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Canadian Leaders Debate (English Version) Update

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Last night I wrote that I thought Layton did pretty well in the English language Leaders’ debate. Upon reflection, and upon reading some instant polling results, I have decided I was right.

Ipsos Reid
tells us that before the debate:

…a flash poll of 1,861 English-speaking Canadians conducted by Ipsos Reid exclusively for Global National has revealed that one in three (33%) English-speaking Canadians believes that Stephen Harper will win the English-language debate tonight. Fewer believe that Michael Ignatieff (24%), Jack Layton (13%) or Gilles Duceppe (2%) will win. The winner’s circle is still up for grabs, however, with three in ten (28%) Canadians unsure of who will win the debate.

And afterward?

Immediately following the English-language leaders’ debate, a flash poll of debate viewers conducted by Ipsos Reid has found that four in ten (42%) English-speaking viewers say Conservative Leader Stephen Harper won the debate, up from the 34% of Canadians who, prior to the debate, thought he would win.

But:

Following his performance in the English-leader’s debate, which gave a majority (55%) of polled viewers an improved impression of Jack Layton coming out of the debate, Francophones appear to have high expectations for Mr. Layton in tonight’s melee.

So Ipsos says that Harper won but Layton impressed a whole lot of voters.

Which is all very interesting of course, but these polls do not tell us how many voters made up their minds or switched preferences. I think it will be a few days before people have had a chance to reflect and discuss and come to some conclusions about how or if the debate influenced their vote. The media and the parties have chosen their favorite moments but voters are funny and fickle creatures. It can be difficult to predict what they find important enough to vote over.

Layton, in my view, had some very good moments, like when he suggested to Harper that he didn’t know why he (Harper) wanted to build so many prisons since all the crooks were in the Senate (Canadian that is).

Meanwhile, the French debate wrapped up about an hour ago. I’ll have some thoughts about it some time in the next 24 hours.

Canadian Election Update 4.7.11

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We are at day 13 of the Canadian Federal Election Campaign and it seems possible at this point to describe a few trends, though the parties hopes and fortunes remain ever shifting.
To begin at the to p of the food chain, I think I will depart from the conventional wisdom by asserting the Harper and the Conservatives are in a spot of trouble. The Harpists have big problems if they don’t get a majority but they act like they are satisfied with the status quo. They have done nothing to attract support from outside their base and as a result the public horse race polls are showing their support softening just a little. I invite you to check out the latest from Environics and Angus Reid.

I think its a mugs game to try and explain poll results without doing some follow up research, but her I go anyway. If the Cons are slipping a little, it may have something to do with the way they are conducting the campaign. For example kicking people out of Harper rallies (and using RCMP resources to do it) just reminds people of why they haven’t yet given Harper a majority.

At the same time maybe the Karl Rove tactics the Cons are using are causing the Liberals problems. The Conservative campaign has observed that Ignatieff’s wife is not a Canadian citizen. Conservatives have tried with some success to make a big deal out of an Alberta Liberal candidate’s observation that not all sexual assault cases are the same. Clearly this man is objectively pro rape.

The Liberals also got caught with a rural Quebec candidate with a history of racist comments (to go with the unfortunate comments by Romeo Saganashes Incumbent Bloc opponent).

The Angus Reid and Environics polls out today both showed improved numbers for the NDP but with a healthy Con lead over the Liberals. Both polls were also notable for what they found in Quebec, namely the Bloc and Liberals dropping a little and with the NDP in 2nd place. Layton has given credit for much of the NDP’s tentative success in Quebec to Thomas Mulcair, his Quebec lieutenant and MP for the Montreal riding of Outrement. Since his election to the House of Commons, Mulcair has spent much time and effort to building up the Quebec wing of his adopted the party.

In the current campaign it seems like the Bloc and NDP are circling each other warily, afraid to attack because they’re targeting a lot of the same voters, voters who like both leaders and may not respond well to negative campaigning.

To sum up, it looks to me that Layton is winning the campaign. he’s getting around well enough (despite recovering from a broken hip), staying on message, dealing in substance while the Libs and Cons scrap over side issues. The NDP platform delivery has been unfocussed, but in the valley of the blind etc.

Whatever the status of the campaign today, there is a long way to go, and well timed dirty tricks, mistakes and unforeseen events are not only possible but nearly certain to occur. Poll results are interesting, but what is happening on the ground? Also, the debates could be a game changer for somebody. If the Liberals want to do well enough to form a government Ignatieff had better have two good debates, one in each of the two languages. Harper might even show up to discuss rather than evade – one never knows.

Layton could have some real success in the debates. He has more charisma than any of the other three (except maybe Duceppe on home turf). If he can translate his popularity into seats this could be a really interesting election.

Harper Afraid of Layton, Wants 1 on 1 with Ignatieff

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Canadian Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has suggested he and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff have a one on one debate excluding both the NDP and Bloc Quebecois Leaders Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe.

Stephen Harper suggested Wednesday that the televised leaders debates could involve a two-man showdown between him and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff since the Bloc and NDP plan to form a coalition government led by Ignatieff.

When the Liberal leader was told about Harper’s one-on-one proposition, he said: “Any time, any place. . . . I don’t want to exclude anyone. It’s not up to me to choose, but I’m ready to debate directly with Mr. Harper.”

Harper’s comments put a new twist on the issue of whether Green Party leader Elizabeth May should be included in the TV debates, as she was in the 2008 election. The consortium of broadcasters that runs the debate said this week May hadn’t been invited, noting the Greens don’t hold a seat in the House of Commons.

Asked whether May should be included, Harper said that was up to the consortium to decide. But he added another dig at the Bloc Quebecois and NDP, whom he has accused of wanting to form a “reckless” coalition under the Liberals.

“We’re open to any number of possibilities. We can have a traditional debate of parliamentary leaders. We can have a debate that includes . . . May in such a format,” Harper told reporters at a campaign stop in Brampton, Ont. “We can have a debate that includes every party that’s on the ballot. We could also have a debate between Mr. Ignatieff and myself. After all, the real choice in this election is a choice between a Conservative government or an Ignatieff-led government that all of these other parties will support.”

I’m sure Harper would like such a setup to provide a nice contrast between himself and the least popular federal leader. Not gonna happen. But talking about it allows him to sneak in the coalition smear through the backdoor.

The question he should be asked is why is he so afraid of Jack Layton.

P.S. still working on Liberals early’ campaign. Should be ready tonight or tomorrow am.

Written by slothropia

March 30th, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Canadian Election Update: Strange Days

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One of the differences between U.S. and Canadian politics is that American voters seem to identify much more closely with a political party than do Canadians (this is not my original observation; I read it in an academic paper many years ago. No I don’t recall either the author or title, but Mr. Google might be able to assist).

Consider the way Americans are almost equally divided between Republicans and Democrats, with a third of the electorate calling themselves independents. Even many of those independents lean toward one or the other of the major parties.

In Canada, there has traditionally been much more fluidity in the way political support is allocated. This was the case back in the “good old days”, when there were only three major parties: the Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats. Since then we have seen the new parties like Reform and the Bloc Quebecois, and now the Greens, achieving measurable levels of support.

For the past few days, American pundits have been stating that the polls are “hardening”, becoming less likely to change. This means, of course, that Obama’s lead is becoming more difficult for McCain to overcome.

In the current Canadian election, four and one quarter parties are competing seriously (I count the Bloc as 1/4 of a party for obvious reasons). In contrast with the U.S. situation, we also see what appears to me to be an astonishing fluidity in the polls.

A week ago I thought that the Conservatives would win with either a majority or a strengthened minority. This conviction was strengthened by the polls following the English debate that said that a plurality thought Harper had won. “Not so fast.” say the voters now. In a number of polls over the last few days, support for the Harper Conservatives have been drifting downward (see the Toronto Star Poll Tracker for confirmation).

The Liberals have seen a modest rise in the polls since the debates, possibly extending their lead over the NDP, depending on which pollster one consults. This embryonic comeback for the Liberal seems to be result from increased support in Ontario and Quebec, which of course is where a majority of the seats are. In Quebec, the Libs are in second, according to the most recent Ekos daily tracking poll while the Conservatives have fallen to third, just two points above the still gaining NPD (Nouveau Parti Democratique. The Bloc still leads, but some of their support was strategic. Many Quebec voters have been planning to vote for the BQ to block a Conservative majority. With that seeming to be off the table, will some Bloc support drift to the Liberals or NDP?

In Ontario, the race between the Liberals and Conservatives for first place has tightened considerably, with the NDP well placed to come up the middle in a number of ridings.

In British Columbia, the Conservatives still lead, or are tied with the NDP, depending on which poll you believe. The Libs are third, barely ahead of the Greens.

In the Atlantic provinces, the polls differ and change from day to day. The Liberals should be ahead, but if they are it is not by much. The Conservatives have pockets of Atlantic strength, but will be shut out of Newfoundland. The NDP is doing well but we don’t know if their support is concentrated enough to result in more than a handful of seats.

The latest polls still show the Conservatives well in front in the prairies, although both the Liberals and NDP will win seats in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The NDP especially is coming on just a little stronger as the campaign winds down.

Alberta remains the Tory fortress, but it looks very likely that the NDP will win at least one seat in Edmonton.

Grit Leader Stephane Dion should not celebrate just yet, however, since his party is still below their traditional floor of support. In fact, the Liberal Leaders tour is apparent focusing on protecting seats they now hold, rather than seeking to conquer new territory.

On the the other hand, the NDP is still above their usual ceiling of support, and apparently still rising, albeit slowly. In recent days NDP Leader Jack Layton has been visiting ridings held by Liberals and Conservatives in an effort to add to his caucus. Indeed, the NDP already can expect victory in some surprising places, such as St. Johns East in Newfoundland.

One of the NDP’s greates assets is Lyton’s popularity and favorables. In most polls, Layton is the second choicce, behind Harper as best choice for Prime Minister. Dion’s personal popularity has improved since the debates.

I have never seen a Canadian election campaign like this one. So far, there is no winner, and no party is moving very quickly toward winner territory. It looks like the new House of Commons will be more equally divided between the four parties that now have seats there. There still does not seem to be any district where the Greens have concentrated enough support to win a seat. Still, everybody likes their Leader, Elizabeth May. And what Canadian does not care about the environment, with the ice caps melting and the Northwest passage becoming open water?

Green support will probably drift to other parties on election day, but which party will benefit the most? The answer to that question may determine the winner of this election.