Friday, August 26, 2016

Liberal caucus site Saguenay the textbook case for electoral reform

The Liberal caucus retreat continues today in Saguenay, Que. One of the topics bound to be discussed is electoral reform.

Those discussions could not happen in a more appropriate place.

The government has pledged that the 2015 federal election will be the last election decided by the first-past-the-post electoral system. A parliamentary committee has been tasked with coming up with some recommendations on what could replace FPTP.

Maryam Monsef, minister of democratic institutions, told that committee in July that FPTP "is an antiquated system, designed to meet the realities of 19th century Canada, and not designed to operate within our multi-party democracy."

That is particularly apparent in Saguenay, a perfect example of how Canada's modern multi-party democracy, combined with FPTP, can yield some unusual results.

You can read the rest of this article here.

The Pollcast: Conservatives open to electoral reform, but only with referendum

On the electoral reform debate, the Conservatives have spoken with one voice: they want a referendum on whatever changes are proposed. But if the government agrees to hold a referendum, would the Conservatives campaign for the status quo?

Not necessarily, say two Conservative MPs who sit on the special committee for electoral reform.

"If we need a change, then we are not closed to that," says Gérard Deltell, MP for Louis-Saint-Laurent and one of the Conservatives sitting on the electoral reform committee. "We are open to having a discussion on that issue. But what we deeply stand for is to call a referendum."

Deltell joined fellow committee member and Conservative MP for Lanark–Frontenac–Kingston Scott Reid on this week's episode of the Pollcast podcast. 

You can listen to the podcast here and subscribe to the podcast here.

Hillary Clinton's edge over Donald Trump gets less comfortable

While Hillary Clinton remains the heavy favourite in the U.S. presidential election, recent polls suggest her victory isn't looking as assured as it once did.

Recently, the CBC's Presidential Poll Tracker was projecting that enough states were considered "safe" for the Democratic nominee to secure victory even if she lost all of the remaining swing states to Donald Trump. If an election had been held last week, a Clinton win would have been projected with more than 95 per cent confidence. 

That's no longer the case because Clinton's electoral college vote tally among safe Democratic states has dropped from 273 — just above the 270 needed to take the White House — to 253. Her lead over Trump in the national polls has slipped from a high of 6.4 points among decided voters in early August to 5.1 points today.

This movement in the electoral college has largely been driven by Clinton's narrowing lead in the national polls, though some surveys at the state level also point to a few tightening races. Still, one poll shows that a linchpin state in Donald Trump's electoral map may be moving out of his reach.

You can read the rest of this article here.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Donald Trump losing support from reliably Republican demographic groups

Donald Trump is struggling to gain the support of women and minorities that he would need to win the U.S. presidential election this fall. But the real reason Trump is trailing Hillary Clinton by such a wide margin is key demographic groups that have traditionally voted for the Republicans are abandoning him.

The last time the GOP won the White House, in 2004, George W. Bush won the votes of male, white and wealthier Americans by double-digit margins. But this year, the Republican nominee is down significantly among these demographics — even by the bars set by Mitt Romney in his failed 2012 bid for the presidency.

But while Hillary Clinton has held on to most of Barack Obama's coalition of voters from 2012, she hasn't built on it. Nevertheless, due to the significant losses that Trump has suffered among groups that should be in the middle of the Republican tent, she has moved ahead in the national polls by about six points while also being on track to take less of the vote than her Democratic predecessor did in either of the past two elections.

You can read the rest of this article here.

The Pollcast: What does the NDP want from electoral reform?

The special committee on electoral reform gets back to work next week. The battle lines have been drawn: the New Democrats and Greens on the side of proportional representation, the Conservatives and Bloc Québécois concerned with holding a referendum, and the Liberals noncommittal and seemingly more interested in talking about online and mandatory voting.

Will this mostly polite but disparate committee be able to come to a consensus on what electoral system should replace Canada's first-past-the-post system for the 2019 federal election?

After discussing electoral reform with two Liberal MPs last week, on this week's episode of the Pollcast I'm joined by two MPs from the NDP: Nathan Cullen, MP for Skeena–Bulkley Valley, and Alexandre Boulerice, MP for Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie.

Both Cullen and Boulerice are members of the committee.

They say the NDP is ready to find a compromise, though they have some concerns that the government is dragging its feet on getting electoral reform done. So do they believe that their work will lead to a change in the electoral system after all?

"That is my expectation," says Cullen. "That is the promise that Mr. Trudeau made. It was a black-and-white kind of promise."

You can listen to the podcast here and subscribe to the podcast here.

Polls, endorsements and money: measuring the Tory leadership race

Leadership races can be like looking through a pane of frosted glass. We might be able to see the vague outlines of what is on the other side and can make out some movement, but we don't know for certain what we're looking at until the window is thrown open — and the ballots are counted.

But there are a few metrics that can help clarify things for observers. In the Conservative leadership race, which will come to an end in May 2017, these metrics are beginning to come into view.

Six contestants are in the running to take over the Conservative Party of Canada: Ontario MPs Kellie Leitch, Michael Chong and Tony Clement, Quebec MP Maxime Bernier, Alberta MP Deepak Obhrai, and Saskatchewan MP Brad Trost.

Because of their relatively low profiles, it is difficult to rank these contestants at this point in the campaign. (Clement is the only one to hold significant cabinet posts throughout the entirety of the Harper government, although Bernier, Leitch and Chong were each in cabinet for periods of time.) But we can measure them according to three metrics: fundraising, endorsements and polls.

You can read the rest of this article here.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Is the Green Party ready for life after Elizabeth May?

If Elizabeth May is the Green Party, what would become of the Green Party without Elizabeth May?

This is a question that might need to be answered soon. In an interview on CBC Radio's The House, May told host David Cochrane that she could resign as leader of the Green Party within the month. She's taking the time offered by a family vacation to think it over.

This reflection has been sparked by the party's adoption of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement at a policy convention last weekend. Opposed by the Green Party leader, this movement urges economic pressure against Israel as a response to what it considers the Jewish state's oppression of Palestinians.

With May as its leader since 2006 and its sole member of Parliament, the Green Party has become largely synonymous with May. Her departure, considering her largely positive national profile, could be a tremendous blow to the party.

You can read the rest of this article here.

New polls show Donald Trump trailing badly in key swing states

The electoral map has gone from bad to worse for Donald Trump, as a series of new state-level polls show him falling further behind Hillary Clinton.

The Democratic nominee's position has improved so significantly that the Presidential Poll Tracker now awards her 273 electoral college votes from "safe" states alone, putting her over the 270-vote mark needed to win the White House.

Despite claims from Trump that the polls are "getting close," a string of polls conducted by Marist College for NBC News and the Wall Street Journal suggest the opposite, with states thought to be battlegrounds showing Clinton opening up a wide lead over the Republican presidential nominee.

You can read the rest of this analysis here.

The Pollcast: The summer of electoral reform

The summer of electoral reform is upon us, and your Member of Parliament wants to know what you think about it.

As the special committee on electoral reform grills experts and meets with Canadians over the summer, MPs are quizzing their own constituents on what system they think best fits the needs of the country — and whether or not a referendum is required to put a new electoral system into place.

On this week's episode of the Pollcast, I'm joined by two Liberal MPs to hear their views on electoral reform, as well as what their own constituents are telling them.

You can listen to the podcast here and subscribe to the podcast here.

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith is the MP for the riding of Beaches–East York in Toronto and Joël Lightbound is the MP for the Quebec City riding of Louis-Hébert.

Upcoming episodes will feature MPs from the opposition parties.

According to the Liberal government, all options are on the table. These include a form of proportional representation or a preferential ballot. The latter system is one that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he personal supports, raising concerns that the Liberals will adopt the system that could benefit them most, no matter what the committee concludes.

But not all Liberal MPs agree that the preferential ballot is the way to go.

"I don't think alternative voting or a ranked ballot system will get at the real crux of the problem," said Erskine-Smith, "which is the distortion in outcomes that first-past-the-post engenders. So, I'm not in favour of it."

But Erskine-Smith noted that single-transferable voting (STV) has an element of ranked balloting and could be a viable solution.

You can listen to the podcast here and subscribe to the podcast here.

Donald Trump's electoral map looking more and more difficult

As Hillary Clinton continues to make gains in the polls, Donald Trump's path to the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the White House is getting narrower and narrower.

The surge Clinton experienced in the aftermath of the Democratic National Convention has not dissipated. She is currently projected to have the support of 46.8 per cent of decided voters. Trump follows at 40.4 per cent. That gap of 6.4 points is the widest it has been in the Presidential Poll Tracker since the end of the U.S. primaries in early June.

Clinton's increasing lead in the national vote has contributed to her improving position in the electoral college. She is projected to win 347 electoral college votes against 191 for Trump.

The electoral college, not the national popular vote, is what decides elections. Trump will need to close the gap in a few key battleground states if he is to win the White House. Based on where he stands in the polls today, here is his easiest path to 270 electoral college votes, along with the current estimates of where the two candidates stand.

It is far from an easy path.

You can read the rest of this article here.

Donald Trump in the White House? Canadians are increasingly worried about it

A new poll suggests that Canadians are becoming increasingly concerned about the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency, with almost four out of every five Canadians saying a Trump White House would be bad for Canada.

In the survey, conducted by Insights West last week, 79 per cent of respondents said they are "very concerned" or "moderately concerned" about the possibility of the Republican nominee becoming the president of the United States.

You can read the rest of this article here.

Friday, August 5, 2016

July 2016 federal polling averages

While we've been inundated with polls in the United States, things have been quiet here north of the border. Only two federal polls, interviewing a total of 2,432 Canadians, have been conducted in the month of July. For that reason, I won't go into too much detail on the trend lines since there is a greater potential that normal sampling error will have been behind any movement in the numbers.

Nevertheless, the Liberals continued to lead in the polls in July with 48.8 per cent support, a gain of 2.9 points over their average in June

The Conservatives were down slightly by 0.7 points to 28.3 per cent, while the New Democrats were up 0.5 points to 13.3 per cent.

The Greens averaged 4.5 per cent in July, down 1.4 points, and the Bloc Québécois was down 0.5 points to 3.9 per cent. Another 1.4 per cent said they would vote for other parties or independents.

The Liberals led in British Columbia with 47.3 per cent, followed by the Conservatives at 22.3 per cent. That was the lowest score the Tories have put up in B.C. since before 2009, when the monthly averages were first calculated. The New Democrats increased their support for the fourth consecutive month, jumping to 22.1 per cent, their best score since the election. The Greens were at 6.6 per cent, their lowest since November 2012.

In Alberta, the Conservatives led with 53.8 per cent, while the Liberals had their best support on record at 34.3 per cent. The New Democrats followed with 7.9 per cent and the Greens with 2.6 per cent.

The numbers in Saskatchewan and Manitoba look anomalous this month, as the Liberals soared to 49.9 per cent, by far their best performance since well before 2009. The Conservatives correspondingly fell to their lowest level at 30.9 per cent. These are likely outlier results, but it will be interesting to see if the Liberals continue to score anywhere near these levels in August. The NDP was at 13.2 per cent and the Greens at 4.6 per cent.

The Liberals also led in Ontario with 51.4 per cent, followed by the Conservatives at 32.1 per cent, the NDP at 11.6 per cent, and the Greens at 3.8 per cent.

In Quebec, the Liberals were ahead with 48.3 per cent, while the Conservatives jumped to their highest since July 2015 with 17.7 per cent. The Bloc was at 15.3 per cent. The NDP dropped for the fourth consecutive month to their lowest level of support since October 2010 at 13.1 per cent. The Greens averaged 4.3 per cent.

And in Atlantic Canada, the Liberals were up to 64.5 per cent, followed by the Conservatives at 18.3 per cent, the NDP at 10.3 per cent, and the Greens at 7.1 per cent.

With these levels of support, the Liberals would likely win between 233 and 278 seats in our current first-past-the-post (FPTP) system. That's up 15 to 19 seats from June.

The Conservatives would win 57 to 92 seats, down 16 to 19 seats, while the NDP would win between one and 15 seats. Its floor has dropped by one seat but its ceiling is up three.

The Greens would win up to one seat (down one), while the Bloc would be shutout (down one as well).

At the maximum ranges, the Liberals are at their highest seat potential since just after the election. The Conservatives remain solidly in second place, as the New Democrats flirt with the bottom along with the Greens and the Bloc Québécois.

As explained last month, it is also a good idea to take a look at how these numbers would breakdown with either a form of proportional representation (PR) or an alternative ballot (AV).

I went through my (simple) methodology for calculating these estimates last month as well.
Once again, all of the opposition parties would be the main beneficiaries of a move to PR, while the Liberals would benefit the most from the adoption of AV.

This assumes all else is equal, with no change in voting behaviour, party strategy, or the list of parties due to the adoption of a new electoral system.

Still, with their current levels of support the Liberals (at 173 seats) would be able to win a majority even under PR because of how the provincial seat breakdown works out.

The Conservatives would win three fewer seats than they currently hold, while the New Democrats, with 43 seats, would have about as many seats as they currently have, despite their drop in national support.

The Greens and Bloc, at 15 and 12 seats, respectively, would achieve official party status in the House.

With AV, the Liberals would win the biggest majority government in Canadian history with these numbers with 279 seats to 47 for the Conservatives, 11 for the NDP, and one for the Greens. Again, however, this assumes nothing else changes.

The Pollcast: Fear and loathing in Newfoundland and Labrador

From hero to zero — that might be the story of Dwight Ball, the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. How did one of the country's most popular provincial leaders become its most despised?

Last November, Ball's Liberals were swept into office in a landslide, winning 57 per cent of the vote and 31 of the 40 seats on offer. The Progressive Conservatives, in power since 2003, were booted back into the opposition benches.

You can listen to this podcast here and subscribe to the podcast here.

Polling at the beginning of the year showed that Ball had maintained that level of popularity, with two-thirds of voters saying they would cast a ballot for his Liberal Party and 60 per cent saying they approved of his performance as premier.

That ranked him only behind Saskatchewan's Brad Wall as Canada's most popular premier.

But then the Liberals introduced a harsh budget in the spring, and their polling numbers plummeted. In May, the Angus Reid Institute found that just 17 per cent of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians approved of Dwight Ball. 

Last week, a survey from MQO Research pegged Liberal support at just 30 per cent. That put them in third place, behind the PCs and the New Democrats. The poll also showed 71 per cent of respondents thinking the general outlook of the province is getting worse.

Rarely has a plunge in the polls been so deep and so quick. 

To tell the story of how this happened, I'm joined by the CBC's David Cochrane on this week's episode of the Pollcast.

You can listen to this podcast here and subscribe to the podcast here.

Hillary Clinton gets convention bump and a little help from Donald Trump

Hillary Clinton is coming out of last week's Democratic National Convention with soaring poll numbers just as Donald Trump's campaign is hobbled by one self-inflicted wound after another.

In less than a week, Trump has managed to claim that the upcoming election will be "rigged", attack the father of a slain Muslim American soldier, and claim that Russia is not involved in Ukraine. And these are just a few examples of what has made the last few days a tough one for the Republican nominee.

There is no doubt that Trump made some gains in the wake of the Republican National Convention and the naming of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his vice-presidential running mate. But if his convention bump was typical, it is beginning to look small compared to Clinton's convention boost.

You can read the rest of this article here.

Kellie Leitch out with early lead in Conservative leadership fundraising

The first look at fundraising data for the Conservative leadership race shows Ontario MP Kellie Leitch off to an early lead over her rivals.

Elections Canada reports that in the second quarter of this year Leitch raised $234,785.59 from 334 donors, putting her well ahead of Maxime Bernier and Michael Chong, the two other leadership contestants who had entered the race before the end of the quarter.

You can read the rest of this article, along with a breakdown of the parties' overall fundraising for the second quarter, here.

Democrats would beat Donald Trump in a landslide — if only Canada joined the Union

After closing the gap on Hillary Clinton in the polls, Donald Trump is closer to taking the White House today than he has ever been before. But there is one way the Democrats could virtually ensure their party's hold on the presidency — making Canada the 51st state.

That's obviously not going to happen. But Canadians would be among the most reliable Democrats if, well, they were Americans instead. 

Polls have long showed Canadians expressing greater support for Democrats than Republicans. One recent survey gave President Barack Obama an approval rating of 80 per cent among Canadians, a score he has not managed south of the border since the first months of his presidency in 2008.

This affinity with the Democratic Party has continued throughout the current election campaign. Two polls conducted in recent months by Abacus Data and Mainstreet Research have shown that 73 to 80 per cent of Canadians would vote for Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, if they had the chance.

Just 15 to 20 per cent would cast their ballot for Trump.

You can read the rest of this article here.