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Canadian Election 2011: The Future of Canadian Politics.

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In his victory speech on election night, Prime Minister was gracious toward his opponents and said he looked forward in the new Parliament to working with the other parties on behalf of all Canadians. Or words to that effect.

But, since taking power in 2006, Mr. Harper and his Conservative party have not been reputed to be eager to collaborate with other parties. As a rule, they did so only when their minority government status made it necessary. We will see if having a majority changes their approach to Parliamentary activities.

Actually, the Conservatives may not behave as their Tea Party cousins have in the U.S. House of Representatives. They may govern relatively moderately. Their agenda, I’m sure, remains the same. Their goal is still to promote the interests of the wealthy and corporations (multi-national and home grown Canadian) and to limit the expansion of redistributive taxation and social programs.

But consider how they achieved their majority. for a time during the election campaign, it looked like they would again win a mere plurality of seats. For a time it seemed possible that NDP momentum would place Jack Layton in the Prime Minister’s chair.

No one should ever accuse Stephen Harper of stupidity, and he and his party were able to pivot in time from fighting the mortally wounded Liberals to attacking the surging NDP. Rhetorically, the Tories spent most of the campaign arguing for a majority but not offering anything to anyone outside their base. The collapse of the Liberals gave Harper an opening. By resurrecting the red scare (orange scare) fear of socialism, he was able to appeal to right wing Liberal voters in much of Canada outside Quebec. This last minute tactic bore the most fruit in Ontario, but was also effective in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, B.C. and New Brunswick.

Incidentally, the last minute smear of Jack Layton played right into Harper’s plans, whether it was the Liberals or the Conservatives who were behind it.

I would argue that it was this last minute appeal to right wing Liberal voters (and perhaps some Liberal party members and activists) that put Harper into majority territory. Some of the pollsters caught it and some (Ekos comes to mind) did not. Here is a graphic demonstration of the effect of the Tory appeal to Liberals, stolen shamelessly from Pundits Guide to Canadian Federal Elections:

Pundit’s Guide uses these numbers to argue that vote splitting between the Liberals and NDP did not cause the Liberals’ heavy losses. But they also show how the Liberals bled votes both left and right and that it was ridings like these that gave the Conservatives the majority they desperately needed.

This creates an interesting dynamic within the Big Blue Tent. With an absolute majority in the House of Commons, no matter how slim, the Conservatives can in theory pass any legislation they wish to. The libertarian and social conservative elements in the Conservative coalition have definite ideas about what kind of legislation they should pass. Now, however, they have been joined by Blue Liberal voters, who bear an uncanny resemblance to Red Tories (an endangered species if there ever was one). These are the people who kept Ontario’s Big Blue Machine in power for over 40 years between World War II an the 1980’s. Harper cannot afford to completely ignore them if he wants to repeat his majority victory in 2015.

For the Liberals, this was the worst election result they have ever suffered and has thrown them into an existential crisis. They apparently have no idea of the nature of the crisis they face. Unless the NDP completely under performs over the four years they are at best a third party for the foreseeable future.

They are currently obsessed with leadership questions with an immediate need for at least a parliamentary leader before the new House sits for the first time. Bob Rae may be in the running for interim or permanent Leader, but he is a risky choice and could conceivably cause even further Liberal losses. Some have suggested Justin Trudeau’s name, but his family name would be poison both in Quebec and the West.

But leadership isn’t their problem. They have no purpose and arguably haven’t had one since at least 1984.

Some have suggested a Liberal/NDP merger, but what do the Liberals bring to the table? Progressive Liberals can help unite the left ( and avoid future vote splitting) by joining the NDP, while right wing Liberals (as discussed above) have already shown whose side they’re on by facilitating the Tory majority.

The NDP has achieved a major goal in spectacular style. The polarization the NDP has fought for since the days of Tommy Douglas day has arrived, but it’s not yet consolidated. Making the new alignment permanent will call for a major effort from the NDP Federal caucus and party organization from top to bottom. There will be more media attention paid to the New Democrats performance in the House and to party policy. The newly won constituencies will want results of some kind form their new MPs. Members and their staffs will work long hours on casework and local issues.

It will be a challenging task to get the new caucus up to speed and develop an effective opposition. New MPs need to learn their way around and how to effectively use the resources they now have. Also, the Members have to keep in touch with the riding without missing votes (ask Iggy). And the federal party as a whole has to communicate all the time with the different constituencies.

One thing the NDP will need to develop practical and persuasive policy, especially regarding economic issues. Plenty of policy resolutions already exist in the NDP policy book but they are addressing a larger and more varied audience now. The New Democrats have a chance to drive political debate to the left but along the way they need to offer practical, democratic and popular solutions to problems both long and short term.
There is an opportunity to expand the New Democratic base, but to abandon basic principles for the sake of short term political gains would be suicidal.

The overwhelming victory in Quebec brings all kinds of difficult but welcome problems. Jack Layton and his party will have to meet do all the things that MPs do in other parts of Canada as well as representing Quebec to other Canadians and dealing with all the constitutional issues that never seem to be resolved.

Corporate media Canada (including the CBC) and of course the Liberals and Bloq Quebecois are promoting and expecting the NDP to fail, as Official Opposition and as Quebec’s new party of choice. But they underestimate the Quebec NPD caucus at their peril. Globe and Mail columnist Lysiane Gagnon (not noted for sympathy for the NDP) has written a column about some of the impressive new NPD MPs from Quebec:

(O)n closer study, a number of them are at least as qualified as the MPs from other parties Quebec used to send to Ottawa. Many of the rookie MPs were union activists and/or committed Dippers before they agreed to run. And contrary to the cartoon view that paints the NDP’s Quebec caucus as one big daycare, they’re not all students who’ve never held a real job.

The New Democrats are surely disappointed with the May 2 outcomes in the Prairies and the Atlantic provinces, though some gains were made oin the latter. It seems far from fair that an increase in the vote in Saskatchewan to 32% resulted in exactly 0 seats. A modest increase in the popular vote in Manitoba resulted in a loss of two seats. The next election ,may bring the NDP more success in these provinces. There are also more winnable ridings in B.C.

Proportional representation would have given the NDP, even ,ore seats, behaving tasted so much success with first past the post, will the NDP still be eager for electoral reform?

Finally, regarding the 4th and 5th parties, one wonders what kind of a future the Green Party and the Bloc Quebecois have. Elizabeth May has given the Greens their first elected MP, but at a horrible cost. The Green party sold its soul to get a leader with a profile, but she has cannibalized their resources just so she can have a salary, mailing privileges and five minutes of Question Period time once a month or so. She has also driven a big chunk of their membership away and given a lot of votes to the NDP.
The Green Party vote fell by half in this election. It is not clear to me how they get those votes back.

As for the Bloc, I don’t think it is yet clear what the people of Quebec were telling them on May 2. I sovereignty dead? Probably not completely, but it is evidently not a priority for Quebeckers at this time.

So Canadian politics enters a new era, with a new left/right axis and a badly wounded centrist party. Quebec is now represented by a Federalist party for the first time in 20 years, another sign of a more left/right approach to politics.

Can the Conservatives succeed in government without moderating their approach to policy? Can the NDP consolidate their new status and compete for government in the next election? Can the Liberals, Greens and Bloc Quebecois survive or become relevant?

We’ll soon find out!

Written by slothropia

May 11th, 2011 at 11:44 pm

Canadian Federal Election: Wrap Up

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First things first: How did my predictions pan out. Let’s have a look at what I said would happen:

And what really happened (pending four recounts) was the Conservatives won with 166 seats, a majority, the NDP came second with 102 seats. Then came the Liberals with 35, the Bloc Quebecois with 4 and the Elizabeth May – oops! I mean the Green Party took 1.

I thought the NDP would do a little better in Western Canada vs. the CPC and I did not see the Liberals doing so poorly in Ontario. I had no clue the Bloc would suffer as much as it did.

I strongly predicted throughout the campaign that the CPC would fall short of a majority. I was wrong. I feel like it’s all my fault but really, it was the Blue Liberals who abandoned their own party in order to facilitate a Conservative majority.

Overall, the Harpists got the result they wanted and worked hard to get. Mind you, there were some disturbing echoes of U.S. GOP tactics here and there before and on E-Day. Robocalls at late night hours claiming to be on behalf of Liberal candidates; Robocalls on E-Day falsely telling voters that polling locations had moved; a nasty and slanderous robocall whisper campaign against Liberal Glen Pearson in London North Centre (whisper campaigns are nothing new but automated slander is a tactic new to Canadian politics).

But it doesn’t seem like any serious investigation of these tactics will occur (I could be wrong) so it’s time to move on and consider what happened and what it will mean for the immediate future of Canadian politics.

The shock of election night was of course the Orange wave that swamped the Liberals, Conservatives and BQ in Quebec. t was stunning when polls showed a post debate surge for the social democrats into first place in Quebec, but as late as a few days before the election, pundits were predicting just a small increase of seats for the NPD. They were wrong too.

In Atlantic Canada, the NDP improved, the Liberals held steady and the Conservatives exceeded expectations, except in Newfoundland and Labrador where they were only able to take the Labrador seat.

Things went pretty much as expected in the West, with the Conservatives dominating, and the NDP gaining some new seats. The Liberals were reduced to 4 MPs.

In the North, the one Liberal seat was lost to the Tories, and the NDP and Conservatives split the other two.

The Conservatives really won their majority with a dramatic improvement in their position in Ontario. Here again, the Liberals gave ground to both of the other two parties, with then Conservatives doing most of the damage. At this point it looks like this result was a product of right wing Liberal voters (not an oxymoron) voting Conservative to stop the NDP.

So that’s a brief thumbnail sketch of the election results. Tomorrow I will look at what this all means for the immediate future of Canadian politics.

Canadian Federal Election Liveblog, May 2, 2011

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Well, twitter was no help in getting early results but everything is closed now and I can pass the news along. Here is the national picture as of 9:14 pm cdt:

9:24 pm cdt: One of the big stories of the night is of course in Quebec.

Right now the NDP is leading or elected in 56 Quebec seats, the conservatives in 8, Liberals in 6 and BQ in 4!!!!! A little over 10% of the polls reporting so changes are likely, but the Orange Crush is alive in Quebec.

Back in a few to look at regional results.

9:30 pm cdt: Gulp. Tories at 151. NDP at 103, Libs at 30, Bloq at 4. Popular vot has Cons at 40%, to 30% for the NDP, 21.7 for the Libs, 3.9 for the Bloc. Looks like a Conservative majority. Somebody hide the Canadian constitution.

9:35 pm cdt: Iggy losing to the Blue candidate. NDP up to 59 in Quebec.

9:38 pm cdt: Linda Duncan barely ahead in Edmonton Strathcona. Cons right a t 154 with 13 ridings to be heard from.

9:43 pm cdt: Tories at 162. In Atlantic Canada it was 14 CPC, 12 LPC and 6 NDP. CPC got 80% in New Brunswick. Any polls that showed the NDP sweeping Atlantic Canada were wrong.

9:48 pm cdt: 301 ridings reporting CPC leading or elected in 162, NDP in 102, Liberals in 33 and the Bloc in 4. No Greens or anyone else. 21 to 10 Cons over NDP in B.C. so far. Oops. May has won a poll on SGI. Greens ar on the board at least for now.

9:57 pm cdt: Only 3 ridings outstanding. 165 for CPC, 104 for NDP, 31 Libs, 4 BQ and 1 other, presumably May in SGI.

BC came through for the Tories. They are leading or elected in 23 to 10 for the NDP and 1 for the Greens. But holy cow, the Bloc ios down to 1 seat.

Shh. Iggy conceding. 10:13 pm.cdt.

Very classy. No mention of resignation yet. 10:20 cdt.

10:24 pm cdt: Iggy staying to rebuild until party kicks him to the curb. Role of Liberal Party to keep the “vital centre” alive.

How does Iggy stay as Leader without a seat?

10:27 pm cdt: 167, 103, 34, 3, 1.

10:29: 168, 102, 33, 4 1.

Heavy traffic at Elections Canada website. Hard to get updates.

Here comes Duceppe. He lost his seat and the Bloc is down to 4 seats as of now. He’s resigning. He says Quebec can expect results from Layton and the NDP. Last chance for federalism.

Layton should speak soon and then Herr Harper.

11:02 pm cdt Paul Wells: Imagine how well the NDP would have done in Quebec if they’d been able to get their vote out.

11:07 pm cdt: 32% in Saskatchewan for the NDP and no seats as of this moment.

11:25 cdt: E. May has finished speaking. I learned a lot about E. May but not much about the environment.

11:29 cdt: Here’s Jack.

Layton says he has called Harper with congrats and wants to work with the new govt to get results for Cdn families.

Congrats to Iggy who campaigned on shared values. Congrats also to Duceppe. We share belief in Democracy and thirst for more just society.

Canadians have asked NDP to take on more responsibility as Official Opposition. Will work hard to earn trust,. Proposition over opposition but will oppose govt when its off track and be positive when possible. Focus on economic growth, fiscal responsibility, fighting poverty, making Canada a voice for peace in the world.

Make progress practically one step at a time.

New relationship with First Nations and aboriginal Canadians. Count on us to make sure Parliament addresses needs of new Canadians.

New Dems will work for Canadian families.

Thank yous. 1. People of Toronto Danforth. 2. Olivia. 3. Rest of family.
4. NDP Candidates and All candidates and parties. 5. Voters, esp young voters.

Confidence in Canada’s future. Tonight’s victory 50 years in the making.

Canada greatest country in the world. Canadians voted out of hope for change and a country where no one is left behind. Election ended but the work has just begun.

Start working now to achieve results for everyone. Tommy said dream no little dreams.
Let’s get to work and not stop until the job is done.

Speech over.

Pretty happy crowd for a second place finish.

Ok, I’m done for the night. Right now it’s 166 Cons, 103 NDP, 34 Liberals, 4 BQ and 1 Green.

If Harper says anything worth repeating I will remark on it tomorrow. And there is certainly some summing up and perspective bringing to do.

Written by slothropia

May 2nd, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Canadian Election: Final Predictions

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A month or so ago, the polling of the Canadian electorate was all over the place. Each pollster it seemed was talking to a unique segment of Canadian society and coming up with different answers. The pundits were largely in agreement that the next parliament would look a lot like the old one.

Then Jack Layton won the debates and took a huge hunk out of the hides of all his opponents. The payoff began to come a week or so later when suddenly polls were finding the NDP in first place in Quebec. A week later the polls were still finding the same thing and the NDP began to rise in other parts of Canada.

Today, May Day, Canada’s social democratic party is in a position to win more federal seats than it ever has come close to winning. Some pundits are even predicting a New Democratic minority government. Say hi, Craig Oliver.

The poll released by Ekos today shows a narrowing gap between the Conservatives and NDP:
Conservatives 34.6
NDP: 31.4
Liberals: 20.4
Green Party: 6.3
Bloc: 5.4 (22 per cent in Quebec)

My final predictions are influenced by but not based on the Ekos or any other single poll. I have also received good input from Pundits Guide and discussion boards like Babble. I have ignored other seat projection sites though some are better than others. I have ultimately relied on whatever little I know about the politics of Canada and its widely differing regions.

Briefly then, here is what I predicted in 2008:

The Conservatives will win at least 101 seats, perhaps as many as 142 and probably 121…
The Liberals range is between 64 and 104, with a probable result of 84.

The NDP should win at least 35 seats and could take as many as 63. The likely NDP number is 46.

The Bloc Quebecois should have no trouble winning at least 50 seats in Quebec, and if all goes well for them, up to 65. I predict their final total will be 55.

There will be 2 independent MPs, one in Atlantic and one in Quebec.

And here is my prediction for the May 2 election:

In Atlantic Canada, I can see the NDP holding what it has and adding a few more, like St. John south Mount Pearl in Nfld and South Shore Ste. Margaret in NS.

In the North, the Liberals will hold onto Yukon, the NDP to Western Arctic and Nunuvat could go either way between NDP and Tory.

In Quebec, NDP sweep, but not total domination. Give the Libs and Tories a few crumbs each and the BQ hangs onto 21. Say goodbye to Justin but we’ll have to wait for Duceppe’s fate.

Ontario, will be won by the harpists, but both the Liberals and NDP will get a couple dozen or so each.

In Manitoba and Saskatchewan late movement to the NDP will give them representation in Saskatchewan and maybe an increase of two seats in Manitoba.

Alberta will still be Alberta, but Linda Duncan may be joined by one or two NDP seatmates. Odds are still against more than one NDP seat in Alberta though.

Harper is ending his campaign in Abbotsford??? Why? Is that riding in play? Won’t know for another day, but there seems to be significant movement to the NDP in BC over the last few days. Bottom line, the Conservatives will need to do really well in that province to get their mahority but it looks like it is slipping away from them.

So that’s how I see it. As I have said, i will be live blogging the results tomorrow, but not until the polls close in B.C. and Yukon.

Written by slothropia

May 1st, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Canadian Election Predictions and Live Blog

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Sunday evening at 6 pm CDT I will post my predictions for the May 2 election.

On election night I will live blog results as soon as the polls are closed in B.C. and Yukon.

Written by slothropia

April 29th, 2011 at 9:24 pm

Canadian Election Update: 4.29.11

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It is finally safe to make at least one prediction irt the May 2 Canadian federal election. There will not be a majority Conservative government when the new Parliament is sworn in.

I typed the preceding paragraph a few hours ago and then went out to tcb. During my travels I learned via twitter that Ipsos Reid had released a new poll and Ekos had released a new seat projection, both of which, if they are accurate, reopen the question of whether or not the Tories get to 155 seats.

Also, as I began typing again, a “news” story about Jack Layton not being arrested 15 years ago was broken by Sun Media – yes the usual suspect for Rovian sleaze in Canada. I will return to that topic later.

The polls have shown a continuing trend upward for the NDP since the debates in mid April. Much of their new found strength comes from unheard of levels of support in Quebec, and there has now developed a consensus that the Bloc Quebecois is ceding much of their territory to the New Democrats. At the same time the Liberals have been trending precipitously downward and now appear to be in a battle for mere party status in the new Parliament. In the last week or so the Conservatives have also experienced a softening of support. For the sake of comparison, here are some of the more recent polls.

Of course while it may look like the Conservatives got a little uptick with the Ipsos Reid poll of April 28, one should compare it with the same firms previous poll released on April 20, which gave the Tories 43% versus 24% for the NDP and 21% for the Liberals. In any case, if the latest Ipsos Reid is predictive, the Conservatives are close to majority territory. If they get something more like 34or 35 % it is less likely.

I have discussed seat projections previously and noted that in 2008, Ekos’ projections was the most accurate. Ekos released a porjection today (not their final one before the election) and described it this way:

In an interesting development, as the Conservative Party’s overall margin over the NDP has shrunk to a mere five points, the newfound parity of the NDP and Liberal Party in Ontario appears to have produced significant benefits in terms of seat returns. So while the Conservatives have lost ground to the NDP and have remained flat in Ontario, the new tie between Liberals and NDP in Ontario is causing vote splitting that has elevated the Conservative Party’s prospects. While they have remained under 40 points in Ontario, they would now be ticketed to receive the lion’s share of Ontario seats with less than two-fifths of its votes. With 61 of Ontario’s 106 seats, the Conservatives are now projected to win 146 seats. This means that they would basically reproduce their current number of MPs although their caucus would be a dramatically different Ontario-based government. The vote splitting also would reduce the joint total of NDP and Liberal seats (109 and 42, respectively) to 151, which is shy of the 155 needed to have a majority.
At these numbers, the prospects of deposing the CPC would be much lower. In fact, with 146 seats, the Conservatives may well be in the range of a secure minority and even though they are down significantly from their position in the polls last election, they are only 9 seats shy of majority. In one final piece of irony, the Liberal collapse may mean that a diminished Conservative performance may yield their elusive majority. The final weekend, particularly in Ontario, will determine what happens but it is conceivable that the Conservatives could back into a majority with just slightly more than one-third of the overall votes. It is hard to imagine what impact this would have on the Canadian public’s view of its first past the post system.

But, and it’s a big but, the various polls disagree about what is happening in Ontario. Here’s Frank Graves of Ekos Research:

On the one hand: “Mr. Nanos points out that the Tories are still comfortably ahead in Ontario — 41.1% support compared to the NDP at 26.1% — but their support has been slipping.” On the other hand, Harris-Decima finds that: “The key battleground of Ontario remains a rare bright spot for the Liberals. Michael Ignatieff’s party led there, supported by 34 per cent of respondents compared with 33 per cent for the Tories and 25 for the NDP.”

So, as in so many Canadian elections, what happens in Ontario will likely determine which party or parties (in the case of a coalition) form the next government and how strong their mandate is. We can expect however that the NDP will greatly increase their seat count, that the Conservatives will probably win a plurality of seats and the Liberals and Bloc will have some rebuilding to do if they are to continue to exist.

The Toronto Sun and Sun TV had a big scoop tonight. It seems Jack Layton was found in a massage parlor the Toronto police were investigating as a suspected bawdy house (quaint Canadian term for house of prostitution) – in 1996. He was not arrested. The story in the Sun does not actually say if anyone else in the “bawdy house” was arrested or not. The source is apparently a former Toronto vice squad policeman and expresses hostility toward Layton in the article.

Judging from the Twitterverse and comments to the Sun story itself, it seems that Harper supporters are enjoying the spectacle and most everyone else is disgusted with the smear. Otherwise I am in no position to say if there will be any effect on the election at all. I do suspect (because I was born at night but not last night) that Layton’s political enemies waited until this moment to smear him in an attempt to derail a pretty successful campaign. Whether the Liberals or Conservatives or both are behind it, I cannot say.

I will say that it could be an attempt to depress turnout, which would feed into the Conservative strategy. It could, however, backfire and propel the NDP to even dizzier heights. Whether it changes votes or not, most Canadians will resent this n=further attempt to introduce sleazy U.S., Republican tactics into Canadian politics.

Written by slothropia

April 29th, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Canadian Election Update 4.25.11: 100 Seats for the NDP?

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Yesterday, Pundit’s Guide posted a useful corrective to many of the seat projections that have been offered to this point in the campaign. I really recommend reading the whole thing but PG says in part:

This may surprise some people, but very few of the current amateur seat projection websites have even a single federal general election track record under their belts. And none of them has had to predict an election where so many assumptions have been upended, and so many tectonic shifts have been telegraphed in leading indicators whose full effect has yet to be seen in the horserace numbers.

Significantly, not one seat projection methodology over-predicted the Conservatives, and not one under-predicted the Liberals or Bloc Québécois, although there were predictions on either side of the NDP’s final total. Only one predicted that Green Party Leader Elizabeth May would win Central Nova, NS (she didn’t), while 4 of the 9 methodologies missed predicting both Independent candidate Bill Casey’s win in Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, NS and André Arthur’s win in Portneuf-Jacques Cartier, QC.

The inherent bias in seat prediction methodologies to favour previous election results means they tend to overly favour parties set to lose seats, such as the Liberals and Bloc Québécois in the last election. They also tend to miss the likelihood of parties on the rise to gain seats, such as was the case with the Conservatives in the last election. Only the NDP, whose vote intention numbers showed little gain by the end of the 2008 campaign, saw seat count predictions on both sides of its eventual total.

Another problem for the seat projection methodologies is that they are backward-looking. They’re using days-old polling data at a time of incredible movement in the polls, and laying that on top of results from the last election when incumbency was a factor for some political parties’ votes that is no longer at play.

Moreover, they can’t account for turnout, in the sense that parties with momentum, or who have strong on-the-ground organization, will experience higher turnout of their own vote, than will parties who are organizationally weak and/or whose supporters are feeling demoralized.

The above problems were underlined in ThreeHundredEight.com’s projection/prediction for the 2010 New Brunswick general election, one that saw a one-term narrow Liberal majority turfed in favour of a massive Progressive Conservative majority government. His then-methodology over-predicted the Liberals by 10 seats (23 versus 13) out of 55.

Since then, ThreeHundredEight’s sensational projections have predicted doom and gloom for the NDP on the front page of the Hill Times (no, he’s not a “pollster” as they wrote) and the Globe and Mail. As recently as late January he claimed they would lose 13 seats, upped to 16 seats by early February, which emboldened some Liberals to predict they could gain 100 seats during an election campaign.

It took some peer review to examine his original methodology and determine that he had in fact placed a cap on the number of seats a party could be projected to win in any region (equivalent to the maximum it had even won plus those it came within 10% of winning), but put in place no comparable floor. Clearly the wrong assumption for the current election!

Apparently the methodology has since been changed, but not before it set the entire frame of coverage by the Parliamentary Press Gallery for the period leading up to and just following the federal budget vote (“NDP weakness sets up two-way race between Harper and Ignatieff”).

Indeed one could say that this one blog – without a single federal general election’s track record to its credit – was responsible for the mass failure of the Ottawa punditocracy to foresee either the NDP’s willingness to or interest in voting down the budget at the end of March, and for all we know the willingness of the Liberals to provoke an election dating from around that time.

So, what does all that mean for the current election?

It means that:

*the Liberals and Bloc are still likely being overly favoured by all these seat prediction methodologies,
*the projection methodologies are going to wind up missing NDP gains, particularly if the party continues to climb in the polls, and that
*projected seat counts for the Conservatives will likely fall on either side of their final tally.

It also means that the “strategic voting” websites, who are basing their recommendations on seat projection/seat prediction methodologies like 308’s are likely making a number of erroneous recommendations — another reason to be rid of those undemocratic and irresponsible projects once and for all — and that people voting in the Advance Polls shouldn’t put a lick of confidence in them, as a result.

On cue, there were a number of polls released today including one from Ekos who also provided a seat projection. Now I happen top like this seat projection because it gives the NDP 100 seats while the Conservatives are held to 131,far less than a majority. BTW, the Liberals and BQ get 62 1n3 14 respectively in this scenario. But just because I like the prediction, all of Pundit Guides caveats about seat projections apply to it as well.

Except that, Ekos does have a track record and not a bad one at that.

But starting tomorrow, there are there are more polls coming, including fresh ones form Ekos and Nanos and who knows who else. There will also be more seat projections until the end of the week at least. The pressure is on the pollsters and projectors in a contest to see who can be most accurate. It will be difficult for them because they are shooting at a moving target. A poll is supposed to be a snapshot of public opinion at a given moment in time. In the next week before the campaign there will be movement, how much and in what direction I cannot foresee from my little homestead in the Land of Lincoln.

I will suggest though that just as there has been bleeding of NDP votes to the Liberals in past elections, there could be movement this time from the Liberals to the NDP. It may be that the Orange Wave has not crested yet but will carry Jack Layton and his party to 30% on election day and x number of seats.

Canadian Election: Tories Attack Layton and NDP

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I was wrong. In my last post I predicted that the Conservatives would try to ignore the NDP and continue to focus their fire on the Liberals. But today, they posted anad on Youtube that took direct aim at Layton and accused him of all plotting with the Bloc to form a (gasp) coalition – before the last election.

The NDP responded quickly:

A Conservative attack ad contains misleading information and should be pulled, New Democrat candidate Paul Dewar told reporters on Friday.

The attack ad emerged on Friday afternoon, and alleges that NDP leader Jack Layton planned a coalition with the Bloc Québecois “before votes were even counted” in 2008, and that he was willing to let Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe be the “driving force” in a coalition.

Both statements are false, said Dewar.

“The entire ad is based on complete fabrications,” Dewar said during a press conference at his riding headquarters in Ottawa-Centre.

Dewar noted that last week when the Liberals misquoted Stephen Harper in an ad that attacked his credibility on health care the Conservatives asked for the ad to be pulled. This is the same situation, Dewar said.

“At least come up with stuff that is true,” Dewar said. “If you want to put ads on the airwaves that reflect the facts and issues, fine, but you have to stop making stuff up.”

I suspect that the change in Conservative tactics came as a result of internal polling showing the NDP eating into Conservative support, a development they had not planned on.

It is interesting to note that the ad was originally released in January of this year. Could it be that the Cons need ed something right away but having treated the Liberals as their main competition had nothing in the can to use against the NDP? Rest assured, there will be more and fresher attacks over the next 10 days.

Written by slothropia

April 22nd, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Canadian Election Update 4.22.11: Wow, Just…Wow!

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A flurry of new polls are out in the last couple of days showing the NDP in first place in Quebec or in the case of Nanos with continuing and rising strength in that province.
here’s a link to a Wikipedia site that provides the latest Opinion polling in the Canadian federal election, 2011. From there you can link to the individual polls to get regional breakdowns and whatever other info the pollsters publish.

West of Ontario the NDP is the main opposition to the Harpists. This is also true in Northern Ontario and increasingly in parts of Southwestern Ontario. As already mentioned, Quebec has turned upside down, with the NDP ahead of all other parties and the Liberals at the bottom, drifting slowly down into Green Party territory.

A lot of chickens are coming home to roost. The Liberal party has grown increasingly dysfunctional in recent decades. Before the laws were changed they never had to work raise money (large corporations and wealthy individuals threw donations at the Grits to gain and maintain access) and they have not been good at grass roots organizing for a long time (something the NDP continued to work at even during their nadir in the 90’s).

Then there are the policy betrayals, like NAFTA and the GST, which Chretien promised to do away with and then strengthened. Furthermore, and as Jack Layton never tires of repeating, the Liberal record on health care funding in the last decade (especially under Martin) is far from stellar.

Finally the sponsorship scandals in Quebec may have finished the Liberals as a national party. it is no wonder the Liberals have had leadership problems since the departure of Trudeau. Dion was a compromise that did not work out (too bad, he had a lot of good qualities) and Ignatieff was a convenient but desperate choice who has never inspired much trust, let alone affection.

Progressive Liberals may be thinking hard right now about what they can do to advance their ideals.

Having said all this, what are the various parties doing to either encourage or mitigate the latest trends?

As I have written previously, the Conservatives have for the entire campaign to this point been satisfied to play a Republican game of maximizing turnout by their base and suppressing turnout for anyone else. The rhetorical weapon the Tories have flourished has been an atempt to get Canadian voters to fear a “coalition” of Liberals and “socialists” supported by “separatists.” Had they asked me and if I had been able to answer honestly I would have advised against such a strategy, because it would have been easier to get the last few seats needed for a majority by going after soft centrist, so called “blue Liberal” voters. But they chose to listen to Karl Rove instead and now they are stuck on a questionable course.

The rise of the NDP in Quebec, largely at the expense of the Bloc, dramatizes the weakness of the conservative strategy. they’ve been demonizing the Bloc while attacking the Liberals both of whom at this point are drifting out of the picture. Should they start attacking Layton? They might as well shoot the Easter Bunny while they’re at it. don’t get me wrong, the NDP is not immune to criticism from the Right, but it wouldn’t help the Conservatives very much to talk about the “socialists” and their lovable leader at this point. So I expect them to continue going after Iggy and the Liberals, while some Tory candidates avoid all-candidates meetings and Harper refuses to answer questions.

Updatye: 4/22/2011 8:56 pm CDT: Correction: The Conservatives released an attack ad against Layton and the NDP this morning.

The Conservatives are also suddenly doing a fair bit of damage control. In the wee hours of Thursday morning, Harper’s spokesman had to call a press conference in the middle of the night to refute an incumbent’s boast that he had provoked the government into blocking funding for Planned Parenthood International. Another scandal involves a more traditional example of possible corruption:

A series of recordings posted on YouTube are raising fresh questions about the role Stephen Harper’s key spokesman and former Quebec adviser may have played – and who he was dealing with – in an unsuccessful attempt to influence in 2007 the choice of who would be the new president of the Montreal Port Authority.

Allegations that Dimitri Soudas intervened in a bid to help Montreal engineer Robert Abdallah secure the plum post took a strange twist Thursday when Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe distributed transcripts of conversations in which men identified as Montreal construction boss Tony Accurso and businessman Bernard Poulin discuss the job and who they think should have it.

Incidentally, thoughtful conservative Andrew Coyne has written a Macleans column in which he speculates about what Harper may do should he be defeated in the new House of Commons:

Indeed, so unyielding and dogmatic have his statements become, against the views of every constitutional scholar, that I have to wonder whether there is something else going on. That is, I wonder whether he is preparing the ground, not just to prevent the opposition from electing enough members to be in a position to bring his government down, but to thwart them should they make the attempt.

What he may have in mind is this: that after losing a vote of non-confidence, he would advise the Governor General to dissolve the House and call new elections — rather than call upon someone else to form a government. He would then dare the Governor General to overrule his first minister’s advice, something that Governors General are quite properly extremely reluctant to do.

He would, in short, be doing another King-Byng, provoking a constitutional crisis rather than yield power, hoping to intimidate the Governor General and/or rally public opinion to his side. If so this would be extremely disturbing, though not alas unprecedented.

If the Conservatives are a prisoner of their chosen strategy, imagine the dilemmas Liberal strategists are facing right now. The plan was,as in numerous previous elections, to move left at the beginning of the campaign, thereby marginalizing the NDP, and then to pivot and attack the Conservatives following the debates. The trouble with that plan was that the voters did not cooperate. Who could have foreseen such a thing? The plan has always worked before – except that it has been less and less effective with each succeeding election. Paul Martin in 2006 Stephane Dion in 2008 and now Ignatieff have all followed the same pattern and in each campaign’s final stages, asked NDP voters for strategic votes to stop the Conservatives.

And they would have gotten away with it this time too if it weren’t for that meddling Jack Layton who it turns out won both the French and the English debates. Never mind what the flash polls said. It was the debates that gave voters the material with which they could fashion the narrative of the campaign.

And so, the Liberals are stuck repeating what is surely a tired old line about how the NDP has no chance so why waste your vote. Today’s variation on that theme is that Liberals have that New Democrats lack. By the way, Ignatieff made these remarks in Westmount Ville Marie, a Montreal riding the Liberals have had since Noah docked on Ararat.

Montreal is where the NDP surge in Quebec has reached its high point to date. A Crop survey has the NDP at 36% in Quebec but at 40% in Montreal. No wonder Ignatieff feels compelled to defend what should be safe Liberal turf.

A trend is not a final result. Polls do not vote. Polls are for dogs. There are thousands of expressions that all amount to the same thing. Don’t count your chickens, etc. The election is not over and the trends and the narrative could still change. But Ignatieff and the Liberals have some difficult days ahead. Victory seems out of reach, and the best they can hope for is to drag the NDP down to their level or lower. I do not expect to see Ignatieff spend much time west of Ontario between now and May 2.

The leader who appeared to have the easiest task in the campaign was Gilles Duceppe. After all, the Bloc only runs candidates in Quebec’s 75 ridings, so Duceppe would be spared the rigors of touring facing the other leaders. Furthermore, Quebec voters seemed comfortable with both Duceppe and his party, even if many opposed his nominal goal of sovereignty for Quebec. Then he phoned in his performance in the English debate before appearing to rally and dominate the French one the following night.

Then the perfect storm struck the Bloc. The NDP had been working hard in Quebec for years and finally gained a foothold with Thomas Mulcair’s election in 2008. In the moths leading up to the election writ, the NDP had begun rising in the polls, but no one seriously saw them as a threat to anyone, and especially not the Bloc.

Then, with feisty performances in both debates, Jack Layton moved ahead of the other federalist parties in the minds of many Quebec voters. Suddenly, Duceppe had a rival who posed a serious threat to his entire project. Duceppe began attacking the NDP and Layton, so far to no apparent effect. The Bloc has little choice now but to attack the NDP while trying to limit the damage in selected priority ridings.

But does he attack the NDP for being too centralist, driving federalist social democrats into Layton’s waiting arms, or does he appeal to strategic voters whose priority is to stop a Tory majority?

So far, predictions have been fo modest NDP gains in Quebec, partly because there is not a lot of NDP organization on the ground there. We shall see how true that is or how much difference it makes on the eve ning of May2. A problem for the Bloc on election day is that if the polls arfe correct, many Bloc voters are now supporting the NDP but may not have told the Bloc. The Bloc will do their best to get their supporters to the polls, but may inadvertently be helping the NDP as they do so.

The NDP’s challenge in the last week or so of the campaign is to consolidate their new found strength in Quebec and elsewhere, while identifying this ridings where they have a real opportunity to make gains. Of course, they will need to do this while countering the suddenly vicious attacks from the other parties.

Early this week, Le Devoir, a Quebec nationalist newspaper that supports the Bloc, published a story about a New Democratic candidate, Francoise Boisvin in Gatineau, alleging she had been thrown out of the Liberal P arty for breaking House of Commons rules while serving as a Liberal MP. The allegation was that she had given a job to her lesbian partner.

This was an attack that (it appears to me) was coordinated between the Bloc and the Liberals who together agree that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. Unfortunately for the perpetrators, the attack came too soon and gave Boisvin and her party time to repair any damage.

But the NDP should expect attacks like this and worse in the final days of the campaign.

Canadian Election Update: NDP Has Big Mo

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A flurry of polls were published on Monday, nearly all of them showing the Conservatives with diminished prospects for a majority government, the Liberals falling back slightly or treading water and the NDP enjoying a surge in voter support, at the expense of both the Bloc and the Liberals.

All these polls were conducted after the debates on April 12 and 13. The only tracking poll listed here is Nanos, which polls 400 respondents and aggregated the results of three days combined polling refreshed daily (each day the latest results are added and one day’s results dropped).

The Conservatives are hovering around their 2008 result of 38% while the Liberals seem to have lost a little ground from their 26% in the last election. The Bloc too is apparently bleeding support to the New Democrats who clearly have the most momentum according to this latest round of opinion sampling.

The regional sub samples in all these polls are subject to larger margins of error, but all seem to indicate an unprecedented rise for the NDP in Quebec. What that means in terms of seats is unclear.

These numbers at least partly reflect voters’ reaction to the debates, as well as the various campaigns. Note well they are al different to some degree (reflecting differences in methodologies I am told) and can’t all be right. With 12 days or so before the actual election, all kinds of dynamics can affect future polls as well as the final actual count of the votes. New Democrats and Conservatives appear to have most reason to take comfort from these results.

Coming soon: Strategies and tactics.
Update: Here is a Wikipedia site with all or most of the polls done for this election: Opinion polling in the Canadian federal election, 2011

Written by slothropia

April 19th, 2011 at 7:22 am