Friday, June 21, 2013

Toronto Centre a likely Liberal hold

The resignation of Bob Rae sets up another federal by-election to go along with the one that will be taking place in Denis Coderre's old riding of Bourassa. And just like that Montreal riding, Toronto Centre is likely to stay within the Liberal fold.

Toronto Centre has been a Liberal riding since 1993, split between Bill Graham and Bob Rae, who won the riding in a 2008 by-election. At the provincial level, Toronto Centre has voted in an Ontario Liberal since the riding was matched-up with the federal boundaries in 1999. And over that time, Liberals George Smitherman and Glen Murray split its representation.

It means Toronto Centre has a long history of voting Liberal and being represented by an important figure. Graham was a cabinet minister and, like Rae, an interim party leader between Paul Martin and Stéphane Dion. Smitherman and Murray have both been cabinet ministers in the Ontario Liberal government.

It being a downtown Toronto riding and - locals would argue, I'm sure - the centre of Canada's universe, it seems likely that some big names will be on the ballot when the by-election is called. Seamus O'Regan and Smitherman's names have already been bandied about. And with the Liberals soaring high in the polls under their new leader, it seems unlikely that the party will be short of quality candidates.

The New Democrats can't be completely ruled out, however. Rae's retirement from the House of Commons was expected, and the NDP was getting ready. However, the NDP would have had a much better chance to win the riding back when the party was leading in the polls last year. As the New Democrats have since dropped below where they were in 2011, and the Liberals have surged ahead, it follows that Toronto Centre is probably going to remain a safe Liberal riding.

Applying the swing from the Ontario-wide polls that have been released in the last month, the Liberals should be able to win the riding by a larger margin than Rae did in the 2011 election (he took 41% to 30% for the NDP). In fact, winning it by a larger margin than Rae did in the 2008 general election (54% to 18% for the Conservatives) is plausible as well.

A poll by Forum Research (June 19, surveying 926 residents of the riding) concurs, putting the Liberals at 49% to 25% for the NDP and 20% for the Conservatives. In other words, the swing that we have seen province-wide (Liberals up, Conservatives and NDP down) has also occurred in Toronto Centre.

But a by-election can be unpredictable. Justin Trudeau has promised open nominations so it is possible that someone other than O'Regan, Smitherman or another well-known candidate could win the nomination, and the process itself could tear the local party apart (though this is less likely to happen when a party is doing well). If the NDP finds a great candidate, they can certainly make a run for the riding. It fits their profile and the party did very well in parts of Toronto Centre in 2011. If the by-election is called later rather than sooner, there will be plenty of time for events, dear boy, to intervene.

Nevertheless, there is every reason to believe that Toronto Centre should remain safely and comfortably in Liberals hands.

Other updates

There have been updates to the By-Election Barometer for the federal riding of Bourassa and the provincial ridings of Westside-Kelowna and Ottawa South. The new Léger national poll was added to the rolling average for Bourassa, changing little, while the Forum poll for Westside-Kelowna was corrected (how it was originally reported in the National Post was wrong). The Forum poll for Ottawa South was also added. In part due to the three-point edge the survey gave to the Tories, the forecast for the riding has been downgraded from Strong Liberal to Likely Liberal.

And that's all folks!

I'll be taking a bit of a break next week, so don't expect any updates until after Canada Day. Have a good one!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

House adjourns to end volatile year

The House of Commons adjourned for the summer yesterday, as MPs ran wildly back to the school buses dreaming of sprinklers, camp, and hot dogs. Politics on the Hill was starting to get uglier and stupider than usual, so they've all been sent home to cool their hot tempers - as is the case with the rest of us working stiffs. If our employers didn't all give us the summer off, the Stans-in-accounting of the world would be thrown out the windows by August.

It was a rather remarkable year in Ottawa, however. The last of the major party leaders (likely) to contest the 2015 election was named, and the government had to go through one of the most damaging periods any government has suffered since Gomery. How it will all shake out remains to be seen.

But the pace of change in the last 10 months has been extraordinary. The last time we have seen this amount of shifting support in one parliamentary year, an election had been held.

The chart below uses the monthly averages maintained on this site, comparing where things stood when the House of Commons began sitting again after the summer break in September, and where things were when the House adjourned for the summer in June.
With a total change of 32 points in 2012-13, this last season is more similar to 2010-11 than either 2009-10 or 2011-12, and the latter did include a change of leadership for the NDP.

Unfortunately, there have yet to be any polls out in the month of June, so we have to look at where things were in May 2013. But the pace of change has been remarkable. The Conservatives lost six points over the year, while the NDP lost eight and the Liberals gained 18. That is the largest gain in support any party has recently experienced, even more than the 15 points the New Democrats gained between the fall of 2010 and the month after their electoral breakthrough of 2011.

For the Conservatives, the trends are not very positive. In 2011-12 they had dropped six points to around 33%, and had only gained one point during the summer. Then in 2012-13 they dropped another six points. Compared to where the party was two years ago, the Conservatives have lost 13 points. By comparison, the New Democrats are down only seven from June 2011, while the Liberals are up 20 points. This would seem to argue against the perception that the Liberals are making their gains primarily on the backs of the New Democrats. In fact, the Conservatives have suffered most from the arrival of Justin Trudeau, in addition to their own recent spate of stumbles.

But the Liberals shouldn't be counting their chickens already, as the 2010-11 season showed just how much an election can dramatically transform the political landscape. On the other hand, just because things shifted to such a considerable degree in 2011 does not mean that a similar change in fortunes should be expected in 2015. In the 2008 election, for example, the parties ended up generally where they were when the campaign began.

It will be interesting to see what kind of effect the summer will have on these numbers. The Liberals will be looking to maintain their support, while both the Conservatives and New Democrats desperately need to make up some ground. The drop in Conservative support could not have come at a worse time - as you can see on the chart above, the numbers hardly move over the summer. That means there is a good chance that the Conservatives will remain at or below 30% for another two or three months. There is still plenty of time, but that can only be said for so long.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Ottawa South a likely OLP hold

Dalton McGuinty announced his resignation as Premier of Ontario in September 2012, and bowed out officially when he was replaced by Kathleen Wynne earlier this year. At the time, he had said he would stay on as an MPP until the next election. But with the pressure building on the gas plant issue, McGuinty announced last week that he would be resigning his seat of Ottawa South, which he had held since 1990.

Ottawa South has been in Liberal hands for 26 years since 1987, when McGuinty's father first won the riding. It has been a safe seat over that time, with McGuinty's support remaining remarkably steady.

With the exception of the 1999 election, there has been very little change in both Liberal and Progressive Conservative support in this riding in the six elections contested by the out-going former Liberal leader.

But prior to 1987, Ottawa South was a relative safe Tory seat, having voted for the party in every election since its creation in the 1920s. However, the riding has under-gone some major demographic changes over that time. The political make-up of Ottawa South of over a generation ago might have little to do with voting patterns today.

The Progressive Conservatives took 42% of the vote in eastern Ontario in the 2011 provincial election, compared to the 37% captured by the Liberals and the 17% of the New Democrats. When the Liberals were tanking in the weeks before McGuinty announced his intentions to step down as premier, the Liberals had fallen to the mid-20s in support in the region, and behind the New Democrats. The PCs had surged ahead to around 50% support. Had a by-election occurred at that time, Ottawa South would have been ripe for the Tory picking.

But the Ontario Liberals' poll numbers have improved under Wynne. Most polls now put the Liberals back over 30% in eastern Ontario, with the last three polls from Abacus Data, Ipsos-Reid, and Forum Research putting the Liberals at 33%, 32%, and 42% respectively in the region. The Tories have dropped back to around the 42% they took in the last election. The New Democrats are also back down to the high-teens, and so should not be a factor in this by-election (except potentially as a spoiler).

Generally, with the Tories holding steady and the Liberals down a little from 2011, this should make Ottawa South a closer riding. With the Liberals' lack of an incumbent candidate, that also drops them a little more. That brings the margin down to potentially single digits. However, the Liberals should be able to hold the riding due to their long history in it and the decent support levels the party has been showing under Wynne.

But the wildcard in this by-election is the McGuinty factor. No one could deny that the riding is dominated by the McGuinty name. In addition to the family holding the riding since 1987, David McGuinty, Dalton's brother, has been the federal MP for Ottawa South since 2004 and, despite the poor showing for the federal Liberals in the 2011 election, still won the riding by 11 points.

However, with one of the two McGuintys gone, will voters in the riding still vote for the Ontario Liberals? Was this riding a McGuinty riding or a Liberal riding? Are residents in the riding upset over the problems that led to McGuinty's departure? The by-election will tell us, but until then the forecast is for Ottawa South to be  a Strong Liberal riding.

Christy Clark in Westside-Kelowna

A by-election will be held on July 10 in the British Columbia riding of Westside-Kelowna, in an attempt for B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark to get into the legislature after she lost her seat in May's provincial election.

There isn't a lot of data to go on here, as there haven't been any polls since the election on how British Columbians would vote today. But Ben Stewart won the riding easily in the last two elections, taking 58% of the vote to 31% for the NDP's candidate last month. The riding and its predecessors have been strongly centre-right for decades.

A poll by Forum Research (interviewing 350 people on June 6) found that support had not changed even with the replacement of Stewart by Clark, with 58% saying they'd vote for Clark, 30% for the NDP, and "less than 10%" for the Conservative candidate (the party took 11% in the last election). This would seem to suggest that voters in the riding will be sticking with their choices.

The only potential for trouble is if there is a reaction against parachuting Clark into the riding. It is unlikely, however, considering the history of the riding and that the Liberals are the government. It makes Westside-Kelowna a Strong B.C. Liberal riding.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Provincial Liberals up throughout Atlantic Canada

Earlier this week, the Corporate Research Associates released their Atlantic Quarterly polls for all four provinces on the East Coast. The results show gains by the provincial Liberal parties throughout the region, with mixed results for the New Democrats and Progressive Conservatives. The polls also show that, with the exception of Prince Edward Island, incumbents are in trouble in every province.
Before we get to the numbers, a few notes on methodology. CRA uses traditional live-callers to put together their polls. They tend to have very large  proportions of undecideds, ranging in these four provinces between 35% and 55%. This means the sample sizes for decided voters tend to be smaller with appropriately larger margins of error.

Also, CRA releases no crosstabs or demographic data, but clients subscribe to the Atlantic Quarterly and so they receive more data than the unwashed masses. It would be preferable if CRA released all of their data relating to political questions, as they are picked up by media throughout the region.

Nova Scotia is the province next slated to go to the polls (either this fall or before June 2014), and the New Democrats are in trouble there. They have dropped six points since CRA's last poll from November, a statistically significant decrease that has put them in a tie with the Progressive Conservatives at 26%. The Liberals were up to 45%, though their gain was just within the margin of error for their results. These are recent record highs and lows for both the Liberals and NDP.

There was a big increase in undecideds, however, from 48% to 55%. That makes the election, whenever it is called, very important. Many voters are still on the fence. Stephen McNeil was the favourite choice for premier by 31%, followed by Darrell Dexter and Jamie Baillie at 18%. Satisfaction with the government stood at 40% to 49% dissatisfaction.

New Brunswick will hold its next election in the fall of 2014, and here too the incumbent government is in trouble. The Tories are down to 29%, while the Liberals were up to 41% under new leader Brian Gallant. The New Democrats were up to 27%. These are recent record highs (Liberals and NDP) and lows (PCs) for all three parties, though none of the shifts are outside the margins of error. Fully 45% of respondents were undecided, unchanged from February-March.

Gallant topped the premier question with 31%, followed by David Alward at 20% and Dominic Cardy of the NDP at 17%. Satisfaction stood at 38%, while dissatisfaction was up to 51%. Satisfaction with the government has been relatively more steady, however, than the PCs' support levels.

Prince Edward Island isn't heading to the polls until 2015. But Robert Ghiz is quite comfortably ahead, with 52% support to 26% for the Progressive Conservatives and 21% for the New Democrats. Here again, the shifts aren't statistically significant, and 41% were undecided.

Ghiz was at 38% for the best person to be premier, followed by Mike Redmond at 15% and Steven Myers at 11%. Satisfaction with the government was at 45%, with dissatisfaction at 51%.

Finally, and most interestingly, is Newfoundland and Labrador. They are also only holding their next election in 2015, but the political landscape is changing. The New Democrats retained a narrow lead with 37%, but the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives swapped places. The Liberals picked up 14 points since February-March and placed a close second with 36%, with the Tories down 11 points to 27%. Worth noting, however, is that the number of undecideds increased by nine points to 35%.

The NDP is still at an all-time high (though slightly down from February-March's numbers), while the Liberals are polling better than they have in quite a while. For the Progressive Conservatives, 27% is a far cry from the 70% (and more) support they were polling at before the 2011 election.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale ranked third among the leaders with 21% choosing her as the best person to be premier, a drop of 11 points. Dwight Ball of the Liberals (interim leader but a candidate to take over) was up seven points to 24%, while Lorraine Michael remained well ahead with 36%.

Satisfaction with the government dropped 13 points to only 32%, while dissatisfaction was up 11 points to 63%. These are astounding numbers: 26% were 'completely dissatisfied', while a year ago that was only at 9%.

In terms of seats, the incumbent governments would be defeated in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador, while the Liberals in Prince Edward Island are safe.
Seat projection based on CRA's polling
In New Brunswick, Gallant's Liberals would win 34 seats and form a majority government, with Alward's Tories pushed to the opposition benches with 13 seats. The New Democrats would win eight.

McNeil's Liberals would win a majority government of 32 seats, with Dexter's NDP winning 11 and the Tories the remaining eight.

The Liberals would sweep Prince Edward Island, winning all 27 seats in the province.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, the Progressive Conservatives would be reduced to only seven seats but hold the balance of power in a minority legislature. The New Democrats would win the plurality of seats with 21, taking 13 of the 14 seats in the St. John's Region. The Liberals would win 20 seats, 15 of them in Newfoundland west of the Avalon and Burin peninsulas. How this arrangement would work out is anyone's guess.

Though the samples outside of Newfoundland and Labrador were two small to decisively determine that the Liberals were making real gains, the trends are quite clear. Aside from a small one-point uptick in PEI, the Liberals gained six points or more throughout the region. They are under-going a bit of renewal, with a leadership race underway in Newfoundland and Labrador and Gallant having been named the leader of the NB Liberals last year. Plus, there is the Justin Trudeau factor. It can't be ignored, considering how well the federal party is polling in Atlantic Canada.

The Progressive Conservatives had less clear results, with a big drop in Newfoundland and Labrador, a modest one in New Brunswick, a modest gain in Nova Scotia, and a larger one in Prince Edward Island. The trends are a bit clearer for the New Democrats, who were down everywhere but New Brunswick, where they only gained a point. This is, however, much less tied to the federal scene as the provincial Tories are polling better than their federal counterparts. But just like at the federal level, the region appears to be in major flux.

Monday, June 10, 2013

May 2013 federal polling averages

We were spoiled a little with 10 polls in April. In May, only four polls (three of them national, one of them conducted in Quebec only) were released - perhaps due to some shyness after the B.C. election. Nevertheless, some 5,000 people were surveyed. The sample is not as robust as it could be, but the results point to continuing positive trends for the Liberal Party under Justin Trudeau.
The Liberals averaged 40% in polls conducted in May, a gain of 6.6 points from their April averages. This is the highest Liberal number on record (going back to January 2009, as will be the case for the rest of this post) and the largest month-to-month gain by any party since the New Democrats jumped nine points between April and May 2011.

The Conservatives averaged 27.6% support, a drop of 2.6 points and the lowest number they have put up since at least the beginning of 2009. This is the fourth consecutive month of decline for the Conservatives, and the gap between themselves and the Liberals is the largest since the Tories had a 12-point lead over the Liberals in April 2011.

The New Democrats were down 0.5 points to 23.3%, their lowest since April 2011. They have been on the decline or stagnating for 11 consecutive months now (with the exception of a one-point uptick in January).

The Greens were down 1.5 points to 4.1%, putting them tied with the Bloc Québécois (down 1.4 points). Support for other parties averaged 1%.

Those are some pretty striking numbers, after a month of striking numbers in April. The trends all point to Liberal gains primarily at the expense of the Conservatives. EKOS, Forum, and Ipsos-Reid were all in the field in April, and the change from those polls is clear.
The New Democrats have shown a small gain from those April polls, however, in the unweighted average. But the April averages also included polls from other firms.

The Liberals made gains in all six regions of the country, while the Conservatives decreased in support from coast to coast.

In Ontario, the Liberals averaged 41.6% support, a gain of 5.8 points since April and their best result since April 2009. The Liberals have gained 16 points in Ontario since January. The Conservatives dropped 2.7 points to 32.6%, their lowest on record. The New Democrats were down 0.6 points to 21.7%, while the Greens were down 1.9 points to 3.4%.

The Liberals averaged 41% support in Quebec, their best on record. That represented a gain of 5.2 points since April and 17 points since March. The New Democrats had a small increase of 1.3 points to 27.7%, while the Bloc Québécois was down 4.6 points to 17.3%. That is their lowest number since October 2011. The Conservatives were down 0.7 points to 10.1%, their lowest on record, while the Greens were down 1.1 points to 3.1%.

In British Columbia, the Liberals picked up 5.4 points to lead with 32.9%, their best on record. The Conservatives were down 2.5 points to 29.1%, their worst on record, while the New Democrats at 28.2% (-2.4) scored their worst result since October 2011. The Greens were down 0.2 points to 8.9%.

The results in Alberta are probably anomalous due to an unusual result in Forum's polling. But nevertheless, the Conservatives fell 8.3 points to 47.2%, their lowest on record, while the Liberals were up 11.3 points to 33%, their best. While the size of the gain was probably inflated, the Liberals did have their fourth consecutive month of increase in Alberta. The New Democrats were down 0.3 points to 13.1%, while the Greens were down 1.5 points to 5.4%.

In Atlantic Canada, the Liberals put up the highest number any party has since at least January 2009 with 53%, a gain of 4.8 points. The New Democrats were down 4.3 points to 20.6%, their worst since March 2011, while the Conservatives were down 0.8 points to 20.5%. The Greens were up 0.6 points to 5.5%.

And in the Prairies, the Conservatives fell 3.1 points to 37.6%. The party has generally been on the decline here since January. The Liberals put up their best numbers with 33.4%, a gain of 5.5 points, while the NDP was down 3.7 points to 22.4%. That was their worst since March 2011.
With these levels of support, and on the 338-seat map, the Liberals would win 152 seats. The Conservatives would take 109 seats, the New Democrats would win 74, the Bloc would hold onto two, and the Greens would retain their one.

Compared to April, this is a 29-seat gain for the Liberals, a 22-seat loss for the Tories, and a seven-seat loss for the Bloc. The NDP and Greens were unchanged at the national level.

The seven seats in Alberta may seem unusual - and they are. But this is what happens when the Liberals are at 33% in the province. Will they actually get 33% in Alberta? Probably not, but this is what that number gives them. And, in any case, it doesn't change much if you give all seven of those back to the Conservatives.

The Liberals made their biggest seat gain in Ontario, jumping 13 seats from April - all at the expense of the Tories. When the two parties are neck and neck in the province, it is to the Conservatives' advantage. But with a nine-point lead, the Liberals are able to win the majority of Ontario's seats.

Quebec is still a puzzle. The Liberals have traditionally not put up good numbers outside of Montreal, and that was particularly the case in the last election. So when the Liberals triple their support in the province, they do not win a lot of seats outside of the Montreal area in the model when the base is 10% or less. This might inflate the NDP's potential seat wins - unless the party is capable of keeping the Liberals down below 30% in most of the province's majority-francophone ridings.

There were no new numbers on the Best Prime Minister question in May, but there were some approval ratings. Stephen Harper dipped below 30% for the first time, while Trudeau flirted with almost 50% approval.

The Trudeau honeymoon continues, undoubtedly aided a great deal by the plethora of problems the Conservatives are going through right now. If the Conservatives are to make it back, they have a lot of work to do. The last time they trailed in the polls - behind the NDP in mid-2012 - the party was still in a very strong position in Alberta, the Prairies, Ontario, and Atlantic Canada. They were even holding steady in Quebec. And the last time the Tories trailed the Liberals in the polls - in the spring of 2009 - they were still comfortably ahead in the West and within spitting distance of the Liberals in Ontario and Atlantic Canada.

The degree to which they trail Trudeau's Liberals right now is much larger than it was when they trailed Thomas Mulcair, Michael Ignatieff, and Stéphane Dion in the past. To find the last time the Conservatives trailed anyone by 12 points in national polls, you have to go back to 2005 when the party was sitting on the opposition benches. The numbers can be waved off as being two years from the next election, but it would take willful blindness not to recognize that the Conservatives are currently in the deepest hole they have found themselves in since coming to power more than seven years ago.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Turmoil in T.O., except in the polls

I don't always write about municipal politics, but when I do, I do it for The Globe and Mail. This time, at least. Check out the article on how Rob Ford's polling numbers have moved over the last few years. Or, more accurately, have not moved.

It is quite remarkable to me that a politician like Ford, who has not exactly had a smooth time in office, has such steady polling numbers. But he certainly is a polarizing figure, and perhaps that encourages the sort of stability that he has enjoyed since mid-2011. It makes me think that this interesting column by Andrew Steele has it about right. When a politician meets expectations, whether they are good or bad expectations, it is understandable that his or her poll numbers should hold constant.

As a resident of Ottawa, Ford's tenure stands in stark contrast to that of Mayor Jim Watson. His administration hasn't made a lot of noise and he works hard to cultivate his image as a (to steal a slogan from François Hollande) 'normal' mayor. He doesn't ruffle any feathers and is very present on social media. He will likely be re-elected for his efforts next year, in an election that will pale in comparison to what I expect will be a tumultuous contest in Toronto if Rob Ford is still mayor by then (which I suspect he will be).

And, as my column points out, Ford can't be under-estimated. He has a solid core of support. While the polls show that he would struggle to defeat Olivia Chow in a one-on-one vote, he won't have to. In all likelihood, a third or fourth 'major' candidate will be in the running and the polls show that if something like that were to occur, Chow's advantage over Ford would be reduced to a handful of points. With a race as close as that, anything could happen on the campaign trail.

It might be even interesting enough for me to break my own prohibition on municipal politics here on the site. An election in New Brunswick is scheduled for September 2014, but if there is no other major vote occurring in October I may just keep an eye on how things are looking in Toronto.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bourassa favoured to stay Liberal

With Denis Coderre resigning his seat in the House of Commons to launch his run to be the next mayor of Montreal, the city's riding of Bourassa is up for grabs. As the first by-election to take place in Quebec - the scene of the most dramatic political realignment in recent memory - the contest acts as a test for the three parties whose futures lies most in the hands of Quebecers.

In the end, however, it might not prove to be such an interesting race. The riding has been a Liberal stronghold for most of its history, with the party having won 10 of 12 elections. And when the Liberals did win, they tended to take it by double-digit margins. Only in 1988 and in 1993, when the Liberals lost the riding by less than 1,000 votes to the Progressive Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois (respectively), was the riding painted anything but red.

It has certainly helped that the Liberals were represented by Coderre, one of the most visible Quebec MPs the Liberals have. Before 2011, he had never won Bourassa by less than 11 points. The New Democrats did give him a run in that election, pushing him down to 40.9% support (the lowest vote share the Liberals have ever had in the riding), but he nevertheless had an 8.6-point cushion. The New Democrats finished with 32.3% of the vote and the Bloc Québécois with 16.1%.

When the New Democrats were polling well in Quebec last year, Bourassa might have been truly up for grabs. When the Bloc was briefly ahead in the province before Thomas Mulcair became leader, they might have even had a chance. But with the Liberals surging in Quebec and both the NDP and Bloc taking a big hit in support, the riding has to be considered a very safe one for the Liberals.

ThreeHundredEight's by-election forecast model (11 for 11 so far!) considers Bourassa a Strong Liberal riding, and does not expect that the Liberals will lose it. The only wildcard at this point is the identity of the candidates, but by the time the by-election is called perhaps the political landscape in Quebec will have shifted again. 

As it stands, however, the Liberals would have to nominate a horrible candidate, and the NDP a stellar one, for this riding to not remain in the Liberal camp. The Bloc shouldn't be a factor, and that is why Daniel Paillé is almost certain not to take a run at the riding. The Conservatives are a complete non-player in Montreal, and the Greens less so (they took 8.8% and 1.6% of the vote, respectively, in 2011).

If Bourassa hadn't had an MP like Coderre, it could have been swept up in the NDP's tidal wave in 2011. All else being equal, his departure would have certainly made this riding a difficult one for the Liberals to hold. But with Liberal support surging so dramatically, it seems unthinkable that the Liberals would not be able to retain this riding in a new by-election. A loss here would be a catastrophic blow to Justin Trudeau.

But perhaps the race is not as much of a slam dunk as the provincial swing would suggest. A poll that went unnoticed was released by Forum Research a little while ago, showing that the Liberals were only experiencing a small bump in support from their 2011 numbers.

Forum surveyed 501 residents of the riding on May 17 by IVR, finding that 89% of respondents were aware of Coderre's decision to resign and run for the mayoralty. The poll gave the Liberals 45% support in a new by-election, followed by the Bloc Québécois at 26%, the NDP at 21%, and the Conservatives and Greens at 3% apiece.

That represents only a four-point gain for the Liberals, while the Bloc was up 10 points and the NDP was down 11. Considering the province-wide support for the Liberals and Bloc, this is counter-intuitive.

A few notes about Forum's sample. The same issue of over-sampling older voters and under-sampling younger voters has occurred here. According to Forum's report, 53% of its sample is 55 or older, instead of the 39% it should be for Bourassa. Only 9% of the sample is under the age of 34, instead of the 26% it should be. Only 41 voters aged 18-34 were sampled, which theoretically has a margin of error of +/- 15.3%. Those 41 voters had to be re-weighted to represent some 130 voters, meaning that small, error-prone sample was more than tripled.

In terms of how respondents said they voted in 2011, the sample seems fine for every party but the NDP. Only 20% of respondents said they voted for the NDP in the last federal election, rather than the 32% who actually did. Was the sample re-weighted to reflect this discrepancy? If not, the poll could potentially be under-representing NDP support (though not enough to overturn the overall prognosis).

The number of francophones and non-francophones sampled seems adequate, however, though of course the issue of other discrepancies in the sample still exist. Nevertheless, voting intentions were little different among francophones, with the Liberals down to 43% and the Bloc up to 28%. Among non-francophones, however, the Liberals were way ahead: 69% to only 12% for the NDP and a smattering of support for the other parties.

The by-election in Bourassa could be called many months from now in the fall or even early winter, so there is plenty of time for things to change. Six months ago, the NDP was leading the Liberals in Quebec by 10 points, rather than trailing by 17 as they do now. Where things will be six months from now is anyone's guess. But unless something dramatic occurs before the by-election is held in Quebec, the riding should be considered the Liberals' to lose.