Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Post-Dunderdale, Liberals retain lead

Newfoundland and Labrador may be a small province, but it manages its fair share of drama with Kathy Dunderdale resigning as premier last month. That drama continued today, as news reports say the two NDP MHAs that left the party late last year will be heading over to Dwight Ball's Liberals. With defections going their way from the governing Tories as well, the Liberal caucus will balloon to 11 members, almost double the number of seats won in the 2011 provincial election.

Despite all the upheaval, however, the latest poll from Abacus Data for VOCM shows that little has changed in the province since before the holidays, with the Liberals still enjoying a wide lead over the Progressive Conservatives.
This is the first we've heard from Abacus at the provincial level, but their numbers show no real change from those reported by the Corporate Research Associates in November. Abacus found the Liberals leading with 49%, followed by the PCs at 34% and the NDP at 15%, with 2% of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians opting for another party.

22% of the entire sample was undecided. Interestingly, 24% of 2011 PC voters were undecided, suggesting that they are particularly unsure of where to go after Dunderdale's departure (15% of NDP voters in 2011 were undecided, and just 9% of Liberals). This suggests that the Tories do have some scope for growth among voters who have supported them in the past, but they have taken a big step backwards. Before excluding undecideds, 28% of PC voters from 2011 have already gone over to the Liberals (31% of NDP voters have as well).

The Liberals led among both sexes and in all age groups, but it is worth noting that among the oldest voters (60+, often a good proxy for turnout) the margin was closer: 49% for the Liberals and 40% for the Tories, with the NDP at just 10%.

It is also worth noting that support is remarkably uniform across the three regions defined by Abacus (it would have been interesting to have some numbers for St. John's, where support is less likely to be so uniform). The Liberals had 47% support on the Avalon Peninsula and in the St. John's Region, 49% in western Newfoundland and in Labrador, and 51% in eastern and central Newfoundland. The Tories varied even less, with a high of 35% in the eastern and central parts of the province and a low of 33% in Avalon and St. John's. The NDP had its best numbers, 17%, in Avalon and St. John's - likely due to much better numbers in the provincial capital.

With these provincial levels of support, the Liberals would likely win a majority government of around 26 seats, with 18 going to the Progressive Conservatives and just four to the New Democrats. Considering the uniformity of Liberal support, I'd wager a higher likelihood of even more seats than this for the party than otherwise.

The province will be one to watch as contenders position themselves to replace Dunderdale as the permanent leader of the PCs. This man or woman will also serve as premier for no more than one year, when an election needs to be called. The Tories still have a strong base of support from which to build upon (in fact, considering how unhappy Newfoundlanders and Labradorians were with the blackout, it is remarkable the Tories have held on to as much support as they have), but it seems that Dunderdale herself was not the only problem. While Abacus did record PC support at five points higher than CRA did in November, the difference is within the two polls' margins of error. We will have to see whether a new leader will improve Tory fortunes, or whether voters have simply deemed it time for a change.

19 comments:

  1. Given Dunderdales performance, particularly on the power situation, it's inevitable her party will go down to defeat and get time to rebuild.

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    1. Newfoundland's difficulty with hydroelectricity is the direct result of what can be termed gross negligence on the part of the Liberal party and the late Joey Smallwood. Smallwood signed a contract with the Government of Quebec that sells Quebec electricity generated at Churchill Falls, Labrador for far below current market value, as of today approximately 25% of market price. Quebec in turn then sells the electricity generated to the state of New York reaping some $1.7 billion dollars annually whereas Newfoundland only gets some 63 million dollars.

      The cost in lost profits to Newfoundland over the lifetime of the "Smallwood-Liberal contract" amounts to some 160 billion dollars in today's money.

      Consequently the Newfoundland Government had little choice but to negotiate with Nova Scotia and find an alternative route for their hydroelectrcity.

      Also it is Dunderdale not Dunderdales.

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    2. Small correction: over the course of the contract the lost opportunity cost is closer to 103 billion not 160 billion in today's money. to put this in perspective the annual GDP of the Province is 33 billion dollars annually.

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    3. Correction: Dunderdale's not Dunderdale.

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    4. Correction bede, interesting as your post was, the cause of the power failure on the island was a transformer explosion which took down the major power distribution operation on the island. They had no spare and the weather made getting one from the mainland very, very slow.

      Dunderdale handled the situation incredibly poorly and pressure from within the party caused her resignation.

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    5. Peter,

      How you can blame someone for an act of God is beyond me. Was Dunderdale's response perfect probably not but, it does highlight the failures of the NL Liberal party and their Churchill falls deal with Quebec.

      The power lines from Churchill Falls go through Quebec, the island of Newfoundland receives none of the power. It is a shame because one would have thought the vast amounts of electricity should at least benefit the people of Newfoundland instead 100% of the benefit is received by Hydro-Quebec. The result of course is the island of Newfoundland has very limited electricity generating capacity even though Churchill Falls is the second largest generating station in North America.

      Fortunately the Tories and the Nova Scotia NDP rectified this long time omission through Muskrat falls hydro project which will see transmission lines from Labrador reach the island before continuing to Nova Scotia.

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    6. bede for Heavens Sakes nobody blames Dunderdale for an Act Of God.

      Get it straight her performance in handling the situation was what took her down, not the situation itself !!

      'Sheesh !!

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    7. What did you want her to do? As you note:

      "They had no spare and the weather made getting one from the mainland very, very slow".

      Newfoundland Power and its parent company Fortis are public companies not Crown corporation so the Province has no direct involvement in the company's management or business decisions.

      Although Dunderdale's handling of the situation may not have been perfect it was hindered by inadequate infrastructure as I note above.

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  2. That seems like a very efficient distribution for the Progressive Conservatives. How many of their seats are tight?

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    1. Four of their wins were by less than five points. Three of them were against the Liberals, one against the NDP.

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  3. Did Smallwood really have a choice though?...Maybe to scrap the whole project but I think politicians of that era liked to think big massive projects as significant accomplishments on their own...and for the fledgling province it needed to show its capability...and prowess.

    http://www.mun.ca/harriscentre/policy/memorialpresents/2008c/NQ_article_Vol_101_No_4.pdf

    Interesting read in any regard....

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    1. Yes he had a choice; he could have negotiated better terms or re-negotiable terms, instead he agreed to a term of 81 years and didn't account for inflation!

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    2. Boy, if that's the case I sure hope Smallwood isn't re-elected.

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  4. It's a bit of a shame what happened to L. Michael. Weren't the NLNDP polling in the mid 30s not too long ago?

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    1. The NDP has often excelled in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory...

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  5. Gee Eric are witholding the ON polls just to spite me?

    Please can you analyse the two newer ON polls this. Please!

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    1. I wrote about the Nanos poll here:

      http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/01/31/ontario-poll-tim-hudak_n_4702925.html?utm_hp_ref=the-pulse

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    2. Thank you Eric. You have eased my anxiety level.

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    3. Yeah Earl no Hudak really works for me to.

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