Thursday, March 7, 2013

Honeymoon in Ontario, divorce in Nova Scotia?

In Ontario, the premier is just a few weeks on the job and is currently enjoying a bump in the polls. In Nova Scotia, the premier is at the tail end of his first mandate and could be a few weeks away from being out of a job.

In my weekly article for The Globe and Mail, I take a look at what the polling shows when new premiers are named between elections. You can read the article here. The short version is that new premiers usually boost their party's numbers before falling back to earth, and that the odds of re-election are as good as a coin flip. Heads or tails, Premier Wynne?

In the latest of my twice-weekly articles for The Huffington Post Canada, I take a look at the latest survey out of Nova Scotia by the Corporate Research Associates. Darrell Dexter is expected to call the next election in the province soon, as he must call it before the summer of 2014. With the announcement that he will present a balanced budget in April, everyone in Nova Scotia seems to believe that will be the starting bell for the next campaign.

I delve into the numbers in my Huffington Post article, so I invite you to head over there to read the piece. I won't go over the results a second time here, but we can take a look at what kind of legislature these results would produce.

Nova Scotia will be using a new electoral map in the next campaign, with the number of ridings reduced from 52 to 51. Electoral geography can be very important in deciding results, particularly in a province like Nova Scotia where all three parties are competitive.

Seat projection for CRA poll
And despite leading by seven points, Stephen McNeil's Liberals might be unable to secure a majority. The projection, which uses the new boundaries, gives his party 24 seats to 20 for the New Democrats and seven for the Progressive Conservatives.

The Liberals need 26 seats for a majority, so it is certainly possible that the projection model could be off by at least two seats to the benefit of the McNeil. But it is just as likely to be off in the other direction, handing a few extra seats to the Tories or even the New Democrats.

Two factors could play an important role in deciding the outcome. The New Democrats have the advantage of incumbency, and a few of their MLAs may be hard to defeat. That puts a few extra seats in the NDP's column. On the other hand, the Liberals would have the advantage of being the front runner, and their vote distribution may turn out to be more advantageous in close races where voters realize that the Liberal candidate could sit in cabinet.

But people should beware before scoffing at this sort of counter-intuitive seat projection. In the run-up to the Manitoba election in 2011, this site was consistently projecting an NDP majority even when they were polling behind the Tories. News reports on the eve of the vote said that the election was too close to call - and it was, at least in terms of the popular vote. But this site projected that even with only a few percentage points separating the PCs from the NDP, Greg Selinger would be able to win a larger majority than the one he had when the campaign began. In the end, the projection model called 56 of the 57 ridings in the province correctly. In fact, the model under-estimated the size of the NDP's majority by one seat.

Could the same sort of thing happen in Nova Scotia, with the polls showing an easy Liberal victory but the seat result being far closer? The race in and around Halifax could be what decides the election: if the Liberals can grow their support disproportionately in the capital, they can knock off a few New Democrats and secure a majority. If the NDP holds firm in the city, they may be able to keep the Liberals to a minority. And if the races closes by a few more points, they could even hold on to government.


  1. Parties are little more than food colouring in NS provincial politics. Sure, organized labour might have a bit more of the NDP's ear, and the PC's might be a bit more amenable to business interests, but there's little ideological consistency. The PC's and Liberals have attacked the NDP from both the political left and the political right, depending on the issue, and government policy has been similarly eclectic. Elections in NS are referendums on competence and corruption more than any overall government vision.

    Also, if you're an incumbent on Cape Breton Island, feel free to take a vacation during the campaign. The province-wide vote might swing wildly, the CAPE BRETON-wide vote might swing wildly, but the incumbents will almost always be re-elected. CB went from 43PC/30Lib/26NDP in 2006 to 40NDP/30Lib/28PC in 2009 without a seat changing hands (4PC/3Lib/2NDP). In fact, only three times over the past 4 elections, has an incumbent running under a party banner been defeated in Cape Breton. This is across 37 individual contests. All three were first-term incumbents, and two of the three were razor-thin margins. (Keith Bain beating Gerald Sampson in 2006 being the exception)

    You might expect this in a region dominated by a single party, but again, the last three elections have resulted in double-digit margins region wide for each of the three major parties (Liberals by 19 in 2003, PC's by 13 in 2006 and NDP by 10 in 2009)

  2. Eric

    What about that Nanos poll in today's Globe saying Libs and PC are tied ???

  3. Johnny Bluenose07 March, 2013 12:57

    Interesting commentary Liam.

    Eric or anybody else what riding(s) will be eliminated?

  4. The Nanos poll is almost identical to the last Forum - all three parties are within the margin or error of each other...if present trends continue the CPC could come in third in the next election!

    1. Well, the NDP sure doesn't look like its gaining much ground. A distant third in Ontario must be troubling, 22% is 6% below 2011. It may be time for Mully to hang up the skates. What's Jacques Parizeau doing nowadays?


    2. That's so facile to equate Mulcair with Parizeau. I'm not sure what I think of Mulcair but he bears no resemblance to that anglophile buffoon Parizeau! "By Jove... lobsters in a pot, blah, blah, blah..."

    3. The NDP is a "distant third" in Ontario Anonymous?

    4. Both Parizeau and Mulcair believe 50%+1 is enough for Quebec to separate!

    5. Yes according to the Nanos poll that was released yesterday:

      Liberals; 36.6
      Tories; 34.5
      NDP; 21.7

      I would say a 15% gap between first and third distant. More troubling it appears the 8% the Tories have lost since the election has all gone to the Liberals.


    6. Both are apparently believers in the arcane principle known as democracy. Curses to those democrats!

    7. Kain,

      Yes but, not the rule of law!

    8. Mulcair and the NDP are trying to amend the law, as currently the Clarity Act gives anything but clarity on how to act.

      Anon -- just because someone wants to amend a law does not mean that they deny the rule of law. What's next, are they unpatriotic? Gee, I haven't heard that one before ...

    9. A.S.,

      The NDP is not proposing to amend the law. They are trying to replace the Clarity Act with a Bill, The Unity Act, that is ultra vires and does not conform to Canada's constitution! They wish to circumvent the rule of law and replace it with bad legislation and bad law. The Supreme Court was clear; 50%+1 is not a suitable threshold to achieve separation or to base negotiation on a province's withdrawl from Canada. The reference case is part of Common Law codified under the Clarity Act.

      The Clarity Act is specific: a clear majority on a clear question, negotiations must take place, The House of Commons will decide what is a clear question and what is a clear result.

      The NDP would replace the HoC's role with the Quebec Court of Appeal. According to the Supreme Court reference that would be unconstitutional.

      As we saw with the prorogation crisis, the NDP does not understand the constitutional rules and conventions; they NDP wants to play with a different set of rules.

  5. Cape Breton is losing a riding, Southwest NS is losing two ridings, HRM is gaining two.

    There's been a serious reworking of the map, but nominally the casualties are Cape Breton Nova and Digby-Annapolis, which are being split among adjacent ridings. Additionally, Queens and Shelburne will be merged into one.

    The "new" ridings in HRM will be Sackville and Fairview-Clayton Park.

    The boundaries commission was a hot topic in the news over 2012, and they were given an impossible mission. You couldn't have paid me enough to be on it. The biggest flash point involved the four protected "minority" ridings
    that didn't meet population guidelines. The commission wanted to keep them, the government stood firm on the population limits. There were additional conflicts over which communities to combine and split in the southwest.

  6. As an addendum to my Cape Breton comments: Federally, it's a slightly different story; Cape Breton is reliably painted Liberal red. Across the 24 individual races starting in 1980 (three per election up to 1993, two per election starting 1997), the only non-Liberal victories have been:

    One of three seats went PC in the 1984 PC landslide, to be retaken in 1988.

    Both seats went NDP in Atlantic Canada's revolt against EI changes in 1997, to be retaken in 2000. This was part of a stunning turnaround in NS. The Liberals swept NS in 1993, only to be shut out in 1997.

  7. CRA has announced their quarterly update only for Nova Scotia and PEI? Why is that? Did they not conduct polls in N&L and NB this time out? Or are thye just releasing their results one at a time?

    1. I'm not quite sure why, but CRA says they will have the NL and NB numbers out before the end of the week. It is a break from their usual schedule, though.

  8. I have an impression that NS is slowly becoming BC. There wlll be the NDP and te party that is not the NDP in the future. The Libs have the upper hand here but party loyalties (I ote the way my parents voted) is deep in Atlantic area. Will NS Tories go the way of BC Tories? If the Tories keep dumping on them as EI abusers that can't help.

    Geo. O.

    1. Johnny Bluenose08 March, 2013 17:04


      Funny you should say that because I just thought: Since, 1998 election and polling results in Nova Scotia have been strikingly consistent. Over the last 15 years only very rarely has any party hit the 40% mark or above. Most have trended between 25% and 35%. The one major exception was election 2009 where the NDP received 45% of the vote and a recent CRA poll with the Liberals at 41%.

      Frankly, unless the Dippers become the alternative governing party in Ottawa on a regular basis I don't think Nova Scotia will abandon the Liberals or Tories. Nova Scotia is uniquely aligned with the federal government through various national institutions and it simply is "self-preservation" to have the federal Government's ear.

      Bluenosers are very conservative in their own way. The NDP's radicalism is not as endearing as you may hope. Senate abolition may not lose the NDP many votes in Nova Scotia but, it doesn't win any either. As someone who worked with many NS Dippers now in cabinet I must say while Dexter et al had good intentions their execution was not the best. In short they squandered much of the good work Hamm and MacDonald implemented.

      As an example; the NDP restricted public service hiring to NSGEU members. While this may be acceptable for a province that has a growing population, for a province with a declining population that already spends alot of money on out-of-province university students this makes little sense.

      In any case Bluenoser rarely turf governments after one term so, even down in the polls the Dippers may still hold front runner status.

      I think Eric's seat projection spot on although who finishes 1,2,3 could be a surprise.

  9. Bluenoser,

    One would think that the Atlantic provinces would have been furtile ground for the NDP since the CCF but it was never the case. Although they fit the NDP demographic, they are hyper traditional with a powerful blue collar small business ethos. The PCs and Liberals tended to be much farther left to reflect the region. Even this is starting to break down and there is a solid base for the NDP in Halifax, St Johns NL and othrr spots here and there.

    1. If one looks at the numbers the NDP is the third party in Atlantic Canada. Federally they have half the seats of the Liberals roughly 19% of the regions total 6/32. provincially they do slightly better with 36/180 seats 20%.

      I don't think the NDP will disappear from the Atlantic however, they still have much work to do in order to supplant the Liberals or Tories as one of the regions "governing parties", especially, if polls are to be believed they will soon lose power in Nova Scotia.

  10. HMMM. CRA out for NL and NB. NDP with slight lead in NL (statistically tied) and making impressive gains in NB to the point where a three way race is not out of the question. This reflects a trend throughout Atlantic Canada where three ways look to be the new normal.



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