Friday, June 29, 2012

Majority support for federal NDP in Newfoundland & Labrador?

Environics released a new poll earlier this week, showing that the New Democrats continue to hold a narrow lead over the Conservatives, mostly unchanged from their last poll of May 7-9. But a sub-regional breakdown provided to ThreeHundredEight shows that the NDP is running away with things in Newfoundland and Labrador - and struggling in Saskatchewan.
Compared to Environics' last poll, the NDP is down one point to 35% while the Tories are up one to 33%, an insignificant shift even on a large sample size such as this. The Liberals are unchanged at 19%, while the Bloc stands at 7% and the Greens are down one to 6%.

The Conservatives are up four points in Ontario to 40%, while the NDP is down two to 30%. The gap stands at 10 points, but that has been bouncing around from poll to poll. The Liberals, down three to 23%, have been struggling in most surveys.

In Quebec, the New Democrats are down one point to 44% and the Bloc Québécois is up one to 26%. The Liberals are up two to 15% and the Tories are down three to 12%, none of these being very significant changes in support.

The gap has narrowed in British Columbia, where the NDP is down six points to 37% and the Tories are up five to 34%. The Liberals are well behind the pack with 21% (+1), while the Greens are down two points to 8%.

Alberta and the Prairies are standard fare, while the NDP is up 13 points in Atlantic Canada to 44%. The Liberals are up 10 to 30%, while the Conservatives are down 15 to 23%. These wild swings are likely statistical noise, but the sample is more robust than usual: Environics over-sampled the region to get useable Newfoundland numbers (but of course, those were scaled back to represent an accurate weight within the region).

None of these regional results are remarkable, they generally line-up with what most other polls show to be the case. But the sub-regional results are fascinating, giving us a look at the country's three largest cities (and their metropolitan areas), how the vote breaks down in the Prairies, and where things stand on the Rock.
We shall start out West, where the New Democrats lead in Vancouver with 41%, putting them ahead of the Conservatives by eight points. The Liberals stand third with 24% support in and around the city.

Moving to Saskatchewan, we see that the NDP is not doing as well in the province as has been expected. Most of their gains in the Prairies appear to be heavily weighted to Manitoba, where the race is quite close.

In Saskatchewan, the Conservatives are down nine points from the election to 47% support, but the New Democrats have slipped four points to 28%. This does not put them in range of winning any seats, maintaining the status quo of 13 Conservatives and one Liberal (they are up four points to 13% in the region). The Green result, at 12%, is probably too high, but it is difficult to know for sure where those votes might go.

The Conservatives have dropped 15 points in Manitoba to 39%, while the NDP is up nine points to 35%. The Liberals, meanwhile, are steady with 17% support. This would likely deliver four seats to the NDP and one to the Liberals in the province, with the remaining nine going to the Tories. That is down two seats for them.

In Toronto, the race is a close one: the Conservatives have 33% support, the NDP has 31%, and the Liberals have 28%. This suggests that the NDP is starting to breakthrough into the outlying suburbs of Toronto, but that the Liberals are still a force in the city.

The NDP is running away with it in Montreal, where they have 52% support. The Bloc is the runner-up with 21%, putting them narrowly ahead of the Liberals. They have 16% support, much of that undoubtedly concentrated on the West Island. The Tories are completely out of the race with 8% support in the area.

And that brings us to Newfoundland and Labrador. The sample for the province isn't huge, with an MOE of just under eight points, but it is large enough to give us an idea of what is going on. I'm also told that a larger sample has backed up these results. Environics puts NDP support in Newfoundland and Labrador at 59% support, up an amazing 26 points since the election. The Liberals are down 16 points to 22%, while the Tories are down 10 points to 18%. With this sort of swing, the New Democrats could win four seats in the province, with the Liberals barely holding on to three.

On these numbers (excluding the city and NL results, however), the Conservatives win 142 seats to 120 for the NDP and 40 for the Liberals. The Bloc would win five seats and the Greens would retain one.

The Tories win 17 seats in British Columbia, 27 in Alberta, 22 in the Prairies, 70 in Ontario, three in Quebec, two in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North. As usual, it is the combination of the West and Ontario that keeps the Conservatives on top.

The NDP wins 13 seats in British Columbia, one in Alberta, four in the Prairies, 25 in Ontario, 60 in Quebec, 16 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North.

The Liberals win five seats in B.C., two in the Prairies, 11 in Ontario, seven in Quebec, 14 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North.

As mentioned, the top-line and regional numbers add to the general picture that is forming about where the parties stand throughout the country. But the sub-regional ones paint a slightly different landscape. While caution must be used with the small samples, they suggest that the NDP is not making the inroads it needs to make in Saskatchewan and that the party is poised to do exceptionally well in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Conservatives are still in play in Vancouver and Toronto, but are being challenged more and more in the Ontario capital.

Environics gives us some interesting numbers to mull over the Canada Day weekend.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Three federal polls, 2.5 NDP leads

Three federals polls have been released over the last few days, all showing the New Democrats narrowly ahead or tied with the Conservatives. Let's go through them one-by-one.
Harris-Decima was last in the field Apr. 26-May 6, and since then the New Democrats have slipped two points to 32%. The Conservatives are up one to 31% while the Liberals are up three to 23%.

The Greens trail with 7% and the Bloc Québécois is at 5% nationally.

The gap is just as narrow between the NDP and Tories among men and women, with the NDP holding a three point advantage among females and the Conservatives holding a two point edge among males.

The NDP leads in British Columbia (-3), Quebec (-2), and Atlantic Canada (-8) with 36%, and is running second in Ontario with 32% (+1), the Prairies with 30% (-9), and Alberta with 16% (-1).

The Conservatives lead in Alberta with 62% (+7), the Prairies with 47% (+4), and Ontario with 33% (+1). They are trailing in second in British Columbia with 33% (+1).

The Liberals are second in Atlantic Canada with 35% (+5), while the Bloc is second in Quebec with 21% (-6).

The narrow gaps in British Columbia and Ontario are important in this poll, as they are the main drivers behind the narrow gap nationwide.
Ipsos-Reid was last in the field May 8-10, and since then the NDP is up three points to 38%, putting them ahead of the Conservatives. The Tories are down two points to 35%, while the Liberals are down one to 18%.

The Bloc has 6% nationally while the Others has 4%. Ipsos-Reid did not separate the Greens from the Others in this survey.

It is worth noting that this poll was conducted online by Ipsos-Reid, while their previous poll had been a hybrid telephone and Internet poll. The methodological difference could be playing a role in the shifts in support between this poll and their last one.

It is also worth noting that the NDP's lead may be somewhat illusory, as it might not turnout in a real election. The Conservatives hold the lead among those aged 35 years or older (those most likely to vote), with 40% to the NDP's 35%.

Among Canadians born in this country, the NDP holds a narrow two point lead with 38% to the Conservatives' 36%. Among foreign-born Canadians, however, the NDP is far ahead: 36% to 30% for the Liberals and 28% for the Conservatives.

The NDP leads in this poll in Ontario (+5) and Quebec (-5) with 40%, and are also ahead in Atlantic Canada with 38% (+11). They trail in second with 43% in the Prairies (+6), 35% in British Columbia (+2), and 24% in Alberta (+5).

The Conservatives are ahead in Alberta with 67% (+4), the Prairies with 45% (-4), and British Columbia with 37% (-14). They are second in Ontario with 34% (-2), while the Liberals are second in Atlantic Canada with 30% (-5) and the Bloc is runner-up in Quebec with 26% (+3).

The big NDP lead in Ontario is the stand-out regional result from this poll, but it has yet to be repeated anywhere else.
Abacus was last in the field on May 15-16, and since then the Conservatives have dropped two points to 35%, putting them in a tie with the steady NDP. The Liberals are up three points to 20%, while the Greens are at 6% and the Bloc is at 5%.

Abacus puts the NDP ahead in Quebec with 43%, up two points, and in British Columbia with 39%, also up two. They are in second in the Prairies with 39% (+11), Ontario with 31% (-4), and Alberta with 25% (+6).

The Conservatives lead in Alberta (61%, -7), the Prairies (53%, -2), and Ontario (37%, -1). They are tied for the lead in Atlantic Canada at 30% (+3) with the Liberals, and are second in British Columbia with 38% (-2).

The Liberals dropped one point to 30% to tie for the lead in that region, while the Bloc is second in Quebec with 22% (-1).

In terms of seats, all of these polls give the Conservatives a plurality. They also give the NDP and the Liberals a combined majority, if they were inclined to work together.

The best poll for the Conservatives is Abacus Data's, as it would deliver 140 seats to 113 for the NDP and 50 for the Liberals. The Bloc would win four and the Greens one. The Conservatives bank on strong performances in the West to hold on to the lead in seats, while the NDP still struggles in Ontario.

The best poll for the New Democrats is Ipsos-Reid's. Their numbers award them 131 seats to 132 for the Conservatives, 37 for the Liberals, seven for the Bloc, and one for the Greens. Here, it is the NDP's stellar result in Ontario that makes the difference, but they would need to be doing better in British Columbia in order to come out on top.

And the best poll for the Liberals is Harris-Decima's, as it gives them 69 seats to 111 for the NDP and 123 for the Conservatives (the remaining five going to the Bloc and Greens). Strong numbers in Atlantic Canada and Ontario give the Liberals most of their seats in this poll.

But that brings us to the Liberal leadership race. Abacus surveyed whether Canadians had a favourable or unfavourable impression of some of the likely (and not so likely) candidates, finding that Justin Trudeau is head and shoulders above the rest: 50% favourable to 28% unfavourable and only 22% unsure.

Next on the list was Marc Garneau, with a split of 33% to 23%. But 44% were unsure, indicating that many Canadians know little about him. That is also the case for two other likely candidates, Gerard Kennedy (62% unsure) and Dominic Leblanc (70% unsure). For what it is worth, neither had positive scores: Kennedy had 18% favourable to 20% unfavourable, while Leblanc split 14% to 16%.

Among Liberal supporters, though, they had better splits: 29% to 16% for Kennedy and 24% to 12% for Leblanc. Garneau's was even better at 46% to 14%, but Trudeau was, again, well ahead of the pack with a favourability rating of 70% among Liberal supporters, to only 15% unfavourable.

Put Trudeau at the helm of the Liberal Party, and their fortunes improve. They would take 32% of the vote, narrowly behind the Conservatives, who would be at 33% support. The NDP would sink to only 24%, suggesting that their support is remarkably soft.

In terms of seats, the Tories would still come out on top with 131. The Liberals would win 99, however, with 74 going to the NDP. Again, the Liberals and NDP could combine for a majority, though in this case it would be the Liberals calling the shots.

But there is plenty of time yet for Trudeau not to run, to lose if he does run, or to whittle his support down between now and 2015. Nevertheless, this is another demonstration of what Trudeau would do for the Liberal Party. Far from writing them off, he would entice Canadians to give them another look. The fate of the Liberals would then depend on what he would do with that attention.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tories retain Rothesay, everyone wins

The results of last night's by-election in Rothesay, a New Brunswick riding north of Saint John, were somewhat surprising. Ted Flemming held on to the riding for the governing Progressive Conservatives by the skin of his teeth, while the Liberals improved their vote share to come a close second and the New Democrats more than doubled their raw vote total from 2010's general election. In sum, everyone has something to be pleased about.

For those of us who were watching the results come in, it was pretty clear throughout the night that Flemming was going to win. But who would place second was not settled until the last 10 ballot boxes or so were opened, as the Liberal John Wilcox and the NDP's Dominic Cardy traded the advantage for much of the night. It was a good performance for Cardy, the NDP's party leader, but he fell just short of the 30% and second-place finish that I said would be a moral victory for the party. While they can still be content with their result, it is not the unambiguously strong performance that it would have been had Cardy and Wilcox traded places.

In the end, Flemming's PCs captured 38.3% of the vote, compared to 31.3% for the Liberals, and 27.3% for Cardy. It was a much closer race than it could have been.
The PCs took a big loss last night, dropping from 56.6% and shedding 1,747 votes. That is a significant number, particularly when you consider turnout dropped by 1,711 votes (from 68.6% to 45.4%). In other words, this was not about Tory voters staying home - the PCs lost votes to the other parties, too.

The Liberals did surprisingly well, considering they are slightly down in the polls and without a leader. They lost only 362 votes but upped their vote share by almost three points. They are still seen as the main alternative to the Tories, at least in Rothesay.

On the face of it, the New Democrats did spectacularly. They gained 624 votes (after capturing only 534 on lower turnout in 2010) and improved their vote share by more than 18 points. But with Dominic Cardy on the ballot, the NDP was gunning for a win. The results fell far short of those expectations. A victory was not out of the question (clearly, as the NDP needed only 468 of the Liberals' votes to come out on top), but as party leader Cardy should have been able to represent the best alternative to the Tories in this particular riding. Their results do match quite closely to what the federal NDP took in 2011 (thanks to reader nbpolitico for the details), suggesting that Cardy was able to max out the NDP's support but was unable to attract many new voters to the party.

The Greens had a horrible night, as they almost always do in by-elections. The party shed 288 votes, earning only 69 and 1.6% overall. They were almost beaten by the independent candidate.

The forecast pegged the riding as Strong P.C., giving them a very high probability of retaining the riding, as they in fact did. The vote forecast was off, though that was expected due to the unpredictable nature of Cardy's effect on the result. The surprise of the night was that the Liberals were able to make gains. Coupled with the NDP's boost, it dropped the Tory vote even further than was expected.

If we apply the swing from last night's by-election province-wide, the Liberals would come out on top with 37% of the vote, with the Tories at 32% and the NDP at 31%. That would give the Liberals a minority government of 25 seats, with the PCs winning 19 and the NDP winning 11.

The Liberals improved their vote share by a smidgen but the New Democrats more than tripled theirs. With the Tories dropping by almost a third, it spells a pretty dramatic defeat for David Alward. But, of course, the NDP won't be able to run Dominic Cardys in every riding and the patronage issue that undoubtedly hurt the PCs in Rothesay was a highly localized one.

It is difficult to choose the big winner from last night's by-election. The Progressive Conservatives won the riding, but they had held it since 1999 and saw their vote share drop to the lowest it has been since before that first victory. They come out slightly bloodied, but with the next election only in 2014 the consequences are rather minimal. As I wrote yesterday, a win is a win for the Tories.

In a way, the Liberals came out of last night's by-election with the most positive news. The party has been slipping in the polls and has yet to name a new leader after Shawn Graham stepped down. Their low profile candidate had to contend with the high profile Cardy, but he nevertheless came within seven percentage points of the Tories and improved his party's vote share. It is a strong sign that the Liberals are still a force to be reckoned with in New Brunswick politics.

For the New Democrats, last night was bittersweet. Cardy demonstrated that he has strong appeal even in a bad riding for the party. Tripling his party's vote share is no small feat, doubling its vote haul in a by-election is impressive as well. But the NDP was hoping for a Cardy win or, at least, a second place showing. That did not happen, but while the New Democrats cannot come out of last night's by-election claiming to be the real alternative to the Tories, they weren't shamed. If another by-election pops up in a more amenable riding for the NDP, Cardy should be able to win it. At the very least, that is what he showed last night.

A warning shot across the bow of the Tories, an encouraging sign for the Liberals, and a respectable performance for the New Democrats. If this trend were to continue through to 2014, the re-election of David Alward would be far from a foregone conclusion.

Monday, June 25, 2012

N.B. by-election tough first test for nationally leading NDP

A provincial by-election is taking place today in New Brunswick in the riding of Rothesay, just outside of Saint John. Though it is a strong riding for the governing Progressive Conservatives, the New Democrats are taking a run at it by nominating Dominic Cardy, leader of the party, as their candidate. The by-election marks the first electoral test for the NDP as the leading national political brand.

Of course, provincial and federal politics are very different beasts. While the provincial New Democrats took only 10% of the vote in the 2010 election in New Brunswick, the federal NDP captured 30% in the province in the 2011 federal election. Nevertheless, the provincial and federal brands of the NDP are more closely linked than either their Conservative or Liberal rivals - and it is hard to separate the recent surge in NDP support that has been registered in Atlantic Canada at both levels of government.

But Rothesay could be a very difficult nut to crack. It has been held by the Progressive Conservatives since 1999, and they have not taken less than 48 per cent of the vote in their four consecutive victories. However, all of those victories were won by Margaret-Ann Blaney, who has left to take a post in the public service.

Hugh John (Ted) Flemming III has somehow fit his name on the lawn signs for the PCs, while John Wilcox is running for the Liberals and Sharon Murphy for the Greens.

ThreeHundredEight forecasts Rothesay to be a strong PC riding, giving them a very high probability of coming out on top tonight. But with the presence of Cardy on the ballot, this makes the riding much more unpredictable than the recent by-elections in Quebec.

Polls are quite rare in New Brunswick, but Corporate Research Associates puts out quarterly numbers. They have shown very little change in voting intentions over the last year.

Since August 2011, the Progressive Conservatives have been solidly between 41% and 45%, while the Liberals have stood between 28% and 34%. The New Democrats, at between 19% and 23%, are well behind in third place. All of these variations are well within the margin of error.

The swing from CRA's last poll suggests that the Tories should still be able to win the riding by a margin of 21 points, even with Cardy on the ballot. But he has the potential to shake things up considerably, just as Kevin Lamoureux was able to take the federal Liberals from also-ran to winner in 2010's by-election in Winnipeg North.

The Progressive Conservatives are still likely to win the riding. They have history of winning, taking 57% of the vote in 2010. But there are several factors which put the riding at risk. Blaney was awarded a plum post in the provincial civil service, highlighting the issue of patronage. That could hurt the Tories significantly. Also, the last time they lost the riding was in 1995 when Blaney was not on the ballot. Since 1999, has Rothesay been a PC stronghold or a Blaney stronghold? The forecast gives the Progressive Conservatives between 52% and 53% of the vote, though I suspect they could be easily whittled down below that mark. But the Tories are still doing well in the provincial polls and Premier David Alward is relatively popular, so they are still the favourite to win. The next provincial election is far away, so a win will be a win for the Tories.

The Liberals are in a much more difficult position. They have been competitive in this riding before, winning it in 1995 and taking 47% of the vote in 2006. But that fell to 28% in 2010, and with the party leaderless they do not have the wind in their sails. They have nevertheless held relatively steady in the polls, suggesting that they are holding on to their vote from the 2010 election, but there is little reason to believe that the voters of Rothesay will be looking to Wilcox as the best alternative to the PCs. The forecast puts them between 23% and 27% of the vote. If anti-PC voters flock to Cardy and the NDP, they could take significantly less support than this. But without a leader, they have a ready-made excuse for a bad performance. There is little at stake for them in Rothesay.

Not so for the New Democrats. With Dominic Cardy on the ballot, the NDP is taking a big risk - but it is a necessary risk. The NDP hasn't held a seat in the legislature since 2005 and desperately need to back-up their decent polling numbers. Support for the party is double what it was on election day and they need something concrete to solidify these numbers. Rothesay is not a particularly good riding for the party, as they only took 9% of the vote in 2010. With the exception of their poor showing in 2006, that is generally where they party has been in Rothesay: they captured 12% in 1995 and 2003 and 10% in 1999. So while they do have a decent base from which to work, they need to eat into the Liberal vote as well as the PC vote in order to come out on top. It is a tall order, and the forecast only gives them between 15% and 19% of the vote. However, I think Cardy will do considerably better. If the NDP can manage to place second with over 30% of the vote, I would consider that a moral victory. If they can actually win the riding, it would be spectacular for the party.

With less than 10,000 voters in the riding, even a small amount of swing can drastically change things. If 5,000 turn out to vote, which would be a decent showing for a by-election, only 500 votes going from the Liberals to the NDP would be enough to put the New Democrats in second place. It will take a lot more than that, however, for Cardy to defeat Flemming. But with the NDP making gains at the provincial level and leading federally, it is far from implausible.

Friday, June 22, 2012

And now for something completely different...

With the House of Commons rising for the summer and ThreeHundredEight finally being hosted on its own URL, I thought it might be fun to celebrate with something a little different.

I enjoy the webcomic xkcd by Randall Munroe and a few weeks ago he did a great parody of Gilbert & Sullivan's "Modern Major General" about the different subjects one can major in, called "Every Major's Terrible". Here's what I consider the best rendition of the song by one of Munroe's readers, though this one is also good if you just want to get the tune.

So I humbly took a crack at doing my own parody of "Modern Major General" focusing on that thing we all love (help us) - Canadian politics!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

PC lead widens as Horwath approval slips

Forum has been furiously polling the good people of Ontario of late, having conducted one federal and two provincial polls since June 4. Their timing, as always, is good - it only became clear yesterday that Ontario would not be headed to a snap election in July. But the happenings in Queen's Park, though they have appeared to have little real effect on voting intentions, have pushed down Andrea Horwath's approval ratings significantly.
Forum was last in the field on June 4, shortly before talk of a summer election picked up. Since then, the Progressive Conservatives have gained two points and now lead with 38% support, putting them eight points up on the New Democrats, who are unchanged at 30%.

The Liberals, however, are down two points to 26%. The Greens sit at 5% support province-wide in this one-day IVR poll.

Though Environics recently pegged Liberal support as low as 25%, this is the lowest that Forum has registered the Liberals since June 2011. This was when the party was polling well behind the Tories and were on track to be defeated in the October election. It did not quite turn out that way, but the big difference is that in the 2011 poll the New Democrats were at 22%, four points behind the Liberals instead of four points ahead.

The Liberal slip is not contained in any one part of the province, as the party is down everywhere except eastern and northern Ontario, where they are up one and four points, respectively, on small sample sizes.

The Tories are ahead in eastern Ontario with 49%, unchanged since June 4, putting them well ahead of both the Liberals (24%) and the NDP (18%, -8). The PCs also lead in the 905 area code around Toronto with 41% support, while the NDP trails with 28% (+1) and the Liberals with 26% (-3). In northern Ontario, the Tories are narrowly ahead with 35% (+6) to 30% for the NDP (-9) and 24% for the Liberals.

How Forum defines northern Ontario, however, could be significant. Some firms have that region stretch all the way down to Lake Simcoe, while others cut it off much further north. That area of divergence is the strongest "northern" part of the province for the PCs. I have inquired as to Forum's definitions.

The New Democrats only lead in southwestern Ontario, where they have 38% support (+5) to the Tories' 37% (+1). The Liberals are not a factor in that part of the province with only 19% support (-6).

They are a factor in the 416 area code of Toronto, where they still lead with 36% support. But that is down five points since June 4, and with a three point gain the NDP is not far behind at 33%. The Tories are up one to 25%, their weakest result in Ontario.

With these numbers, the Progressive Conservatives manage to win a majority of Ontario's seats. They would win 61, while the New Democrats form the Official Opposition with 30 seats. The Liberals are reduced to only 16 seats in the legislature.

The Tories win 11 seats in eastern Ontario, 10 in central Ontario, 13 in the GTA, three in Toronto, six in Hamilton/Niagara, 16 in southwestern Ontario, and two in northern Ontario.

The New Democrats win one seat in eastern and central Ontario each, two in the GTA, nine in Toronto, four in Hamilton/Niagara, five in southwestern Ontario, and eight in the north.

The Liberals win two seats in eastern Ontario, three in the GTA, 10 in Toronto, and one in northern Ontario.

Note that, with this poll added to the By-Election Barometer, Kitchener-Waterloo is now considered a "Strong PC". Also, federal numbers in the Forum poll have put Etobicoke Centre down a notch to "Lean Liberal".

Part of the reason for the Liberals' struggles in Ontario is Dalton McGuinty, who has an approval rating of only 28%. His disapproval rating stands at 61%. Both of those numbers are virtually unchanged since June 4.

But Tim Hudak does not do much better. With his numbers also holding relatively steady, his approval is worse than McGuinty's at 25%, but his disapproval is lower at 49%. Interestingly, while McGuinty and Horwath score over 70% approval among their own party supporters, Tim Hudak manages only 49% approval among PC voters.

However, McGuinty and Hudak seem to have not been hurt by the last few weeks of grandstanding at Queen's Park. Andrea Horwath, on the other hand, is seeing her sparkling approval ratings slip. Though she still has a net positive score, her approval rating has dropped from 47% to only 39%. Her disapproval rating is up from 26% to 35%. These are significant shifts, particularly in the context of McGuinty and Hudak holding steady. While the New Democrats themselves are unchanged in voting intentions, this whittling down of Horwath's personal numbers evens the playing field somewhat. But it also speaks to how disillusioned Ontarians seem to be with their political leaders.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Charest's personal numbers improve as election approaches

Léger Marketing and Le Devoir released a poll on the voting intentions of Quebecers on Saturday and Monday, indicating that at the provincial level things remain neck-and-neck. But while the Parti Québécois and Liberals are mostly treading water, Jean Charest's leadership and personal numbers were up significantly. That is the sort of thing that can decide a tight race.
Léger was last in the field May 19-21, and since then the Liberals are up a single point while the PQ has held steady. That gives the Liberals a narrow one-point margin over the Parti Québécois, 33% to 32%. Normally that kind of split can deliver the PQ a majority government, but it is slightly more complicated than that.

The Coalition Avenir Québec has dropped two points to 19%, while Québec Solidaire is down one point to 9%. The Greens and Option Nationale are unchanged at 4% and 1%, respectively.

There are two reasons why the Parti Québécois cannot pull a majority out of a one-point loss like they did in 1998. Firstly, the advantage they hold over francophones is not large enough. They have 38% support (-1) to 27% for the Liberals (+2), while the CAQ eats up 20% (-4) among this election-deciding demographic. Secondly, the PQ has not racked up a huge lead outside of Montreal and Quebec City. In the régions, the PQ holds only a four-point edge over the Liberals, 35% (-6) to 31% (+5). That is a big swing, and while the CAQ played the spoiler in the Argenteuil by-election for the Liberals, with 20% support (+1) they could play the spoiler for the PQ in a lot of other ridings throughout the province.

While that battle is going on in rural Quebec, the Liberals have a three-point lead in and around Montreal and a 14-point lead in Quebec City. However, the margin is narrowing in Montreal: the Liberals are down four points to 33% while the PQ is up four points to 30%. The CAQ is down four points to 17% while Québec Solidaire is down one to 9%.

The gap is widening in Quebec City, on the other hand, where the Liberals are up eight points to 38%. The CAQ has dropped nine to 24% and the PQ is down seven to 23%, giving the Liberals a lock on most of the seats in the provincial capital.

The Quebec provincial poll aggregate does include the numbers from Léger, including a more precise breakdown within the regions of Quebec. Léger gives the PQ a 16-point edge in western Quebec over the Liberals and a 20-point advantage in eastern Quebec. The Liberals, meanwhile, have a 16-point lead in central Quebec over the CAQ. But what is noteworthy are the numbers on and off the island of Montreal. The aggregate (which estimates support when numbers are lacking, as they are for the Montreal region) puts the Liberals well ahead on the island with 40% to the PQ's 24%, while Québec Solidaire is in third at 16%. Off the island, the race is closer: 34% for the PQ, 29% for the Liberals, and 24% for the CAQ.

Léger also released its numbers for the federal scene in Quebec. The New Democrats dominate with 52%, up five points from Léger's last federal poll of Apr. 2-4. The Bloc Québécois has dropped 11 points to only 18%, while the Conservatives are up four to 14% and the Liberals are up three to 13%.

For the NDP, that kind of landslide would deliver 67 of the province's 75 seats to the party, leaving only four for the Liberals, three for the Conservatives, and one seat for the Bloc.

Provincially, however, things are far more murky. These numbers deliver 58 seats apiece to the Parti Québécois and the Liberals. That is quite close to the 63 needed for a majority, suggesting that either party could come out on top with a small majority or a large minority government.

In this scenario, the CAQ's seven seats become extremely important. They can deliver a majority to either the PQ or the Liberals - the question is which. With only two seats, Québec Solidaire would not hold the balance of power.

Aside from Quebec City, where the Liberals win eight seats to the CAQ's two and the PQ's one, the election would be exceedingly close. In and around Montreal, the Liberals would win 30 seats to the PQ's 26, while in the rest of the province the PQ would win 31 seats to the Liberals 20 (and the CAQ's two).

Further complicating things, the CAQ is involved in 10 ridings where the projected margin is five points or less, the PQ is a factor in 20 of those ridings, and the Liberals are implicated in 23 close races. Assuming the parties win or lose all of these ridings where the margin is five points or less, the CAQ could win between four and 14 seats, the Parti Québécois between 45 and 65 seats, and the Liberals could win anywhere between 48 and 71 seats. That means a whole slew of outcomes (including, potentially, QS holding the balance of power) are more than plausible.

But Jean Charest has the advantage. In addition to his party's advantage, Charest's own personal ratings have improved. He is seen as the best person to be premier by 26% of Quebecers, a gain of eight points since May. Pauline Marois has dropped two points to 21% and François Legault is down four points to 19%. That is a big gap in what has been a race to the bottom for the last year or two.

And while Charest is still widely disliked (61% have a bad opinion of him), the number of people who said they have a good opinion of him increased by seven points since December to 30%. By comparison, Marois splits 34% to 53% and Amir Khadir, one of the two leaders of QS, splits 24% to 56% (a big drop since December). Legault still has the best numbers, at 47% good to 30% bad, but Mario Dumont also always had better personal approval ratings than his competitors. That worked for him in 2007, but only in 2007.

These good/bad numbers also point to where the parties have the potential to pick up new supporters. Fully 52% of Liberal voters have a good opinion of Legault, suggesting he needs to look to the PLQ and not the PQ for new support. The PQ and QS also overlap, as 43% of QS supporters have a good opinion of Marois and 43% of PQ supporters have a good opinion of Khadir.

The election is rumoured for September, and 55% of Quebecers like that idea (that sounds eerily close to a likely turnout rate). The Liberals have already put out a television ad reminiscent of Dalton McGuinty's plain-speaking ad from their 2011 campaign, while the PQ is putting together one of their own. The campaign may not officially start until mid-August, but it already seems like we're in the thick of it. With the numbers where they are, it could go down to the wire.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Tories slip as NDP makes modest gains

Two polls that have been released over the last two days show the New Democrats making small gains as the Conservatives tumble by two or three points. They also show that a hypothetical Justin Trudeau-led Liberal Party could be instantly competitive - and that he is the only potential candidate for the leadership that anyone is thinking about.
Angus-Reid was last in the field on May 22-23, and since then the New Democrats have picked up two points to lead with 35%. The Conservatives are down three points to 34%, a swing of five points in less than a month.

The Liberals are up one point to 19%, while the Bloc Québécois sits at 6% and the Greens at 5%.

The NDP leads in Quebec with 42% (-1), British Columbia with 40% (=), and Atlantic Canada with 36% (+8). They trail in second in the Prairies with 33% (+10), in Ontario with 32% (+1), and in Alberta with 22% (-1).

The Conservatives lead in Alberta with 58% (-3), the Prairies with 55% (+6), and Ontario with 38% (-3). They are second in British Columbia with 34% (-7) and Atlantic Canada with 30% (-2).

The Bloc is runner-up in Quebec with 23% (-4) while the Liberals get their best results in Ontario and Atlantic Canada (24%, +1 and -11, respectively).

Particularly because of their good numbers in the Prairies and Ontario, the Conservatives come out on top with 147 seats to 116 for the NDP and 39 for the Liberals, with the Bloc winning five seats and the Greens one.

The Conservatives win 15 seats in British Columbia, 27 in Alberta, 21 in the Prairies, 66 in Ontario, five in Quebec, 12 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North.

The New Democrats win 15 seats in British Columbia, one in Alberta, seven in the Prairies, 25 in Ontario, 58 in Quebec, nine in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North.

The Liberals win five seats in British Columbia, 15 in Ontario, seven in Quebec, 11 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North.

Angus-Reid measures "momentum", in terms of whether opinion is improving or worsening for each of the leaders. Canadians tend to dislike their politicians, so momentum is usually negative. Thomas Mulcair, however, scored a +2 result, better than Bob Rae's -2 and Stephen Harper's -30. He is also the only leader with a positive approval rating, at 45% to 33%. Rae splits 38% to 44%, Elizabeth May 35% to 37%, and Harper 38% to 53%.
Forum was last in the field on May 23, and since then the New Democrats have picked up one point to lead with 37%. The Conservatives are down two points to 30% while the Liberals are up two to 22%.

In this flash one-day poll, the Bloc has 6% support while the Greens are at 5%.

As this survey and the last one were taken at around the same time as Angus-Reid's last two surveys, we can compare some trends. Federally, both firms have the Tories down (two to three points) and the NDP and Liberals up (one to two points apiece). They also both show consistency in Alberta (Tories and NDP losing support) and Ontario (Tories down, NDP/Liberals up).

Ontario is a tie in Forum's polling, with the NDP (+1) and Tories (-1) at 34% each. The NDP leads with over 40% support in Quebec, the Prairies, Atlantic Canada, and British Columbia, with the Conservatives leading in Alberta only. It is a remarkable set of numbers for the NDP. For a polling firm, however, it is always best to have the least remarkable numbers. Such a large lead has not been recorded elsewhere, though that is not to say that it won't be in the coming weeks.

With this poll, the New Democrats easily come out on top in the seat count with 135 to the Conservatives' 111. The Liberals win 57 while the Bloc takes four and the Greens take one.

The New Democrats win 22 seats in British Columbia, one in Alberta, 16 in the Prairies, 27 in Ontario (still their Achilles' heel), 56 in Quebec, 12 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North.

The Conservatives win nine seats in British Columbia, 27 in Alberta, eight in the Prairies, 50 in Ontario, five in Quebec, 11 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North.

The Liberals win four seats in British Columbia, four in the Prairies, 29 in Ontario, 10 in Quebec, nine in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North.

On leadership, Forum gives Harper a 31% approval rating, with 61% disapproving. Mulcair scores a net positive rating with 39% to 31%, while Rae has an approval rating of 40% to 32% disapproval. Mulcair is still a bit of an unknown - his "don't know" score sits at 31%, higher than either Rae or Harper. He had 22% "not sure" in Angus-Reid's poll, also higher than Harper or Rae.

But Bob Rae is on his way out. Who will replace him? Justin Trudeau is the only plausible candidate with any real support/name recognition, registering 23% in Forum's poll on who is the best person for the job, 16 points ahead of the next favourite option (John Manley). Trudeau also had the best "good choice" score in Angus-Reid's poll.

Interestingly, both surveys asked how Canadians would vote if Trudeau was Liberal leader. Obviously, the difference between hypothetical and reality is something François Legault could tell us a lot about. Nevertheless, it is indicative of Trudeau's popularity.

Forum had the most modest score for a Trudeau-led Liberal Party, with 28% support to 28% for the Tories and 32% for the NDP. Based on their regional breakdown, this would deliver 86 seats to the Liberals, putting them not far behind the Conservatives (at 106 seats) and the NDP (at 113). The Trudeau Liberals would win 23 seats in Quebec and 36 in Ontario.

Angus-Reid provided no regional breakdown so there is no way to run a seat projection, but they did give the Trudeau Liberals a massive 40% score. This shoved the NDP down to 21% and the Conservatives down to 30%, a certain majority for the Liberals. Perhaps more interestingly, though, they compared Trudeau's numbers to those of other potential leaders. Of those listed, Dominic Leblanc performed the worst (35% CPC to 31% NDP and 20% LPC). Marc Garneau, seen as a likely candidate, managed 28% to 27% for the NDP and 32% for the Tories.

The numbers are odd, though, since they all resulted in the NDP losing support whether or not the Liberals gained any. Why would the Leblanc Liberals manage to drop the NDP by four points while only taking one for themselves?

Until the Liberal leadership race actually gets underway and we know whether or not Justin Trudeau runs, these numbers do not tell us much. They do show, however, that the Canadian public likes the idea of a Trudeau-led Liberal Party. In politics, merely getting your foot in the door is half the battle. It points to potential for the Liberals if all of their cards are played right and Trudeau turns out to be what some Canadians hope he can be. Those are big ifs, but considering the 2011 debacle a "maybe" is not a bad thing for the Liberals.

Friday, June 15, 2012

B.C. New Democrats hover near 50%

In early May, a poll emerged from Angus-Reid that pegged support for the B.C. New Democrats at 50%, an amazingly high score for the party. Some people, including the Premier, scoffed at the numbers, particularly as her own party was only at 23% support. Now two new polls show that, while B.C. Liberal support is somewhere between bad and catastrophic, the New Democrats are indeed near 50%.
Ipsos-Reid, last in the field in British Columbia between Feb. 1-5, shows that the NDP has gained four points and is now at 48% support, well ahead of the B.C. Liberals. They are down three points to 29%.

The B.C. Conservatives, meanwhile, are unchanged at 16% support and the Greens are at 6%.

The NDP lead is uniformly huge, with 53% on Vancouver Island (+3), 49% in Metro Vancouver (+6), and 45% in the Interior and North (+3). The Liberals trail with 32% in Metro Vancouver (-6), 28% in the Interior/North (-3), and 24% on Vancouver Island (+3). At no more than 18% anywhere, the B.C. Conservatives are unlikely to do more than spoil a few seats for the Liberals.

Forum has been in the field more actively, and was last polling on May 2. In this one-day survey, Forum puts the New Democrats at 50% support, up two points since the last poll. The B.C. Liberals are down three to 20%, while the Conservatives are steady at 19%.

Here again, the NDP has a large lead throughout the province: 57% on Vancouver Island (+1), 50% in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland (+3), and 43% in the Interior/North (+1). This aligns nicely with Ipsos's numbers, which also peg Vancouver Island as the strongest for the NDP, followed by Vancouver and its environs.

The Liberals, however, trail the Conservatives in the Interior/North with 18% to 24%, though they are ahead in Vancouver with 22%.

Considering the novelty of the Conservatives, and the fact that roughly two out of every five British Columbians do not have an opinion on the party's leader, John Cummins, we can safely assume that if an election were to occur the numbers would probably be closer to the Ipsos poll. The B.C. Conservatives recently under-performed in two by-elections.

In terms of seats, the numbers from both Forum and Ipsos would deliver a massive majority government to the NDP.

Forum's numbers result in 78 seats for the NDP with only three going to the Liberals.

Ipsos delivers a more robust opposition, with 18 seats going to the Liberals. Another 65 seats go to the New Democrats.

Both Ipsos and Forum show relatively similar approval ratings for the leaders, with Christy Clark registering 27% approval in Forum's poll and 33% in Ipsos-Reid's, with her disapproval sitting at 67% and 56%, respectively. The number of British Columbians without an opinion (11%) is identical.

Adrian Dix scores 44% approval in Forum and 50% in Ipsos, with a disapproval rating of 30% and 33%, respectively. Forum scores a higher "don't know" response at 26% to Ipsos's 17%.

Cummins, as mentioned, is widely unknown: 36% had no opinion in Forum's poll and 40% said the same in Ipsos-Reid's survey. His approval rating is between 24% and 25%, with his disapproval rating at between 35% and 40%.

Interestingly, Forum also asked respondents about their enthusiasm in voting for their particular party. While the Liberals and Conservatives had moderately good "very" and "somewhat" scores, an incredible 61% of NDP supporters said they were very enthusiastic about voting for the party, while 84% were either very or somewhat enthusiastic. That likely means high turnout among NDP supporters, further complicating the B.C. Liberals' plight.

Christy Clark has a long way to go before she can even be considered competitive with the New Democrats - at this stage it is looking like a blow out. The time she has before the next election will quickly tick away, as the vote is scheduled for about 11 months from now. She hasn't had a decent poll (which still put her eight points behind) since March.

Campaigns matter, of course, but there is only so much a party that has been in power for over a decade can do from this far behind.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Liberal gains in the Prairies?

On Friday, Nanos Research released their most recent federal polling results, putting the New Democrats marginally ahead of the Conservatives, a first for the pollster. While the Liberals trailed in third, Nanos recorded them making a potentially statistically significant gain in a very unlikely place - the Prairie provinces.
Nanos was last in the field Apr. 13-18, and since then the New Democrats picked up 1.2 points to hit 33.6%. The Conservatives dropped 1.2 points to slide just behind the NDP at 33.5%, while the Liberals were up 1.6 points to 24.9% nationwide.

The Bloc Québécois was down 0.5 points to 3.4% while the Greens were down 1.8 points to 2.4%.

Compared to other polls, those are very low numbers for the Bloc and Greens, and a very high one for the Liberals. That is usually the case with Nanos Research, which tends to score the Bloc and Greens much lower than other firms. But Nanos has one of the better track records of Canada's pollsters, and Green support in particular has usually been over-estimated in other surveys.

The regional results are generally in line with what we've been seeing elsewhere. The New Democrats are ahead in Quebec with 41.5% (+4.1), British Columbia with 37% (+5.1), and in Atlantic Canada with 34.4% (-0.6). They trail in second in Ontario with 31.5%, up 2.2 points.

The Conservatives lead in Ontario with 35.6%, down 1.3 points, and are second in British Columbia with 34% (-5) and in Quebec with 18% (-1.7). The Liberals are second in Atlantic Canada with 33% (+2.5).

Quebec is an interesting result, as the Bloc Québécois usually places second in provincial polling. At 13.9%, they are really at the dregs. But the results in Quebec left 6.8 points on the table, which must be support for "Others". That is unusual. Much of that support should probably be attributed to the Bloc, which would put Nanos's results in the province in line with everyone else.

But the result in the Prairie provinces (Nanos bunches Alberta with Saskatchewan and Manitoba) is more interesting. The Conservatives lead with 50.2%, up 3.5 points, while the New Democrats trail with 24.7%, a drop of 5.7 points since April. Compared to the results of the 2011 election, that puts the NDP up about three points and the Conservatives down around 12 - a significant decrease.

The Liberals placed third with 24.1%, a gain of 8.5 points since April. That is an important number, because the margin of error for the difference between the Liberals' results in the Prairies over the last two polls is 8.5 points. In other words, the Liberals are straddling the line between a statistically significant gain and one that is within the margin of error. Probability being what it is, however, the likelihood that such a dramatic gain is only statistical noise is quite low.

That is not to say that the Liberals have made massive gains over the last six weeks in the three Prairie provinces, merely that they seem to be making some gains. Especially when we consider that, at 24.1%, the Liberals are riding quite a bit higher than their result of 10.7% in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba a year ago. For some reason, the Liberals have more than doubled their support on the Prairies. And it isn't just Nanos saying this: if we take their survey out of the aggregate the Liberals are still at 14.4% in the three provinces, a modest gain.

In the larger scheme of things, this apparent increase in Liberal support in this part of the country might be only some mildly interesting trivia. But, it could be something to keep an eye on going forward. Rhetoric has been running high on how Canada's resources should be developed, so the region might be ripe for volatility.

With these levels of support, the Conservatives would eke out a plurality of seats with 123, with the New Democrats winning 113 and the Liberals 71. The Greens would win one seat and the Bloc would be shut-out.

With Liberal support, the NDP could potentially govern in this House of Commons with the command of 184 (185 with Elizabeth May) seats, quite a large majority.

The Conservatives win 16 seats in British Columbia, 25 in Alberta, 17 in the Prairies (Saskatchewan and Manitoba), 49 in Ontario, six in Quebec, nine in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North.

The New Democrats win 13 seats in British Columbia, one in Alberta, six in the Prairies, 26 in Ontario, 59 in Quebec, seven in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North.

The Liberals win six seats in British Columbia, two in Alberta, five in the Prairies, 31 in Ontario, 10 in Quebec, 16 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North.

With the Liberals doing so well in this poll in the Prairies, it should not be surprising that they can pull seven seats out of the three provinces. Is it likely to actually happen? Probably not. But their strong result in Ontario is quite helpful for the NDP, as it turns a lot of Tory seats over to the Liberals in parts of the province where the New Democrats are not in a good position to defeat the Conservatives.

Nanos's leadership numbers show that Stephen Harper has rebounded from a very rough April, his leadership index score jumping 6.6 points to 72.4 points. Thomas Mulcair dropped 5.6 points to 48.2, while Bob Rae was down 4.3 points to 32.2.

If we convert the points into total share of points, we get Harper at 41%, Mulcair at 27%, Rae at 18%, Elizabeth May at 10%, and Daniel Paillé at 3%. If Nanos had asked respondents who they thought was the best option for Prime Minister, and removed undecideds from that total, I imagine they would have gotten something similar to this.

This poll is a good one for the New Democrats, as Nanos has usually not had the party as high as other firms. That they put them ahead in B.C. and close in Ontario is quite a coup. The numbers are good for the Liberals, but if we look at them only through the context of Nanos's polling they are less impressive. For the Conservatives, Nanos has not had them this low for quite some time, stretching back to mid-2009, judging from their tracking chart. But if we take that even further, we have to go back six years to early 2006 to find where they were routinely scoring this low. That is a long road back.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

PQ wins Argenteuil as CAQ eats into PLQ vote

The provincial by-elections in Argenteuil and LaFontaine last night held a few surprises, though no party did much better or worse than expectations. With a win in Argenteuil and a second-place showing in LaFontaine, Pauline Marois and the Parti Québécois came out the big winners in last night's vote - thanks to François Legault and the Coalition Avenir Québec.
As expected, Argenteuil was the more interesting contest of the two as the Liberals and PQ battled it out for top spot, each party leading in the vote count at various times during the night. Turnout was about average for a by-election at 42.4%, down from the 54.2% of the 2008 general election.

Roland Richer boosted the PQ's score from 33.6% to 36.2%, taking only 785 fewer votes than his party did in the last election. It was enough to give him the win, as the Liberals dropped precipitously from 49.6% to 33.4%, taking 4,776 fewer votes than they did four years ago.

Where did those votes go? Mario Laframboise finished a respectable third for the CAQ with 21.4%, up from the ADQ's 11.2% of 2008. He took 1,430 more votes than the ADQ did in that election, much of that support apparently coming from the Liberals. It wasn't enough to give the CAQ some positive press, but it did help wrest away the riding from the Liberals.

Claude Sabourin, leader of the Greens, finished third with 3% of the vote, down 217 ballots and 0.5 percentage points from 2008. Québec Solidaire did not have a very strong showing, increasing their share to 2.7% from 2.1% and capturing 34 new votes.

In its first electoral outing, Option Nationale captured 1.3% of the vote. An independent candidate took 0.8% and Équipe Autonomiste, an ADQ spin-off, took 0.1%.

Interestingly, the new Conservative Party of Quebec captured 1.1% of the vote in the riding. At 190 ballots that isn't much, but they almost took as much of the vote as ON, which garners a lot more press thanks to the party's leader, Jean-Martin Aussant, being an MNA.

ThreeHundredEight forecast the riding to be a PLQ/PQ toss-up, and in the end the forecast was correct. Both the Liberals and PQ ended up within their forecasted range, though I personally expected a stronger showing for the Liberals than what occurred. The Parti Québécois did quite well but it was the growth for the CAQ that did the Liberals in here. The forecast for the CAQ was low, as expected, but Laframboise still under-performed, as did Québec Solidaire.

The 30-day rolling average of swings from regional polls gave the PQ the edge by 0.3 points, and in the end the party won by 2.8 points over the Liberals.
The by-election in LaFontaine was easily won by Marc Tanguay, the newly minted Liberal MNA. Turnout was terrible, however, falling from 51.2% in the general election to only 25.6%. Accordingly, the Liberals won the riding with 53.3% of ballots cast, but with the support of only 13.6% of electors in the riding.

That was a big drop for the Liberals, who took 69.8% of the vote and 8,575 more ballots in 2008.

The Parti Québécois finished second, down from 19.1% to 17% and with 2,104 fewer votes. The CAQ almost captured third with 15.6%, up from the ADQ's 6.5%, an increase of 285 votes.

Québec Solidaire saw a big boost, from 1.9% to 5.9% and up 220 votes, indicating that their strong poll numbers on the island of Montreal are no fluke. The Greens increased their share by 0.3 points but dropped 241 votes, while Option Nationale took 1.6% of the vote.

But again, the Conservatives challenged ON for sixth spot with 1.3%. Their presence, along with EA, might have cost the CAQ the runner-up status: with their votes, Legault's party would have taken 17.3%.

This riding was forecast as a Strong Liberal riding, with the 30-day rolling average putting the margin at 36 points. The Liberals ended up winning it by a margin of 36.3 percentage points. The forecast was good for the Liberals (43% to 57%) and the PQ (13% to 17%), while a little low for the CAQ (as expected) and Québec Solidaire. All in all, the By-Election Barometer's first experience was a positive one.

Click to magnify
While the PQ's win in Argenteuil is the major story from last night, their victory has more to do with what was happening with the Liberals and the CAQ than any PQ strength. The Parti Québécois did well to hold on to their vote, but it was the split between the Liberals and the CAQ that defeated Jean Charest's party in Argenteuil.

In 2008, the Liberals captured 59.2% of votes cast in Argenteuil and LaFontaine. The PQ took 26.7% and the ADQ took 9%.

Last night, only 40.6% of valid ballots cast were marked with an X next to the Liberal candidate's name, a huge drop. The PQ's tally increased a little to 29.3%, while the CAQ's more than doubled to 19.3%. There are always swaps between all parties, but it would appear that much of the CAQ's vote came from the Liberals.

If we adjust for turnout (Argenteuil and LaFontaine had roughly equal turnout in 2008, but most definitely not last night), we see that the Liberal share dropped 16.3 points to 42.9%. The Parti Québécois's share increased by only 0.3 points to 27%, indicating that the party was merely treading water.

The CAQ picked up 9.6 points on what the ADQ accomplished in 2008, a big swing in their favour. They are a force to be reckoned with and certainly more potent than the ADQ, ca. 2008. But they are not yet in a good position to play anything but the spoiler in a whole swathe of ridings.

For Québec Solidaire, their share increased from 2% in 2008 to 3.9% last night, or 4.2% when adjusting for turnout. Not a bad result, but for a party flirting with double-digits province-wide they should have done better.

The Greens held steady, their share going from 3.1% to 3.0% (both in actual votes and adjusted share).

Option Nationale confirmed its position as the sixth party with a total share of 1.4% of ballots case last night, but the Conservatives took 1.1% of the vote. For a party that has hardly gotten any notice in the media, that is a pretty surprising performance.

The Parti Québécois came out on top last night, as their win in Argenteuil was contrary to expectations. Though their share of the vote was not impressive, a win is a win. Their second place showing in LaFontaine, despite their loss in vote share, is also a piece of positive news for the party.

The Liberals took a hit by losing Argenteuil, and it definitely casts a small shadow over Jean Charest's summer. But the party kept it close, denying the Parti Québécois a dominant performance and keeping the CAQ far away in third. Their win in LaFontaine with a majority of ballots cast is a strong sign that the party is not in danger of losing their fortresses in Montreal, of which there are many.

Last night was tough for François Legault and the CAQ, however. Though they did improve upon the ADQ's performance in 2008, in neither riding did they outscore Mario Dumont's result from 2007. Capturing second in LaFontaine would have been the silver lining on a bad night, but they just missed out on it. And taking less than 25% of the vote in Argenteuil, the benchmark on which I drew the line between a good and bad result for the CAQ yesterday, has to be disappointing. Laframboise was a decent candidate, and with the CAQ struggling in the polls the number of decent candidates they will be able to nominate could be few and far between.

The CAQ is certainly not in the sorry state that the ADQ found itself in after the 2008 election (when they could barely manage more than 3% in almost any by-election), but they had an opportunity to turn things around last night and set the party on the right course for September. On that score, they failed. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

By-elections in Quebec test murky political waters

Voters in Argenteuil and LaFontaine go to the polls today in two Quebec by-elections that will serve as an important test for virtually every political party in the province. While LaFontaine is a foregone conclusion, Argenteuil could be very close.

Also, check out my latest article for The Globe and Mail on the political situation in Ontario. It is a close three-way race, but the Progressive Conservatives have the edge in provincial polling.

With the two by-elections in Quebec serving as the potential first act in in the province's political theatre that could culminate with a general election in September, ThreeHundredEight launches its Quebec provincial election coverage with a poll aggregator, accessible by clicking on the image in the right-hand column showing the current averages of the three leaders in Quebec: the Liberals, the Parti Québécois, and the Coalition Avenir Québec. This aggregator will be updated regularly as new polls are released, and breaks the province down into six regions: Montreal, suburban Montreal, Quebec City, and eastern, central, and western Quebec. The aggregator also tracks the voting intentions of francophones and non-francophones.

This is not ThreeHundredEight's projection. That will be launched later this summer.

The site has also been tracking the upcoming by-elections at the By-Election Barometer. Of the scheduled and potential by-elections being tracked, Argenteuil is forecast to be the closest.
Though Argenteuil would appear to be a Liberal fortress, it isn't as cut-and-dry as that. The Liberals did win by a wide margin in 2008 (16 points), but the election in 2007 was much closer and it was the ADQ that finished second. With David Whissell no longer on the ballot, and politics in Quebec a jumbled mess, the results should be interesting.

The Liberals have the inside track. Along with the incumbency advantage, a swing based on regional poll results put the Liberals ahead in three of the last six polls, including the most recent by CROP. Winning the riding would not be a coup for Jean Charest, but if Lise Proulx wins by a respectable margin it will be a strong indication that the Liberals have plenty of life left in them yet. However, if the race is very close or if the Liberals lose, it would not bode well for the party. ThreeHundredEight's forecast puts them at between 30% and 40% support, but anything better than a two-point margin would be a moral victory for the Liberals.

The Parti Québécois has a good chance of a strong performance in Argenteuil, a riding they have come close to winning before. The regional swing puts them ahead in three of the last six polls, and an average of the six polls gives the PQ a 0.3% edge. That is too small to mean anything, and with the intrinsic advantages the Liberals hold in the riding the PQ is the underdog. Roland Richer is forecast to take between 24% and 39% of the vote, but anything above the 34% they took in 2008 will be touted as a moral victory. The PQ is unlikely to win the riding, and would need to be within two points of the Liberals to truly take something positive from the result, but I consider that less than likely.

Why? Because the Coalition Avenir Québec is running Mario Laframboise, the former Bloc Québécois MP for the region. Of course, Laframboise was defeated quite handily by the NDP in 2011 but he did win a few of the polls around Lachute, which is part of the smaller Argenteuil riding. He could pull in a lot of votes due to his name recognition alone, and with the high-watermark of the ADQ being 30% in 2007, he certainly has the capacity to pull out a good performance. The forecast puts him only between 11% and 16%, but I suspect he could do a lot better. This will be a big test for the CAQ in its first electoral outing. Anything below 25% will be tough to swallow for François Legault. A win would be tremendous for his party.

Other parties are facing a test as well. Québec Solidaire has been up in the polls and turned that into a respectable showing in the Bonaventure by-election late last year. QS has not done much better than 2% in the riding, however, so they are almost certainly going to have a best-ever result. The forecast puts them between 4% and 8%, and where Yvan Zanetti ends up on that scale could mean the difference between a strong PQ result and a weak one.

Option Nationale is also facing its first electoral test, and it will be interesting to see how much of the vote they manage to take. The Équipe Autonomiste and the Conservative Party of Quebec, two formations which emerged after the ADQ was swallowed by the CAQ, could eat into Laframboise's vote somewhat, though it is unlikely they will capture more than a hundred votes apiece. Claude Sabourin, leader of the Green Party, is a candidate in Argenteuil as well. This is his riding - he has run here in the last three general elections - but he has never done better than 4.7%. That might be a difficult number to beat this time around.

Argenteuil is a toss-up riding which could go to the Liberals or the PQ. The Liberals are favoured, but the candidature of Laframboise for the CAQ is a wildcard in this by-election.
There is very little suspense in LaFontaine. It is a solidly Liberal riding, won by a margin of 44 points in 2007 and 51 points in 2008. Though the problems that Tony Tomassi faced may have tainted the Liberal brand somewhat, the Liberals should still easily win this riding. The average swing from the last six polls gives the party a 36-point edge.

But there are still a few things to watch tonight. Will the Liberal vote turnout in strong enough numbers to give Marc Tanguay, a parachute candidate, this sort of landslide? Will the anti-Liberal vote coalesce around one party? The riding has a large Italian community, and neither the Liberals nor the PQ are running Italian-Canadian candidates.

The Liberals are forecast to take between 43% and 57% of the vote. If the party does not take a majority of ballots cast, it will cast a bit of a shadow over their win. It would be shocking if the Liberals lost LaFontaine, and would likely throw Charest's September election schedule out the window.

The fight is really between the Parti Québécois and the Coalition Avenir Québec for second place. The PQ managed 19% in 2008, while the ADQ took 18% in 2007, giving both the PQ and the CAQ a good shot. The forecast puts the PQ between 13% and 17% support while the CAQ scores between 10% and 13%, but I expect the CAQ to do slightly better. I would give them the edge on placing second, which will mean little to the PQ but will be a bit of a moral victory for the CAQ.

For the other parties, including the ADQ spin-offs, Québec Solidaire, Option Nationale and the Greens, LaFontaine holds little promise. But it will be interesting to see what kind of numbers they put on the board.

LaFontaine is a Strong Liberal riding and is almost certain to be retained by the Liberals. Losing it is not impossible (nothing is in by-elections), but it would be catastrophic for Jean Charest.

The Liberals should win both of these ridings, a piece of good news that the Premer can ride throughout the summer into a fall election. Losing Argenteuil would be a problem for the Liberals, but if they lose by a narrow margin things can still be salvaged. The CAQ has much more to gain by strong performances tonight than the PQ, as the next election is too close for any rumblings to bother Pauline Marois. François Legault, however, needs some positive press. À voir.

Friday, June 8, 2012

NDP drops in Nova Scotia, PCs lead in New Brunswick

The Corporate Research Associates' much anticipated Atlantic Quarterly was released yesterday, with poll results for the four Atlantic provinces. In the two largest provinces, and those scheduled to go to the polls next, the New Democrats have taken a step backwards over the last few months. In one that is of little consequence, in the other it puts the government at risk.
The next election in Nova Scotia is expected for the spring, as Darrell Dexter tries to get a second mandate after winning the 2009 vote. But his NDP is losing support, as it has dropped nine points since CRA's last set of polls in February. The NDP still leads, however, with 35%. But their lead has been reduced by 15 points, as the Liberals are up six to 33%.

The Progressive Conservatives are also up, gaining three points to reach 28%. The three parties are bunched up, making for a potentially close election next year. The Greens were up one point to 4%.

The news improves for the Liberals when you look at the Best Premier numbers: Stephen McNeil tops that poll with 27% (+6), while Dexter stands at 23% (-6). That puts him narrowly ahead of PC leader Jamie Baillie, who is seen as the best option for premier by 21% of Nova Scotians.

Satisfaction in Dexter's government has also fallen, by seven points to 41%. Overall, this is the worst set of numbers for the Nova Scotia NDP in over a year. With another year to go before the province voters, Dexter will have to turn things around.

But things could be worse for him. With this small lead, the New Democrats would likely still win the election by taking 28 seats. The Liberals and would capture 13 and the Tories 11.

Note: An earlier version of this post had the Liberals and Tories tied with 12 seats each.

The NDP is helped by its dominance in Halifax, where it wins 14 seats to four for the Liberals. They also win the majority of the seats in Fundy and central regions, taking seven to the Tories' four.

Cape Breton is more evenly divided, with the PCs taking three, the Liberals four, and the NDP two, while the Valley and the South Shore splits with five apiece for the NDP and the Liberals and four for the Tories.

But this is a very difficult game for Dexter to play. Though his vote efficiency is better, and so inflates his lead in the polls, he is near the tipping point. Seven of the seats that go to the NDP in the projection are won by 5% or less, meaning that the NDP could be easily reduced to a very shaky minority.

The Premier of New Brunswick is facing no such problem, as David Alward's Progressive Conservatives are still comfortably ahead of the leaderless Liberals.
Alward's Tories have slipped only one point since February, and lead with 44% support. The Liberals are up one point to 32%, while the New Democrats are down three points to 19%. The Greens are up two to 5%.

Though Alward's 14-point edge from 2010 has been reduced slightly to 12 points, he is nevertheless well in control of the situation in the province. His personal numbers are up, as he is seen as the best option for premier by 37% of New Brunswickers, an increase of six points. A hypothetical Liberal leader is unchanged at 17%, while Dominic Cardy of the NDP is up one point to 12%. Satisfaction with the Alward government sits at 45%, down two points since February.

All in all, with a margin of error of almost five points, it seems that New Brunswick is holding pretty steady. Undoubtedly things could be shaken up when the Liberals choose their next leader, but there doesn't seem to be a saviour among the candidates just yet.

With these numbers, Alward would be re-elected to a majority government with 38 seats, with the Liberals taking 13 and the New Democrats winning four - up from the zero they currently hold in the legislature.

The Progressive Conservatives win the majority of the seats in every region of the province except the northeast, where they win five to the Liberals' six and the NDP's two. They win nine seats in the southwest (Saint John), nine in the central part of the province (Fredericton), seven in the northwest, and eight in the southeast (Moncton).

The Liberals take six in the southeast and one in the southwest, while the NDP wins their two other seats in Saint John.

While it doesn't change the complexion of the government, this poll does change the complexion of the opposition. The N.B. New Democrats have never won more than a single seat in a general election - winning four would be remarkable. Cardy will be gunning for the party's first seat in the legislature since the 2003 election in Rothesay, where a by-election is scheduled for the end of the month. The odds are stacked against him, but the NDP is doing well in the Saint John region so anything could happen.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

May 2012 Federal Poll Averages

A month filled with rhetoric, relatively large gains in May by the Conservatives in British Columbia and by the New Democrats in Ontario are signs of a shifting landscape. And for the first time since June 2009, the Conservatives lost the lead - and not just by a few decimal points.
Six national polls and two provincial polls in Ontario and Quebec were conducted during the month of May, surveying a total of 12,254 Canadians. Abacus, Angus-Reid, Environics, Forum, Harris-Decima, and Ipsos-Reid were in the field during the month.

The New Democrats picked up 1.6 points in May, increasing their support to 34.9%. This is a high-watermark for them, and increases their lead over the Conservatives by a full point.

The Tories were up 0.6 points in May to 33.8%, while the Liberals were down 1.5 points to an average of 19.1%, their lowest score since the May 2011 election. May was the third consecutive month of Liberal drop.

The Bloc Québécois slid 0.3 points to 5.9% nationally, while the Greens were down 0.1 point to 5.5%. Support for other parties stood at 0.8% in May.

On the first anniversary of the 2011 election, the Conservatives averaged 5.8 points lower than their electoral result, while the New Democrats sat 4.3 points higher. The Liberals and Bloc have hardly budged, while the Greens were up 1.6 points.

The largest amount of variation between April and May took place in Alberta, where the Conservatives picked up four points to hit 60%. The New Democrats, meanwhile, were down 1.4 points to 19.1% and the Liberals were down 3.5 points to 12.7%. The Greens were up 1.4 points to 6.1%.

A more consequential shift took place in Ontario, where the Conservatives slipped 2.5 points to 35.5%. The New Democrats hit a new high with a 4.6-point gain to 33.6% support, the narrowest gap between the Conservatives and the second place party since November 2010. The Liberals hit an all-time low (at least since January 2009) by dropping 1.7 points to only 24%. This is the fourth consecutive month of Liberal decrease in Ontario. The Greens, at 5.6%, were down 0.4 points.

The Conservatives picked up 2.6 points in the Prairies and led with an average of 45.2% support, while the NDP was down 0.6 points to 33.8%. They have been relatively steady now for four months in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The Liberals, with a 3.6-point drop to 13.3%, were at their lowest point since the 2011 election. The Greens were up 1.9 points to 6.8%.

The New Democrats slid 2.4 points in Atlantic Canada to 37.6% support, but this still represents a wide lead over the Conservatives. Atlantic Canada has been a very volatile three-way race for some time, and no party has held this wide of a lead for two consecutive months since the Liberals did it in August and September 2010. The Conservatives picked up 2.9 points and averaged 29.6% support, while the Liberals were up 0.7 points to 28.9%. The Greens were down 0.3 points to 4.1%.

For the third consecutive month in British Columbia, the New Democrats led in May with 38.7%, down 0.1 point. The NDP is still at its all-time high on record, and no other party has held a lead against the Conservatives in B.C. since at least January 2009 for more than one month. The Conservatives, however, closed the gap by gaining 3.2 points to reach 37.4% support. The Liberals, at their lowest mark since July 2011, dropped 1.6 points to 14.7%, the fourth consecutive month of loss. The Greens were down 0.4 points to 8.3%.

And in Quebec, the New Democrats slid 2.8 points to 40.2% but still held a wide lead over the Bloc Québécois, which was up 0.5 points to 22.5%. The Liberals held on to third place by the skin of their teeth by holding steady at 15.6% support, while the Conservatives were up 1.2 points to 15.5%. The Greens were up 0.5 points to 4%.

As was the case in April, the New Democrats would not have been able to transform this 1.1-point lead into a plurality of seats. The Conservatives would have won 140 seats in a May 2012 election, four more than they would have won in April. The New Democrats would win 118 seats, down two, while the Liberals win 44, down three. The Bloc Québécois would have captured five seats (+1) and the Greens would have retained their one seat.

Compared with April, the Conservatives gained three seats in British Columbia and one each in the Prairies, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada. The New Democrats, meanwhile, dropped two seats in British Columbia, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada, explaining their difficulty in beating the Conservatives. Ontario is still the problem, but the NDP did capture four more seats with the May numbers than they did in April (two from the Tories and two from the Liberals).

The Conservatives would have won 19 seats in British Columbia, 27 in Alberta, 19 in the Prairies, 59 in Ontario, five in Quebec, 10 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North. In the expanded 338-seat House of Commons, they would have likely won 157 seats.

The New Democrats would have won 14 seats in British Columbia, one in Alberta, seven in the Prairies, 29 in Ontario, 58 in Quebec, eight in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North. With the new boundaries, they would likely win 128 seats.

The Liberals would have won two seats in British Columbia, two in the Prairies, 18 in Ontario, seven in Quebec, 14 in Atlantic Canada, and one in the North. That would be bumped up to 47 seats on the new electoral map.

The New Democrats are still in the good position of being able to govern in a minority with the support of the Liberals. Together, the two parties would hold 162 seats and a majority. But the Conservatives are still well-placed to win the most seats due to their strong numbers in Alberta and the Prairies and their better vote efficiency in British Columbia, Ontario, and Atlantic Canada. The New Democrats need to pad their leads on the two coasts by a larger margin in order to pull ahead. And if they can't take the lead in Ontario, they have little chance of winning a plurality without those commanding margins in B.C. and A.C.

The Bloc Québécois and the Greens seem to be in a holding pattern, which is probably not a horrible thing for the Greens (who are, indeed, up in the polls but that is often illusory for the party) but is not very good news for the Bloc. What happens in the next Quebec provincial election, and the aftermath of that vote, will probably play a big role in determining where the Bloc goes from here.

The Liberals are simply in terrible position. They are either below of or marginally up on their May 2011 electoral performance in every part of the country, suggesting that the first 12 months of this Parliament can be written-off for the Liberal Party. They are below 16% support everywhere except Ontario and Atlantic Canada, and in Ontario they are on the downswing. They desperately need their leadership race to boost Canada's interest in their party, but the recent example of the NDP race would suggest that this is not a given.