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.