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.

30 comments:

  1. Eric

    How closely does this result mirror national trends ?? Looks like it does to me ?

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    1. Atlantic Canada

      Polling - NDP 37.1 CPC 27.0 Liberal 29.1

      Results - CPC 38.3 Liberal 31.3 NDP 27.3

      With a NDP Star candidate in a by-election.... finishing 3rd

      It would suggest that the NDP is not able to get out the vote that the polls say they should.

      It also shows that the NDP Liberal merger is not going to be easy. If there ever was a time for the Liberals to stand down it would be to get their soul mates party's leader elected.

      The continued marginal results of the Green party are building a case for getting rid of the sham of treating them like a full fledged national party.

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    2. "If there ever was a time for the Liberals to stand down it would be to get their soul mates party's leader elected."

      Under first past the post, the biggest threat to your existence is from the party most similar to you. So... no. lol

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    3. Atlantic Canada does not equal New Brunswick. The Provincial NDP here is traditionally rather weak and we have never had more than 1 seat.

      Nova Scotia and Newfoundland have much stronger NDP numbers than New Brunswick or PEI so that the Atlantic numbers with a grain of salt.

      As for the provincial Liberals there is an argument to be made that they are to the right of the PCs here and not a natural friend to the NDP.

      All that being said the NDP here is moving up and this is a huge improvement in a Tory strong hold. Things are looking up.

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    4. You are citing federal poll results to judge a provincial by-election? Might want to (re)think that.

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    5. Wow BCVo"R"... with that kind of logic, we might as well apply Quebec provincial polls to analyze Albertan federal elections.

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    6. Winning by the "skin of their teeth" is ONLY by 7%. In the United States 7% is a landslide. This site seems like a chearleader site for Liberals and NDP. Nothing but hate for parties like the Bloc and Conservative Party.

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    7. Yes, instead of winning by 1,682 votes like in 2010 the PCs won by 297. It was a LANDSLIDE.

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    8. Since when is the US comparison relevant? In an election with as few voters as a byelection in an NB provincial seat, it is much more relevant to look at the raw vote than at the percentages. A relatively small number of votes translates into a large percentage of the vote. A United States congressional district has on average about 600,000 people. That compares to 5,000 eligible voters in Rothesay. This means that a candidate winning a US congressional seat by 7% has won by, assuming 50% turnout, approximately 21,000 votes, a very different situation from a 7% win in Rothesay, which translated into a hair under 300 votes. Context is everything.

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    9. And in the US there are only two parties, so a 7% margin is significant, whereas in Canada, with three or more parties participating in every vote, 7% is indeed close.

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    10. Not to get in the middle of this but wouldnt 7% be an even bigger margin of victory with more parties involved? You would think more parties involved dilute the percentages.

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    11. The party who won is not the CPC, it's the PC. We don't have any reformists or Alberta supremacists in New-Brunswick, thanks.

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  2. Nice SPIN !!

    The fact it bares no resemblance to Eric's careful assessment reflects your CPC illogic !!

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    1. Evidently you didn't read Eric's assessment very carefully.

      "Their results do match quite closely to what the federal NDP took in 2011"

      That should answer your question.

      However, the national trend is for the NDP to be UP from their last election result.

      That doesn't appear to be the case.

      If anything its the Liberals that are the go to party in Atlantic Canada these days !

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    2. @Anon 12:40

      How can you justify that. Sounds like Lib spin/wishful thinking to me. If that were the case, Wilcox should have won the formerly held Liberal riding, don't you think?

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    3. The Liberals are in polling 3rd in NFLD, Second in NS, are at their lowest ever in NB and are losing ground on PEI.

      On on the Federal level they are barely holding on to second in this traditional strong hold. Hardly seems like the go to party.

      Also you might note that 27.27% in this riding is almost triple the vote for the NDP here. That is a huge spike, if they make even half as much gains in friendlier ridings than this would be a huge shift in NB politics.

      That being said it was also good news for the Liberals, but I think you might be exaggerating just a bit.

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  3. What does federal polling across all of Atlantic Canada (which would include NDP strongholds like Nova Scotia and now much of Newfoundland) have to do with results in a provincial by-election in the wealthiest, safest Conservative seat in New Brunswick? In fact if the NDP actually carried all of Atlantic Canada with close to 40% of the vote across the region - chances are their vote share would still be 27-28% at most in Rothesay because its an upper middle class suburb. NDP strength in Atlantic Canada is in bigger cities like Halifax and St. John's as well as in francophone NB...inner city seats in Saint John and Moncton will eventually be low hanging fruit - but it winning Rothesay won't happen unless the NB NDP ever won a McKenna-style 55 out of 55 seat landslide.

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  4. I don't see how this would have federal reelance at all. The NB Liberals are the low-tax small-government option, while the NB PCs are the more explicity progressive party.

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    1. Agreed. Party brands may play a role here, but IMHO it's minor.

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  5. From the graphs above, it seems to me that CPC votes evaporated and the NDP is massively up. From 9% to 27% is amazing. The Liberals gained 3%. Yawn.

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    1. I have to agree... And if anyone wants to extrapolate to Federal politics, they have to start with your observation.

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  6. Eric,

    Any chance we will be seeing the Abacus numbers tomorrow? I'm curious to see how things would break down, with or without Trudeau.

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    1. If not tomorrow, certainly sometime this week.

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  7. "Everybody Wins"

    Except for the 58.6+% who didn't vote Conservative. Lovely system First Past the Post is.

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    1. Personally I don't care for this sentiment. Although I don't care for the PCs, I wouldn't have been anymore happy with the Liberals winning.

      FPTP does have its issues, but would people still express this view if the NDP or Liberals had won the riding ? I think not.

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    2. Note that just because 60% voted against the conservatives didn't mean that 60% voted ABC.

      The provincial context is entirely different from the national one.

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    3. "FPTP does have its issues, but would people still express this view if the NDP or Liberals had won the riding ? I think not."

      I would TE. I suspect the PC candidate would have won a preferential election anyways, but that's not something I should have to guess at.

      Of course, any single-winner election will disenfranchise at least half of the voters. You can deal with that in a general election with multi-member ridings, but in a byelection its pretty hard.

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    4. I know this is about NB and not about national politics. But even if 60% of people didn't collectively vote against the Conservatives they still didn't give their vote to the Conservatives. This is only going to get worse as we add more seats. But I think making that situation worse is the notion that modern Canadian Governments should represent their supporters, not their constituents first.


      I would have an issue with it whichever party won. That said, I would still have more of an issue with a Reform-Tory FPTP wide-margin win over other parties simply because of their actions, their record and their basic views on national unity and democracy, and the direction they're taking us in. I think most Canadians would agree with that given recent polling. I know that might be too politicky for here but I thought it had to be said.

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    5. Andrew.

      I have to agree. This is almost a travesty of real popular desires.

      Let's say that FPTP is really the worst current voting system ??

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  8. Kind of interesting that the Tories drop 18% and the NDP go up 18%

    Seems logical somehow ?

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