Friday, June 3, 2016

May 2016 federal polling averages

The polling world was a little quieter in the month of May, with three national and two Quebec polls being conducted, interviewing a total of just under 7,000 Canadians. 

And the numbers continue to show that Justin Trudeau's Liberals are holding on to the new support they captured in the aftermath of the 2015 federal election.
The Liberals averaged 48 per cent in the month of May, up 0.6 points from where they stood in April.

The Conservatives were also up 0.6 points in May and averaged 28.7 per cent.

The New Democrats slipped 0.4 points to 13.7 per cent, followed by the Greens at 4.7 per cent (down 0.2 points) and the Bloc Québécois at 4% (down 0.3 points). On average, 1 per cent of people polled said they would vote for another party or independent candidate.

The Liberals led in British Columbia with an average of 42.3 per cent support, down 3.1 points from April and dropping their projected seat haul to between 20 and 29. The Conservatives were up to their best numbers since the election, gaining 3.3 points to reach 30.3 per cent and between 11 and 18 seats. The NDP was up 0.2 points to 16.7 per cent and the Greens were down 0.8 points to 9.7 per cent.

The Conservatives were ahead in Alberta with 52.7 per cent, down 0.2 points, while the Liberals were also down 0.2 points to 33.3 per cent. The NDP was down 0.9 points to 8 per cent, while the Greens were up 1.6 points to 4.3 per cent.

In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the Conservatives put up their best numbers since the election with a 2.6-point gain to 42.7 per cent, enough to boost their seat total to between 18 and 20 seats. The Liberals were down for the third consecutive month, in which time they have shed 5.2 points of support, to 37.3 per cent. That represented a drop of 2.4 points since the previous month, bringing their projected seat total down to between eight and 10. The NDP was unchanged at 13.7 per cent and the Greens were down 0.7 points to 5 per cent.

The Liberals led in Ontario with 51.7 per cent, down 1.8 points, while the Conservatives were up two points to 31 per cent. That dropped the Liberals down to between 87 and 109 seats and boosted the Tories up to between 12 and 31. The NDP was down 0.3 points to 11.7 per cent and the Greens were up 0.3 points to 4.7 per cent.

In Quebec, the Liberals soared to their highest support level on record (going back to January 2009) with a gain of 4.5 points to 51.4 per cent. That lifted their seat projection to between 72 and 74 seats (there are 78 in the province). The Bloc Québécois picked up 0.3 points to reach 16.6 per cent, while the New Democrats dropped to their lowest level of support since February 2011 — 15.6 per cent, down 2.1 points from last month. The Conservatives were down to their lowest since November with a drop of 2.4 points to 11.8 per cent and between four and five seats, while the Greens were up 0.8 points to 4 per cent.

The Liberals dropped 2.5 points in Atlantic Canada, falling to 58.3 per cent support and between 27 and 31 seats. The Conservatives were down 0.9 points to 18.3 per cent, while the NDP was up 3.9 points to 17.3 per cent. The New Democrats have gained in Atlantic Canada over three consecutive months, picking up 7.8 points over that time. They'd be projected to take one to three seats at these levels. The Greens were down 0.2 points to 5.7 per cent.

With these levels of support, the Liberals would win between 223 and 266 seats. That is down about 10 seats from last month, but still well above the 183 seats the party currently occupies.

The Conservatives would win between 68 and 104 seats, up about 10 seats from last month. The party currently holds 98 seats.

The New Democrats would win between two and 12 seats, up slightly from last month. But with 44 seats at the moment, that is a big drop.

The Greens would win between one and two seats and the Bloc between zero and one seat. These parties hold one and 10 seats, respectively.
At the maximum ranges, the Liberals are still well above the majority mark — their lowest range is still at 196. The Conservatives are still comfortably in second, while the New Democrats are competing more with the Greens and the Bloc for third party status than they are with the Tories for the role of Official Opposition.

Of course, that is under the current first-past-the-post system. With the Liberals bowing to pressure from the New Democrats to give up their majority on the committee that will study electoral reform, it appears that the Liberals and NDP may co-operate on changing the voting system.

If that is the case, we might be heading for some form of proportional representation. So how would May's support numbers translate into seats with mixed-member proportional representation, perhaps the most likely version to be adopted?

This assumes, of course, that nothing else changes — including which parties are on the ballot and how these parties try to woo voters. Contrary to some opinions, though, I'm not convinced that the 2019 election will be radically different if there is a change to the electoral system. It takes time for parties — and voters — to adapt and adjust.

Working with a 338-seat House of Commons with each province receiving the number of seats it currently has, and distributing seats proportionally according to each party's support in each region of the country, I get the following numbers:

This is a rough calculation, of course. But it gives an idea of the impact. The Liberals just come short of a majority, and would require the co-operation of another party (any party, though) in order to pass legislation. Only a combination of all four opposition parties would be able to defeat the Liberals.

Compared to FPTP, the Liberals lose out tremendously. The Conservatives gain a little, while the NDP, Greens, and Bloc gain a lot. Why this is so for the Greens is obvious.

But at the levels of support the NDP and Bloc are registering right now, they are in a dangerous position — just low enough to lose a lot of seats and come up with very little.

The NDP and Greens want a change to a form of PR, so they will be pushing the Liberals to go that route. The Bloc has traditionally benefited from FPTP, and is with the Conservatives in demanding a referendum on any change. But a PR system would have worked out better for them over the last two elections, and may work out better for them in future elections if they do not regain the kind of support levels they used to have.

It will be interesting to see if the Bloc's position will change, as a electoral reform package supported by four out of five parties in the House of Commons would make for a more convincing argument for dispensing with a referendum. 

But it will be most interesting to see what the Liberals do. If they can't get a preferential ballot, will they accept a form of proportional representation?


  1. Interesting analysis. Thanks. It goes to show that the Liberals' stand on ending FPTP isn't out of self-interest, as some seem to think.

  2. Given these results why bother changing the electoral system ??

    1. Peter,

      Our party can't simply back down now merely for naked political self-interest. We need reform that will bring more, not less parties, into the House of Commons. Anything short of that is nothing more than a political sham and we will pay dearly for that.

    2. I disagree Ron. If we could expand one or two of the current small parties that will be good but more than the current five I doubt are necessary ?

    3. Peter - You don't address Ron's main point, which is it would be hypocritical and dishonest to back down on reform simply out of short term self interest. Nakedly self-serving policy isn't the real change people voted for.

      And let's not be short sided here. FPTP benefited us as Liberals in 2015. It nearly murdered us as a party in 2011. Justin Trudeau won't always be around to build us back up when we stumble. Next time around we could very well end up like the Saskatchewan, Alberta or Manitoba Liberals - irrelevant or dead.

      And it damned well hasn't made it easy to govern. It was FPTP that denied Trudeau a single MP west of Manitoba in 1980 - which is why at the time he proposed moving to PR (he ended up getting side tracked with the constitution). If not for Anne McLellan and Ralph Goodale we wouldn't have had much better representation at cabinet from the West than Trudeau had in the 80s.

      It's a problem that all parties have under this stupid system. There are lots of people who voted Conservative in Toronto, Montreal and the Atlantic Provinces last election, yet none of those votes contributed to the election of a single MP. There isn't a single opposition MP from 4 Atlantic provinces. That's just plain bad for democracy and debate. FPTP makes Canada seem more divisive than it is.

      Not to mention, since when does partisan interest come before the country's interests. There is rock solid evidence that a more proportional electoral system leads to better outcomes on GDP, income inequality, the environment, deficits, and so on. Our 13th century electoral system is hurting us on all of those measures. Time for it to go.

    4. The nation benefits from stable majority governments. A PR system will not give us that.

    5. "The nation benefits from stable majority governments."

      The assumption here is that only a majority government can be stable. That's not the experience in the successful European governments. Majorities are extremely rare. Stability between elections is very high.

      "A PR system will not give us that."

      A properly-constructed PR system will give us not only stability *within* the term of a government, but also stability *across* governments.

      The legacy of Stephen Harper (that is, the parts that weren't tossed as unconstitutional by the courts) is rapidly being dismantled by his successor. That's a natural result in a dictatorship punctuated by elections. In a PR system where parties are forced to work together in the House to survive and progress, stability is natural: the relative strengths of cooperating parties can change over time with little change in general direction.

      PR gives stability. FPTP doesn't.

    6. I didn't say it was the stability that was good. It's the majority that's good.

      Minority governments pander to vocal minorities and swing voters. Majority governments, on the other hand, tend not to pander. They serve large pluralities, they do so consistently and predictably, and have no need to bend to rapid swings in public opinion.

      Stephen Harper did it. Jean Chrétien did it. And now Justin Trudeau is doing it.

      The sort of fast-paced waffling that minority governments produce can be seen in Paul Martin's government, as well as Stephen Harper's two minority terms.

    7. The stability associated with majority government may not be what is good, but perhaps it is lack of stability with minority governments in the FPTP system which causes them to operate as they do. In a more stable PR system, the point would be moot.

      I prefer FPTP, though, because I favour an emphasis on local representation, regional competition between political parties and the integrative effect of these aspects. It makes sense, in Quebec elections, for it to be harder for the Quebec Liberals to convert votes into seats due to the over concentration of that party's support in anglophone areas. The FPTP system has not prevented the Quebec Liberals from forming governments its share of the time.

  3. Eric - I think your MMP numbers may be slightly off. MMP only produces proportional results when there is enough regional seats to compensate for distortions in the local seats. For example, you have 6 local sets and 4 regional seats in New Brunswick, and the Liberals take all 6 local seats with 50% of the vote, then the Liberals already have 1 extra seat compared to the proportional result. So you get a deviation from the proportional results, generally in favour of the largest party. How large depends on what share of top up seats. 40-50% would be a reasonable assumption to work with for a future electoral system.

    1. We don't know how things would be portioned out, so rather than make some assumptions I just distributed seats proportionately.

      I probably should have just rounded up in favour of the party that won the region, though, when I needed to roun-up. I'll do that next time.

      In the end, the difference would be a handful of seats. Though I suppose at 165 that could make a big difference for the Liberals.

    2. "We don't know how things would be portioned out, so rather than make some assumptions I just distributed seats proportionately."

      That in and of itself is a huge assumption though Eric. I think it would be better just to label it as "PR" rather than claim it reflects a specific form of PR.

      In Scotland with MMP this year, the top party got a "bonus" of 9 seats out of 129 - or about 7% of seats overall. So that would be closer to 20 seats in this context. That might be an overestimate (we don't get a single party dominant from coast to coast like they do), but still. Like you said, even 5-10 seats matters at this level.

  4. Ron - to your point on more parties - from what I understand, about 1 more party tops is what we could expect. I'd point out that one thing some forms of PR offer is not just choice between parties, but within them. So you'd have 4-5 Liberals to choose from.

    I think there's a subtle strategic genius if the Liberals follow through on some form of PR. The Conservatives would claim that it is some plot to hurt them and deny them government, but the reality is it would actually help them (11 seats according to this model) both in the short term and long, and there are plenty of conservative governments under PR out there (New Zealand, Germany, Ireland, etc). If the Conservatives were smart, they'd support PR, and forcefully.

    But they won't be that smart. And by opposing PR tooth and nail, they'd make it in the interests of every smaller party who would depend on PR (Greens, NDP, potentially Bloc) to ensure the Liberals remain in government.

    It's not PR that would keep the Liberals in government - but the Conservatives' opposition to it.

  5. By the way Eric - the Bloc supporting reform would be consistency, not change. They voted for the NDP's MMP motion in the previous parliament.

    1. I was referring more to their desire for a referendum.

    2. On Tom Clark's West Block yesterday he had the retired Chief Electoral Officer. Who made a very interesting statement.

      "Referendums In Canada can only be held on Constitutional issues and voting system isn't one !!"

      I guess he should know ??

    3. If the government wanted to hold a referendum, they could change the law.

    4. And the big word there Eric is "IF" !!!

    5. Tom Clark's comments were irrelevant. There's no constitutional restriction in place. The government has the power to hold a referendum - binding or otherwise - on any question they choose. Clark's statement makes an immaterial point.

    6. Tom Clark's opinion is both accurate and inaccurate at the same time. Currently, the Referendum Act, 1992 is meant only for constitutional referenda. This is due to the context in which it was written, especially for the 1993 Charlottetown Accord referendum. There is nothing stopping the Government from introducing a New Referendum Act or amending the current Act through normal legislation. The Government could simply hold a referendum under the Act as is. Since, referendums are not binding on the Government holding a referendum under the Act on a non-constitutional issue or a quasi-constitutional or even a constitutional issue would make little difference.

    7. If we want to change the referendum act, I think that should be put to a referendum too.

    8. But it wasn't Tom Clark who made the statement.
      It was the retired Chief Electoral Officer. Sorry I didn't get the name but he was very clear that it couldn't be done at present.

    9. And that's simply not true. A referendum can be held if the government wants to hold one. There's no significant barrier at all.

    10. The Government could simply hold a referendum through an Order-in-Council if it so wanted. Currently the only specific law on referenda is the Referendum Act, 1992 but, it doesn't prohibit Government from holding a referenda on topics of its choosing. It was an Act brought in specifically to govern the Charlottetown ASccord referenda and any future referendua on constitrutional amendments. I find it strnage this former Chief Electoral Officer would be of the opinion the Government was not allowed or could not hold a plebiscite or referndum. I think it more likely he was of the opinion a referendum may require its own separate legislation (as in separate from the current Canada Elections Act, 2000).

    11. I would point out as well that far from the incorrect opinion of this former chief electoral officer (it is pretty clear to see why he is not still in his former job since his knowledge on the subject matter seems wholly inadequate) summarised by Peter that: "Referendums (Sic) in Canada can only be held on Constitutional issues and voting system isn't one !!"

      Canada has only held one referenda on a constitutional issue, the Charlottetown Accord but, has held plebiscites twice on issues of national importance but not constitutional amendments or policy. Firstly, on prohibition in 1898 and secondly, a plebiscite on conscription in 1942. Whereas, a referenda has only been held once in 1993. So, one must ask why this gentleman is passing along very circumstantial "facts" as the gospel truth?

    12. Actually Ira if you go and read Chantal Hebert's piece in today's Toronto Star you will discover that the Chief Electoral Officers comment was in fact absolutely correct. There is no ability to hold a referendum on the new election format !!

    13. How you can draw that conclusion from Ms. Hébert's article is beyond me.

      Hébert correctly points out that the details of any referendum would need to be determined by the government. Hébert correctly points out that this process would likely be extremely contentious. Hébert correctly points out that different segments of the population would disagree strongly about what those rules should be.

      At no point does she conclude, nor offer evidence supporting such a conclusion, that a referendum isn't possible. Politically dangerous, yes, but an undertaking of this magnitude should be politically dangerous.

      It's Trudeau's can of worms. He's the one who wanted to open it. Let him feast.

    14. Peter,

      That is not true. The Government could hold a referendum on any matter of its choosing through an Order-in-Council.

      What the former Chief Electoral Officer is describing is that currently no legislation exists to govern referenda campaigns. Please try and understand the difference and report truthfully.

      Chantal Hebert writes the Government DOES have the ability to hold a referendum and that while in Opposition the Liberal Leader of the Time, Jean Chrétien "championed the notion of putting a constitutional package infinitely more complex than any electoral plan could ever be to a national referendum".

      Ms. Hebert then makes clear that far from being unable to legally hold a referendum using the 1992 Act "There are contrary views within the legal community as to whether it could be used (The Referendum Act, 1992) in a context other than a vote on a proposed amendment to the Constitution".


      I have noticed through my time commenting on this site that you have a bad tendency to misconstrue the facts to support your own views without regard to what has been written or said. You are not just biased but, work tirelessly to discount, smear denigrate and manipulate the facts and disrespect and otherwise insult those who support different political parties than your beloved Liberals. Peter, As Hilary Clinton called onj Donald Trump to delete his Twitter Account, I am calling on you to be more respectful or at least reasonable or please stop commenting. You have a bad reputation up here in heaven. Even WLMK thinks you a sycophant.

  6. One can reliably read negative opinions on the CPC in the regular press. Linda McQuaig, Naomi Klein and Jim Stanford come to mind, to name a few. But lately the most negative comments have come from conservative commentators, who are so critical of the CPC electoral (un)likeability that they are convinced the CPC would be condemned to a life in opposition if either of preferential ballot or proportional representation came to pass.

    Aside from the naked self-interest shown by these commentators, it is rather intriguing that people like Rex Murphy and Andrew Coyne are so convinced that the CPC is unelectable in any system that requires larger popular support.

    Even though I'm far from a CPC supporter, I believe Canada is essentially a two party country where people like to alternate between the liberal and conservative parties. As such pretty much any system we implement would lead to this outcome. The main difference is that, depending on which system we choose, this could be in the form of big majorities with 38% of the vote as in FPTP or in minority governments where the worst decisions have to be tempered by demands from the opposition (PR).

    Ironically Harper might still be prime minister if he had been forced to backtrack on the long census form and some other such by opposition parties. It is only because he could stand firm on those misguided decisions that he paid the ultimate price at the polls last October.

    1. In my opinion, Harper did backtrack on his most important bill. His budget immediately following the 2008 election died following prorogation, and the 2009 budget bore no resemblance to it.

      That 2008 budget was brilliant, and it would have done wonders for the conservative cause, demonstrating that restraint was the superior strategy in the face of the global financial crisis. After all, it was the restraint of Paul Martin's budgets that protected us from the worst of that.

      But after the opposition threatened to defeat Harper's minority, he came back with a severely altered budget which has served us badly (and continues to do so).

  7. This has become an interesting discussion but I will throw something else in.

    What's wrong with the NDP ??? All the really good potential leaders seem to have stepped away ??

    1. After the last election, I don't think the potential leaders have any confidence that the people running the party know what sort of party they want it to be. Mulcair's solid move to the centre (which worked so well for Tony Blair and Bill Clinton) failed utterly. If not for the collapse of the Bloc in the previous election giving the NDP the benefit of incumbency in all those Québec ridings, they might have been beaten even worse.

      The NDP is in disarray. Who would want to be in charge of that?

    2. Pretty fair assessment in my opinion. Leap has the potential to cause a lot of problems within the party in the near term. A person who passionately cared about the party and its core values though might be willing to jump in...but similarly you can imagine the Liberals after last election experienced a huge defeat with much rebuilding could ask then who would want that job as well

    3. The problem with the NDP is that it is a blue collar party that keeps choosing white collar leaders; Mulcair, Layton, McDonough . It worked well with Layton who was charismatic and McDonough because she was able to speak for the Maritimes at a time when the Atlantic did not have a strong voice in cabinet and curtailing EI benefits became extremely unpopular. McDonough received a "regional boost" at the polls and won seats where previously the NDP had done poorly.

      Everyone saw through Mulcair though-nobody believed he wanted or could stand up for the little guy and without a compelling narrative he was out-maneuvered-out flanked really by the Liberals and Tories in Quebec.

      The NDP needs a leader who can speak for the working classes of today. It should be easy....fighting for union membership for Starbucks employees or McDonald's burger flippers. It will be a difficult fight to convince those companies that unionisation is in their best interest but, the campaign itself could easily be lead by the NDP and should be. The NDP has no problem being activist if it means marching in a gay pride parade but, they seem to have lost their nerve when it comes to fighting big corporations-they talk a good game but, actions speak louder than words and if you are unable to speak for the working classes of today in their struggle for a living working wage, then, the NDP has an existential problem.

      Also their policy of Senate abolition is futile, foolish and costs them votes in the West. The NDP would do well to re-examine their constitutional policies.


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