Thursday, July 23, 2015

Are the Harper Conservatives really the best bet to win?

Recently a west coast political commentator with ties to the BC Socreds and B.C. Conservative Party named Will McMartin published a commentary in the Tyee arguing that Harper was still the best bet to win this year.

He acknowledges there are polls putting the NDP in first place but states: "In fact, Harper is near-certain to be our next prime minister unless the NDP makes significant further breakthroughs in key parts of Canada."

He goes on to say that those "predicting" Harper's defeat are wrong, further asserting that he is "just the number crunching messenger here".

The numbers he crunches, however, appear to be entirely based on the 2011 election results. He may be basing some of his observations on polls but does not say so. While polls can be subject to error on the whole they get things right.  The polls, for example, correctly anticipated the result in Alberta this year.

The problem with basing his analysis only on 2011 is that the Conservatives are currently averaging a lot less support in 2015 than in 2011. Their average support in July polls is 30.1 per cent compared to Harper's 39.4 per cent of the votes in 2011, about 24% less, all of which has gone to other parties. So it is minus nine percentage points for the Conservatives and plus a like amount for the opposition, an eighteen point swing.

He argues that the new expanded House of Commons "has made the Tories' task much, much easier. This is because when votes from the last election are transposed onto the newly drawn electoral districts, Harper's Tories pick up an extra 22 seats, compared to the NDP and the Liberals adding just six and two respectively."

He makes a logical error previously made by others (it is also a feature of the 2013 book The Big Shift, pollster Darrell Bricker and Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson). The Harper "gains" from redistribution only occur if he receives the same number of votes.  With far fewer votes there will far fewer Conservative seats not the same.

Ontario is getting 15 of the new seats many in the suburban belt of constituencies surrounding Toronto. In the 2011 federal election the Conservative Party did indeed sweep almost all of those suburban ridings. In Ontario – except for the north – federal and provincial constituency boundaries are identical. Provincially most of the ridings swept by Harper have now voted twice for the provincial Liberals. In fact, 40 constituencies that elected a member of Stephen Harper’s 2011 caucus sent a Liberal to Queen’s Park on June 12, 2014. Another seven 2011 federal Conservative ridings went NDP provincially. Voter preferences here are not frozen with the colour blue. They vary over time.

Current polls and my seat estimation model make it clear that most of these same suburbs would now elect Liberal or NDP members not Conservatives. McMartin seems to assume the 2011 results somehow apply automatically to 2015. They do not.

His regional analysis analyzes what to expect in the various regions across the country but it suffers from the same inability to acknowledge that to date the Conservatives have suffered losses of support. The Conservatives have lost ground everywhere except Quebec where they had their weakest showing in 2011 and now average about the same level of support. His seat estimates are all therefore faulty for the same reason. He sees only five or six seats lost in Atlantic while I make it ten. He thinks the Conservatives will hold 18 of 22 seats in Manitoba and Saskatchewan while I think they will only keep 14. In Alberta he sees no losses while I estimate they will lose six.  The federal Tories are really getting hit hard in B.C. where I see them currently dropping to 7 seats while McMartin thinks they will get 20.

His estimate in Ontario is less precise but he thinks they will get well over 60 while I have them currently at 52 (this would represent a loss of 31 seats from the 2011 transposed results in this province alone).

It is perhaps better to look at the analysis as representing an optimistic view of what might be possible for the Conservatives in 2015 if all somehow goes well (headlines about economic and fiscal troubles will clearly not help).

The Conservatives do have a realistic chance of having the most seats, but if they do they will almost certainly be far, far short of a majority, and very much on life support post-election.

I found one part of the commentary I do agree with: "A riding to watch is the newly created Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas. (my emphasis) Transposed results from four years ago show the Conservatives with 42.4 per cent of the vote, closely followed by the New Democrats and Liberals with 28.2 per cent and 24.9 per cent respectively."

Right now I have the NDP ahead in this constituency just ahead of the Conservatives and the Liberals, all parties with around 30/31%. Not clear who will win but it does illustrate that having a big lead coming out 2011 is no guarantee of success in 2015.




Monday, July 13, 2015

Why spending cuts by the Harper government are causing them political harm

There is a feel good article in the Globe's Report on Business today titled, "Aboriginal women lead the way in Canada’s labour markets". The story focuses on recent labour market success on the part of non-reserve Aboriginal women citing the case of Krystal Abotossaway as an example. The first in her family to go to university graduating in 2013 she now works in human resources for RBC.

Another part of the story quotes another aboriginal woman, Patricia Baxer, an Ottawa-based consultant on aboriginal issues as saying, “I think aboriginal women have more opportunities now than ever before....” She went on to say "she’s seen entrepreneurship, in particular, spike."

Later, deep in the story, there is this paragraph:
Ms. Baxter, the aboriginal entrepreneur, still sees challenges: Less federal funding for aboriginal organizations has hurt progress, she says, while young people still need better access to training opportunities, particularly in more isolated communities. “I can’t really stress enough that I feel that this government has really reduced opportunities and development with aboriginal communities. I don’t think they’ve responded to aboriginal issues in a clear way. In fact, if anything, they’ve reduced them, so aboriginal communities, and organizations are really, really struggling to even keep their doors open,” she says.
Multiply this experience many times over along with the corresponding reactions that have taken place across the country in many diverse places and circumstances, and you get some idea of why Stephen Harper's popularity has plummeted. When it comes government spending cuts there is no free lunch.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Anatomy of the NDP Surge

The political scene in Canada has changed dramatically since April. Around the time of the Alberta election it became clear that the NDP was surging in the polls nationally. The upward movement was discernible earlier, particularly in BC and Quebec. Nationally, it was the Alberta election that had a catalytic, transformative impact to the benefit of the NDP.  The Alberta surprise suggests that there was potential NDP support across Canada held back by pessimism about the party's prospects.

I present detailed charts (below the analysis) on changes in average poll support both nationally and regionally, starting with a summary chart that outlines the shift in average support that has taken place since April.

Several observations about what has happened:

1. The NDP has made slightly greater gains from the Conservatives than the Liberals (see details in chart) and even appear to have taken some support from the Green Party.

2. For the NDP Quebec is the key to their potential electoral success. If the recent gains are to matter they must be able to push back the recent boost for the Bloc, which emerged after the leadership change that brought back Gilles Duceppe. Many analysts have suggested that the Conservatives might have potential in Quebec. Indeed there was some growth in support for Harper following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris (not the attacks in Canada) raised the profile of terrorism in the province. However, the Conservatives have now fallen back and are close to their 2011 support. The Liberals have gained but as has been the case since 1984 are largely confined to the English speaking parts of Quebec.

3. A second key to the election will be Ontario where something like a three way split has emerged. The NDP has made significant gains, more from the Conservatives than the Liberals. A stagnating economy with limited wage growth, all over the province but especially in the southwest, is likely hurting the Harper Conservatives who regard their economic competence as a key aspect of their reputation. The Liberals remain relatively strong here despite losses. A shift in focus to national issues could still help them. For the moment Harper's growing unpopularity is helping the NDP in Ontario.

However, I suspect the Liberals have been hurt by the Wynne government's plans to privatize Hydro One (the retail and transmission part of the old Ontario Hydro). One cannot overstate how unpopular a move this is. When the previous initiative to privatize hydro was cancelled midstream by the Ernie Eves PC government, one Conservative advisor commented privately at the time that it was the most unpopular thing done by an Ontario government since Bob Rae's first budget. The hydro privatization inevitably helps the NDP.

4. The Liberals have slipped in Atlantic Canada but have encountered greater losses out west.

5. B.C. has become a particular source of strength for the NDP. I currently project the NDP to take more than half the seats there.

6. While Manitoba and Saskatchewan are of little significance to the national picture, the Liberals are poised to win four seats in Manitoba, while the NDP are likely to gain one seat in Manitoba and two or more seats in Saskatchewan.

7. Overall the June polls would put the NDP in first place with 126 seats to 116 for the Conservatives and 92 for the Liberals, but shifting in the polls continued during the month so this estimate likely understates the true picture at the moment.

Conclusions:

Apart from the polls the signs of a Conservative defeat are accumulating. One must add to the sources of decay I noted at the end of May that record numbers of incumbent Conservative MPs are not running again. The October 19 election is less than four months away. The opposition may still be split between the Liberals and the NDP, but it is becoming remarkably clear that much of the Canadian electorate wants Harper out. A new EKOS poll is due out today or tomorrow.  A preview came from Frank Graves in a tweet where he said the poll would report the "second worst direction of government in a decade".

Although Harper looks like he is headed to defeat the opposition remains significantly split between Liberals and the NDP.  Regardless of who has led in the past two years, one constant I have found in estimating seat totals for the parties has been that the NDP plus the Liberals equals a majority. That remains today the most likely reality following October 19.


Poll Change in Canada and Provinces/Regions April to June
C.P.C
NDP
Liberal
Green
Bloc
Canada
-4.6
9.7
-3.5
-2.1
1.0
Atlantic
-1.6
7.4
-2.5
-3.1
Quebec
-5.7
6.5
-3.4
-1.2
4.0
Ontario
-5.7
11.6
-3.4
-1.7
Man. & Sask
-4.9
9.6
-5.2
0.3
Alberta
1.7
6.4
-5.1
-1.6
British Columbia
-3.8
13.4
-5.2
-3.6

Averages and change / Canada and Province/Regions April to June

Canada
C.P.C
NDP
Liberal
Green
Bloc
April
33.1
23.1
30.5
7.1
4.3
May
30.5
28.6
28.5
6.6
4.0
June
28.5
32.8
27.0
5.0
5.3
Change
April to June
-4.6
9.7
-3.5
-2.1
1.0
Atlantic
C.P.C
NDP
Liberal
Green
April
25.1
20.3
45.2
7.8
May
23.8
23.6
43.6
7.1
June
23.6
27.7
42.7
4.7
Change
April to June
-1.6
7.4
-2.5
-3.1
Quebec
C.P.C
NDP
Liberal
Green
Bloc
April
21.4
28.4
26.2
4.7
17.8
May
16.0
35.7
25.5
4.9
16.1
June
15.7
34.8
22.8
3.5
21.8
Change
April to June
-5.7
6.5
-3.4
-1.2
4.0
Ontario
C.P.C
NDP
Liberal
Green
April
37.5
19.9
33.6
6.6
May
34.5
24.4
33.4
6.2
June
31.8
31.5
30.2
4.8
Change
April to June
-5.7
11.6
-3.4
-1.7
MB & SK
C.P.C
NDP
Liberal
Green
April
42.0
20.1
30.7
5.7
May
40.9
24.7
26.0
5.4
June
37.1
29.6
25.5
6.0
Change
April to June
-4.9
9.6
-5.2
0.3
Alberta
C.P.C
NDP
Liberal
Green
April
44.8
23.3
22.9
5.4
May
48.9
26.5
15.9
5.3
June
46.5
29.7
17.8
3.8
Change
April to June
1.7
6.4
-5.1
-1.6
British Columbia
C.P.C
NDP
Liberal
Green
April
31.6
24.2
29.0
12.9
May
28.4
32.0
26.5
11.4
June
27.8
37.6
23.8
9.3
Change
April to June
-3.8
13.4
-5.2
-3.6