Thursday, February 6, 2014

With Cotler's departure, is Mount Royal at play?

This week, Irwin Cotler announced that he would not seek re-election in 2015. That leaves his riding of Mount Royal up for grabs, as the Liberals will need to name a new candidate and will not be able to benefit from an incumbency advantage. Could this create an opportunity for the Conservatives to win their first seat on the island of Montreal in decades?

The riding has traditionally been a very safe one for the Liberals, and was represented by Pierre Trudeau when he was in office. It was a rare thing for the Liberals to not win a majority of votes in the riding, and Cotler first won it in a by-election in 1999 with an incredible 92% of the vote. However, his vote share dropped in every subsequent election, to 81% in 2000, 76% in 2004, 66% in 2006, 56% in 2008, and finally 41% in 2011.
Click to magnify
He almost lost the riding in that election to Conservative candidate Saulie Zajdel, who captured 36% of the vote. The Conservatives had been increasing their vote share in every election since the merger, taking 9% in 2004, 18% in 2006, and 27% in 2008. As the chart above shows (the Canadian Alliance and PC votes were combined for 2000), the trendlines would point to an easy Conservative victory in 2015 if the Liberal vote continues to slide and the Conservative vote continues to increase.

(If it did, it would probably have to be under a Conservative candidate other than Zajdel, who was arrested and charged with fraud in June 2013.)

But the 2011 election was a bit of an outlier, considering it marked a historical low for the Liberal Party. If we apply current levels of support in Quebec to the riding (36% for the Liberals to 13% for the Conservatives), and take into account the effect of losing an incumbent candidate, the Liberals should easily prevail with 67% of the vote to just 20% for the Conservatives. With the Liberals enjoying a surge of support under Justin Trudeau, Mount Royal should not be at play. In fact, Mount Royal would drop quite low on the list of potential Tory pick-ups in the province.

However, that relies on the swing in support at the provincial level. Can we get a little more detailed than that?

Thankfully, CROP has been releasing federal polling data for the riding of Montreal over the last year. The trends have been recorded in the chart below, using a two-poll average.
As you can see, the Liberals are doing quite well. Under Trudeau, they have consistently polled above 30% on the island of Montreal, and often over 40%. That puts them above the 27.3% of the vote they captured on the island in 2011. The New Democrats have consistently polled below the 38% of the vote they took in 2011.

The Conservatives have fluctuated quite a bit. They took 13.3% of the vote on the island of Montreal in 2011, and have polled both well above and well below that level over the course of the year. But on average, they have only managed 12% - virtually unchanged from where they were on election night. By contrast, the Liberals have averaged 42% support on the island of Montreal since Trudeau took over as leader.

Again, that makes Mount Royal a very safe riding for the Liberal Party. A simple uniform swing would give the Liberals 56% of the vote to 35% for the Tories. But what would be needed for the Conservatives to be in a real position to take it?

Because of the narrow margin in 2011, it would not take very much. With Cotler's incumbency advantage gone, the Conservatives could theoretically win the riding at 13.8% support on the island of Montreal, if the Liberals had fallen to 26.7%. That would require, however, a very steep drop in Liberal support between now and the 2015 election. That could very well happen, but it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which Trudeau does worse than Michael Ignatieff in Quebec. There are lower fruit for the Conservatives to pick in Quebec than Mount Royal, particularly ridings currently held by the New Democrats and Bloc Québécois.

Of course, the landscape could completely transform between now and the 2015 election. A meteorite could also land on Mount Royal and make these calculations irrelevant. But we are better off focusing on the probable rather than the possible. Based on the information we have, Mount Royal does not look like a seat that should be high on anyone's list of swing ridings in 2015.


  1. This district is a different animal.
    Harper is still very popular among Jews, so this district might be in play as the results show a non-stopping rightward trend in the district.

    1. But was it a trend specific to the riding? If I mapped out the vote for the Liberals and Conservative nationwide from 2000, we'd see almost the exact same pattern. That being the case, we'd expect a reversal of the trends in 2015.

  2. The thing is while Mount Royal is one of the most heavily Jewish ridings in Canada - its still only 35% Jewish...the other 65% are everything else. These days Conservative support in Montreal among Jews MIGHT be as high 50% (note that i say MIGHT), but among the two thirds of Mount Royal that is non-Jewish, I suspect that Conservative support is literally non-existent (ie: in low single digits)...even if they took 100% of the Jewish vote - which would never happen - its still tough for the Tories to win when almost no one else in montreal would ever vote for them

    1. I think you're right. My own guess based on my family is that 50% of the Jewish vote is about right, these days. That said, Trudeau remains a beloved "brand" among Jewish voters in a way Ignatieff was not.

      Also (and seriously) I would expect any election call during the winter when older likely voters are in Florida would depress turn out, somewhat, too.

  3. If I look at my own simulator (nowhere near as complex as yours, but results seem to be quite good when I compare to other simulators), I would totally agree with your assesment of the situation. I have 60,89% for the Liberals and 29,21% for the Conservative, even with a trend in that particular riding of -7,23% and 9,64% for both parties respectively.

    The Liberals may have been hit very hard by the sponsorship scandal in Québec since the early 2000s, but the last few years of Conservative government, which is very unpopular here, has facilitated the forgiveness of the population. Also, the last few leaders were increasingly unpopular, Ignatieff representing everything the population didn't like about the Liberals, but with Trudeau Jr now, that should turn around dramatically.

  4. The Conservatives have spent a lot of money to win this riding with phoney robocalls saying Cotler to resign and then paying Saulie Zajdel to be a surogate MP for the riding. That doesn't seem to have worked out too well for them and I would think that there will be some resentment towards the Conservatives that will depress their possible vote in this riding.

  5. It's been a Liberal riding for so long with such great members I don't see it changing any time in the near or distant future

  6. I don't think this an opportune time for the Tories to take Mount Royal but, one stupid comment by a Liberal towards Israel could dramatically change the situation. I do think the Tories are probably doing better in this riding than on the Island in general simply because they hold greater popularity among the affluent.

    The Conservative's mantra in Mount Royal is not necessarily to win the riding although it would be nice. The Tories are out fund raising the Liberals 2:1 nationally so they may simply be targeting the riding in order to win the game of attrition. If the Liberals need to spend money in what should be and once was a rock solid seat that leaves them less money to spend in traditional swing ridings particularly in Ontario and urban areas of Western Canada.

  7. The telephone (CATI) riding poll of Mount Royal undertaken by MT back in December, 2013 with a sample size of 618, might also provide better insight into current voting intentions of Mount Royal residents (without undecided):

    Lib - 56%
    CPC - 16%
    NDP - 15%
    BQ - 7%
    Green - 6%

  8. And the latest on this and other Quebec issues

  9. Are you doing a piece on the Ontario byelections?

    1. New Ipsos Reid poll out today. Libs33/Con 29/NDP27

  10. The last round of Ontario byelections featured some polls by Campaign Research. I guess they are keeping quiet this time about Niagara Falls and Thornhill?

    1. Could be busy running Tory's campaign.

  11. What do you make of the Canadian voter's apparent group schizophrenia?

    They are supporting the Conservatives (according to polls) somewhere less than 30%.

    The harris-decima poll

    "A new Harris-Decima poll finds a remarkable consensus about deficit reduction that crosses regional and party lines.

    The telephone survey of 1,008 respondents found that 60 per cent believe the government is doing at least a fair job (39 per cent) or better in managing the country's finances.

    And a clear majority, 57 per cent, believe the deficit should be eliminated before any increased spending occurs, compared to 34 per cent who said it is OK to increase spending even though there's still red ink.

    The Harris-Decima poll found that even among self-identified New Democrats, the split was 48-44 in favour of retiring any deficit before increasing spending"

    So the Cons have basically twice the support of their most important policy. Hard to get my head around that.

    1. Cognitive dissonance isn't anything new.

      The Conservatives don't have a monopoly on balanced budgets though. There's also the $135 billion in debt that's been added on Harper's watch...

    2. Ryan,

      Remember Layton and the Liberals voted for at least some of that $135 billion. In fact Layton demanded more spending be included in 2008-2009. From 2006-2011 The Liberals in particular did just as much to pass all of Mr. Flaherty's budgets as the Tories and we all know the NDP was very much in favour of the auto bail outs-a lot of blame to go around!

    3. Like I said, cognitive dissonance isn't anything new Bede lol. :)

      If the Conservatives want to take credit for their "Economic Action Plan" they can take credit for the debt that came with it.

  12. @ Ryan Do a simple comparison of the deficit spending and burden on future generations along with employment over the last 7 years between Canada and the US.. Hint not even close .... Canada did far better and is is far better shape heading forward.

    Do the same comparison over the Chretien/Martin years. Hint US unemployment was about half of Canadian rate over that time frame.... The Canadian brain (and $) drain was a reality... and the success of the Canadian economy / government was a result of the crumbs falling off the US table.

    1. "and the success of the Canadian economy / government was a result of the crumbs falling off the US table."

      And nothing has changed whether you are CPC or Lib. We are tied to the USA like it or lump it !!

    2. except that under Harper Canada has has been the winning partner in the dance. The accomplishment is amazing. The US has deficits planned basically until Global warming floods Manhattan (hyperbole meaning that for the predictable future). Canada goes into surplus in 2015.

      The US job force is disappearing at the same rate as lipstick at a love in and yet their unemployment rate stays high.

      How has Canada maintained its economic health and still funded its immense social safety net???

      The main factor is that Harper has identified Canada as a World class energy / resource nation and developing these sectors can subsidize manufacturing jobs and pay for the social spending.

      While Trudeau and even Mulcair have paid some lip service to the energy sector there is a Liberal/Socialist historical agenda that has worked to keep these sectors under -performing.

    3. Compare it by party in government here BVOR lol. Also, why compare just to the US? That's setting the bar very low.

    4. The Liberals under lChretien/Martin vesus Bush/Clinton/Bush low Bar USA had Canada far behind the US.

      Harper has Canada economically trouncing the Bush/Obama mess that the US has become.

      The only counties that are close to doing as well as Canada under Harper over the time frame that he has been PM is China, Norway and maybe Germany.

    5. Very difficult to properly compare US v. Canada unemployment rates. The US uses much different criteria than Canada. One of the major differences is that in Canada you are unemployed if you are not in employment and not looking for a job. In the US you must be actively looking for work to be counted as unemployed. Other differences exist regarding part time employment such as farm workers. The result is that the US unemployment rate even today is somewhat artificially low. The real unemployment rate (unemployed and underemployed) as Mort Zuckerman from the McLaughlin Group will tell you is closer to 12%.

    6. So you know, the Canada/US unemployment gap reached its peak under Mulroney, and declined throughout the Chretien Martin years. So yes, Canada did outperform the US in reducing unemployment over the course of Chretien-Martin. Canada and the USA measure unemployment differently though, so it's not a great measure (even if it does support my case and not yours). A better measure would be the employment rate (ie what percentage of the population is working). In 2002 Canada's employment rate passed the US' for the first time since the late 1980s. I don't think we're supposed to post links here (Eric?) but if you don't believe me I suggest looking up "Perspectives on Labour and Income" from January 2003 and "Unemployment rates, Canada and the United States" from January 2008, as they both contain pretty good overviews of the performance of the Canadian labour market relative to the US under Chretien-Martin.

      You mention China, Norway, maybe Germany. Try looking at the OECD as a whole. Estonia, Chile, Turkey, Germany, Iceland, Korea, Japan, the United States and Swizterland... all these countries recovered faster than us, and a lot of the countries that recovered slower had less to recover from to begin with. Overall, Canada has the 15th lowest unemployment rate out of the 34 OECD countries. Terrible? No. But let's not pretend that that's some amazing result for Stephen Harper. If you don't believe me, go to the OECD's website and check for yourself. It's under short term labour market statistics. The OECD has all kinds of interesting stats actually - I could spend hours there. :/

      Besides, why are you arguing with me about this? It's the Canadian people that are giving the Liberals credit for fiscal management here, whether you like it or not.

    7. "It's the Canadian people that are giving the Liberals credit for fiscal management here"

      The last time the Canadian people gave credit only 18% of the people that voted gave the Liberals credit.... 34 seats out of 308.

      What have the Liberals done fiscal management-wise since the people of Canada totally rejected their fiscal management strategy.

      What is even more startling is that in 2006... with the highest regarded fiscal leader in perhaps the history of the Liberal party, the Canadian people rejected his fiscal management , with only 30 % willing to give credit to Paul Martin, the iconic Liberal Financial Minister/PM.

      No matter what the polls say when the people vote the #1 issue is always the economy and jobs.

      Harper/Flahartey and the Cons have clearly won this battle and I have not seen anything from the 2nd and 3rd parties that is a reasonable fiscal plan.

      A recent Harris-Decima poll showed that 60% of the Canadian people included a majority of those self identified as NDP and Liberal supporters thing that Harper is doing a good job handling the finances of Canada.

      Average Canadian UE rate in the Chretien decade of global expansion 8.4%

      After 4 years of Chretien majority government UE rate was 9.1

      US UE rate over the same period as Chretien's: 5.1. a 3.3% gap. Having lived through this I saw many of my colleagues take their skills and tax paying ability south for opportunities that were obviously more abundant in the States.

    8. In 2011 the electorate did not reject the Grits fiscal management strategy the rejected a party that appointed their leader (Ignatieff) and had not put forth new ideas that would differentiate themselves from the Tories. They rejected the Liberal party not their history of fiscal management or mismanagement.

    9. You know BCVoR this honestly makes me laugh. The vast majority of Conservatives are willing to concede that from a fiscal standpoint Chretien and Martin governed well. Their objections are usually on other files. Even Preston Manning and Jim Flaherty are willing to give credit where credit is due.

    10. All depends how you look at it. Mulroney did much to improve Canada's fiscal position, however, he did not stay in office long enough to reap the rewards. The GST alone probably reduced the deficit by a third, cuts to what was then UI and most importantly Free Trade that helped to significantly increase Canadian exports and in turn grew the economy.

      Not that I want to knock Martin he built on these foundations and created a fiscal balance and sustainable surplus.

  13. I don't think Mount-Royal is in play. The Conservative peaked a few years ago and the NDP Orange Wave has waned.

    Nothing should be taken for granted but Mount-Royal will remain Liberal + the Trudeau name gives it brand recognition back again.


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