Monday, November 3, 2014

Which party is at most risk from Forces et Démocratie?

Two weeks ago, Jean-François Fortin launched Forces et Démocratie, his new political vehicle. The party is a Quebec-focused regional party, dedicated to giving its MPs more independence to represent their region's interests in the House of Commons. He was able to convince Jean-François Larose, an NDP MP, to cross the floor to sit with him.

Due to Fortin's past as an MP for the Bloc Québécois, one might assume that FeD is poised to eat further into the Bloc's support. But FeD is trying to straddle the line between sovereigntist and federalist, much like the Coalition Avenir Québec at the provincial level, by avoiding the issue entirely. This has the potential to make FeD the kind of party a lot of Quebecers felt the Bloc was when it was dominant - one that could represent the views of Quebecers who were disconnected from the federal system.

But by not being a sovereigntist party, FeD could potentially rob votes from the federalist parties that have stepped into the gap opened up by the downfall of the Bloc. Are any of the parties at particular risk?

Let's look at this as a thought exercise. Even if FeD never takes off and attracts just 1% or 2% of the vote in 2015, those voters will still come from across the political spectrum in different proportions. But to answer the question of which party could be hurt the most by FeD, let's take support only from one party and give it all to FeD. This should give us an idea of which party stands to lose the most. (And for the purposes of this exercise, let's put aside the question of whether FeD would win any seats.)

We'll start with awarding FeD just 5% of the vote, taken directly from each of the parties. There is reason why FeD could be an attractive option to supporters of other political organizations. Giving more power to MPs is popular across the board. As a regionalist party, individual candidates could take a more centrist or even centre-right approach, pick-pocketing from the Conservatives. As a new party, FeD could be an attractive option to voters charmed by the novelty of the Justin Trudeau-led Liberals. As a voice for francophone Quebecers, FeD could be a vehicle for Quebecers who voted NDP but are not keen on pan-Canadian parties. And as a defender of Quebec's interests first and foremost, it is a natural heir to the Bloc.

Based on the current polling averages, the NDP would likely win around 46 seats in Quebec with 31.1% of the vote, with the Liberals taking 23 seats with 31.6% of the vote. The Conservatives, at 13.4%, would win seven seats, while the Bloc could win two with 17.1%.

If FeD captures 5% of the vote, it will only play a very minor spoiler role. By reducing the Conservatives to just 8.4%, they would be the most impacted, dropping to just two seats.

The Liberals would hardly take a dent, slipping two seats to 21. This is an indication of how the Liberals' vote is unlikely to be concentrated in the outlying regions of the province.

The New Democrats would drop four seats, proportionally a small amount, while the Bloc would be wiped off the electoral map. From that perspective, FeD might have the potential to be symbolically most dangerous to the Bloc at a low level of support like 5%.

But what if we up FeD's score slightly, to 7.5%? At that level, I would suspect Fortin might have a chance at re-election. And with just 2.5 more points' worth of support, FeD really starts to become a problem.

Now we see how FeD is, in the end, a party that could hurt the NDP the most.

The New Democrats, dropping to 23.6%, lose 17 seats and fall to just 29 province-wide. The Liberals take advantage of the split among francophones to win 34 seats, 11 more than they would be projected to win now. Even the Bloc, still with just 17.1% of the vote, makes gains.

By comparison, a slightly stronger FeD has not much of a greater impact on the other parties. The Conservatives would be shutout in the province, but that is to be expected at just 5.9% of the vote. The Liberals drop just four seats despite a slide of 7.5 points. The Bloc, of course, again gets a goose-egg with even less of the vote than before.

The NDP is the party that has to take most note of FeD. The Bloc is already polling so low that it is unlikely more blood can be drawn from that stone - there are sovereigntist voters in Quebec who will only ever vote for a sovereigntist party, and that may be the base the Bloc now finds itself at. The Conservatives could lose a few votes, but there is a world of difference between a protest party doomed to the opposition benches like FeD and a party of power like the Conservatives. The Liberals are probably furthest away from the FeD, also being a party of power but one that is perhaps even less inclined to give local MPs in Quebec free reign than either the Conservatives (who need their Quebec MPs to show a little autonomy from an unpopular government) or the NDP (who need their MPs to be good constituent representatives, if only to gain some incumbency advantages that they sorely lack).

As the New Democrats made their breakthrough in Quebec primarily at the expense of the Bloc Québécois, it makes Forces et Démocratie a competitor for those votes. They are fishing in the same pond, with the NDP having an edge on those former Bloc voters who were more social democratic than nationalist, and FeD having the edge among those who were more nationalist than social democratic.

But that assumes that Fortin can manage to attract voters in the first place. He lacks the charisma of former titans of Quebec federal politics like Gilles Duceppe or Jack Layton, and is likely to pale in comparison to the charm of Justin Trudeau and the confidence of Thomas Mulcair on the campaign trail. Fortin will not have an easy time of it, and the scenarios listed above of 5% or 7.5% of the vote may be on the optimistic side. But this exercise does show the kind of role Fortin's FeD could play in the next election and why the NDP, more than any other party, needs to ensure it never gets off the ground.


  1. Even supposing he does attract enough support to win a significant number of seats what power does he actually have. My guess would be very little??

  2. I would suggest that a successful FeD campaign would look something like the provincial Greens in BC and NB - small pockets of support surrounded by desolation.

    I don't think these sorts of projections will be able to capture that very well though.

    1. I agree. For my sake, hopefully FeD will try a 78-seat strategy.

    2. My preference is that whatever strategy they take, that it's effective to some extent. I'd rather see more diverse voices in parliament, not less, and I feel like FeD could be productive in Ottawa.

      Provided that doesn't come at the expense of my own partisan LPC interest of course. :3

    3. The important points I'd like to illustrate from this poll is that polls are becoming less and less trusted.

      Canadians believe that major parties have all the answers.

      Why else do you think no Canadian wants to look at the other 10 to 13 parties that exist that are minor federally. They believe all major parties have the answers. It is up to major parties to be willing to educate the public and give alternatives and be honorable.

      Of course when politicians get elected they think about the money being made rather than having a vibrant and healthy democracy where any party can win.

      That is what politicians should be thinking like. The honest truth is their first job is to get elected and their second job is to keep getting re-elected. You should know that more than anyone, Eric. I mean you being so fluent in politics you never tell the public the true face of the political class!

      And yes I tell people to vote for minor parties and independents. No wonder personalities like the NOTA party Greg Vezina are never invited to the corporate owned media like CBC, CTV, Global and SNN. They are for the status quo and for oligarchy meaning major party dictatorship. Hence why they don't want to educate the public on the 10 to 13 parties that are minor and why no one in elected office follows the laws on educating the public. The politicians and the media are thus not doing their duties which is to be for all Canadians and not themselves.

    4. When the majority of the smaller parties available range from nutty Christian evangelists to nutty Stalin-era communists to nutty John Turmels, its hard to take them seriously.

      Maybe if Vezina and others with somewhat more sane approaches actually learned how to campaign from the ground up, as so many other previous parties have done to varying degrees, maybe we'll take them seriously. Until then, don't complain.

    5. The only reason why Reform became a party was because of wealthy oil billionaires. That is the only reason. Other than that, there is no way and those who support the major parties and claim to support democracy are hypocrites and don't believe in democracy, meaning a true and full-functioning democracy where any party can grow due to merits.

      I think that is right, Kyle, instead of saying oh ya I support democracy when all you are supporting is a small club of major party oligarchs. Kind of reminds me of how a banana republic operates rather than a multi-party democracy!

    6. And the truth is Kyle people that pay taxes have a right to complain as we should have a healthy democracy.

      If we don't, we are just paying for a club of individuals that may or may not have the best intentions.

      The other question that has to be posed is are these major parties abiding by the law when it comes to educating the public on parties and such. The same with Elections Canada. In fact, I think there are laws that must be followed and the parties, the media and the organizations responsible are going against the law to allow parties to grow and thrive.

      That is going against how our democracy should function.

      What have you got to say about that Kyle?

    7. John,

      The CBC is not corporately owned, it is a Crown Corporation that receives the bulk of its revenues from federal tax dollars.

      Canada has a fairly good record of "raising" minor parties into positions of influence if not out right power: Social Credit in Alberta BC and federally, the CCF/NDP, The Greens now have 3 elected members in Canada, The BQ, Progressives, United Farmers and the UFO and UFA.

      Of the 9 parties I listed above only the BQ and Greens have not held power in some form (such as a cabinet minister in a minority government). I think that a pretty good record of political renewal.

    8. John have to go along with you virtually 100%. As we see on here there are some who are so wedded to one party that they are blind to the actual reality. We do need much better political education.

    9. I agree with Ryan, I feel a successful FeD or even BQ campaign would mean to target a small handful of seats.

      In fact, I would not be surprised if the FeD or BQ decide not to even run 78 candidates.

      While things may change, it seems like Quebec will mostly be a contest between the Liberals and NDP, while the Conservatives and regional parties may attempt to target few key ridings.

    10. John wrote:

      "Hence why they (the major parties and media companies) don't want to educate the public on the 10 to 13 parties that are minor and why no one in elected office follows the laws on educating the public".

      What law(s) legally obligate politicians to educate the public on political parties or politics and what law(s) are being broken?

      Elections Canada is not obligated to educate the public about political parties because to do so may be seen as partisan. They are only obligated to educate the public on voting and voter registration procedures.

      Minor parties often remain minor because the probability of a minor party obtaining power is low hence, the effect of one's vote is small. A small party ipso facto is a minor political power.

    11. John, that's not true of the Reform Party at all. I worked for the Reform Party in the 1990s - I ran their membership and accounting systems - and they didn't have any money. Reform struggled along mostly broke most of the time. The corporate money that poured into the Liberals and PCs didn't find its way to Reform at all. By 1998, Reform had total revenue of about 4.5 million from about 60,000 donors. That's it. Reform existed on lots and lots of small donations, and almost no big ones.

      That's why it (and its progeny) did well when Chrétien brought in campaign finance reform. By capping the maximum donation per donor, Chrétian badly hurt is own party, but barely affected Reform at all.

      The single largest donation Reform ever received was a single $1 million payment that was left to them in a will (and it was unexpected). That's it. It was almost all small donations. In 2000, when the Canadian Alliance elected Stockwell Day as leader, a lot of the moderate money went away. Corporate donors were afraid to be associated with his religious views (and rightly so - young-earth creationists are nuts), and much of the moderate money disappeared. The party then had to cut staff massively. This is when I left (as did about half of the staff at head office).

    12. I would bet on FeD and the Bloc running something close to 78 seats in order to get into the debates, but focusing their resources on just a few seats (a dozen at most).

      "Why else do you think no Canadian wants to look at the other 10 to 13 parties that exist that are minor federally."

      No Canadians wants to look at the other 10 to 13 parties because few if anything of them run on anything even close to mainstream values. Even the ones that do often operate more as a vehicle to raise issues/stimulate debate (and fair enough).

      Ira - do you know by chance what the Reform donor base looked like in the late 1980s roughly? I've read academic papers that suggest our current campaign finance rules do stifle the emergence of new parties to an extent, but their argument was more along the lines that it would stop a few people from self financing a party with donations on the order of ~$50,000, not the $100,000-$1,000,000. Something a successful farmer or local business person could conceivably do.

    13. I would be surprised if FeD or the BQ have the financial resources to run a 78 riding campaign. They may do as you say run 78 nominal candidates but, focus on a dozen seats or so.

    14. The fact is bede dunelm I helped my friend who took part is the by-election in Toronto last year and the minor parties were shut out. They were also shut out on TVO. That in essence means the public has no idea what the minor parties stand for and the major parties own the media. They don't want new parties to grow.

      These major parties are not following the laws and as such we need to find ways to get minor parties to be known by people.

      Yes there are laws. The CRTC states that the public has a right to be educated on parties during elections. The minor parties are knowingly protecting themselves.

      You give the public way too much credit especially when the people have to go into debt so much easier nowadays and with all the time people spend working they don't take an interest in all the parties that exist within our system. As such the major parties count on that and as such the public views labels as the best choices disregarding the minor parties which are being forgotten. Yes, it is done purposely. You think the major parties want to end their sweet deal.

      This in essence proves that you defend the system as is and you are not a democrat. You are in fact an oligarch supporter.

      Even last year Harper stated anyone that seeks to get rich using politics should leave the party. That was meant for public consumption but we all know in the anti-mainstream that it is the first job of a politician to get elected and their second job is to continuously get re-elected. As if they care about democracy. It is just something to use to win votes rather than actually standing by what it means to be a democrat.

    15. I just read that they are a non-partisan agency that must educate and the CRTC does state that they are non-partisan as well and they present views to the people. As such within that mandate, those organizations have a responsibility to present Canadians with everything they need to make a wide-open decision in any election that is around. I would even say that there is massive abandonment of what they are expected to do. Also, I would go as far as even saying that politicians are just self-serving and are pretend democrats. Anyone defending them has no right to complain about the sad state of our politics. That is simply the truth. If you complain and yet understand that the major parties are the problems then why not have politics opened up and people become informed. It is a win-win. Anyone against these things are therefore against democracy and therefore support dictatorship!

    16. Are you saying that the Progressive Canadian party is not mainstream even though they sound very similar to the United Party and the Liberals?

      Sounds to me Ryan that you may be looking for excuses to have exclusionary measures to see no growth as I may be guessing that it could interfere with the current political structures?

      I see however that people on here are definitely satisfied with dictatorship because any democrat would want to have a healthy democracy where things can change and the people can get the laws they want.

      I just don't see how our current political structure benefits anyone other than the major parties and their dictatorial measures.

      As for the donation aspect, I would say that the rules don't benefit minor parties because for one people with deep pockets will not join a minor party. People are not as crazy about democracy ever since the emergence of politics going straight to television. Don't forget that the major parties loved it when their party label when on ballots starting in 1972. That alone put a stop to how many parties could get elected based on merits alone. You also have to keep in mind that any party that fields an election if they are not mainstream is simply viewed as fringe. You have to be well-known but even that won't help you out.

      Canada is basically a state where we follow the democratic and economic and all trends laid out by the US because we are their biggest trading partner so as such we will implement similar election laws and that will coincide with our democracy and how strong it is. Limits have been placed and Canadians and especially people on here are fine with oligarchy!

      As such, no one on here has a right to complain when politicians do as they please and disappoint us time after time.

    17. Hi John - please tone down your rhetoric and do not attack other commenters if you wish to continue posting here.

    18. John,

      You state various organisation are not following the law yet, you can't cite what law(s) these oganisations are in violation of. The CRTC can't state: " the public has a right to be educated on parties" for the simply reason the CRTC does not determine, regulate or grant rights to Canadians-they are a telecommunications regulatory agency not a constitutional body! The CRTC does require equitable treatment from broadcasters toward candidates or parties but, as the CRTC states; "equitable does not mean equal".

      I think what you are trying to accuse the CRTC and various media organisations of doing or not doing are violating the terms and conditions of their licence(s). That is quite separate from breaking a law. You write organisations must educate and "have a responsibility to present Canadians with everything they need to make a wide-open decision in any election that is around". Yet, you cite no law or court decision or present any evidence whatsoever that would demonstrate your statements are correct.

      It is a ridiculous statement that the CRTC has a duty to Canadians "with everything they need to make a wide-open decision". This isn't Communist Russia it's 21st century Canada-how can one even make an informed decision if they are not responsible for the gathering of information-pure non-sense.

      As for being in support of oligarchy-what do you know of my political views? Isn't your insistence on smaller parties just expanding the oligarchy? You're no more a democrat than anyone else-that is why we all have a vote!

    19. I don't think John's being out of line. Of course, accusing people of unwittingly supporting oligarchy is something that's "just not done" in polite society in Canada, but that's just why I like seeing his posts here. They're refreshing, and what's more, they actually make cogent arguments rather than being simple "diatribes". He's mentioned a number of things that I had no idea about, such as that candidates were once listed on the ballot without their party names in Canada (not that it seemed to make much of a difference in which parties got elected, though).

      What is certainly true is that how our politics is "supposed" to work is not how it "actually" works, and maybe it would be nice if schools taught the reality. On the other hand, if schools taught the reality, maybe there wouldn't even be people like John who're trying to reach that perfect ideal. I'd say that Russians, for example, are generally a lot more savvy about how politics really works - and it's that very knowledge that makes the Russian public often indifferent to abuses of authority, because they "know" that that's simply the nature of the beast.

      I'm not really sure which is better.

    20. How politics is "supposed to work" is generally speaking how politics is executed in Canada, ie. within the purviews and pursuant to election laws and Constitutional rights throughout Canada. For example elections are held at least once every five years, Parliament meets at least once per year, spending limits are in place and adhered by the various political parties this is guaranteed by an audit, donations are capped and most importantly the freedom to vote one's conscience and to express one's opinions through various media is maintained. Those who disagree are free to move to Zimbabwe.

    21. "the Russian public often indifferent to abuses of authority, because they "know" that that's simply the nature of the beast".

      This indifference has now lead Russia to be overly dependent on oil and gas exports with prices declining for these commodities Russians can now expect a lower standard of living next year without any help from Putin. This blasse attitude in Russia helps explain why life expectancy is below every industrialized country and even below that of China. It also explains why even if one is successful in Russia they move to London. Not a record I would be proud of.

    22. John - I said few, not none. Reign in that outrage a bit lol. Of the non-parliamentary parties, the PCs are pretty clearly the closest to the Canadian mainstream.

      As I stated above, I do in fact want more diversity in our parliament. Please read my full comments before making assumptions about what I believe.

      Yes, the emergence of new political parties is being suppressed by our election rules, and the way the media handles debates certainly contributes to that. Let's not pretend that if people like John Turmel were at the leaders' debates that these parties would suddenly take off like wildfire though. There have been debates where Turmel has been allowed in, and he still didn't do very well on voting day.

      You want to know why people don't take folks like Greg Vezina seriously? It's because he says stuff like "Heil leader Führer! That's what Conservatives believe." That was at an all candidates debate in the provincial election.

      There were 20 parties registered the Ontario election. A debate with 20 party leaders would be a lot a noise and not a lot of information for voters. For most Ontarians, only 5 of those 20 were actually on the ballot. Why should I have to listen to Paul Figueiras talk about the Vegan Environmentalist Party when I don't listen in one of the 5 ridings they're running candidates? That's what the local all candidates debates are for.

      The Greens and Libertarians ran candidates in most ridings, so I think they have a legitimate beef about being excluded from the debates, as most Ontarians had the opportunity to vote for them. The NOTA Party? With 8 candidates, sorry, I'm not losing sleep over that.

    23. Good post Ryan, would love it if there was a thumbs up functionality to the comment threads. +1

    24. @Capilano Dunbar, you have no idea about Russia, you're just repeating Freedom House talking points. Life expectancy in Russia fell by 10 years after the West brought its values in during the 1990s, and started increasing again only recently, under Putin's rule - this may explain a little bit about contemporary Russian attitudes. The last time I visited Russia, the roads were paved, the town squares were clean, and there was new construction everywhere - a huge contrast to how it looked in the 1990s, when everything was crumbling and nothing was being repaired.

      Have you figured out yet that a lot of politics is decided by factors other than elections? Just curious. That what I mean by educating citizens on "how politics really works". The work of scholars like Martin Gilens should be taught (he showed that in the U.S., the non-wealthy majority of the public has absolutely no influence upon government policy, no matter what "theoretically" is supposed to happen; if they seem to, it's only because the wealthiest Americans also support those policies. Of course, the details may be different for Canada, but probably not hugely):

      Yes, Canada officially has a free media. My own faith in this media has been shattered over the past year after I've seen its extreme bias in reporting the Ukrainian conflict. Most of the bias comes from simply not reporting much of what goes on there, and only reporting stories that agree with the official line.

      But don't take it from me, take it from respected British journalist John Pilger:

      There's a very interesting book on the bestsellers' list in Germany right now, written by a journalist on the verge of death as his final expose, which exposes most German journalists and media organizations as being controlled by the CIA:

      If this is going on in Germany, do you think it's likely that the same thing isn't going on in Canada?

    25. "The west broiught its values"?

      You mean human rights, the rule of law and democracy? Such terrible values.

      I am sorry Russia is the way it is but, it's not the west's fault-it's the Russians fault.

      Clearly Russians need the Czar back to impose order and give you 21st century values. Russia is a rich country unfortunately over the last hundred years Russians have squandered their wealth on military adventure and social(ist) experiments.

      Russia life expectancy: 70.46 years

      Canada 81.24 years.

      -World Bank

    26. Esn,

      Life expectancy may have risen under the autocratic rule of Putin, but, that is more a demonstration of how low it fell in the immediate aftermath of the Soviet Union than good governance on Putin's part. Life expectancy for men is 63 years as of 2012 for women it is 75 years. In Canada men can expect to live 77 years and 84 years for women. So it is still very low compared with European standards. Life expectancy in Russia is equivalent to Bangladesh. According to the World Health Organization.

      If politics uis decided with mechanism other than elections or reasoned civil arguments that is not politics-it's corruption or graft or intimidation or coercion. Fortunately, in the West we realized such mechanisms were detrimental to the national interest and those of the citizenry and so we have elections, the rule of law, human rights and freedoms. These traits have allowed the West to dominate the World for the past 5 centuries and explains that even today the West remains the World's dominant powers. It also explains why life expectancy for men is 14years longer in Canada than Russia even though our geography is similar. Peter the Great recognized this inherent advantage of the West and build St. Petersburg as a port for Western commerce and a window onto Western ideas.

      If the American public's values are conveyed to political elites through the monied classes of America then clearly they do have (an indirect) influence. The American or Canadian political systems are not designed to garner the public participation in the policy development process. Influence is not expressed in the policy process because it is expressed during and through the election process. The West has representative democracy not participatory democracy or direct democracy, I believe you are confusing the concepts.

      Unfortunately, the link to the German journalist CIA story did not work.

  3. I don't think FeD is going anywhere except perhaps the history books. No doubt there is some appeal but, hard core sovereigntists will continue to vote BQ. The BQ is at 17% and I would guesss 99% of current supporters are separatists.

    FeD has an interesting concept or philosophy and may appeal to soft-Conservatives and soft-NDPers in Quebec. It is a difficult sell though, is a Conservative voter going to give up a cabinet minister for a M.P. that has little chance of governing with a party that has limited interest being government? Is a Dipper voter going to give up their best chance at a government M.P. since 1988 for an unknown?

    More problematic I think is the ability of the federal government to deliver autonomy for regions. Provinces hold sovereignty in this area hence, cities or towns or regional districts are creations of the Province. In this sense FeD is misplaced it should be a provincial party.

    All in all, I don't think FeD will be successful I would be surprised if they received 5% of the Quebec vote next election.

  4. Bear in mind that the BQ for all its weaknesses under Beaulieu does have a war chest of over a million dollars from four years worth of steadily diminishing per vote subsidies being saved up - so as toxic as Beaulieu is - he still controls the BQ organization and all their money which means that he will be able to afford to have a leader's tour and run TV ads etc... FeD will have source of money, no organizations and no "unique selling proposition". Usually new parties get off the ground through some combination of charismatic verging on demagogic leadership (e.g. Social Credit under Real Caouette) or they clearly fill a vacuum (e.g. until the BQ was formed there was no one for a hard core separatist to vote for federally) - I don't see what vacuum or niche FeD is filling. To me they are a party of convenience so a couple of rejects and rebels from other parties have some mechanism to fundraise outside of a writ period (something independent MPs or candidates cannot do)

    1. DL,

      I am surprised the BQ has such a big war chest but, with the spending limit per riding at roughly $80,000 they have a long way to go to hit the 78 riding spending maximum. Even with a million dollars the BQ will be restricted to a dozen or so ridings with a leader's tour unless, a windfall comes their way.

      Secondly, separatists prior to the BQ could vote for the Rhinocerous Party (who were separatists). I miss their futuristic and whimsical policy ideas-think how many jobs would be created if Canada paved over Hudson Bay! It's a mega-project on par with the Pyramids!

  5. If it affects mostly the CPC, than that would be great. CPC needs to go and even with the recent LPC problems, the CPC has far more problems and has created far more problems than the LPC did.

    1. I think you misunderstand. He's taking 5% from each party; the Conservatives go from 1their polling average in Quebec roughly 14% for the CPC to 9%, NDP from 29 to 24%. He gives the 5% to FeD.

      At this point in time there is no evidence to suggest FeD hurts any one party more than the other, it's a thought experiment nothing more.


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