Friday, May 27, 2016

More provincial aggregates added

More provincial polling averages have been added to the site today. You can access the one for New Brunswick here

The averages for Quebec, including regional and linguistic breakdowns, can be found here. The latest poll from the province was out just this past week.

The averages for Alberta are here.

And in case you missed them last week, pages for Nova Scotia and Ontario were also added.

For future reference, these averages can be found in the right-hand column of the site further down the page. 

The Pollcast: The Stephen Harper years and beyond

Stephen Harper will speak to party members on Thursday evening at the Conservative Party's policy convention in Vancouver. It could be some of the last words he will speak in public as an elected member of Parliament.

Canada's 22nd prime minister is expected to resign his Calgary Heritage seat before the fall, a seat he has held since returning to federal politics in a by-election in 2002. 

As leader of the Canadian Alliance, Harper led the party into a merger with the Progressive Conservatives in 2003. He then led the merged party to power in 2006, where it remained until it was defeated by Justin Trudeau's Liberals in October.

Harper's 10 years in office have left an impact on the political landscape of the country and shaped the modern Conservative Party. How will Canadians remember his time as prime minister and what will the Conservative Party look like without the only permanent leader it has ever known?

Joining me to look at Stephen Harper's legacy and the future of the Conservative Party is Postmedia's Ottawa political bureau chief, John Ivison.

You can listen to the latest episode of the Pollcast here.

Canadians shrug off Justin Trudeau's elbow, polls suggest

The altercation in the House of Commons last week between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of the opposition captured Canadians' attention, but two polls published this week suggest a majority of those Canadians have shrugged it off like a wayward elbow on a crowded subway.

The latest poll, conducted by Ipsos for Global News, shows that 63 per cent of Canadians feel the tussle was "no big deal," a "momentary lapse of judgment" on the part of the prime minister, and that "we should all just move on."

You can read the rest of this article here.

Leadership race rules could exacerbate Conservative Party divisions

The Conservative policy convention being held this week in Vancouver will help determine the future of the party. But how much of the party's divided past is still a factor, more than 12 years after the Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservatives united the right as the Conservative Party of Canada?

Compared to the Liberals and New Democrats, the Conservative support base is split more evenly between its centrist supporters and those on the edges of the political spectrum.

Polling data provided by Abacus Data suggests that 45 per cent of Conservative voters self-identify as being centrist, compared to 45 per cent who say they are either on the centre-right or right.

You can read the rest of this article here.


  1. The left-right continuum doesn't make any sense, and it hasn't for years. As such, the labels are meaningless.

    1. Arguably Canada never had a left-right political spectrum but a spectrum based on nationalism v. continentalism. Quite right Ira, the left-right continuum made little sense then(the 18th century) and even less sense now in a country thousands of miles and two centuries removed from revolutionary France.

    2. I see the current meaningful divide as one between small government and big government, except Canada hasn't had a major federal party that supported small government since 2008.

      I wait for one to emerge.

    3. Would you expand on that thought?...I mean if a person told me they thought gay marriage was wrong, and wanted to go back to abortions being illegal...I would say they were a social conservative. Likewise if a person told me they believed that using governmental levers to empower typically disenfranchised groups to reach their full potential, I would consider them a classic governmental liberal...while conversely if a person told me all their cared about was low taxes and fewer governmental programs aimed at different groups of people I'd consider them an economic conservative....these things seem pretty left right to me...Though if this is a philosophical debate on what is right and what is left, how those positions have changed over time, I can see how an argument can be made. But folks over at political compass (google their website) still use a left-right, authoritarian-libertarian style division of politics and I think it works rather well...

    4. But that's a 2-dimensional grid, not a 1-dimensional continuum.

      Left-right isn't just an economic measure. But if it were, it still wouldn't be particularly informative. Governments that are typically viewed as right-wing tend to engage in a whole lot of economic intervention in the form of targeted subsidies and unequal regulation.

      Are business subsidies right-wing or left-wing? How about farm subsidies? Public funding for private schools? Special tax status for churches? If we define right-wing economic policy as being free market oriented, then I don't think we've ever seen such a thing in Canada. The CPC talked a good game (sort of) from 2006-2008, but that vanished as soon as it became politically difficult.

      Given the fairly narrow range of economic policies offered by the major parties today, I would tend to make my voting decision based on social issues, but the basis for my positions would be a preference for small government and limited interference, just like my economic preferences.

      Am I right-wing or left-wing?

    5. Carl,

      Technically speaking a "liberal" even a "governmental liberal" is one who supports open trade and few regulations: this is usually termed classical liberalism. Conservativeism by contrast has its origins in monarchy and therefore the most obvious and best example of classical conservative government would be Louis XIV who ruled with the divine right of Kings. Your example of "economic conservative" is really a "classical liberal". So the "problem" if you will is not how you have organised these examples but, rather the context society has put around them. Society has mislabelled or added incorrect labels based upon political parties instead of philosophies. Therefore, because someone who is a classical liberal in philosophy is likely to agree with the policies of Conservative political parties he becomes an "economic conservative" or a "Conservative" instead of a "classical liberal" which is technically incorrect. Part of the problem as well is Liberal parties have drifted away from their original philosophy and policies and because both groups have diverged so radically from the original position where the term "liberal" was first coined the word "liberal" has lost of its original meaning and is no longer synonymous with a political philosophy at all. This is why it is often said a Liberal will do and say anything to get elected. As F.R. Scott so skillfully reminded us:

      How shall we speak of Canada,
      Mackenzie King dead?
      The Mother's boy in the lonely room
      With his dog, his medium and his ruins?

      He blunted us.

      We had no shape
      Because he never took sides,
      And no sides
      Because he never allowed them to take shape.

      He skilfully avoided what was wrong
      Without saying what was right,
      And never let his on the one hand
      Know what his on the other hand was doing.

      The height of his ambition
      Was to pile a Parliamentary Committee on a Royal Commission,
      To have "conscription if necessary
      But not necessarily conscription,"
      To let Parliament decide--

      Postpone, postpone, abstain.

      Only one thread was certain:
      After World War I
      Business as usual,
      After World War II
      Oderly decontrol.
      Always he led us back to where we were before.

      He seemed to be in the centre
      Because we had no centre,
      No vision
      To pierce the smoke-screen of his politics.

      Truly he will be remembered
      Wherever men honour ingenuity,
      Ambiguity, inactivity, and political longevity.

      Let us raise up a temple
      To the cult of mediocrity,
      Do nothing by halves
      Which can be done by quarters.

    6. I don't necessarily see a problem of left right being a moving set of goalposts determined by the area in which one looks, changing over time. Political Compass uses left and right as economic measures only...which could work as a way of assigning policy along that continuum. I suppose....and I do get the point that it can be difficult to describe a party as pure right or left at times or one policy as being right or left, it can be pretty grey...but that said I don't think there is any confusion, the Conservative party is likely more right leaning than the NDP and the NDP is more left leaning than the Conservative party those are part of the brands the parties sell to the public.

    7. Exactly, my point. Political Compass uses left-right incorrectly. Left-right are not economic terms or values. Vote Compass also uses a two-dimensional grid that poses its own problems.

      In fact the NDP may be more "right" on your scale than the Conservative Party at least in economic terms and the Liberal Party even with their deficits the same since, they have not offered any meaningful economic reforms. In short if the Liberal Party is the party of the economic status quo and any other party wishes economic reforms then the Liberal party becomes conservative (right) and the parties proposing change liberal (left). The NDP may be statist but, that is different than being "left" and "social democratic". As we already have universal healthcare for instance the NDP's position on it (especially when they call for "restored" funding) is the status quo and hence conservative. Whereas, a party that advocates for change a private-public healthcare system perhaps is advocating change and reform hence liberal. On your scale these positions would be reversed and incorrect at least in terms of the left-right spectrum developed in 18th century France. When we use "left" or "right" in a political sense in English we are writing patois or slang and we place our own context around them. Left-right then become subjective and idiosyncratic-devoid of any useful meaning or attributes.

    8. I see no problems with assessing political spheres using the authoritarian/libertarian and left/right economics that the political compass does. It definitely pulls parties apart along those 2 dimensions. You can see real differences in how the parties or individuals fall within those 2 continuum's. Obviously the more dimensions added to the analysis the better the results would be (in theory)...but then graphical representations of multiple dimensions becomes much more difficult with the need of kind of multidimensional cluster analysis. All of which are likely beyond the general user of those types of websites. What I mean to say is it appears to work well enough to me for the audience they are targeting. I personally fall in around Gandhi in the political compass analysis, and I find that comforting so whats not to like about that kind of analysis!

    9. In fairness, any political science terminology is only partially helpful or reflective of reality.

      Political science is really a mix of disciplines: history, economics, law, philosophy, and anthropology. Systematizing political behaviour as distinct from the rest of human behaviour is always going to be problematic and imprecise. Different territories have different political institutions and cultures, making it hard to use terminology consistently from place to place. In addition, the democratic nation state as predominant form of government is very new and far from universal, making it hard to systematize terminology.

      Just as basic political terms such as "country", "state" and "government" mean different things in different places at different times, so do "left" and "right-wing". It isn't that they are meaningless terms, but rather that it is important to understand their limits as analytical tools.

    10. The reason left-right doesn't always commute is that the political views of the average voter is a hodgepodge of "left" and "right" opinions, that when mixed together make the voter a "centrist."

      Take Donald Trump for example. In some ways he's NDP left, and they're too far left in Canada to form government, but in others he's quite far right. Add it all together, and he's a centrist who could either be a Democrat or a Republican depending on which issue he chooses to emphasize. That's why those who identify as right-wing or conservative can't stand his left-wing ideas of trade and big government while those on the left can't stand him because of his right-wing positions on security and borders.

    11. Junah I think you have a good point there.

      Now as to Trump I would say he is right of centre and will be so if elected.

      What's bothersome is how far right Hillary is to due to the Clinton's major ties to Wall St.

    12. That was always the good thing about Bill Clinton. His "third way" moved the Democrats much farther to the right than they had been (largely done to break their losing streak - their only victory in the previous 6 elections had been over non-politician Gerald Ford). This is very much like what Tony Blair did to Labour in the UK.

      And most of the accolades that Bill gets are based on those policies. He balanced the budget. He enacted NAFTA. He weakened financial regulations.

      Hillary has only ever been able to run as a centrist because Bill's legacy has almost no left-wing in it. And Bill remains quite popular, so she can't run away from his record.

  2. I think that the left/right divide is an archaic one because all the parties in Canada are neoliberal with variants based on the position each party is at.

    In fact, all parties are basically variants of centrism because they all believe in free trade, social programs to an extent, foreign wars, bailouts for failed banks and industries and they are for the most part anti-nationalism. People have to remember that being nationalist normally means being protectionist and in some cases at the same time is being for a mixed economy.

    If people have not noticed, parties in Ottawa and in Canada are free trader and they are parties that are for unrestricted globalism which is a race to the bottom tenet.

    The Conservative party is the worst party when it comes to globalism because it wants to sell out Canada and the party believes that tax cuts just like the military and just like trade in a free trade sense will only lead to prosperity when prior to the Reagan era in Canada we had full employment.

    Canadians should not be distracted by ideology and instead people have to realize that nationalism is what we had prior to Reagan and Mulroney.

  3. For a long time I have suggested that the Liberals hold a significant portion of the spectrum that is unchecked. Which is why to me Canada needs a progressive conservative party to be there to balance out everything and be there to end the oligarchic system and to smash open the hold of the system by the big three parties.

    Ira may think that the left/right divide is very nonexistent but I believe that Canadians are deeply ideological or else they would seek the 15 or higher smaller parties that exist.

    Which is why a fourth major party could fix Canada and make Canadians truly keep the system accountable under the system we have.

    I think we need a fourth party to be for the areas which are lacking which is direct democracy, nationalism, caring about the Westminster model of parliamentary democracy, educating the public on how our system works and it could play the role of making parliament be understood and truly being the conscious of parliament.

    I believe that was lost with the departure of the old PC party. The big three parties have made parliament terrible and it is way worse than prior to the merger of 2003-04.

    Canadians should be disgusted by the behaviour of the current crop of politicians that we have.

    I believe that the splitting of the Conservative party can allow for a progressive conservative party to be more moderate and hopefully could lead to the system being more civil if it does not follow one of the current crop of Conservatives and if tries to chart its own independent path.

    I think that is the best way to build politics in a positive manner.

    1. I think the opposite. It is our lack of ideology that ties us to the big parties. If we were ideological, we would insist on voting for parties that matched our ideology, and we mostly don't do that. If we did, given that we are not homogeneous, we would vote for those smaller parties.

      I do. It is my ideology that causes me to vote for the Libertarians election after election, even though they go nowhere.

    2. A variety of things motivate electors to cast their ballots the way they do. People may chose the party leader as reason to vote for a party, they might chose a local candidate as the motivation, it could be party policy, it could also be tradition of voting a certain way (a personal identity tied to a party)....or any combination of those. Nanos once had a poll on what as the most important motivator for a person to vote the way they did and no single one was more than clearly Canadians have many different reasons that they justify voting the way they do....I'd agree on this one, ideology does not seem to be the most important thing.

  4. I would also say nowadays that all the major parties are anti-nationalist. People seem to think that globalism can only apply to radical centrist parties on the conservative side but globalism the way it is described is meant to be free trade oriented so all parties support it. Protectionist parties are non-existent and could be left, right or centrist and anti-globalist. This is what most people miss. In that sense, there are not any anti-globalist mainstream parties.

    Canadians fail to grasp the basic ideologies of mixed economy versus globalist versus fully protectionist versus socialist market economy. These are terms which truly have meaning but they are not known because of the lack of in-depth analysis of politics which even the most ardent political analysis will gloss over.

    The fact free markets are what globalism is all about. Therefore, the libertarian ideology is very close to globalism of free trade because they are synonymous. Canada has not had anti-globalism since prior to Reagan and Canadians need a clear political conversation about how similar the mainstream ideologies truly are. It makes sense. I say this since mainstream parties fight with each so they will abandon all principle for the taste of power.

    The best way to have parties is to have real choice and real distinction. Ira has shown how black and white the average conservative/libertarian thinks. This is the problem with Canadian politics and the importation of the talking points from right wing thinktanks and right wing so-called news. As a nationalist and strong proponent of minor party freedom and real choice, I think Canadians would welcome a meritocracy and minor parties being available on all channels whether small or large. That would galvanize the Canadian people to get active and then the system would change. Until then, we have an oligarchy and oligarchs leading us!

  5. It is rather shocking from the poll that 45% of Conservatives are centrist and the other 45% are centre-right to right. What I get from that is that there are people in the party that are moderate and want moderate conservatism, while the other 45% want straight conservatism closer to neoconservatism and are populists. What that tells me is that the party still holds the coalitions from the merger.

    The terms do make a lot of sense and it does explain why MacKay is leading in a lot of the polls, even though I think MacKay may not take part in a leadership race. I think that most of the Conservative leadership hopefuls are centre-right to right and the party as I keep saying is very economically conservative and socially neutral to appease both PCs and Alliance members. The party got set up that way because the Alliance supported in the past major foreign wars and they were very much anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage. The PCs on the other hand was always for gay rights and universal abortion. The PC party of old was for a balanced foreign policy.

    I have come to the realization that the Conservative party is locked in a position where it wants to be always for staying silent on abortion and gay marriage but it wants to keep its interventionist foreign policy without question and that makes the party neoconservative and for universal foreign wars. That means that the party is not very progressive conservative at all but very much a lot closer to populism as a party on its bases.

    That does show that even though there are a lot of centrists they have agreed with the parties core positions without question.

    That is why I believe the spectrum is in deep need for a moderate centrist to centre-right party that can have core positions closer to where most Canadians stand and I believe Canadians are tolerant and want a much more balanced foreign policy with less emphasis on tax cuts solving everything. They also want a real debate on free trade versus fair trade.


  7. John I suggest you look South of the border and see what that ultra-right can do to a country. At the end of this years Presidential election expect to see a disaster, Both parties are well to the right of centre and it won't take long before we see collapse !!

    1. The two big US parties have virtually identical economic policies. They differ primarily on social and religious issues.

      Voting Republican (pre-Trump) was basically a vote for theocracy.

      Trump has upset that apple cart, however. Now I frankly have no idea what the Republican party stands for, and as such I find them less scary.

    2. I suspect the republican party is still the republican party....I am not sure their nominee can change that much of it. John Mccain, Mitt Romney, not exactly your theocratic candidates....I mean, they didn't significantly change the just the nominee at this point I am not sure he can change the party....should be win the presidency....perhaps

    3. Peter Meldrum wrote: "Both parties are well to the right of centre and it won't take long before we see collapse".

      This is a good quote to demonstrate why the left-right spectrum is totally subjective and holds little descriptive value.

      Peter opines both parties (Republican and Democrat) are well to the right of centre. From a Canadian perspective he's correct but, from an American perspective one of those parties must be farther right than the other since, it's a two-party system. That would make one party nominally "left" or "centre" and the other juxtaposed to the first "centre" or "right". It is up to the individual however, to determine what party fits where, therefore, the left-right spectrum is totally subjective. It is whatever one wants it to be.

      There is nothing wrong with this of course it simply means that left-right descriptions without context are meaningless and even when placed within proper historical or political context are highly subjective. The B.C. NDP for instance is often thought as being left or centre-left and the BC Liberals right or centre-right on a left-right spectrum both parties become centre as both have smaller parties to their left and right respectively.

    4. Cap says:
      From a Canadian perspective he's correct and that is correct but your next statement is irrelevant. We are Canadians and thus view the world through our own set of ideals.

      Thus from our point of view how an American thinks about the two parties has NO application here. Unless you want to be everything to every man get your act together.

      Both those parties are right of centre and since the campaign hasn't started there is NO reference between them.

      What the Donald really thinks??

      What Hillary really thinks?

      At this point we don't know but I'll virtually guarantee they will be well to the right of Harper !!

    5. First off "irrelevant" is not a word. Something is either relevant or not relevant..Geez I thought you went to UCC?

      Secondly, one does not view anything through ideals. Ideal means existing as an idea or archetype. So one can not see anything through an ideal it is a pre-existing idea!

      Although I am unable to garner the full meaning of your next paragraph, I think what you are trying to convey that everyman creates their boundaries for their own spectrum-which is exactly my point-the left-right spectrum has no meaning due to its subjectivity.

    6. Irrelevant is indeed a word:

    7. Thanks Eric.

      Guess he doesn't like criticism ?

    8. "Irrelevant is not a word."

      Screen-cap of 2016.

    9. Eric,

      Unfortunately, You need a better dictionary. I have the full Oxford English Dictionary and irrelevant is not in it! The reason: it is not a word! Merriam-Webster is second class at best and American. Does nobody read anymore?

    10. Carl Szczerski,

      I think what Trump demonstrated is that the Republican Party isn't what the Republican Party Establishment thought it was, and may not have been for some time.

      The GOP, as it was understood by the party establishment, may never have existed. But the rigid 2-party structure of the US political landscape is such that it mostly didn't matter - until it absolutely did.

      But it could also be that their needlessly arcane delegate selection process was simply exploited by an opportunist. If the GOP followed the Democrats' delegate rules, Trump wouldn't have stood a chance.

    11. Curiouser and curiouser. Here is the word "irrelevant", in the Oxford English Dictionary's website. Are you the victim of a conspiracy?

    12. Cap - which edition of the OED do you have? The most common printed edition has a large addendum at the back; they simply reprinted the earlier edition and tacked on some stuff at the end.

  8. Eric wrote: 45 per cent of Conservative voters self-identify as being centrist, compared to 45 per cent who say they are either on the centre-right or right.

    To me there are two ways to look at this data. One could do as Eric has done and say 45% consider themselves rightwing versus 45% who consider themselves centrist. However, I believe the better interpretation would be to say 90% of Conservatives consider themselves to be centrists politically. Since, 45% say they are "centre" and 45% "centre-right or right". One presumes only a minority of less than 45% of Conservatives consider themselves anything but centre or centre-right. This actually shows remarkable homogeneity. In short: the data shows the vast majority of Conservatives supporters consider themselves to be centrists politically.


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