Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday update: Quebec, PLQ leadership, and Labrador by-election

For the past few weeks, I have been doing updates to the site on Fridays, taking care of any new polls that need to be added to the By-Election Barometer and updating the Liberal leadership endorsement rankings. I haven't posted about it on the front page, but going forward I will change that and use Fridays to quickly go over some of the polls and topics I haven't had a chance to tackle throughout the week, as well as shed some light on the updates to the other parts of the site.

This week's Friday update includes a look at the latest poll from Quebec, the endorsement rankings for this weekend's Quebec Liberal Party leadership convention, and updates for the by-elections in Kent and Labrador.

Close race in Quebec continues

A new poll by Léger Marketing released earlier this week via Le Journal de Montréal showed that the Parti Québécois held the narrowest of leads over the Liberals, with 31% to 30% support. The Coalition Avenir du Québec trailed with 20%, while Québec Solidaire (9%), the provincial Greens (5%), and Option Nationale (4%) brought up the rear.

The poll also included some details on the PLQ leadership race. Philippe Couillard remained the favourite of the three candidates, and the only one who could apparently keep the Liberals competitive with the PQ.

I wrote about the poll for The Huffington Post Canada. You can read that article here.

The Léger poll showed very little change from their last survey from early February: the PQ remained in front among francophones and in the regions of Quebec, while the Liberals had the advantage among non-francophones, in and around Montreal, and in Quebec City.
With the results of the Léger poll, the Parti Québécois would increase its seat total from 54 to 61, putting them just short of a majority government. The Liberals would win 53 seats, up from 50, while the CAQ would drop from 19 to only eight. Québec Solidaire would take two seats and Option Nationale would win one.

Note that the seat for Option Nationale is Jean-Martin Aussant's in central Quebec. Aussant has already announced he plans to run in a Montreal riding in the next election. Until he identifies that riding, the model will continue to assume he'll run in Nicolet-Bécancour, and whether he wins it or not in the model will be a proxy for a hypothetical Montreal run. But that means the CAQ wins one fewer seat than they might otherwise win - or does it? If Aussant runs in Montreal, it will probably be a riding already held by the PQ. If he wins it, that means one fewer seat for the PQ but then it opens up Nicolet-Bécancour to that party. They held it before Aussant left to form his own party, and the CAQ did not win it by a wide margin in September. In the end, it probably evens out.

With these seat numbers, you might see the ingredients for a sovereigntist majority. The PQ could combine with QS and ON for a total of 64 seats, enough to have an outright majority and a friendly Speaker. But it might not be so simple - the PQ campaigned on the left but so far has governed in the centre. In fact, the most critical voices in the National Assembly often come from the two Québec Solidaire MNAs. Pauline Marois would have to swing quite strongly to the left to get both smaller sovereigntist parties on their side. That could be easier than currying favour with the Liberals or CAQ, but it is difficult to envision a coalition government.

One last thing to note before moving on: François Legault wrote on Twitter that the reason his party has scored so low in Léger's last two polls (both put his party at 20%) while doing better in CROP's surveys (27% in their last two polls) is because Léger does not include the names of the party leaders anymore, as CROP still does. According to Léger, that is because the Liberals only have an interim leader.

Legault argues that this is the cause of the lower numbers, as his party is not as well known as he is. He might have a point - but on the other hand, the mention of Jean-Marc Fournier (interim leader of the PLQ) might unnaturally depress his party's numbers. And the names of the party leaders are not present on ballots (unless your name is Mario Dumont). Legault is probably right about why Léger's results for the CAQ have been lower than CROP's. But that doesn't necessarily mean that CROP is the more accurate of the two.

Couillard favoured in the endorsement rankings

The Liberals will be choosing their new leader this weekend, and the safe money is on Philippe Couillard. But the Liberals are holding an old fashioned delegated convention, so anything can happen. The most likely outcome is a win by Couillard or Raymond Bachand. The endorsement rankings system agrees.
By adapting the system for the provincial level (treating MNAs as MPs), Couillard ends up on top with 40% of the endorsement points. The PLQ caucus is almost evenly split between the three candidates, but Couillard has some of the bigger names in caucus (Yves Bolduc, Sam Hamad, Gerry Sklavounos, Marc Tanguay, Kathleen Weil, among others) and a few long-time veterans (Henri-François Gautrin, Yvon Marcoux). In addition, he has more support from former MNAs, including Norman MacMillan and Benoît Pelletier, than his rivals. That gives him the edge in the endorsement rankings, but puts a first ballot victory out of range.

PLQ endorsements
Bachand comes in second with 31% of the endorsement points. His caucus support is smaller than Couillard's but it is slightly more experienced (they have won an average of 3.1 elections, compared to 2.8 for Couillard). He has the support of three strong women in the caucus in Marguerite Blais, Christine St-Pierre, and Lise Thériault, but not enough support among former MNAs.

Pierre Moreau brings up the rear with 29% of the endorsement points. He has more caucus support than Bachand, but his supporters are the least experienced (they have won an average of 2.5 elections). He has virtually no support among former MNAs, at least according to the endorsement information that is available here and on their respective websites (Moreau's is very bare bones).

I think the endorsement rankings are a very plausible first ballot result, though I suspect Moreau will not do as well and Bachand might end up closer to Couillard. This seems to be the general consensus in terms of the order of the candidates, but if the result is very similar to this then Couillard could be in trouble. A lot of Moreau's supporters might be expected to go with Bachand, so if Couillard does not end up closer to the 50% mark he could be overtaken by Bachand on the second ballot. It isn't an outcome that would be very shocking, though the party would probably be better off with Couillard (if the polls are right, at least).

Kent by-election still favours Gallant

The forecast for the New Brunswick provincial by-election in Kent remains 'Strong Liberal', thanks to the poll from earlier this week that put the Liberals under Brian Gallant ahead of the Progressive Conservatives.

Liberals also favoured in Labrador federal by-election

Peter Penashue's resignation due to improper spending practices in the last federal election came as a bit of a surprise. As the election was decided by only 79 votes, it makes Labrador a seat that the Conservatives may have difficulty holding on to.
The by-election forecasting model thinks that the Liberals will easily win the riding back. It is a traditionally Liberal riding after all, as Penashue was the first Conservative to win it since Ambrose Peddle in 1968 (and that was for only one term).

The Conservatives have tanked in Atlantic Canada while the Liberals have improved considerably, making Labrador a riding that should swing. But it is a riding with a small population and, due to its geography and history, is hyper-local.

Will that play in Penashue's favour or not? How has the local population reacted to his resignation and the reasons behind it? The by-election will let us know. And who will run for the Liberals? Will Todd Russell win the nomination or will it by Yvonne Jones, who has stated she intends to run? She was formerly the leader of the NL Liberal Party, and the model considers her a "star" candidate. Both Russell and Jones bring a virtual incumbency effect of their own, making this one a tough fight for the Conservatives.

Unless Labradorians react strongly against Penashue, I imagine that the margin will be a lot closer than the 25 points from the rolling average. But one has to consider the Liberals the heavy favourites.

27 comments:

  1. Does Yvonne Jones' decision to run threaten the Liberal's Official Opposition status in the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly? She will have to resign to run in the by-election and that drops the Liberals to a tie with the NDP in the legislature. Do the Liberals retain Official Opposition status at that point with a tie? There would then be a by-election in Jones provincial riding. If the NDP, surging at the provincial level, managed to win that by-election would they then be given Official Opposition status over the Liberals?

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    1. I may be mistaken, but I believe precedent favours the status quo. So, the Liberals would remain the Official Opposition. If the NDP won the provincial by-election, I think they would become the Official Opposition.

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    2. Saw something on Twitter to the effect that even if the NDP moved ahead in the seats the Liberals might be able to stay as OO. I'm not quite sure, it would appear to be one of those murky situations where the Speaker would get to decide, based on his interpretation of precedent.

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    3. As well, Jones' seat is the safest Liberal seat in Newfoundland and Labrador has been held by a Liberal or Jones as an Independent Liberal for all but three years since 1949. The NDP got 2.06% of the vote in the last provincial election. There is almost no chance of that seat switching from the Liberals.

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    4. Goaltender Interference18 March, 2013 14:50

      I believe that the Lieutenant Governor determines the Leader of the Opposition, not the Speaker of the House. And convention dictates that he/she will appoint the leader of the largest party not in government, even if that party becomes so mid-term.

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    5. GI,

      I am afraid you are incorrect. Party status and official opposition are matters decided by the House alone. Neither is a state appointment but, a "gift" of the legislative assembly. The Speaker in most cases makes the determination but, the House could reject the Speaker's advice and through a motion or resolution appoint whomever they wish to fill the OO role.

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  2. I'm expecting the Conservatives to try to run the byelection as 'see how they slandered one of your own', and if that isn't working then claiming whoever runs for the Liberals is a lapdog of Trudeau (ignoring the fact any CPC candidate is expected to be a lapdog of Harper). Bizarre, but would fit into the CPC's method of repeating a statement often enough to make it appear to be the truth - trick enough people and you are in.

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    1. NL is more kinder to Trudeau than Harper. If Jones secure the nomination then she would be a stronger candidate than Penashue, and the opposition has evidence to claim Penashue is a lapdog to Harper, while the government has none to do the same to the Liberal candidate. So that tactic would completely backfire on the CPC if they are stupid enough to use it!!

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  3. I think that if the Libs lose a seat and fall into a tie with the NDP - the status quo prevails and they remain official opposition. If the NDP were to win the byelection and actually have one more seat than the NL Liberals, then the NDP would take over as official opposition. This is an open and shut case, its no different from how if a party is one seat short of official party status and then wins a byelection, it automatically regains official party status

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    1. DL is half right.

      There are no hard and fast rules regarding official opposition. The title and perksare the "gift" of the legislature. Like prime minister the office exists through convention. The Speaker decides although it is up to the House to have the final say.

      Official party status or official opposition status can be denied by the House. I believe McGuinty denied the NDP official party status a few years ago but, this was remedied by lowering the seat total from 12 to 10. Gordon Campbell in 2001 refused to allow the NDP become OO(due to lack of seats for official party status) even though the NDP was the only other party in the Legislature.

      In the scenario before us we have an interesting similar situation from Nova Scotia. In 1999 both the Grits and Dippers were tied with 11 seats after the election. Accordingly the Speaker ruled both parties would share official opposition however, the Liberals as the previous government held precedent which amounted to very little save being seated closer to the Speaker. A year or so later Russell MacLellan resigned leaving the Grits with 1 less seat than the NDP. Both held official opposition status until after the by-election that was won by Cecil Clarke of the Tories subsequently the NDP became the sole official opposition.

      The most famous example of party status occurred in 1921 when the Progressive party won the second most seats in the Commons. The Progressives had no formal leadership structure and declined the offer of official opposition it was subsequently offered and accepted by the Conservative party under the leadership of Arthur Meighen.

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  4. I have another question about another topic covered here. Why for the Quebec Liberal leadership race is the number of selected delegates that are pledged to each candidate so murky? Couillard's campaign thinks it has over half the delegates. Bachand and Moreau’s campaigns both insist Couillard has under half the delegates. Why is the number of pledged delegates such conjecture? In the recent Ontario Liberal leadership race, the party released official pledged delegate counts after the delegate nomination voting in all ridings. Why does the Quebec Liberal party not appear to be doing the same?

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    1. No clue. One reason may be that the party was not able to meet its quota of youth members in some ridings. Maybe they did not want to highlight that. And I'm not sure if the delegates are pledged to the candidates in the same way as they were in the OLP race.

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    2. Goaltender Interference18 March, 2013 15:05

      QLP delegates are not pledged. They are elected by their riding and can vote for whomever they want at the Convention, according to Art. 25 of the QLP constitution.

      Also, each riding can send up to 24 delegates, which is a lot by any measure. It's unlikely that each leadership contender put up a slate of 24 fully-committed delegate candidates at each riding. So the leadership campaigns really had no idea what the numbers really were.

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  5. Eric, have you seen the latest BC poll?

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    1. I did, I'll be updating the projection next week.

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    2. There's two polls actually, and they have wildly different results. It'll be interesting to see how things evolve.

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    3. I haven't decided whether or not to include that other poll in the projection.

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    4. Ah, just noticed it's from Campaign Research. Damn. :(

      Do they have a track record at all?

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    5. They apparently did well in Ontario, but did very badly in Alberta (like everyone else). I'm concerned with their recent reprimand by the MRIA.

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    6. Perhaps treat it as you would an internal poll? Like the Garneau poll? Worth reporting on, but it's tough to know how to weight it in the projection?

      I dunno. If their track record is good that's one thing. Hmm.

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    7. Because of their performance in Alberta, their weighting would already be quite low. But it's the censure from the MRIA that is my biggest concern. Track record determines weighting, but it doesn't play a role in my deciding whether to use a pollster or not.

      I feel that there is an ethical line that I have to draw at some point. That the MRIA found suit to draw that line makes me feel that I should as well and exclude them, at least until they "prove" themselves with a good result in a campaign.

      I'll probably still mention their poll in my next projection update, but go over this issue as well.

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    8. Fair enough. Cheers!

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  6. Re Labrador Byelection, NDP gains in NL could be a factor. I suspect the end result will be as you predict, but an improved showing by a NDP candidate could be a wild card. May depend on the candidate the dippers come up with. Can you publish the results from 2011?
    JkennethY

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  7. Recent events would induce me to believe the Ipsos-Reid poll. The other one looks partisan inspired although close to the election date the NDP may drop a little as people hold their nose and vote Lib. Still hard to believe Libs actually have a chance, more like trying to save the furniture to be the future choice.

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  8. http://www.ipsos-na.com/news-polls/pressrelease.aspx?id=6035

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    1. Probably most significant in this poll is, who would make the best dinner companion...

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  9. I think people want to have dinner with Christy Clark so they can console her after she gets blown out of the water on may 14th!

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