Friday, July 31, 2015

The Pollcast, Episode II: Attack of the Polls

The second episode of the Pollcast is now up! You can listen to the latest episode directly here.

In this episode, guests Susan Delacourt of the Toronto Star and David Akin of Sun Media discuss the issue of polls and the media. Are journalists using polls correctly? Do polls influence their coverage (and is that a bad thing)? And does the media's reliance on polls highlight the discrepancy between the information the public has and the information that parties have?

Have a listen, and let me know what you think in the comments section below. Suggestions for topics you'd like to see discussed are also welcomed.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

New Ipsos poll, Battleground Toronto, and this site's name

After Friday's confusion arising from diametrically opposed polls being released on the same day, Ipsos Reid cleared things up a little yesterday evening by splitting the difference in its poll for Global News.

The CBC Poll Tracker has been updated with these latest numbers, and continues to show a tie between the Conservatives and New Democrats. The riding-by-riding projections have also been put up-to-date.

I identified what was potentially the main reason for Mainstreet Research's divergence from the consensus in my Poll Tracker analysis on Friday: namely, that Mainstreet had some abnormally high scores for the Conservatives among 18-to-34 year olds.

After removing the undecideds myself, I calculated that the Conservatives had 43% support among this age group in Mainstreet's poll. That was very high. You can see how high in the chart below. Mainstreet's poll is the second last in this chart, and is in italics. All the other polls are recent findings from other pollsters among this age group. Ipsos's latest is at the bottom of the chart, showing the Conservatives at just 17% among this group.

18-to-34 year olds, Mainstreet in italics
So, you can see that this is a bit of an issue. If this age group represents about 20% of the weighted sample, the discrepancy between Mainstreet's numbers and those of other pollsters would be worth about four points to the Conservatives. That drops them from the 38% of that poll to 34%, just about where Ipsos has them.

Of course, everybody else could be wrong or this could have been a momentary excitement on the part of young Canadians that lasted a couple of days, but the odds of that would seem rather low.

Leafs not the only blue team likely to struggle this fall in Toronto

In light of the Liberal nomination battle in Eglinton-Lawrence that saw Marco Mendicino defeat Eve Adams on the weekend, and yesterday's announcement that Olivia Chow was returning to the federal scene, I took a look at how the parties's chances are shaping up in Toronto for the CBC.

I hadn't fully realized something before writing this piece: Toronto itself, and not just the GTA in general, was very important to the Conservatives in 2011. They won eight seats there, after winning zero seats there in every election prior to that going back a few decades. Eight seats out of 22 in Toronto is quite good (tying the NDP), but it is very important when you consider that the Conservatives made a net gain of 23 seats between the 2008 and 2011 elections. That means Toronto represented just over one-third of the Tories' gains in the last election. The 905 is important for the Conservatives, but the 416 is no slouch either.

ThreeThirtyEight not going to happen, so please stop asking me

The name of this site,, is in homage to Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight as well as the number of seats that are currently in the House of Commons and were in the House when the site was launched in 2008. It might as well also represent the number of times I have been asked when I will be changing the name of the site.

Let me clear it up once and for all (not that I've been saying anything different from the last few years). The name of the site is not going to be changed to ThreeThirtyEight or variations of that. And the name of the site is already quite long, so changing it ThreeHundredThirtyEight, as some have suggested, would be a step in the wrong direction too.

A few reasons for why I will not be changing the name of this site to reflect the new number of seats in the House of Commons:

1) It has been this way for almost seven years, which gives this name its own branding strength. It would be confusing to suddenly change the name and I'd likely be correcting people for a year or two. While the site was named after the number of seats in the House of Commons, it was never meant as a running tally of the number of seats in the House of Commons.

2) Four elections occurred with 308 seats up for grabs. You have to go back to 1965 to find a string of at least that many elections with the same number of seats. It is a particularly interesting era to name the site after, with three minority governments and the newly merged Conservative Party. Stephen Harper, Jack Layton, and Gilles Duceppe led their respective parties in all four of thsoe elections, and it is hard to name three federal leaders that have more greatly marked their respective parties or Canadian politics in the 21st century. Harper embodies, in many ways, the merged Conservative Party, Duceppe has led his party for almost 20 years, and Layton set the NDP on the path that might bring it to power this fall. The 308-seat House was also the only House I ever really knew, having started getting interested in politics after the 2000 election.

3) This site was launched in 2008 because of how interesting I found FiveThirtyEight. But to change the name of the site to ThreeThirtyEight (or 338 as many would call it) gets the name much too close to FiveThirtyEight (538). That would also lead to confusion, as well as being discourteous to 538.

4) If this site still somehow exists in another 10 years, I'll have to change the name yet again.

5) Last I checked, the URL was taken anyway so the whole thing is moot.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Welcome to the Pollcast

Read the headline here while channeling your inner Don Newman. "...the P-o-o-o-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-c-a-s-t."

Very excited to launch the CBC Pollcast today! You can find it here, or listen to it directly here.

Every week, and perhaps more often once the campaign gets going, we'll be inviting guests to the Pollcast to discuss everything about the polling industry: how polls are done, what challenges the polling industry faces, what influence polling has on election campaigns and, of course, the trends, both national and regional.

Joining me this week is David Coletto, the CEO of Abacus Data. We discussed how polling is done in this new modern world of ours, and we saved a little time to talk about what the polls are showing right now. David had some interesting thoughts on what it will take to move the numbers.

We're going to get at the topic of polls from every angle in future episodes. It isn't just about the horserace.

We'll have more pollsters on to discuss what they are seeing in their numbers, as well as to discuss issues related to the industry and the relationship pollsters have with the media. We'll have members of the media on to discuss that relationship and the role of polling in political journalism. We'll also have them on to give some context to the numbers themselves. And we'll have some party insiders, too. Not to spin the numbers (though they might try!), but to discuss how parties are using polls in their campaign strategies.

I think it will be a lot of fun, and I hope you'll enjoy it. And it's a podcast for the audience. We're not going to shy away from getting into the details - in this week's episode we even get into sampling quotas - like is often the case on other platforms.

Please let me know what you think, and what you'd like to see from the Pollcast!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How the leaders stack up, literally (almost)

In my column today for the CBC, I compared each of the party's approval ratings by looking at polls conducted since mid-June. The crux of it is that Thomas Mulcair's numbers are good and getting better, Justin Trudeau's are middling and getting worse, and Stephen Harper's are bad and not improving. Click on the link for the full analysis.

It is interesting to do a regional comparison of the leaders, though, to see how they stack up. In the chart below, I've ordered the three leaders according to their net approval ratings (approval minus disapproval).

The first thing you see is that there is a clear order for the three leaders. Mulcair is on top, Trudeau in the middle, and Harper at the bottom. This is because Mulcair's approval ratings are all a net positive, Trudeau's are mostly breaking even, and Harper's are mostly negative.

But there are a few interesting divergences from this.

Start with Mulcair. His approval rating in Quebec is stellar, and it is also very good in British Columbia. This is important as these are the NDP's two keys to a minority government. But he also has good scores in Atlantic Canada and Ontario.

His popularity drops off in the West, however. He is less popular in the Prairies and Alberta than Trudeau is in Atlantic Canada and British Columbia, while he ties Harper in Alberta. That latter score is actually quite good, relatively speaking. Harper is from Alberta after all.

For Trudeau, he only has good numbers in Atlantic Canada, where he is more popular than Harper is in any part of the country. The same can be said for his modest result in British Columbia. He breaks even in Quebec, the Prairies, and Ontario, but that puts him low on the table.

His very low score in Alberta, though, suggests the party may not have bright chances for a breakthrough. Albertans dislike Trudeau as much as Ontarians dislike Harper. Only in Quebec, British Columbia, and Atlantic Canada, where Harper is deeply unpopular, does anyone score worse than Trudeau in Alberta.

For Harper, none of these numbers are very good. Even his net +2 in Alberta is worrisome for the Conservatives, as that is supposed to be their fortress. His low scores in battleground provinces like Ontario and British Columbia do not bode well for a Conservative re-election, and he is plumbing the depths of unpopularity in Atlantic Canada.

If there is a silver lining for Harper, it is that he leaves few people unmoved. That means that his low scores still give him an approval rating of 30% or more in Alberta, the Prairies, and Ontario. Enough to keep him competitive, if those people who approve of him go out and vote for him. But he's a long way from a majority government at these numbers.

Just for fun, let's calculate how each of the parties would do if they could replicate their leaders' approval ratings in every region of the country. To do this, I've reduced (or increased, as need be) the support of other parties equally to accommodate for the adjustments.

For the Conservatives, they would still be in it - but only just. The Conservatives would win 127 seats, putting them nearly in a tie with the NDP and far from majority status.

That might seem pretty good, considering how bad Harper's numbers look and where the Conservatives stand in the polls right now. But when we compare it to what Mulcair's and Trudeau's approval ratings would produce, we see how far Harper trails.

If the Liberals replicated Trudeau's approval ratings at the ballot box, the Liberals would fall just short of a majority - but close enough that it would still be possible. They'd win 165 seats, taking 65 in Ontario, 35 in Quebec, 25 in Atlantic Canada, and 21 in British Columbia. The NDP and Conservatives would be in a tight race for runner-up spot.

It would not be nearly as competitive in the NDP's scenario, though. If the NDP replicated Mulcair's approval ratings, the party would win a landslide. The model would give the NDP 257 seats, with the Conservatives and Liberals splitting 80 seats between them. The NDP would win all but three seats in both B.C. and Quebec, and almost 100 in Ontario. If Mulcair's approval rating represents a ceiling for the NDP, then the sky is (nearly) the limit.

This simple exercise shows how Mulcair and Trudeau are draws for their party, whereas Harper does about as well as his party is doing. After more than 11 years as leader, Canadians may see Harper and the Conservative Party as inseparable. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Riding History: Halifax

Two premiers, two Leaders of the Opposition, three federal party leaders, and a prime minister: the federal riding of Halifax has been represented by a lot of powerful men and women. Fitting, perhaps, for one of Canada's oldest provincial capitals. But for almost two decades Halifax has been shut out of the halls of power in Ottawa. Is that about to change?

The riding of Halifax has an unusual history, in that for the first century of its existence it returned two MPs to Ottawa, rather than one. The riding occupied what is today the Halifax Regional Municipality, and parties could place two candidates on the ballot. Voters could make two choices.

It makes for a somewhat more convoluted history to recite, but it is also a good example of what can happen in ridings with multiple candidates. In all but five of 27 general elections held in Halifax until 1968 only one party captured both seats. It was very rare for voters to select candidates from two different parties, though most of those elections were decided by the slimmest of margins.

The first election in Halifax was different from any other. Instead of the usual contest between Liberals and Conservatives, the 1867 vote in Nova Scotia was primarily between Joseph Howe's Anti-Confederation Party, which opposed Nova Scotia joining Canadian confederation, and the Conservatives.

Howe's party triumphed in Nova Scotia, as well as in Halifax, though it was close: 52.4% for the two anti-Confederate candidates against 47.6% for their pro-confederation opponents.

Alfred Jones
One of the two was Alfred Jones, a merchant involved in the West Indies trade who was born in Weymouth and who moved to Halifax at the age of 18. It would be his first of eight federal election attempts (four of which were successful).

Staunchly anti-confederation since 1864, he nevertheless decided to take his seat in the House of Commons after winning election in Halifax. In his maiden speech, he said he would "support good measures and oppose bad, without regard to either party."

Patrick Power
The other anti-Confederate was Patrick Power, a dry goods merchant born in County Waterford in Ireland, but whose family had immigrated to Nova Scotia in 1823. Unlike Jones, Powers initially refused to take his seat in Ottawa, but finally relented in 1868.

Once it became clear that, despite their victory at the polls, the Anti-Confederates would not get their way, Joseph Howe led most of his party into John A. Macdonald's cabinet. Neither Power nor Jones followed. Jones was especially angered at Howe's betrayal, and actively campaigned against him in the by-election that followed Howe's naming to cabinet. Arguing that a victory by Howe would mean "Canadian rule for ever", Jones failed to prevent Howe from winning.

In 1872, Power ran as an Independent Liberal and Jones just as an independent, and both failed to secure re-election by a slim margin. Power took 2,452 votes and Jones 2,430, while William Almon of the Liberal-Conservatives captured 2,528 votes and Stephen Tobin of the Liberals took 2,486.

Almon, an influential and important physician in the province, was about as pro-Confederate as it gets - he was a supporter of the Confederacy during the American Civil War and was said to have been personally thanked by Jefferson Davis, president of the South. Tobin had a less unusual history, being an insurance agent and merchant who served as mayor of Halifax from 1867 to 1870.

When the next federal election occurred in 1874, both Almon and Tobin chose not to run again. Both would continue their political careers elsewhere, however, as Almon would be named to the Senate in 1879 by Macdonald and serve until 1901. Tobin would be mayor of Halifax again between 1878 and 1881.

This paved the way for the re-election of both Power and Jones, as they were up against only one independent candidate. Power was listed as an Independent Liberal again and Jones an independent, but both were supporters of Alexander Mackenzie's Liberals in Ottawa.

The Conservatives and Borden to the fore, 1878-1935

Halifax would see two federal elections in 1878. The first was a by-election forced by Jones's resignation. Seeing the writing on the wall that he would be booted from the House of Commons, Jones stepped down for an apparent conflict of interest (a government contract had been awarded to the Halifax Citizen, in which he had some holdings). He nevertheless won the by-election, and was named Minister of Militia and Defence for the rest of the year.

Matthew Richey
But then the 1878 general election occurred, and both Jones and Power were defeated. This time Halifax sent an all-Conservative slate to Ottawa, as Matthew Richey and Malachy Bowes Daly were elected. Richey had a long history in municipal politics, being a councilor from 1858 to 1863 and mayor twice from 1864 to 1867 and from 1875 to 1878. Daly was a lawyer and a keen cricketer, having played with the national team on several occasions.

M. B. Daly
Richey and Daly would win re-election in 1882 (beating Jones again), though with reduced numbers. Richey did not finish his term, as he resigned in 1883 to become the Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia.

John Stairs, a wealthy industrialist, was acclaimed in his place. Recruited by Charles Tupper, this former provincial Liberal-Conservative would become a confidant of Macdonald.

John Stairs
But Stairs's tenure would be cut short in 1887. Daly declined to run again but Stairs stood for the first time in front of the electorate, coming up short. Jones, now with the Liberals, was elected, as was Thomas Kenny of the Conservatives, a merchant from a wealthy family.

Stairs had better luck in 1891, as he and Kenny were elected. But Jones and Edward Farrell, his running mate, accused Stairs and Kenny of 'bribery and other illegal acts', leading to the election results of 1891 being declared void. It didn't matter, though, as both Conservatives were returned to Ottawa in 1892.

By 1896, Jones was through with elected politics (but he would be named Lieutenant-Governor in 1900, serving until his death in 1906) and declined the Liberal nomination. Stairs, too, was done with federal politics. He stepped aside to make room for a certain Robert Borden, and returned to provincial politics. He took over the Nova Scotia Liberal-Conservative Party, leading it to catastrophic defeats in 1897 and 1901.

Robert Borden
Though Kenny was not successful in securing re-election (Benjamin Russell, a Liberal lawyer, won instead), Borden did manage to fill Stairs's seat. Borden, a 42-year-old lawyer born in Grand Pré, had become known to the Conservatives in work he had done for the Macdonald government. Before long, he was arguing cases in Ottawa and was asked by Tupper to run in Halifax. After his narrow victory, Borden sat on the backbenches as Wilfrid Laurier's Liberals took power in 1896. But by 1899, Borden had been moved to the front opposition benches and was seen to have a bright future in the party.

William Roche
Borden, along with Liberal William Roche, won the election in Halifax in 1900. But Tupper stepped down as Conservative leader, and threw his weight behind Borden as his replacement. He was a fresh face for the Conservatives, but Borden was reluctant. He believed that it "would be an absurdity for the party and madness for me." He nevertheless agreed to run, and became leader of the party (and the opposition) in February 1901. He would serve as leader of the party for the next 19 years.

He would go through some rough patches, however. In the 1904 election, Laurier's Liberals were re-elected and swept both of the seats in Halifax. Borden came up short by some 500 votes, but decided to stay on as leader (Laurier allowed Borden to be acclaimed for the riding of Carleton when it became vacant in 1905).

Instead of Borden, Roche was re-elected and joined by Michael Carney, a businessman born in Ireland. With 52.5% of the vote, it was the best performance by a joint-list of Liberal candidates since Confederation.

The pendulum swung back to the Conservatives in Halifax in 1908, as Borden and Adam Crosby (a former mayor) defeated both Roche and Carney. Laurier would late name Roche to the Senate, where he would sit until 1925.

Borden had increased the Conservatives' seat haul in Ottawa, but he had again failed to lead the party to victory. He decided to stay on, and would have to quell a few revolts within his own party along the way.

Borden and Winston Churchill, 1912
This all changed in 1911, as Borden led his Conservatives back into government against a tired Liberal Party. Borden won his seat but Crosby did not (Borden would name his seat-mate to the Senate in 1917), and Alexander MacLean of the Liberals instead split the ticket. It was an incredibly close election, with both the Conservatives and Liberals taking 50% of the vote. Borden topped the list with 25.5%, followed by MacLean at 25.1%, Edward Blackadder with 24.9%, and Crosby with 24.5%.

Borden was now Prime Minister, and he also took on the portfolio of Secretary of State for External Affairs. His first term in power would soon become quite complicated, as Canada was brought into the First World War in 1914.

By 1917, the killing fields in Flanders had bled the Canadian Army dry, and new recruits were being woefully outnumbered by the casualty lists. Borden wanted to enact conscription, and invited Laurier to join him in a unity government. Laurier declined, but many of his MPs from outside Quebec, where conscription was extremely unpopular, crossed the floor.

Alexander MacLean
One of them was Alexander MacLean, who ran with the Unionists in 1917. Borden, however, had moved to the riding of Kings in Nova Scotia, allowing both MacLean and Peter Martin to be acclaimed for the riding of Halifax. No Liberal ran against them.

By 1921, the country and Borden had moved on from the Conservatives. The Liberals, under Mackenzie King, were brought to power and Blackadder and MacLean (now back with his old party) won Halifax handily. They took a combined total of 53% of the vote, with the Conservatives, now under Arthur Meighen, taking just 34%. Two Labour candidates split 13% of the vote between them.

Martin would not run again, as was named to the Senate by Meighen and would sit there for Nova Scotia until 1935.

Robert Finn
A by-election was held in 1922 to replace Blackadder, who had passed away, and the Liberals again won it easily with 54.6% of the vote. Robert Finn, a lawyer, had sat with the provincial Liberals in Nova Scotia from 1906 to 1922, and was a cabinet minister for the last four years of his tenure. He had also been a war correspondent in South Africa during the Boer War.

Another by-election had to be held in 1923 after MacLean was named President of the Exchequer Court of Canada. This time, the country was moving back towards the Conservatives and William Black won the by-election. It was a return to the political theatre for Black, as he had been a provincial Conservative for three years at the end of the 19th century.

William Black
Meighen narrowly won the 1925 election, and this began three consecutive election victories for the Conservative duo of Black and industrialist Felix Quinn in Halifax. Black would sit in cabinet as Minister of Railways and Canals and Minister of Marine and Fisheries in Meighen's short-lived government.

After being re-elected in 1926, though Meighen was defeated, and 1930, when R.B. Bennett brought the Tories back to power, Quinn was named to the Senate, where he would sit until 1961. Black was not so lucky, dying in office before the 1935 election.

Liberal dominance under King and St-Laurent, 1935-1957

Gordon Isnor
The depression had gutted Bennett's re-election chances, and the country and Halifax swung back to the Liberals under King. With two Reconstruction candidates taking 13.3% of the vote, the Liberals easily won a majority as Gordon Isnor, a merchant and former provincial MLA who had served during the First World War, and Robert Finn were sent to Ottawa.

By 1940, the country was back at war. Finn tried running as an Independent Liberal but was unsuccessful as William Macdonald, a lawyer and veteran, took his place. The Liberals dropped below the majority threshold, however, as the Conservatives rebounded and Finn took a fair share of the vote. A lone CCF candidate, meanwhile, took 1.8%.

William Macdonald
The CCF was boosted to 16.9% in 1945, but both Macdonald and Isnor were re-elected as King led Canada victoriously out of the Second World War.

Macdonald did not survive the peace for very long, passing away in 1946. The by-election to replace him in 1947 was won by Liberal John Dickey, a lawyer who had served as a major in World War II and was Associate Prosecutor for the Canadian War Crimes Liaison Detachment in the Far East. Notably, the CCF candidate placed second, ahead of the (now) Progressive Conservatives, with 29.7%.

John Dickey
The Isnor-Dickey ticket was re-elected in 1949 by a wide margin (with a combined 57.1% of the vote, it was the best the Liberals would ever do), and in 1950 Isnor was named to the Senate by Louis St-Laurent, where he would sit until 1973. The by-election to replace him was won by Samuel Balcom, a pharmacist and veteran of two world wars.

Dickey and Balcom won the 1953 election against a rejuvenated Progressive Conservative Party, as the CCF vote plummeted to just 3.9%.

Conservative return and the Stanfield era, 1957-1988

Edmund Morris
Dickey and Balcom did not survive the 1957 election, as John Diefenbaker's Tories were narrowly elected to a minority government. Robert McCleave, an editor at the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, and Edmund Morris, a broadcaster and journalist, took their place in a close contest.

The sweeping victory Diefenbaker won in 1958 was repeated in Halifax, as McCleave and Morris capturing 59.9% of the vote, the party's best result in the riding since 1925. But their big victory was reduced dramatically in 1962, as the McCleave-Morris ticket took just 46.9% of the vote to the Liberals' 45.4%. The NDP, in its first election, took 6.7% of the vote.

There was a brief Liberal interregnum in Halifax in 1963. McCleave went down to defeat while Morris chose not to run again, continuing his political career later on as mayor from 1974 to 1980 and as a Nova Scotia PC MLA and cabinet minister from 1980 to 1988.

Their replacements were Liberals John Lloyd, an accountant and twice mayor of Halifax, and Gerald Regan, another lawyer and father to future MP Geoff Regan.

Robert McCleave
The PCs returned in 1965, as Lloyd was defeated and Regan moved on to provincial politics, where he would become Liberal leader in 1967 and serve as premier from 1970 to 1978. McCleave was returned, along with businessman Michael Forrestall.

In 1968, the electoral boundaries were changed and Halifax joined the rest of the country as a single-member district, being reduced from Halifax County to just the city itself. Forrestall chose to run in nearby Dartmouth-Halifax East, which he would represent into the 1980s. He would later sit in the Senate from 1990 to 2006.

Robert Stanfield took up the PC banner in Halifax. Stanfield had been named leader of the Progressive Conservatives in 1967, after running the Nova Scotia PCs for almost 20 years and serving as premier from 1956 to 1967. Stanfield would continue his service as Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons until 1976.

Robert Stanfield
But his first foray into federal politics was a successful one, at least locally, as he took 60.3% of the vote in Halifax, the best any PC or Conservative would ever do in the single-member district. But Stanfield was powerless against the Trudeau juggernaut in the rest of the country, and saw both his party's vote and seat share drop from his predecessor's performance in 1965.

Things improved in 1972, as Stanfield reduced Trudeau to a minority government. His vote share dropped slightly in Halifax, though, as the NDP went from 4.1% to 12.3% of the vote, taking from both the PCs and Liberals.

He could not prevent a majority win for Trudeau in 1974, however, and his vote share dropped again in Halifax to 49.3%. The Liberals boosted their score to 40.7% in the riding as the NDP fell back.

Failing to topple Trudeau in three consecutive elections, Stanfield resigned as leader in 1976 but continued on as the MP for Halifax until the 1979 election. Stanfield would be done with active politics, but for his service at both the federal and provincial levels the international airport in Halifax was named after him in 2007.

Joe Clark won more seats than the Trudeau Liberals in 1979, but George Cooper, a lawyer and future Order of Canada recipient, nearly failed to hold on to the riding of Halifax with 40.5% of the vote to 40.4% for the Liberal candidate. Of note is the candidacy of Alexa McDonough for the NDP. She took 18.5% in her first federal election attempt.

Cooper was defeated in 1980, as Regan made a return to federal politics. He would be named Minister of Labour and subsequently Secretary of State, Minister for International Trade, and Minister of Energy, Mines, and Resources over the next four years.

But the PCs returned to power in 1984 under Brian Mulroney, and Halifax swung back to the PCs as well. Regan was defeated, and his political career was over. He would later be accused of committing a large number of sexual offences over his long political career, including while he was premier. He was acquitted of some, but other charges were later dropped due to the age of the accusations and Regan himself. A cloud still hangs over him.

Stewart McInnes instead won the riding in 1984, and would be named Minister of Supply and Services in 1985 and later Minister of Public Works.

Women to the fore, 1988-present

Though Mulroney was re-elected in 1988, McInnes narrowly lost his riding to the Liberals' Mary Clancy. Not only would this be the last time a conservative represented the riding, but also the last time its MP would be a man.

Clancy was re-elected in 1993. The PC vote plummeted to just 20.7% as Reform took 14.5% of the vote here.

By 1997, the NDP had recovered from its drubbing in 1993 and had named McDonough as its leader in 1995. McDonough was a seasoned political veteran by now, having been leader of the Nova Scotia New Democrats from 1980 to 1994. That made her the first woman to lead a major provincial or federal party in Canada. She easily defeated Clancy, with the best performance to date for an NDP or CCF candidate. She took 49% of the vote, as Clancy fell to third with 21.6%, behind the PC candidate.

McDonough would be re-elected three more times between 2000 and 2006, stepping down as leader in 2003 but continuing on as an MP for two more elections. Her vote share would fluctuate over this period between 40% and 47%, but only in the 2004 election did the Liberals come close to toppling her. The newly merged Conservative Party would not take more than 21% of the vote in its four elections in Halifax.

McDonough did not run for re-election in 2008. Megan Leslie, a community legal worker, took her place. She won 42.7% of the vote, down from McDonough's performance in 2006 but better than the 2000 and 2004 results, with the Liberals in the midst of their decline. The Green Party captured 8.7% of the vote, their best performance.

After a successful first term during which Leslie was named Best Rookie MP by Maclean's, Leslie won re-election in 2011 with 51.6%, the best the NDP has ever done in the riding. The Liberals dropped to 25.6%, their lowest since 1997, while the Conservatives dropped a few points as well. In 2012, Leslie was named one of the NDP's deputy leaders.

Where does Halifax go from here? For a time, it looked like the Liberal surge in Atlantic Canada could be powerful enough to swamp Leslie and the NDP in Halifax. But the Liberals have since dropped in the region, and the NDP has improved, which makes Halifax a riding that the NDP is likely to retain.

Halifax has not had an MP sitting on the governing benches since 1997, the longest period in its history. With the NDP leading in the polls at the time of writing, and the Conservatives unlikely to secure a majority government in even the best of circumstances, could that streak come to a close?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Introducing the CBC Poll Tracker

You know that thing I was saying was in the works? The exciting announcement that I was to make after I returned from vacation? Well, it's here!'s federal vote and seat projections are now being hosted by the CBC in its new interactive feature, the Poll Tracker. It has all the data that I had on this site, but rather than present it with static charts, it is now fully interactive. You can compare the current standings to where they were weeks ago, see the regional breakdowns for both seats and vote, browse through all the polls that have been released since the beginning of the year, and more.

And as the election campaign approaches, more features should be added to the Poll Tracker.

I've written a brief introduction on how to use the Poll Tracker here. It's pretty intuitive though. My favourite has to be the regional breakdowns, allowing you to isolate the numbers by party or region, and directly compare them to 2011.

Staying on this site during the campaign will be the riding projections. You can find them here, where they used to be. You can also click on the banner at the top of this page. I have changed how they are presented, which should make them easier to browse through.

I will do the best I can to keep the riding projections up-to-date with the latest projections on the Poll Tracker. Before the campaign starts in earnest, the lag should only be a matter of hours as I get the graphics ready to post on my site. During the campaign itself, however, my schedule is likely to be very hectic, and updating the riding projections may slip down the priority list. Hopefully I will still be able to keep them up-to-date within a day or two.

Because the projections are moving over to the CBC website, posts about federal politics will become less frequent here on But when there is a federal topic that only you junkies could love, I will try to post here.

Of course, when the campaign starts all original posts here on the site will slow to a trickle. My plan is to use as a hub for the work I will be doing for the CBC during the campaign: articles, radio interviews, television appearances, and more. I'm already busy! You can still catch me every Wednesday on Power and Politics on CBC News Network and every Saturday on The House on CBC Radio (well, just not this Saturday as the show is 'on location' in Newfoundland and Labrador).

I'll post links to all of that here once the campaign begins (I may also throw in some other interesting links from other websites as well), so can still be your go-to place for all things federal polls. The only difference is that once you go-to here, you'll then go-to somewhere on the CBC's website or elsewhere.

I'm really excited about this new feature and I hope you all will be as well. Please post your comments, questions, and feedback in the comments section below. Any problems or suggestions you have I will share with the CBC interactive team. Speaking of which, thanks go to Oscar MacDonald, Alisa Mamak, Adam Foord, Spencer Walsh, and Scott Utting and the rest of the interactive team for their fantastic work over the last few months to get this ready.

I think we're now all set for the campaign!

Monday, July 13, 2015

NDP tide lifting provincial boats

From coast to coast, there are signs that the Alberta NDP's victory in May's election had a profound impact on the political landscape. The federal New Democrats are now leading in the polls and, somehow, Rachel Notley's win made Thomas Mulcair look a lot better as his approval ratings and 'Best PM' numbers improved. At the provincial level, there are some clear indications that something shifted after May 5.

Note to readers: you may have been expecting a projection update this morning incorporating the latest data from Forum Research and Abacus Data. I'm afraid there won't be an update to the federal projection until later this week. There is something in the works, and I promise it will be worth the wait!

But back to the matter at hand. The provincial averages chart was updated this morning, and you can see that Team Orange has had an uptick over the last two months almost everywhere.

Click to magnify
Let's take a closer look at what has happened with provincial NDP numbers before and after the Alberta election of May 5. The chart below compares the latest poll in the province to the previous one from that same pollster, when their polls were conducted before and after the Alberta election. Saskatchewan has been excluded below as there have been no recent polls, and Quebec has been excluded because there is no provincial NDP.

As you can see from the chart above, there has been positive movement for provincial New Democratic parties in every province except Manitoba (where, perhaps not coincidentally, the NDP forms government). The shifts in support for John Horgan's NDP in British Columbia and for Mike Redmond's NDP in Prince Edward Island are within the margin of error, and so may not be significant.

Nevertheless, the trend lines are pretty clear. Growth has been in the double digits for Andrea Horwath's Ontario NDP, Dominic Cardy's New Brunswick NDP (which more than doubled its support), and Earle McCurdy's Newfoundland and Labrador NDP (which almost tripled it). Growth for the NDP in Nova Scotia, currently under interim leader Maureen MacDonald, has been worth nine points.

It is unlikely to be by chance that the NDP at every level of government has suddenly seen a surge in support. The victory in Alberta has to have been the catalyst.

But who has suffered at the hands of a rejuvenated NDP? Every other party, with the exception of the Bloc Québécois, has taken a step backwards at the federal level. There are regional variations at the provincial level, but that also seems to be the case there.

The Liberals have suffered most in Ontario and parts of Atlantic Canada. Kathleen Wynne's Liberals fell from 29% to 26% as the NDP rose in that province. In New Brunswick, Brian Gallant's Liberals plummeted from 54% to 38% in the polls listed above.

Decreases in the rest of Atlantic Canada have been more modest, worth four points for Wade MacLauchlan's Liberals in PEI (44% to 40%) and Dwight Ball's Liberals in Newfoundland and Labrador (57% to 53%). Stephen McNeil's Liberals in Nova Scotia have dropped from 58% to 50%.

The Progressive Conservatives have not been left unscathed, though, just as the federal Tories have taken a hit. Patrick Brown's Ontario PCs were down four points (36% to 32%), while Rob Lantz's PCs in PEI were down from 35% to 24% and Paul Davis's Tories in Newfoundland and Labrador were down from 32% to 21%.

The Greens have dropped in some parts of the country as well, from 14% to 10% in British Columbia and from 9% to 5% in Ontario.

The NDP tide is lifting most provincial boats, and shoving aside those from all of the other parties. These shifts do seem to be mirroring a lot of federal movement. It does lead us to wonder whether the dog is wagging the tail or the other way around, and whether people who are not faced with an election are conflating the federal and provincial parties more than they might otherwise. But it certainly adds to the good headlines that have benefited the NDP over the last two months.

Will it last for another three months? That is, of course, the biggest question. Thomas Mulcair presided over a surge in NDP support that spilled over into most provincial capitals in 2012, only for it to subside as Justin Trudeau moved towards the Liberal leadership. So, this new support may not be particularly deep. It still leaves a lot of opportunity for change between now and the election.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

June 2015 federal polling averages

If the New Democrats prevail in October's election, June will have been the month where it became possible. For the first time since 2012, and thanks to some massive spikes in support in a few battleground regions of the country, the New Democrats led in the monthly averages last month.

It was a busy month of polling, perhaps as the pollsters get in their final numbers before breaking for the summer. In all, 11 national and two Quebec polls were conducted, with a grand total of 27,224 interviews.

The NDP led in June with an average of 32.6% support, a jump of 4.1 points since May, their fourth consecutive month of increase, and their best score since August 2012.

The Conservatives dropped 1.6 points to 28.6%, their worst since July 2014 and their fourth month of decrease or stagnation.

The Liberals were down 2.1 points to 26.3%, their worst result since February 2013 (before Justin Trudeau became leader) and their 11th consecutive month of stagnation or decline. That is a long series of bad polling months.

The Bloc Québécois, with newly minted returning leader Gilles Duceppe, was up 1.3 points to 5.5%, surpassing the Greens. They were down 1.1 points to 5.4%, their lowest result since September 2014.

The New Democrats experienced a big shift in their polling ranges, scoring between 28% and 36% in polls conducted in June. That compares to a range of 24% to 30% in May. The Conservatives and Liberals were both down in their ranges, the Tories dropping from 28% to 33% in May to 26% to 31% in June. The Liberals went from 26% to 31% to 23% to 32% this month, meaning their floor dropped but their ceiling actually increased a little.

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The NDP led in British Columbia with 37.7%, up 5.8 points since May and their best result since August 2012. With a 10.8-point advantage over the Conservatives, it was the biggest lead any party has enjoyed in B.C. since 2011. The Conservatives were down one point to 26.9%, their worst since December 2013, while the Liberals were down three points to 23.6%, their worst since March 2013. The Greens were down 1.6 points to 10%.

In Alberta, the Conservatives dropped 0.4 points to 46.8%. The NDP was up 2.6 points to 29.6%, their best on record, while the Liberals were up 0.6 points to 17.4%. This was the only province or region in which the Liberals saw their poll numbers improve. The Greens were down for the third consecutive month here, falling 1.2 points to 3.8%.

The Conservatives were down 1.5 points to 38.5% in the Prairies, followed by the NDP at 27.7%. That was an increase of 3.1 points and their best result since January 2014. The Liberals fell 0.9 points to 26.4%, putting them in third place in the region for the first time under Trudeau. The Greens were up 0.3 points to 5.9%.

The race is about as close as it gets in Ontario. The Conservatives edged out the other parties with 31.8%, down 2.7 points and their worst result since July 2014. The NDP was up 6.4 points to 31.3%, their best since June 2012 and marking a gain of 13 points in just four months. The Liberals were down 2.2 points to 30.1%, their worst since February 2013. They have been stagnant or dropping in Ontario for nine consecutive months. The Greens were down 1.4 points to 5%.

The New Democrats held on to the lead in Quebec despite dropping 0.7 points, falling to 34.9%. The Bloc Québécois moved into second, picking up 5.9 points with the arrival of Duceppe to reach 22.3%. That is the party's best result since February 2014, well before Mario Beaulieu's tenure. The Liberals were down 2.6 points to 22.3%, their worst since the end of 2012 and their ninth consecutive month of decline. The Conservatives were down 0.7 points to 15.7%, while the Greens were down 1.2 points to 3.5%.

The Liberals led only in Atlantic Canada, where they were down 2.4 points to 41.1%. The NDP was up 2.7 points to 28.1%, marking the worst and best results for these parties since 2013. The Conservatives were up 0.1 points to 23.2%, while the Greens were down 0.6 points to 5.7%.

With these levels of support, the NDP would likely win 127 seats, a gain of 18 over May's projection. The Conservatives would win 117 seats, a decrease of 11 seats, while the Liberals would win 90 seats (down nine). The Bloc would take three seats and the Greens one.

The NDP made big strides in the seat count in British Columbia (up six) and Ontario (up eight), while also picking up a handful of seats in Alberta (two), the Prairies, and Atlantic Canada (one each). But their new position is largely due to their gains in B.C. and Ontario.

The Conservatives accordingly lost seats in B.C. and Ontario, dropping four in each. They were also down a seat in Alberta, the Prairies, and Quebec.

The Liberals were down four seats in Ontario, two in Quebec, and one each in B.C., Alberta, and Atlantic Canada.

The Bloc has gone from zero seats in May to three, while the Greens have gone from two to one.

We can see where the NDP's path to a plurality is located with these numbers. They need to maintain a sizable lead in British Columbia and Quebec, while splitting Ontario three-ways. That is enough to put them in a position to win more seats than the Conservatives, and thus likely giving them the opportunity to form a minority government. It is still a razor's edge, though. That gap of 10 seats over the Tories is very fragile, considering the potential for error in both the polls and the seat projection model. Nevertheless, it is remarkable that the NDP is in this position when, just a few short months ago, they were an afterthought in the race.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Whither the Greens?

Lost a little in the epic shuffle at the top of the table has been the slow decline in support for the Green Party ever since the New Democrats began to pick up steam. But is this something real?

The projection has been updated with the latest polls from EKOS Research and Forum Research. The results have not changed much since last week, with the New Democrats still leading. They are at a projected 32.1% support, down slightly from last week. Their seat range has widened in both directions, from 113-140 last week to 110-142 now.

The Conservatives dropped 0.5 points to 28.4%, and their seat range dropped from 99-141 to 96-140. Of note, the maximum projected seat count for the NDP is now above that of the Conservatives, at 181 to 180, respectively.

The Liberals hardly budged, and are now projected to have 27.3% support and 73-106 seats.

The Bloc Québécois is up slightly from 5.2% to 5.5% (representing 22% in Quebec), enough to give them between one and six seats.

The Greens are up 0.1 point to 5%, putting them now in range of a second seat once again.

But that is a dramatic shift in fortunes for the Green Party. In the weeks ending from May 4 to May 25, the Greens were putting up between 6.8% and 7.4% in the aggregate - generally par for the course for them. However, as the NDP inched upwards the Greens dropped. They were between 6% and 6.4% in the first half of June, dropping to 5.5% in the June 22 projection and finally falling to 5% in today's update. In other words, the Greens have lost roughly 1/3 of their support in a matter of weeks.

It is hard to gauge the support of the Greens with a large degree of confidence. That is because their support varies so widely from poll to poll. In surveys done over the last three weeks, the Greens have been pegged as low as 2% (by two different pollsters) and as high as 7% (also by two different pollsters).

By comparison, the widest discrepancy over that period for the Conservatives has been just three points, and the Liberals four. 

So is this recent drop in the aggregate caused only by which pollsters are in the field? Not entirely.

The chart below shows how Green Party support has been trending nationwide since the end of March, according to the four pollsters that have been regularly in the field over that time.

It is hardly a clear trend, but there is a pattern in these numbers.

The most obvious is from EKOS, which is showing the most consistent and negative trend for the Greens. With the exception of that anomalous-looking April 28 poll, the Greens have been dropping in almost every single poll.

Forum is also showing some weakness for the Greens, who were polling at 5% or 6% in March and April before dropping to between 2% and 5% in May and June (or between 4% and 5%, if we exclude that 2% result). 

Ipsos's latest shift may just be sampling error, but certainly doesn't argue for a strengthening of Green support, whereas Abacus shows the Greens stable or growing.

But the larger data sets from EKOS and Forum are more convincing. They seem to suggest a shift away from the Greens taking place in mid-May, just as the NDP was gaining steam.

This shift has hit the Greens particularly hard in British Columbia, where they have their best shot at electing a second MP.

But you can see from the aggregate above that the Greens are heading in the wrong direction in British Columbia. The party had topped out at 13.5% support at the end of April, but they have since been on the decline. The Greens currently stand at 9.7% in B.C., the first time they have been at single digits since early December (and even that was unusual). 

The Greens could still potentially win that second seat in B.C. with these numbers, as they are still an improvement over their 2011 scores. And province wide polling can only hint at local strength. But it is hard to imagine the party winning more than two seats in B.C. if the Greens are below the 10% mark.

The shifting landscape at the national level carries a lot of local implications. And that goes for the Greens as well. In absolute terms they may not have lost as much support as the Conservatives and Liberals over the last few weeks, but proportionately it hits them just as hard. Could it be a surging NDP that blunts the Greens' hope for even a modest breakthrough in 2011?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Liberals still lead in Newfoundland and Labrador, NDP making gains

If the Liberals are looking for some good news on the polling front, Newfoundland and Labrador is probably the best place to look. The latest poll from Abacus Data for VOCM shows the federal (and provincial) Liberals are still well in front in the province, the only one the party won in the 2011 federal election.

It means that most of the contests in Newfoundland and Labrador should be easy enough to call, with the exception of one. As far as political drama goes on the Rock, it could all be limited to the battle for St. John's South - Mount Pearl.

The Liberals led in this poll with 53% support, down five points since Abacus Data's last poll of February 17-25.

The New Democrats leap-frogged the Conservatives into second place, jumping 12 points to 28%. The Tories fell eight points to 15%.

Another 3% said they would vote for another party (recall that in 2011 the Greens fell just short of 1% in this province), while 14% were undecided.

The trend has been a very positive one for the New Democrats, who were at just 13% in Newfoundland and Labrador in Abacus's poll of July-August 2014. The Conservatives have been on a consistent slide since then, down 12 points overall. That the Liberals are down just one point from that poll one year ago suggests the recent decrease is, in relative terms, very modest.

What isn't modest is the increase that Thomas Mulcair has experienced in the province. In February, just 28% of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians said they had a positive impression of the NDP leader. That has jumped 15 points to 43%, putting him in a tie with Justin Trudeau (down three points). But Mulcair's negative rating, at 14%, is a third less than Trudeau's 21%.

The two are miles ahead of Stephen Harper, though. Only 14% have a positive impression of the Prime Minister, while 69% have a negative one. And that latter score is up five points since February. The Conservatives don't stand much of a chance anywhere in the province.

The regional results demonstrate that quite clearly. The Conservatives did no better than 21%, in eastern Newfoundland, and that put them 46 points behind the Liberals. The New Democrats, trailing by at least 34 points outside of the Avalon Peninsula and St. John's, are also not in the running outside of the capital, where they experienced a significant boost since the February poll.

And that pretty much sums up much of the race in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Liberals look very safe in Labrador and in the three ridings west of the Avalon Peninsula (which is pretty much how Abacus divided up its poll).

With the province wide numbers, and looking at the seat projection model, the Liberals would likely win Avalon quite comfortably by some 20 points. St. John's East should still be a landslide for the NDP's Jack Harris (50-60 points).

St. John's South - Mount Pearl is where it is interesting. The model gives the Liberals the slight edge, at 43% for Seamus O'Regan to 40% for the NDP's incumbent MP Ryan Cleary. But that is a tiny advantage considering the margin of error of the Abacus poll itself and the margin of error of the seat projection model. It means the riding is a legitimate toss-up, and the only game in town.

Having a Ball, ball in Ball's court, a whole new Ball game, etc.

There will be another election in Newfoundland and Labrador this year, the provincial one scheduled for November 30. Abacus polled this race too, and found virtually identical numbers to the federal contest. The provincial Liberals scored 53% as well, with the governing Progressive Conservatives slightly more popular than their federal cousins at 21%, and the provincial NDP slightly less popular than their federal brothers and sisters at 25%.

The provincial regional results were also very similar to those at the federal level.

But the breakdown of how voters feel about the three provincial leaders is worth a closer look.

Dwight Ball of the Liberals is the most popular leader, with the highest positive rating at 44% and the lowest negative rating at 16%. That is a slight worsening from his scores in February, but within the margin of error.

Earle McCurdy of the NDP also has some good numbers, particularly for such a new leader. His 36% positive rating is better than Premier Paul Davis, and his 19% negative rating is quite low.

At first glance, the numbers for Davis aren't so bad. His negative rating is far lower than Harper's, and a good 38% of people still have a firm opinion of him to form. His positive rating, at 32%, is not so far behind the others.

But the trend lines are bad. His positive rating has held steady, but his negative rating has ballooned from 11% in February. All of the people who have formed a new opinion of Davis over the last few months have formed a negative one. That is not what you want heading into an election.

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians may not be giving Davis much of a chance. Fully two-thirds think the Liberals will win in November, and 63% agree that the Liberals are 'ready to be government'. That contrasts sharply to the 37% who say the same about the NDP, but a strong showing in October's federal election may have an impact. It could be an interesting election yet!