck-and-neck with the Conservatives in any given poll. Improving fortunes in Ontario is a big positive for the NDP.

On the other hand, their vote in other regions is looking somewhat shaky. The Conservatives seem to have rebounded somewhat in British Columbia, while the NDP lead in Atlantic Canada is now in question. This is problematic for the New Democrats, as a strong showing in British Columbia is the second plank in any drive for 24 Sussex. Gains in Ontario should be the difference-maker, not the key to an NDP government.

Perhaps that will change and the New Democrats will bank on winning Ontario and Quebec instead of making gains out West. That might be a winning strategy, but it is a big might.

What can be said with confidence is that the NDP is on the up-swing. If we take the best and worst regional seat projections from these four polls, the Conservative range ends up at between 126 and 165 seats while the New Democrats get between 105 and 129 seats. While the high Conservative and low NDP ranges are similar to their current standings, the Conservative range points to losses (even of only a single seat), while the NDP range points to gains.

One seat the Conservatives might lose soon is Etobicoke-Centre, due to the results of the 2011 election being thrown out by the courts. If the result is not appealed, or if the appeal is defeated, a by-election will take place. It is difficult to forecast how the voters would react to this re-run (the Conservatives are hoping that they will react negatively against their democratic choice being rejected by a judge, to paraphrase their messaging), but using the projection model the Liberals win the riding by one point with the results of the Ipsos-Reid and Forum polls, and six points with the results of the Environics numbers.

If a by-election does take place in the next six months, it will add a little bit of interest to what might be a rather quiet summer and fall. It will also be a big test. Are voters angry at the Conservatives? Can the Liberals show they are still a party that can win? And is the NDP truly making inroads in Ontario? The polls are currently answering yes, no, and yes to these questions, but the results of a real vote might be more revealing.

Monday, May 14, 2012

With students in streets, Charest faces tough slog with PQ in polls

Dogged by student strikes and the looming inquiry into construction-industry corruption, Jean Charest is nevertheless in a neck-and-neck battle with the Parti Québécois as the remaining lifespan of his government can be counted in months.

According to’s seat and vote projection model, the Parti Québécois currently holds a narrow lead over the Quebec Liberals with 33.1 per cent to 32 per cent support. While this represents a significant gain for both parties since the end of February, with the PQ picking up 3.7 points and the Liberals three, it is a far closer race than was recorded by the polls only a few weeks ago.

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

I had been intending to maintain detailed seat and vote projections for Quebec as I had done with Alberta, but it does not appear very likely that the province will be going to the polls until the fall at least.

Instead, we have two by-elections to look forward to. LaFontaine should be rather straight-forward, but it will be interesting to see if the Liberal vote drops. Argenteuil will be far more interesting, though it is still a relatively safe Liberal seat. However, the CAQ is running Mario Laframboise, a former Bloc MP from the region, and the ADQ finished only eight points behind the Liberals in the 2007 election. So, François Legault could pull off an upset in Argenteuil, and if he does it will give us an indication that the CAQ is far from a sinking ship.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Why the NDP's strategy might be working

When Thomas Mulcair became leader of the NDP, he promised a structured opposition that could take on the Conservative government. His strategy appears to be working.

Poll after poll has put the New Democrats neck-and-neck or ahead of the Conservatives, as yesterday’s Harris-Decima poll indicated. That survey pegged NDP support at 34 per cent, four points up on the Conservatives.

While some of this can be attributed to the honeymoon period that normally comes after a party selects a new leader, there might be more to the NDP’s good fortune.

Undoubtedly, Mulcair is benefiting from a series of bad headlines for the Conservatives. While any one of these stories might not have been enough to seriously dent the Tories’ support, the cumulative effect appears to have been quite damaging.

But on the other side of the aisle, the New Democrats are doing some of the right things. 

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

There was some talk on last night's At Issue panel about Thomas Mulcair's "Dutch Disease" comments and, as I've spelled out in my article which I wrote yesterday morning, I fall more on Chantal Hébert's side of the argument (usually the best place to be). Yes, these kinds of comments that criticize how the oil sands are being developed will win Mulcair no friends in certain parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan, but those people were unlikely to have been considering a vote for the New Democrats anyway.

By framing the debate on the oil sands as an economic one, it puts the NDP on the same playing field as the Conservatives. Whether or not Mulcair's argument is sound is another question entirely, but it is far easier to dismiss environmental arguments in favour of economic prosperity. Stéphane Dion's "Green Shift" is a quick-and-easy example of that.

Bruce Anderson suggested that this tactic polarizes the debate and pits region against region, but here again this is an example of the New Democrats meeting the Conservatives on the same level. Rather than having the two parties talk past each other, they are instead arguing with one another on the same terms. Idealism is great for a protest party, but it is not a vote winner. It can be argued that the Liberals took on the mantle of a protest party in the 2011 federal election more than the NDP did, and they were shunted off to third place as a result. Cynical it might be, but there are politics as they should be and then there are politics as they are. Mulcair's strategy is working so far, I would submit, because he is playing the game.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

NDP leads, could win plurality of seats

After last week's teaser, Harris-Decima has completed and released the full results of their regular two-week survey. It increases the NDP lead by one (the last week must have been a good one for them) and points to the New Democrats being capable - for the first time, I believe - of winning the most seats in the House all on their own.
Since this poll incorporates the data from Harris-Decima's release last week, it is more instructive to compare the results to their last full two-week survey of Mar. 22 to Apr. 2.

The New Democrats are up two points since then to 34%, while the Conservatives have dropped four points to 30%.

The Liberals are up one to 20%, while the Greens are unchanged at 8% support.

As you can see, the weighted averages of all polls now give the New Democrats an outright lead of 33.4% to 32.4% for the Conservatives.

Harris-Decima shows a remarkably close race in Ontario, with the three parties virtually tied. The Tories are down nine points since the end of March and beginning of April to only 32%, trailed closely by the NDP at 31% (+5) and the Liberals at 28% (+4).

Things are stable in Quebec, with the NDP down one point to 38% and the Bloc Québécois up three points to 27%. The Liberals are unchanged at 14%, while the Conservatives are down two to 12%.

The NDP leads in British Columbia with 39% (-5) and Atlantic Canada with 44% (+8), while they trail in second with 39% (+5) in the Prairies and 17% (-2) in Alberta.

The Conservatives are ahead in Alberta (55%, +1) and the Prairies (43%, -2), and are second in British Columbia with 32% (+2). The Liberals hold second in Atlantic Canada with 30% support, unchanged.

The seat projection gives the New Democrats the plurality of seats for, if I am not mistaken, the first time here on ThreeHundredEight. It is likely the first time since at least the late 1980s, in that brief period where Ed Broadbent was on top.

With Harris-Decima's numbers, the New Democrats would win 128 seats, with the Conservatives winning 112 and the Liberals 58. The Bloc Québécois would win nine seats and the Greens one.

The NDP wins 17 seats in British Columbia, one in Alberta, 11 in the Prairies, 27 in Ontario, 55 in Quebec, 16 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North. In the 338-seat House, they would likely win 137 seats (a decrease in share from 41.6% to 40.5%).

The Conservatives win 15 seats in British Columbia, 27 in Alberta, 16 in the Prairies, 47 in Ontario, four in Quebec, two in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North. In the expanded House, their share would likely increase from 36.4% of all seats to 37.9%, or 128.

The Liberals win three seats in British Columbia, one in the Prairies, 32 in Ontario, seven in Quebec, 14 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North. They would likely win 62 seats with the new boundaries.

Harris-Decima lays out the path to a Mulcair victory - the NDP continuing its dominance of Quebec and winning British Columbia and Atlantic Canada, while increasing their representation in the Prairies and Ontario. But the New Democrats actually need the Liberals in Ontario, as in this case it is that party that unseats a lot of Conservatives and gives the plurality of seats nationwide to the NDP.

The Conservatives are certainly in trouble if the race in Ontario becomes as close as this. They have faltered greatly in Atlantic Canada to the benefit of the NDP, and are trailing in British Columbia in almost every poll. That is a somewhat varied clientele for them to have to win back, especially when you add Saskatchewan to the mix.

But has Thomas Mulcair's honeymoon hit its peak? Have Stephen Harper's troubles caused his party to hit rock-bottom, and the only way to go now is up? Or is this what we can expect for the next three years, the two parties vying for top spot in the mid-30s, much like the Liberals and Conservatives did for most of the minority era? Interesting times.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

April 2012 Federal Poll Averages

A month of tremendous change, April saw the New Democrats storming from a distant second to a narrow first. Thomas Mulcair may be in the midst of a honeymoon, but it is quite the honeymoon for the party - particularly in Quebec. Since the monthly federal averages were first calculated in January 2009, the New Democrats in April 2012 put up their best results federally and in British Columbia, Ontario, and Atlantic Canada.
During the month of April, 15,175 Canadians were surveyed in six national polls and five provincial polls (in British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec).

The New Democrats led in April with an average of 33.3% support, a gain of 4.1 points since March. That is their best result on record, surpassing the 32% the party scored in September, shortly after Jack Layton's death.

The Conservatives trailed with 33.2%, down 1.7 points. They hit 33% in February, and were at or below that mark for most of 2011.

The Liberals were down 1.3 points to 20.6%, their lowest result since September, while the Bloc Québécois was down 0.7 points to 6.2% nationally and the Greens 0.1 point to 5.6%.

The most significant shift in support has taken place in Quebec, where Mulcair's leadership win has had the greatest effect. The New Democrats were up a massive 12.8 points (and this in a total sample of 5,651 Quebecers) to 43%, putting them back to where they were in the May 2011 election and in the months just following Layton's passing. It is an incredible rebound for the party.

Every other party has suffered as a result. The Bloc Québécois dropped 6.9 points to 22%, their lowest result since October. This has ended five months of steady increase during the NDP leadership race. The Liberals were down 4.4 points to 15.6%, their lowest result since November, while the Conservatives were down 1.2 points to only 14.3% support, their worst result since June 2009. The Greens were down 0.4 points to 3.5%.

Atlantic Canada also saw a great deal of change, with the New Democrats picking up 7.3 points to reach 40% support, their best result on record (their previous best had been 36% in September). The Liberals trailed with 28.2%, a gain of 1.6 points, but a gap of this size between first and second has not existed in the region since August 2010. The Conservatives were down 6.6 points to 26.7%, their lowest result since that month. The Greens were down 0.5 points to 4.4%.

In Alberta, the Conservatives dropped 1.2 points to 56%, still well ahead of the NDP (up 1.4 points to 20.5%). The Liberals, however, jumped 3.7 points to 16.2%, giving them their best result since March 2011. The Greens were down 0.8 points to 4.7%.

The only Conservative gain since last month took place in Ontario, where the party averaged 38% support, up 0.2 points. The New Democrats surged into second with a gain of 2.2 points, putting them at 29% and their highest result on record. The Liberals dropped to third with a 2.3-point decrease to 25.7%, their worst result since September and their third consecutive month of decline. The Greens were up 0.2 points to 6%.

In British Columbia, the New Democrats have opened up their widest lead on the Conservatives since at least January 2009, picking up two points to hit 38.8% support. The Conservatives, who have been dropping or stagnant for six months now, slipped 1.3 points to 34.2% in the province. The Liberals were down 0.9 points to 16.3% (a third month of decline) while the Greens were unchanged at 8.7%. They have held around that level of support for four months.

Finally, the Prairies were the most stable region, with the Conservatives slipping only 1.1 points to 42.6%. The NDP were up 0.4 points to 34.4%, a third consecutive month of stability at their high of 34%-35%. The Liberals were up a point to 16.9%, while the Greens were down 0.9 points to 4.9%.

Though the New Democrats hold the narrowest of leads federally, they nevertheless trail the Conservatives in the seat projection on these numbers. An April election would have delivered 136 seats to the Conservatives, a drop of eight since March. The New Democrats would have won 120 seats, a huge gain of 42 seats since last month's projection, while the Liberals would be down 11 seats to 47. The Bloc Québécois, projected to be able to win 27 seats in March, wins only four with these numbers, while the Greens hold on to their one.

The Conservatives win 16 seats in British Columbia, 27 in Alberta, 18 in the Prairies, 61 in Ontario, four in Quebec, nine in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North.

The New Democrats win 16 seats in British Columbia, one in Alberta, seven in the Prairies, 25 in Ontario, 60 in Quebec, 10 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North.

The Liberals win three seats in British Columbia, three in the Prairies, 20 in Ontario, seven in Quebec, 13 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North.

In the expanded 338-seat House, the Conservatives would likely win 154 seats to 129 for the NDP and 50 for the Liberals.

The NDP and Liberals could combine for a majority larger than the one the Tories currently enjoy, and with a combined 53.9% support it would be difficult to question the legitimacy of such an arrangement. But for the New Democrats to come out ahead on their own, they desperately need to close the gap in Ontario. They are doing as well as can be expected in every other region. Ontario is the only hold-out.

The Conservatives have some work to do. British Columbia is slipping away and their grip on Saskatchewan is looking very weak. Add to that a few seat losses in Atlantic Canada and a narrowing (though still comfortable) gap in Ontario, and the Tories are in a difficult position. Of course, this is not unusual early in a majority mandate, but it is worth noting that the Conservatives were holding their support one year after their 2008 election win. Some might say that is due to the minority situation forcing the Conservatives to be in constant seduction mode, but it is difficult to argue that the Tories have toned down their campaigning machine.

And for the Liberals, they are in deep trouble. A new leader might right the ship, but that is the mirage the party has been chasing for almost a decade. They are below 17% support in the West, have fallen to third in Ontario, are 12 points behind in Atlantic Canada, and are only holding on to their Montreal Island seats in Quebec. They might be playing the long game, and 2015 is indeed a long time away, but unless Mulcair really trips up it is hard to imagine a comeback in three years' time.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

New Democrats solid in B.C.

The NDP wave has already swept across Quebec, and B.C. may be the next province to succumb to the Orange Crush.

The New Democrats have a long history in B.C., having formed the government on several occasions. But the federal NDP has not won B.C. since 1988, when the party took 37 per cent of the vote under Ed Broadbent. Though their lead over the Progressive Conservatives was only two points, it was enough to give the party 19 of the 32 seats in the province.

The NDP also won the popular vote in B.C. in 1962, 1965 and 1972. But the party's drought in the province now stands at 24 years. Will it end in 2015?

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

But let's here take a look at the latest Forum Research poll on the provincial voting intentions of British Columbians.
Forum Research was last in the field on Apr. 11, shortly before the two by-election victories by the New Democrats in B.C. Liberal ridings.

Since that poll, the B.C. New Democrats have picked up two points and now lead with 48% support, their highest result in any poll since October 2010.

The B.C. Liberals are unchanged at 23% while the B.C. Conservatives are down four points to 19%. The Greens are steady at 8% support.

The Conservatives did worse than expected in the two by-elections, so this drop in support is not too surprising. But it is significant that even the combined vote of the Liberals and Conservatives (42%) is below that of the New Democrats. In the Apr. 11 poll, the NDP and the Liberals/Conservatives each had 46% support apiece.

The NDP has held relatively steady in Vancouver-Lower Mainland with 47% (+2) and 42% (-1) in the Interior/North. They are up six points on Vancouver Island to 56%.

The Liberals are up two points in Vancouver-Lower Mainland to 25% and seven points in the Interior/North to 27%, but are down six points to 16% on Vancouver Island.

The Conservatives, meanwhile, are down four to 20% in Vancouver-Lower Mainland and nine in the Interior/North to 15%, but are unchanged at 19% on Vancouver Island.

One of the problems that the Conservatives had in the two by-elections was getting their vote out - compared to the well-oiled Liberal machine the Conservative rookies were outmatched. Organization isn't everything, though, with the NDP in Quebec being a prime example. But what the NDP in Quebec had that the Conservatives in BC do not is voter enthusiasm.

The Forum poll shows that 88% of NDP voters are very or somewhat enthusiastic about casting their ballot for the NDP in the next election, a stellar result. The Liberals, however, register only 70% while the Conservatives muster only 67%. If anything, that means the NDP could be expected to do even better than 48% if an election had been held on May 2.

The seat result is, with a 25-point lead, a landslide for the NDP. They win 73 seats out of the 85 in the legislature, with the B.C. Liberals forming a paltry opposition of seven seats. The Conservatives and two independents split the remaining five.

But despite the NDP sweep and horrible numbers for the Liberals, Christy Clark gets a higher approval rating among her voters than either Adrian Dix or John Cummins: 69% to 67% for Dix and 60% for Cummins. Though with so little support, one might expect the Liberals to be down to their diehards.

Province wide, Clark has the worst approval rating spread. She scores 25% approval to 62% disapproval, a net result of -37. Cummins scores a lower approval rating (21%), but is only a net -20 as his disapproval is at 41%. Dix has an approval rating of 39%, with 31% disapproving.

Take out the "Don't Knows", and Dix has an approval rating of 56% to 34% for Cummins and only 29% for Clark. That shows the real gap between Dix and the other two leaders.

The B.C. Liberals are considering a name change, but it doesn't seem likely that will save them. Only 16% of British Columbians think they should change their name and only 23% of Liberal supporters. Shocking, really, that a change of name isn't a cure-all.

Monday, May 7, 2012

How would Harper fare in a French-style run-off election?

Voters in France took part in the second round of their presidential election Sunday, choosing François Hollande over Nicolas Sarkozy after the two had topped the list in the country’s first round of voting. But what if Canada adopted a similar electoral system?

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

The French were choosing a president, but if Canada adopted this sort of system for our federal elections (and, yes, the French do use a run-off system for their legislative elections) things would be quite different.

The election in France was quite historic, as the Socialists haven't been in power since Mitterand and it has been a while since there was a one-term president. But what the election shows us here on this side of the Atlantic is that the power of incumbency is nevertheless strong, even when that incumbent is as disliked as a Nicolas Sarkozy.

François Hollande won the second round yesterday with 51.6% of the vote against 48.4% for Sarkozy. That is relatively close. The polls were good: Ifop released the final poll and called it at 52% to 48%.

But that represents a significant drop for Hollande. Immediately after Apr. 22's first round, Holland was leading with anything between 53% and 56% of the vote, most of the polls putting his support at 54%. In a one-on-one election, that is a pretty strong result. If we go back to mid-April, Hollande was ahead with between 55% and 58% of the vote (he was also in the 60s further back).

But Sarkozy closed the gap. Hollande represented change, which many French people wanted, but change comes with risk. Many voters appear to have flirted with the idea of that change and risk before reverting back to the devil they knew.

Though it wasn't enough to win him the election, the kind of incumbent-advantage Sarkozy had in the closing days has played a role in Canada's last seven provincial and federal elections. Incumbents are on a roll: the Conservatives federally, the Liberals in P.E.I. and Ontario, the New Democrats in Manitoba, the PCs in Newfoundland and Labrador and Alberta, and the Sask. Party in Saskatchewan. That incumbency advantage even helped turn elections around for Dalton McGuinty and Alison Redford.

The incumbents could be on the rocks in Quebec and British Columbia, however, the next two provinces likely to go to the polls. But if the last year is any indication, Jean Charest and Christy Clark can't be written off just yet.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Three-way race in Quebec

A three-way race is back in the cards in Quebec, with two polls released today showing no more than seven points separating the third place Coalition Avenir Québec from the leader. Who the leader is, however, is up for debate.
Léger's poll for Le Journal de Montréal, though a few days older, is twice the size of CROP's survey for La Presse. Léger finds the Parti Québécois to be in the lead with 31% support to 28% for the Liberals.

Since Léger's last poll of Apr. 2-4, the PQ has dropped two points while the Liberals have picked up one. The CAQ has picked up two points, and trails in third with 24% support.

Québec Solidaire is up two points to 9%, while the Greens are at 4% (-1) and Option Nationale is at 2% (+1).

The Parti Québécois is leading in this survey with 37% among francophones, down three points. They are also in front in the regions of Quebec with 36% (-1). They have dropped six points in Quebec City to only 25%, however, and are down three points in Montreal to 27%, putting them one point behind the Liberals.

The Liberals are well ahead among non-francophones with 54% and lead in the Montreal region with 28%, a drop of two points. They also have the advantage in Quebec City with 36%, a gain of four points.

The CAQ has generally uniform support, with 28% in Quebec City (+4), 25% in the regions (-2), and 22% in Montreal (+4). Québec Solidaire is doing best with 11% in Montreal, a gain of four points.

According to this survey, 44% of Quebecers want an election this spring and 43% support independence - almost the same percentage of Quebecers supporting the three sovereigntist options.
CROP sees something very different going on, however, with the Liberals leading with 31% and the PQ trailing with 25%. That represents a gain of one point for the Liberals since their Apr. 18-23 poll and a loss of three points for the PQ.

CROP does, however, also put the CAQ at 24% support (-1).

Québec Solidaire and the Greens have 8% apiece, while Option Nationale stands at 2%.

The most meaningful difference between this poll and the Léger poll is in the voting intentions of francophones. Léger gives the PQ an 11 point lead over the CAQ and a lead of 15 points over the Liberals. CROP, however, puts the PQ at 30% (-2), only one point up on the CAQ and six points up on the Liberals, who are at 24% (+2). A close race in this demographic means a lot of close races throughout the province.

Non-francophones still opt for the Liberals en masse (58%), but the Greens scored 23% support.

The Liberals lead in Montreal with 32%, down two points, with the PQ at 25% (-1) and the CAQ at 19% (-3). If we look at the more detailed breakdown, however, we see that the Liberal vote is (surprisingly) evenly split between the island (33%) and the outlying parts of the metropolitan area (31%).

The PQ, however, has more support off the island (28%) than they do on it (22%), while the CAQ is doing quite well in the suburban areas with 27%, putting them in a virtual three-way tie with the PQ and the Liberals. At 13%, however, they trail Québec Solidaire on Montreal Island. The party has 16% support there.

Quebec City is neck-and-neck between the Liberals (35%, +6) and the CAQ (33%, -7), while there is a three-way race in the regions of the province with the Liberals and CAQ tied at 28%. The PQ has dropped six points to 26%.

This poll indicates that 65% of Quebecers want an election in 2012, with most preferring it to be held in the fall.

So, some divergent results that point to a volatile electorate. It is difficult to really figure out what is the situation with these two polls, but we're likely looking at the PLQ doing well on the Island and a three-way contest off it, with the Liberals and CAQ battling it out for Quebec City and the PQ holding the advantage outside the two main cities, with the Liberals and CAQ being competitive.

Though the polls point to two different winners, they both point to minority governments.

With Léger's narrow PQ lead over the Liberals, the Parti Québécois squeaks out a minority government with 52 seats, compared to 47 for the Liberals, 23 for the CAQ, and three for Québec Solidaire.

The PQ win 34 seats in the regions, but also 17 in Montreal and one in Quebec City. The Liberals, meanwhile, win 29 in Montreal, 11 in the regions, and seven in Quebec City, while the CAQ takes nine seats around Montreal, three in Quebec City, and 11 in the regions.

With CROP's relatively comfortable Liberal lead, Jean Charest falls just short of a majority with 59 seats. The PQ wins 37, the CAQ 27, and Québec Solidaire two.

In this case, and thanks to the good Liberal results in the regions and among francophones, they take 22 seats outside the two main cities, with another 32 being won in and around Montreal and five in Quebec City.

The PQ wins 17 in Montreal, 19 in the regions, and one in Quebec City, while the CAQ wins 15 in the regions, seven around Montreal, and five in Quebec City.

Where does the truth lie? If we average out these two seat results, we get 53 for the Liberals, 44.5 for the PQ, 25 for the CAQ, and 2.5 for Québec Solidaire. This would seem to indicate that the Liberals hold the advantage at the moment, but it is too close to really say who is in the lead.

However, Jean Charest and his ministers seem to have been trying to lower expectations about a springtime election. Nevertheless, the rumours continue - particularly because Charest did the same thing just before calling an election in 2008. The numbers aren't bad for the Liberals, and might not get any better, but the student strike throws a big set of unknowns into an election campaign. If the students dog the Premier throughout a five-week campaign, it will make for a lot of ruined photo-ops and the issue won't go away. On the other hand, polls indicate that Quebecers are starting to side with the government more and more (despite thinking they bungled the handling of this issue), so it could be the sort of thing that gives Charest a boost.

Undoubtedly he and his party are weighing the pros and cons. The big problem is that the inquiry into corruption in the construction industry is going to start making news in the fall, and with stories already starting to pop-up (for example, the recent bit of bad headlines for the Education Minister, Line Beauchamp) there is a good chance that the inquiry could be very embarrassing for the Liberals. And as the inquiry should run well into 2013, it will turn Charest's election window into a cul-de-sac.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

NDP leads Conservatives by three

A new survey by Harris-Decima for The Canadian Press puts the New Democrats three points up on the Conservatives, making this the fourth of the last eight polls putting the Tories and NDP neck-and-neck or giving the New Democrats the lead.
Unfortunately, Harris-Decima will not be releasing any of the regional results outside of Ontario and Quebec.

Nationally, however, the New Democrats are up one point from Harris-Decima's Mar. 22-Apr. 2 poll and now lead with 33% support. The Conservatives are down four points to 30%.

Though this puts the lead well within the margin of error, a three point edge is nevertheless a strong indicator that the NDP is very likely in front.

The Liberals are up one point to 20%, while the Greens are unchanged at 8% support. The Bloc Québécois has 7% at the national level.

The race is a very close one in Ontario, where the Conservatives have dropped a statistically significant eight points to reach 33%, only two points up on the NDP (themselves up by five points). The Liberals have gained three points and have 27% support, while the Greens are at 7%.

In Quebec, the New Democrats are unchanged at 39% support while the Bloc Québécois is up five points to 29%. The Liberals are steady at 14% while the Conservatives are down four points to only 10% support.

The Bloc number is an interesting one. Since Thomas Mulcair became leader of the NDP, the Bloc's support has been registered at anywhere between 16% and 29%. On the one hand, the Bloc is in serious danger of being dealt a final death blow, on the other hand they are in a decent position. During the NDP interregnum, the Bloc's support picked up and the polls were in general agreement. But before the NDP dropped in Quebec, we were having the same problem in judging the Bloc's support. It would appear that we are returning to that uncertainty.

It is worth noting that with this Harris-Decima poll, the weighted federal poll averages (at the top of this page) now put the Conservatives and the New Democrats dead even at 33% apiece.

Though Harris-Decima has opted not to release all of their information (full transparency is always best, but it is up to them and their media partners in the end), it is still possible to do a rough seat projection by applying the national swing from the 2011 election to the mystery provinces.

UPDATE: Harris-Decima tells me that they decided not to release the regional data for anything other than Ontario and Quebec because of small sample sizes. Harris-Decima normally conducts polling over two-week periods with samples of 2,000, but in this particular case they only did a poll of 1,000. I am told that they will return to their usual larger polls with more detailed breakdowns next time.

Although it is possible that the actual results of the Harris-Decima poll, say, give the NDP a big lead in British Columbia that would change things to a significant degree, with a more even-keeled application of the shifts in support from the last election the seat projection for this poll demonstrates the problem the New Democrats have with vote efficiency.

Though leading by three points, this poll would deliver only 113 seats to the New Democrats and 128 to the Conservatives, with the Liberals at 57, the Bloc Québécois winning nine, and the Greens holding one.

The problem is, as always, Ontario and the West. The Conservatives' big advantage in Alberta and the Prairies is made up for by the NDP's sweeping of Quebec, but Ontario is a thorn in the NDP's side. They need to have a significant lead over the Conservatives in order to take a big chunk of the seats.

Instead, the Conservatives win 50 seats in Ontario with this poll and three in Quebec, with 75 seats being won in the rest of the country (where we do not know the real results of Harris-Decima's poll).

The New Democrats win 27 seats in Ontario and 56 in Quebec, with the remaining 30 being won in the rest of the country.

The Liberals win 29 seats in Ontario, seven in Quebec, and 21 in the rest of the country.

In a 338-seat House, the Conservatives likely take 144 to 121 for the NDP and 62 for the Liberals. This increases the share of seats the Conservatives hold.

Nevertheless, the New Democrats would likely emerge from these results leading a government, as they could potentially combine with the Liberals for a majority. Perhaps that is enough for the NDP, and as they would have won the popular vote in this hypothetical election their legitimacy would be difficult to question.

Though Ontario is still problematic for the NDP, trailing by two points is the best result I have for them in my records going back to the beginning of 2010 (and undoubtedly long before that as well). If other polls confirm that the Conservatives and New Democrats are running neck-and-neck in this battleground province, then we can say that the NDP is heading in the right direction.

But they need more than a neck-and-neck race if they are to definitively topple the Conservatives. Though it is quite possible that the New Democrats could out-perform expectations in Ontario if they do start getting close to the Tories, the numbers are hard to find for the kind of swing they need. At least eight more seats in Ontario would need to swing from the Conservatives to the NDP with these numbers, and though I can identify eight potential swing seats for the NDP in Ontario over-and-above the projected results, I can only identify eight seats and they start to push the boundaries of plausibility. The party still has a long way to go.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

High stakes in Kitchener-Waterloo

Within a year of the 2011 provincial election, the Ontario Liberals could regain their majority government and deal Tim Hudak's Progressive Conservatives a crippling blow. 

The resignation of Kitchener-Waterloo PC MPP Elizabeth Witmer gives Dalton McGuinty the opportunity to eke out the slimmest of majorities. If the Liberals can win the seat, it would put them and the PC and NDP opposition at 53 seats apiece, a tie broken by Liberal Speaker Dave Levac.

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

The stakes could not be higher in a by-election. Kitchener-Waterloo has voted for Elizabeth Witmer for 22 years, so the important question is whether the riding is a Witmer riding or a Tory riding. Certainly, it has voted Conservative at the federal level but Dalton McGuinty did not win the last election by holding on to ridings that only vote Liberal at federally.

Is Kitchener-Waterloo at play? Most definitely. Both provincially and federally it as been a relatively close race. However, it is difficult to determine where the parties currently stand in Ontario.

The last Forum poll put the Progressive Conservatives in the lead with 34%, with the New Democrats trailing in second with 31% and the Liberals in third with 28%.

The last Nanos poll put the Liberals in the lead with 35% to 32% for the Tories and 27% for the NDP. The margin of error in the Nanos poll was 4.4%, and with Forum's MOE these two polls are not necessarily contradictory. Outside of an election as we are, this is perhaps not too unusual. But Forum has long shown a PC lead while Nanos has long shown a Liberal lead.

What we can certainly say is that the race is a very close one between the three parties. That makes Kitchener-Waterloo even more of a toss-up.

Prior to the two by-elections in British Columbia, I had applied the swing model to the two B.C. ridings using the latest poll numbers and came to some close results. Let's do the same with Kitchener-Waterloo using the numbers from Nanos and Forum, and applying the incumbency penalty for the resignation of Witmer.
The two polls make for some very different races. With the Liberals holding a narrow lead provincially, and with the resignation of the long-time MPP, the Tories and the Liberals are neck-and-neck with 37% for the PCs and 36% for the Liberals. The New Democrats, despite making gains in Nanos's polling, are still not a factor in the riding.

But with the Liberals trailing in third, the Progressive Conservatives only take a very small hit from their 2011 election result and win easily. The gains made by the NDP eat into the Liberal vote even more, putting the New Democrats closer to the Liberals than the Liberals are to the Tories.

These are two very plausible scenarios. If the race becomes one between the PCs and the Liberals - between opposition and a majority government - the election could be a very close one. If the sort of gains that Forum and Environics have attributed to the NDP are real, however, they could play the spoiler and help the PCs hold the seat. That, in the end, is just fine for the New Democrats, who need the legislature to remain in a minority situation.

Of course, without knowing the candidates this is only speculation. If the Liberals put forward a candidate of cabinet calibre, that could well put them over the top. The New Democrats could also nominate a great candidate and manage to unify the opposition vote or the progressive vote.

The riding remains, however, the Tories' to lose. They haven't had much luck in by-elections lately, with John Tory failing to win Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock in 2009 and Ottawa West-Nepean, held by John Baird at the federal level, sticking with the Liberals in 2010. But all the parties will pull out all of the stops in Kitchener-Waterloo.

UPDATE: Steve Paikin from TVO writes here that even if the Liberals win Kitchener-Waterloo, they won't have a real majority as the Speaker will not vote to create a law, only to continue to a second and third reading. However, the post also says that the Speaker would not vote no confidence in the government, ensuring that, if the Liberals win Kitchener-Waterloo, they cannot be defeated (as long as everyone shows up to vote). That is an important part of having a majority, so the implications for this by-election are still huge. But I am also not sure that this means in terms of a budget. If a Speaker cannot vote no confidence in a government, and so defeat the government, can he vote against a budget, which is always a confidence vote? And what role does precedent (always there to be broken) play here?