Thursday, September 5, 2013

NS NDP gains as Liberals move into minority territory

The Corporate Research Associates released their latest numbers for the provincial scene in Nova Scotia, showing that Stephen McNeil's Liberals still hold a significant lead over Darrell Dexter's New Democrats. But the numbers might not work very well for McNeil, as the Nova Scotia projection now puts him in a position to win only a minority government.

The vote projection is almost entirely based on the latest CRA poll, the only real difference coming from their May survey (taking up a whopping 0.4% of the projection) and the model's estimate of support for other parties and independents being 0.7% (rather than the 0% of CRA). So, the vote projection has moved exactly like CRA's latest poll: a four-point drop for the Liberals and a five-point gain for the NDP.

Taking into account past polling error, that puts the likely band of support for the Liberals at between 39.1% and 44.8% of the vote, compared to 30.8% to 33.8% for the New Democrats. The Progressive Conservatives remain in third with between 22.8% and 26.3% of the vote. (As a reminder, and for first time readers, the results highlighted in the 'boxes' in the projection chart are considered the most likely results, based on how the polls have been wrong in recent elections.)

Click to magnify
The seat projection has moved more dramatically. The Liberals have slid six seats in the projection to 22, putting them four seats short of a majority government. The NDP gained seven seats to reach 20, while the PCs were down one seat to nine.

Nevertheless, the Liberals are still in the better position as they have only dropped three seats in their likely result. They had been projected to take between 24 and 33 seats with CRA's May numbers, and they have since slid to between 21 and 30 seats. That puts them well in range of a majority government, and with the NDP's most likely range moving to between 20 and 22 seats Dexter's odds of victory are slim.

That is, if the polls are off by only an average amount. If the polls miss the call as wildly as they have in some recent campaigns, then an NDP majority is certainly possible (it was not considered possible when they trailed by almost 20 points - polls are never that wrong). Their maximum seat haul is 33, assuming enormous error in the polls. If it goes the other way, however, they could be reduced to 11 seats and perhaps displaced as the Official Opposition by the PCs.

The Liberal vote is simply not very efficient, and with CRA's polling showing the two parties neck-and-neck in the Halifax region the race is very much undecided. Particularly considering that 41% of respondents to CRA's poll were actually undecided.
That is a huge number, but nothing unusual for CRA. It has actually dropped two points from their last poll. Whether it is something that really needs to be of concern, however, is another matter. As Don Mills explained in an interview with me, CRA does not include 'leaning' voters in their polls outside of campaigns. That has the potential to inflate the size of the undecided vote considerably.

CRA found the Liberals to have fallen to 41% while the NDP had risen to 31%. That five-point gain was just outside the margin of error for decided voters, whereas the Liberals' four-point drop was just inside of it. The PCs slipped one point to 25%, while the Greens were unchanged at 3% support.

For the New Democrats and Liberals, this puts them back to where they were between August 2012 and March 2013. The PCs, meanwhile, have been stuck at around this level of support for years.

McNeil topped the leadership table with 30% saying he would make the best premier, compared to 19% for both Dexter and Jamie Baillie of the Tories. That is generally unchanged from May. But McNeil is down from the 35% he had on this question a year ago, while Dexter's numbers are getting worse compared to his party. He had 26% support for premier in November 2012, for example, at a time when his party was at 29% support among decided voters.

But in addition to the significant gain, the NDP has another small bit of silver lining in this poll. Government satisfaction rose to 42%, the highest it has been since November 2012, while dissatisfaction fell by four points to 45% - the lowest it has been since February 2012, when the NDP was polling at 44% and had a 17-point lead over the Liberals. Perhaps this suggests that those undecided voters may be satisfied enough with the government, but not yet sure they want to vote for it again.

Will this be enough for Dexter to call the election? Nova Scotians still expect the call any day now. Having put his party within spitting distance of the Liberals, when before they did not have a chance at all, is a minimally positive development. The 'momentum' may falter if Dexter waits until CRA's next quarterly report to pull the plug. And as we have seen time and again, campaigns still matter. Dexter has every reason to hope he can pull off what Alison Redford, Christy Clark, and Jean Charest (almost) did, in that they were all equally on the road to defeat.


  1. I think Dexter's gonna have to go for it given his (marginally) improved fortunes in this latest poll, and if he puts it off much longer it will probably start hurting him; in the few past examples I can think of where incumbent governments blatantly held off election calls for as long as possible in the hopes of winning back support, it never worked (namely Trudeau 1979 and Hatfield 1987).

    With 41% undecided he absolutely has a shot if he runs a good campaign. Also, in my experience living there I found Nova Scotians can be frightfully forgiving, so even though there's definitely a lot of disappointment in his performance, he just might be able to convince the public to give him a second chance.

    You mentioned Redford, Clark and Charest, but let's also not forget McGuinty who was trailing by up to 10 pts or more in the months leading up to the last ON election.


    1. With 41% undecided all 3 major parties have a good shot at forming government. The campaign will be key. It should be noted that Bluenosers don't usually throw out a government after only one term.

    2. Yeah, that's why I mentioned the forgiveness. They *almost* threw out the Liberals after just one term with John Savage, putting them into a tie for seats with the NDP, but they managed to cling on for another year with the support of the PCs. Come to think of it though, one-term governments don't seem to be all that common anywhere in Canada in the recent past. I believe Shawn Graham in NB is the most recent one. Then Bob Rae in Ontario? I'm not sure if David Peterson before him counts. Then there's Joe Clark's fateful government. Prior to that federally you have to go all the way back to R.B. Bennett. I guess you might consider Paul Martin to be a one-term government though, or any new leader who took over an incumbent government but failed to get the party reelected more than once. Depends how you look at it.


    3. Look like you're prediction is correct Dom. Dexter has released the NDP election platform although it appears the official call and disolution will occur this weekend.

  2. If Nova Scotians re-elect Dexter they'll deserve the misery they'll get.

  3. Can we get a discussion going on which party has actually produced the best Provincial Govt's?

    Got a hunch, that at least on economics, the NDP has the best record ??

    1. On economics the NDP has a mixed record. During 1991-2001 in BC every year economic growth was below the Canadian average.

      There is a reason why 12 years after the last NDP government the Liberals can point to the Harcourt-Clark-Dossanjh record and still win votes.

    2. Personally I think that's a fairly futile discussion to have. There have been both successful and catastrophic provincial governments of all stripes. Ultimately it depends mostly on the competence/integrity (and also some luck with regard to external factors, e.g. with the economy) of the particular team a given governing party has in place at a given time.

      So many people are fixated on the party labels these days that they seem not to realize this. I think it's so foolish when people say stuff like "Bob Rae's NDP government in Ontario was a disaster, therefore the NDP can never be trusted to govern anywhere!", or "Chrétien's Liberals were corrupt to the core, therefore Liberals can never be trusted again!", or "I'm a diehard conservative/liberal/dipper therefore I always vote Conservative/Liberal/NDP", etc.

      Despite all the rhetoric these days, if you take a step back and try to be objective for a moment, you realize that all three major parties are quite moderate and their ideologies don't actually differ all that much in the grand scheme of things. It's not like we're facing a stark choice between all-out plutocracy and all-out communism anymore.

      Wearing a Liberal or Conservative or NDP banner is one thing, presenting a policy platform and making all sorts of promises is another, but by far the most important determinant of the success of a government is the actual competence and integrity of the particular people who compose it once they're in office. That's why when deciding how to vote I first take a look at each party's platform and decide which ones seem overall sensible enough for me to support and make sure they don't contain any major "deal-breakers", then I mostly focus on trying to judge whether the leader and teams representing each party appear to be competent and trustworthy. And unfortunately sometimes it comes down to a "lesser evil" decision.

      I don't mean to be smug, but I believe that if everyone approached voting this way, we would on average end up with much better leadership.


    3. Dom

      In the days of St. Laurent, Diefenbaker, Douglas I would basically go along with you and you're thinking.

      However those days are gone, they left when Reform appeared in the West. No it isn't the Tea Party but by Canadian standards it's way, way off to the Right.

      Thus the choice now for centrists is either Liberal or NDP. And that last must be upsetting Douglas !! Liberals have more or less been centrist for a long time.NDP the leftist and PC's on the near right !

      But that doesn't apply any longer. Time to change direction as this CPC group isn't helping the country to anything but more debt.

    4. Further to Dom and Bede's points, the NDP provincial governments' economic records vary A LOT from province to province. In BC it was not very good. In Manitoba it's been a lot better. I don't think just looking at partisan labels make much sense when assessing how a hypothetical NDP (or any other party) government may or may not perform. The Manitoba NDP and BC NDP took very different approaches to governing. Even within the same province, party ideology and policy can change. Compare Bill Davis in the 70s and 80s in Ontario to Mike Harris in the 90s.

      What makes more sense is to look at how they say they will approach issues, and evaluating whether that approach has been successful or not when tried in other situations.

    5. Dom,

      I agree to your talking points and I also see the downfall to that. It comes to a point that the PMO has power so centralized that it does not matter to voters who their individual constituent is. I was talking to a representative of my riding once and he stated that 60 percent of the vote is party leaders, 30 or 35 percent of the vote is party brand or loyalty and the rest 5-10 percent is individual constituent. So unless you have a close race you run on your brand CON/LPC/NDP and leader.


    6. Pawel I think you've hit the nail on the head.

      The PMO or in Prov cases the equivalent sets what will and won't pass in the respective Houses.

      Thus possibly we need to produce a system where individual citizens can vote directly on Bills ??

    7. Ryan

      "Compare Bill Davis in the 70s and 80s in Ontario to Mike Harris in the 90s."

      Yes indeed.And what you see is the difference between Progressive Conservatives with Bill Davis and Reform with Mike Harris.

      Incidentally Ontario is still trying to fix a lot of the Harris fubars !!


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