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?

34 comments:

  1. This is one by-election where I believe the voter turn out might be higher than the general election result.

    This is an urban/suburban type riding akin to the "905". If the Tories manage to keep this riding without Witmer, it would be a significant morale boost for their party.

    If the Liberals win, Hudak should resign immediately. The party should look for a leader outside the current stock of mediocre MPPS.

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  2. The Tories and the NDP should both be campaigning simply on preventing McGuinty from getting a majority.

    That should be enough to win it for either depending on who is more successful.

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  3. I will be so disappointed in Ontarians if they elect a Liberal here.

    I can accept that they didn't want Hudak to be premier, but who could possibly want McGuinty to have a majority?

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    1. Uh... you know they twice gave him majorities, right?

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    2. But by now they should know better.

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    3. Voters and a broken electoral system gave him a majority...

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    4. Let me get this straight, Ira. You intend to judge all Ontarians by the actions of what is likely to be less than 50% of the electorate of a single constituency? In other words you intend to judge us all by the actions of a little bit less than 0.5% of the population?

      Yeah, that's totally a fair way to evaluate a province.

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    5. If a Liberal is elected in Kitchener-Waterloo, Hudak and the PCs would do some soul-searching. There would be a good chance Hudak steps down as leader, which would benefit all Ontarians.

      As long as Hudak is leader of the PCs, the Liberals will continue to be on top.

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    6. Is Kitchener-Waterloo somehow materially different from the rest of Ontario? Is there something about Kitchener-Waterloo that stands out as anomalous within Ontario?

      I'm an Albertan; I already think you people are crazy.

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    7. When it comes to provincial politics, I feel like pretty much every province is crazy as all hell. Or at least the largest provinces.

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    8. TS - to be fair to Ira, he's been on the record as thinking Albertan's are crazy for their most recent electoral decision too. He doesn't just hate on Ontario lol.

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  4. Derek Andrew01 May, 2012 17:20

    This should be a Conservative hold. McGuinty's popularity has decreased since the election and his cozying up to the NDP will not go over well in this traditionally conservative region.

    By-elections are notoriously unpredictable of course but, the general trend is against the Government. Turnout could be key but since, by-elections generally have low turnout this likely favours the Tories who rely on older voters.

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    1. On the federal level, it was Liberal for 11 years before passing to the Tories by only 17 votes, so not too traditionally Tory there. On the provincial level, I do believe that this was more of a Witmer riding. Living in the riding, I have seen many people supporting Elizabeth Witmer on a personal level rather than supporting her party.

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  5. I appreciate this race has provincial implications, a possible Lib majority and all that, but what about the constituents? What do they want? I suspect in the end, some of them will want a representative that reflects their values and priorities regardless of whether that person gives the Liberals a majority or not. What seems to be forgotten here are the candidates. What are they like? As daddy Pinko used to say, are any of them worth the powder it would take to blow them to hell?
    Just wondering.

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  6. the centre left vote will unite around the liberals specifically to mess with the stability of the Ontario pc's... All progressives will want to do damage to the little sister party of the flaherty Harper cons..

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    Replies
    1. After the initial budget, the centre-left weren't too pleased with McGuinty either.

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  7. Yeah Volkov, I voted for McGuinty three times. Not any more! His "Green Program" is costing us billions of dollars a year and thousands of jobs. His junior and full day kindergarten is something we can't afford. Nor can we afford the small class sizes in the primary grades. McGuinty hired Don Drummond and then ignored most of his recommendations, especially the ones that would result in big savings. Before the NDP inspired tax on the rich the Liberal government was going to reduce the deficit by all of $200 million when we have a deficit in excess of $15 billion. What a joke.

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    1. You do know that many studies have shown that money invested in the classroom returns to the taxpayers at a very nice rate of return right? Also that the price increase for energy has been shown (by the energy board) to be 6% due to green policies and 45% due to the idiotic nuclear program (and climbing as they talk about more unnecessary plants being built for tens of billions of dollars).

      McGuinty didn't set it up properly, I do agree on that, but if he set up green programs like the nuclear we'd be seeing them pay 100% of the cost to build the windmills/solar panels/etc. then claim how cheap they are to run afterwards (near $0) much like they do with nuclear ($$$$$$ to build, reasonable to keep running once built until an issues comes up then that isn't factored into the cost they advertise, instead just getting the raw dollars from the province).

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  8. It is definitely a toss-up since any party can expect to win the by-election. It is worth noting that the race did tighten in 2011 compared to 2007 so the Liberals might just win this riding. It is hard to understand why voters would not vote for stability given the Liberals are only short a seat and the PCs have proven that they are not only incompetent enough to give Horwath the budget spotlight, but also lose a high-profile moderate MPP. With Rob Ford campaigning for the PCs, Kitchener-Waterloo might just give Dalton McGuinty his majority considering Ford failed to elect a single PC in Toronto after campaigning to bring conservatives to Queen's Park.

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    1. Actually, Ford remained neutral in the provincial race, or at least he never made an official endorsement. He did endorse the Harper Conservatives in the federal election.
      http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1062057--ford-steers-clear-of-provincial-election

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  9. In New Brunswick in 2006, the Speaker of the New Brunswick legislature, Michael Malley, voted for the Lord government's final budget in a tie vote. I'm thinking this sets a precedent that the Speaker can vote for a government's budget. But specifically I have often wondered about the case of a budget bill rather than the budget motion "That this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government". It is the budget bills that change the status quo. What is the Speaker to do if there is a tie vote on third reading of a budget bill? Voting yay will change the status quo but the budget bill is a confidence vote and voting nay will defeat the government, also a change of the status quo. I do not know if there is precedence for this question.

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  10. Eric, there is a precedent for how the Speaker of a minority legislature would vote in the case of a tied vote on the budget. In 2005, the House of Commons was tied between the Liberals and NDP supporting the budget, and the Conservatives and BQ opposing it. Speaker Milliken broke the tie by voting in favour of the budget. I would expect that to be how the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly would vote if the Liberals were to win the K/W by-election.

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  11. "AnonymousMay 1, 2012 08:16 PM

    If a Liberal is elected in Kitchener-Waterloo, Hudak and the PCs would do some soul-searching. There would be a good chance Hudak steps down as leader, which would benefit all Ontarians.

    As long as Hudak is leader of the PCs, the Liberals will continue to be on top."

    At least some of you out there can recognize reality!! Ever since Hudak grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory on the last election the long knives should have been out for him. One more fubar and he has to go. As you say most Ontarian s really want to see him gone, he's bluntly a farce !!

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  12. What's curious here is how 'strategic voting' will play out. If it really is a Tory-Grit two-way race, will local NDPs who don't want a Liberal majority be able to 'hold their noses' tight enough to vote PC?

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    Replies
    1. Implying a vote for the NDP will count as a vote for the Liberals.
      -Taylor

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  13. And today Hudak is out there slamming the "tax the rich" thing that Horvath put up as her cost for supporting McGuinty's budget.

    But guess what Tim ?? The vast majority of the public supports the idea. They are fed up with the incredible money some people make and aren't taxed on nearly heavily enough. You just grabbed defeat again !!

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  14. Peter I agree if we could get rid of Hudak I'd be very happy.

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  15. OT:

    Why the polls helped the PC's win in AL:

    http://www.ipolitics.ca/2012/05/02/oleh-iwanyshyn-how-the-polls-helped-the-pcs-win-in-alberta/

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  16. The Toronto Star is reporting a Forum poll of Kitchener-Waterloo that has the Liberals in the lead:

    Lib: 39%
    PC: 32%
    NDP: 20%
    Green: 7%

    http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1172087--poll-liberals-have-shot-at-long-held-tory-seat-in-byelection

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    Replies
    1. Having lost their long term "resident" MPP the public will be looking around for a replacement.

      Only the most rigid conservative could possibly go for the Hudak party. Hence expect a Liberal win.

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  17. One cautionary note about that Forum poll. In the actual provincial election in K-W, the vote was PC43%, Libs36%, NDP 17%. When Forum asked people who they voted in Oct. they got Liberals 40%, Tories 38% and NDP 11% - so the sample seems very skewed towards people who voted Liberal last October.

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    Replies
    1. Four points off on a small riding sample? I'd call that pretty close, not 'very skewed'!

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  18. It may not seem like much but if the sample is 5% more Liberal than the electorate and is 6% less NDP and 4% less PC - if you were to weight by actual vote results in the election - it makes the difference between the Liberal 7 point lead and a narrow PC lead!

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  19. I suspect the Liberals will call it as fast as possible. They have far deeper pockets than any other party right now and the ability to make promises that could (potentially) be kept while the PC's cannot.

    If the PC's came out and actually negotiated with the Liberals they might have been able to say 'help us keep them honest'. Instead it is 'vote for us to get another general election ASAP'.

    In truth, I'd rather it stay a minority situation and force McGuinty to bend but when the PC's won't negotiate it becomes a Liberal-NDP alliance by default and that could be very expensive.

    As to that area - generally liberal in thinking, with many students and families of students there thanks to the universities in Waterloo and Guelph being nearby. I suspect more GO promises (they finally have a train going there) and some student relief would help. Perhaps some help for the city as it grows as well - transit is a big deal in the area so that would be an easy sell. That's what I'd expect to sell.

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