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.