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.


  1. And please all of you check out that new Forum poll in the National Post.

    1. I find it very interesting that Forum seems to be the pollster of choice for both the National Post and the Toronto Star. Both the right-wing and left-wing press seem to trust them. Lorne Bozinoff must be making money hand-over-fist these days.

    2. Forum conducts its polls as a "public service". They don't charge for them.

    3. Thanks for that Eric. I do wonder how they possibly make enough money to stay open. I suppose using IVR helps with that since they don't need to use live people. I used to work at a live-contact polling outfit (which shall remain anonymous) and it is highly labour-intensive.

    4. Thanks for that Peter. It's an interesting read. It's also quite comprehensive asking Canadians' opinions on several topics, well worth a look. I've often wondered when we'd start sliding leftish again, and, at least in this poll, it seems that might be now.

    5. I was a) surprised and b) impressed with how much they think we have gone left.

      I'm not sure if Eric can document but I would not be surprised to see the Forum poll actually showing the country as being at its normal centre.

      My contention is the right shift is an aberration from our normal, for decades, positions !!

    6. IMO Forum Research is rapidly becoming Canada's prime pollster. Their productivity actually baffles me: they seem to poll very frequently and release their results in an impressively timely fashion (sometimes the same day!); they now regularly do polls not only at the federal level but also for Quebec, Ontario and BC, as well as for any provincial election that happens to be going on. Their reports tend to be quite detailed. They were the only pollster to capture the last-minute closing gap between Wildrose and PC in Alberta.

      This is actually the first time I've personally noticed a Forum poll report by the National Post; had mostly seen them reporting Ipsos, Nanos and Harris-Decima in the past. Pre-2011 election CBC used to almost exclusively report EKOS, but they seem to have dropped out of the federal polling game of late (something to do with their embarrassing underestimation of Tory support last election perhaps?). Now I see CBC reporting on a variety of pollsters, and they now even have their weekly "Nanos Numbers" spot. G&M also seems to report on a variety of pollsters, including Environics which I rarely see anywhere else. And then you have the Abacus Data - Sun Media thing going on.


  2. New Nanos numbers for Ontario today:
    PC - 33.6% (+1.5)
    Lib - 31.0% (-4.4)
    NDP - 28.5 (+2.0)
    Grn - 5.6% (-0.4)

  3. Folks the race is over 1200 laps/days to go
    and at this time strap on your seat belts
    its going to be a chair holding white knuckle
    finish. Stay tuned for future update the race
    is almost done if you consider it only has a
    less than 1/3 of a decade to go!I can see
    2015 over the horizon.

  4. I've noticed in the media reporting lately a lot of comment re dissension in the CPC caucus. Particularly after the last few days of that YouTube clip.

    Now could this presage a split within the CPC to a Reform wing and a PC wing??

    Makes for interesting speculation ??

    1. Err no, that's just wishful thinking.

      That YouTube video ranks as nothing to talk about compared to what normally happens in all parties.

      NDP just lost a member over the gun registry.

      Liberals and NDP lost members over gay marriage in the 00's.

      Not to mention all the floor crossing.

      Harper has lost Geurgis, Casey, and Turner in his time.

      This kind of turn over is normal. To make a connection between that BC MP and the rise of reform is a huge stretch.

    2. Derek Andrew28 May, 2012 17:51

      Annonymous: 16:53,

      Agreed except it may indicate poor communication between the PMO and caucus. Mulroney even when his polls were in the basement managed to keep his caucus onside. I think we can attribute Wilks gaffe down to a rookie mistake as oppossed to what Peter insinuates is a more fundamental split.

    3. Yeah Peter, I sort of agree, but maybe it's too early yet. I'm sure there are moderate PC types out there who are chafing under Harper, but they are in government and these CPC types know what side their bread is buttered on. If it's apparent the CPC will lose the next election, and/or if it does lose the next election, then we'll likely see a split, revolution, calls for a new leader, etc.

    4. Oh I agree it's probably too early pink but it does give a glance at the future.

      Given the PC track record from Dief on who's to say ??

  5. Derek

    You are ignoring the point I made re reports from the media. If there is dissension then we have the viability of change, eh?

    1. Derek Andrew29 May, 2012 21:44


      Re: reports from the media I have only read/ seen dissention from Mr. Wilks, which he rapidly backtracked.

      ONe M.P. does not make changhe viable under the current circumstances. 16/17 Government M.P.s may change the equation.

  6. Re: Forum poll

    Harper's personal numbers are tanking in a big way. He is tied with Bob Rae and well behind Mulcair. The net numbers are even worse. Harper is a distant third. The hatred for Harper will be impossible to reverse at this point. He is now a drag on the party and the longer he stays as leader the worse the numbers will get.


  8. Eric

    The Nanos poll says 500 people. Isn't that a rather small size given the size of Ontario ??

    1. It is a small size no matter what the jurisdiction, but within the norm for Nanos in Ontario.

  9. Derek Andrew29 May, 2012 18:12


    Enjoyed reading your article in the Globe. I wonder however, if you are able to break down your numbers into safe and swing ridings?



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