Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Elliott, Drainville lead first PC and PQ endorsement rankings

With the two largest opposition parties in Canada's two largest provinces looking for new leaders, it is time to launch's leadership endorsement rankings. As the contests just get going, Christine Elliott and Bernard Drainville start as the leaders in the Ontario PC and Parti Québécois leadership races.

Long-time readers may remember the leadership endorsement system, which was employed with some success to gauge the 2011 Bloc Québécois, 2012 Liberal, and 2013 NDP leadership races.

The system uses endorsements to try to estimate the support each candidate has within the 'establishment' of the party they are trying to lead. Each endorsement is given a value based on the endorser's importance within the party. Though it is not necessarily a real gauge of support in a leadership race, past contests have shown that 'establishment' support is a decent proxy for membership support. A full explanation of how the system works can be found here, where the tables and charts for the PC and PQ leadership races will be maintained.

How has the system worked in the past? It was developed by trying to reverse-forecast a series of races, with points being awarded in a way that would get a close estimate to the final result. When it was first deployed in the 2011 BQ race, the system correctly pegged Daniel Paillé to be the eventual winner. In the 2012 NDP race, it accurately put Thomas Mulcair and Brian Topp as the two front-runners, giving Mulcair 29% of the endorsement points (he got 30% support on the first ballot).

The system's best performance was in the 2013 Liberal leadership race. Justin Trudeau was awarded 82% of the provincially-weighted endorsement points (to match the system being used to elect the party's new leader), and in the end received 80% of the points. Joyce Murray was given 8% of the endorsement points, and took 10% of the vote. Martha Hall Findlay was given 10% of the points and took 6% of the vote. 

In provincial races, when the system was applied, it accurately picked Dwight Ball to beat Paul Antle in the Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal race. Philippe Couillard was correctly identified as the eventual winner of the Quebec Liberal race, and the system also put Raymond Bachand and Pierre Moreau in a near-tie, as actually happened. And if I had applied the system to the recent Alberta NDP race, it would have gotten Rachel Notley's share of the vote almost exactly right.

So, let's get to the endorsement rankings, starting with the Ontario Progressive Conservatives.

Elliott starts as the favourite to win within the PC establishment, with 47.3% of the currently available endorsement points. She has, by far, the largest number of endorsers and has wide support within caucus (in addition to herself, seven caucus members are backing her). She also has the support of a few Conservative MPs and former MPPs.

The only other candidate with a good number of endorsements is Lisa MacLeod, who comes second with 32.5% of the endorsement points. She has four caucus members supporting her, including long-time MPPs Garfield Dunlop and Julia Munro.

After these two, there is a clear second tier. Monte McNaughton is narrowly in third in the endorsement rankings with 8.6%, thanks to the support of caucus member Bob Bailey, as well as a former MPP.

Patrick Brown, with 8.2% of the points, gets most of his support from Ottawa. He has the support of four fellow MPs, more than Elliott's three. He has one caucus member, Rick Nicholls, in his camp.

Rounding out the list is Vic Fedeli, who currently has no endorsements but has 3.4% of the points due to the points he himself brings to the table.

This seems intuitive. Elliott is widely seen as the frontrunner, and a recent Forum Research poll suggested a plurality of Ontarians think she'll win. The wildcard in this race will be Doug Ford, if he chooses to enter. I imagine he could get a lot of support from the membership without acquiring many endorsements.

Now to the leadership race to take over the Parti Québécois. Here again, a political heavyweight has yet to throw his hat in the ring.

But of those who are in the race, Drainville is well ahead. He has 56.2% of the currently available endorsement points. He is the only candidate currently to boast any endorsements from within caucus. He has three, as well as the support of a former MNA.

After him are Alexandre Cloutier, Martine Ouellet, and Jean-François Lisée. All three of them only have as many points as their own 'value' gives them. It will be interesting to see which of the three can land some endorsements in the early stages of the race.

The last is Pierre Céré, who is not a sitting PQ MNA (nor has he ever been one). He does have the support of a former BQ MP, Yves Lessard, so he is on the board.

The big question is, of course, Pierre-Karl Péladeau. A bid for the leadership seems inevitable, and he already has three MNAs who would support him if he runs. That gives him a total of 30 points, meaning he would be narrowly in front of Drainville with 36.4% to 35.7%. It seems only a matter of time before Péladeau tops the list.

Both of these races will come to a close in May, so there is still plenty of road ahead of us. I will be updating the rankings every Wednesday, though I may not always post about them on the front page. Follow this section of the site for all the latest numbers.