Thursday, April 25, 2024

New location for this blog

 I have moved my blogging to a new Substack here: tcnorris Substack.

Monday, February 07, 2022

Ontario election 2022 might set a precedent

Polls over the past year seeking the views of the Ontario electorate have found a split that seemingly favours a re-election of the Ford government with a majority. Going back to last June, a year prior to the upcoming election date of June 2, the PCs have averaged about 35% support, five percentage points less than they obtained in 2018 while the average for the Liberals and NDP is 27% each. However, much of the analysis of this dead even split takes no account of a history of tactical voting in Ontario, both federal and provincial, dating back to 1999. I fully expect either the Liberals or the NDP to demonstrate during the election campaign that they are the more popular alternative to Ford - at this point I am not sure which it will be. The consequence of that will be late movement towards the party with the best chance of defeating the PCs, not necessarily dislodging the Ford PCs from first place, but likely sufficient to prevent a PC majority.

Even if the PCs win the most seats, the NDP and Liberal leaders have recently strongly suggested that they will not let Ford continue to govern. Fifteen years ago this would have been unheard of. The Canadian electorate accepted the legitimacy of the party finishing first simply carrying on with the business of government.

At a recent panel discussion NDP leader Andrea Horwath said, "I don’t see any scenario where I would support a Doug Ford government... If (Liberal leader) Steven Del Duca is prepared to support the kind of things that we want to see happen to fix what’s wrong in Ontario then I would welcome that and I would be prepared to have that conversation". For his part del Duca predicted "I don’t believe that I’ll be able to support Doug Ford... Doug Ford has demonstrated consistently ... he’s not the right person for the job. He doesn’t have what it takes — not the capacity, the curiosity, the interest or the skill set to get us through to the recovery and rebuild this province".

There was a time not long ago where the electorate accepted the first place finisher in our first-past-the-post electoral system as the legitimate winner. No longer. The idea of the acceptability of voting coalitions in legislatures has been growing. We saw this at work in BC following the 2017 provincial election when the NDP and Greens came to an agreement. If that type of accord could oust the Ford government following the 2022 election, I fully expect to see it happen. The PCs could be tossed from office even if they are, say, 10 seats and a couple of percentage points ahead.

Doug Ford with snow shovel

One of the conundrums of Ontario politics is that all three party leaders are seriously weak. Doug Ford is an incompetent clown whose first chief of staff, Dean French, had to be sacked due to a nepotism scandal, following a year where he engendered intense hostility throughout the halls of government, both bureaucratic and political. More recently, following a record snowfall Ford went out in his car to help other motorists who were stuck using a child's shovel (the link is to an amusing video), rather than working with provincial and municipal officials on managing the response to the storm. It was absurd. 

However, both of the opposition leaders are weak. NDP leader Andrea Horwath has frequently demonstrated poor political judgement, while Liberal leader Stephen del Duca is an exceptionally inept political performer.

Nonetheless, one of these three must wind up as a winner. I increasingly like the odds of one of the opposition leaders becoming premier.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Election 2021 Observations

Overall the results of the 2021 election were unremarkable. The result was acutely disappointing for the Liberal government, but their expections for a majority may have been misplaced. What follows are some observations about 2021.

1963 & 1965

The 2019 and 2021 elections bear a striking resemblance to the 1963 and 1965 elections. Both 1963 and 1965 produced Liberal minorities that were disappointments for the Liberals as they had expected to win a majority in both cases. Clearly the 2021 election was called by Justin Trudeau because numerous polls prior to the call of the election suggested that a majority was within reach, quite similar to the calling of the 1965 election by Lester Pearson on the urging of Walter Gordon and Keith Davey.

Lester Pearson & Walter Gordon
Because the Liberals slumped initially before recovering, expectations rose among some observers of a possible Conservative win. These expections were unrealistic. Among other things it involved forgetting that the Conservatives had already won more votes in 2019 but ended up with far fewer seats. My seat estimate, applied to the point where they peaked in the polls in late August, would have had them somewhere close to a tie with the Liberals in seats or even slightly ahead, but a long way short of a majority. In other words the Conservatives were not close to winning even a significant plurality of the constituencies. Once the campaign became focused the dynamic changed. It became clear that the Conservatives were attempting to come down on both sides of issues ranging from abortion to vaccination. This was a clear indication that they had no confidence in key parts of their platform.

An important Liberal mistake was anticipating that gains in Quebec would carry them much of the way towards a majority. In part the Bloc got lucky gaining ground based on the aggressive behaviour of the host of the English TV debate, which overall she handled badly. However, it revealed how brittle Quebec nationalist sensibilities can be. The Bloc portrayed the host's question on Bill 21 as an attack on Quebec. The political dynamic in Quebec is at best elusive; a similar unexpectedly strong performance on the part of the Ralliement créditistes of Real Caouette in rural Quebec in 1965 contributed to the Liberal failure then. I remember a pollster on the 1965 CBC election night coverage excusing his results by saying they were off base mainly in rural Quebec.

Pork Barrel Politics

When there is an impending election the party in power tries to take advantage of it by funding local projects to pick up a marginal seat.  I wrote about this last summer: "The Liberal government gives every signal that they intend to call an election in late summer or early autumn with the goal of converting their minority into a majority. One such sign was the announcement of federal money on July 9 for the extension of the Skytrain in BC in Surrey and Langley, which is aimed at shoring up existing Liberal ridings while targeting narrowly held Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) constituencies such as South Surrey-White Rock and Cloverdale-Langley City." So how did that turn out? The results were mixed: the Liberals did win Cloverdale-Langley City, a new seat for them, by three points, but lost the South Surrey-White Rock riding by a similar amount. The Liberals did keep their existing ridings in the region.

Chinese Ridings

The Liberals picked up three constituencies with large Chinese populations: Richmond Centre and Steveston-Richmond East in British Columbia, and Markham-Unionville in suburban Toronto. Given there was so little seat shifting the change is notable. Some argue that it was partly a product of a disinformation campaign by China, which was reacting to Conservative party policy proposals. However, it is conceivable the strong criticism of the Conservative party of Chinese human rights violations could have been interpreted by some members of the community as being anti-Chinese. Either way it did not affect the net outcome.

The Polls

On the whole, with a notable exception, the polls were accurate in 2021. I compared both the national and regional polls to the results. The most accurate polling firms were Leger, Ipsos and Research Co when you include all the regional numbers. The exception was the IVR (Interactive Voice Response) polls - ie being phoned by a computer. They significantly overestimated support for the PPC (People's Party of Canada).

The PPC and Greens

The PPC measurably increased its support in this election, from 3.3% in 2019 to 4.9% in 2021 (but won no seats) essentially campaigning as an anti-vaccine party (its strength was strongest in rural Manitoba).  Following its disastrous leadership change, the Green Party dropped 4.1 percentage points between the two elections and ended up with one less seat.

Third Party Interventions

There are always interests and individuals seeking to affect elections. Former Liberal cabinet minister Jody Wilson Raybould, elected as an independent in 2019, wrote a critical memoir centred on the SNC Lavalin Affair and was, according to Jeffrey Simpson, "so determined ... to wound the prime minister and his party in the 2021 election that she apparently advanced the memoir’s publication date to maximize the hurt it might do to her former colleagues." As best I can tell it had no impact. Most intervenors in elections are similarly unsuccessful.

What should we expect in our political future

During the campaign, Earnscliffe Strategies sponsored weekly polls by Leger and provided discussion in the form of a webinar. One session focused particualarly on second choices. The election delivered a disappointing outcome for the NDP but the poll suggests the NDP may be well positioned going forward (see 8:20 onward). Nationally more voters indicated second choice support for the NDP than any other party

Earnscliffe Leger Poll 2021 Election
Earnscliffe's Allan Gregg, one of Canada's best pollsters, comments (at about the 10:04 mark): "Second choice support is a pretty good surrogate for potential growth.You can see how different it is for each of the three parties. You can see here the Conservatives only have six percent of the population versus fifteen percent for the Liberals and twenty-seven percent for the New Democrats. Historically you would never see anything like that. Secondly you look at Liberal voters, they have almost no propensity to vote Conservative whatsoever." 

Gregg was referring in this instance to the short term of the election campaign but it might be appropriate to think about it in a longer run context.

As the Official Opposition, the Conservatives are generally thought of as the most likely alternative government, but if Gregg's comment is right, they will have a hard time getting there. 

The NDP also benefits from Jagmeet Singh's popularity, although it is strongly correlated with age. Singh is quite popular with younger voters. There are a number of different questions used to measure personal popularity. One of the best measures is 'Who do you prefer as prime minister?'. This appears to be closest to actual vote choice. The Nanos poll asks more than one including preferred prime minister. Trudeau is almost always first around 30%. This week O'Toole was second and Singh third, near 20%. Last week it was the reverse. Singh has the most support when the question is about 'has the qualities of a good political leader' (note: not prime minister).

Will Trudeau Retire from Politics?

I like gossip as much as the next person but the Ottawa press corps is obsessed with gossip about Trudeau's departure so you see a great deal of coverage. When asked, Trudeau said clearly he is not leaving. If you want to figure out what will happen history strongly suggests that he is far more likely to hang on too long than leave early. Party leaders that have hung on too long in recent history include Brian Mulroney (leaving Kim Campbell not much time to get ready for the next election), Pierre Trudeau  (remember the 'peace initiative'), Jean Chrétien (helping provoke the clash with Martin), and John Diefenbaker (he had to be ousted by Dalton Camp). There are several more. Ignore the gossip.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

And the winner is....

This election campaign has left a sour taste in everyone's mouth. It was unnecessary and has let loose a wave of anti-social behaviour, particularly on the part of PPC adherents and anti-vaxxers. It appears the Liberals will win the most seats, likely somewhere in the 140-150 range with the Conservatives somewhere in the 120-130 range. Almost all seat projections would yield a Liberal plus NDP majority in the House of Commons. It is quite possible that vote shares for the two leading parties will wind up lower than their respective vote shares than in the 2019 election. For the Liberals a minority outcome would be a result comparable to the bitter fruit the party tasted at the time of the 1965 election.

It also appears the election has not been kind to the Conservatives; they have been forced on the defensive on issues including ranging from vaccinations to health care to abortion to gun control. Erin O'Toole has quite skilfully tried to come down on both sides of contentious issues without appearing opportunistic. To me he has simply appeared to be dishonest and untrustworthy - not just dishonest in the dissembling way one normally expects from political speech but beyond that.

One party that is clearly doing better this time is the NDP, benefiting in part from dissatisfaction with the two leading alternatives, particularly the Liberals. It is possible, if everything went the NDP's way, they would end up somewhere in the 40-50 seat range. More likely is something in the 30-40 seat range, still a large improvement on the 24 seats they captured in 2019. NDP support is disproportionately young, the demographic with the lowest turnout. In today's Nanos poll the NDP leads in the 18 to 34 age group with 34% of the vote to 22% for the Liberals and 20% for the Conservatives.  Another factor is that some who prefer the NDP nonetheless vote Liberal to prevent the Conservatives from achieving success. 

A key reason the Conservatives are having a tough time ousting the Liberals is that relatively few non-Conservatives cite them as a second choice.

A poll conducted by Leger for the Earnscliffe Strategy Group produced the following finding:

In January 2019, 22% of Liberal supporters named the CPC as their second choice, falling to 16% in October of that year. Now, just 2% would support the CPC, while over half (58%) give their second-choice support to the NDP.

If we go back over the decades it is the Liberal Party and Conservative Party (in its various iterations) that have provided alternative governments to Canadians. Is that era coming to an end? It is too soon to say, but this evolution in public opinion seems significant.

The other big problem for the Conservatives is that they are no longer the big tent party on the right. The gains of the PPC this time are almost certain to be modest, but most of their votes are coming from the Conservatives.  Nick Kouvalis, a pollster and Conservative strategist - he worked for Rob Ford and is currently working for Doug - blames the PPC for the likely Liberal victory in the latest press release issued by his polling firm Campaign Research. It is reminiscent of the nineties and the split between the Reform Party and the former Progressive Conservative Party, albeit on a more limited scale. However, it would take just a few percentage points to deny Erin O'Toole's Conservative Party a good result.

Because there has been a great deal of voting this year by mail and special ballots, results which won't be known until Tuesday, we might not learn the final shape of the House of Commons until the next day. However, polling from Nanos suggests the gains post election day will not go to the Conservatives:

According to Nanos Research’s nightly tracking data conducted for CTV News and the Globe and Mail, which was released on Friday, those Canadians who plan to vote by mail-in ballot are four times more likely to vote for the Liberals than the Conservatives...

Of those who rated their likelihood to vote by mail as a nine or 10 on the scale:

             47 per cent would vote Liberal; 

            26 per cent would vote NDP;

             12 per cent would vote Conservative;

              6 per cent would vote Bloc Quebecois;

             6 per cent would vote Green Party; and

             2 per cent would vote People’s Party of Canada

In 2019 the polls significantly underestimated the Conservatives; every major polling firm understated the Andrew Scheer Conservatives by an average of 2.6 percentage points nationally; in Alberta it was 11.1 percentage points. Will it happen again? Have the polling firms made adjustments to reflect 2019 experience? We don't know. One party that has a lot riding on this is the NDP.  As things stand now, the party is poised to make significant seat gains in Saskatchewan and Alberta, but a repeat of the same polling phenomenon could negate those potential wins. The pandemic has not been kind to Jason Kenney or Scott Moe. That could be an offsetting factor as could the rise of the PPC. 

The 2020 election in the United States produced significant polling error. A key explanation that emerged later was that there was increasing distrust on the part of the political right in institutions including polling. It could be repeated here.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

The last week: where things stand

State of the Race

In the last few days the Liberals have begun inching upward in various polls, in particular in the Nanos daily tracking poll for the Globe and Mail and CTV, the Mainstreet poll for iPolitics (you can see all the polls on Wikipedia). Both Nanos and Mainstreet had quite accurate polls in 2019, so they deserve to be taken seriously. The growth for the Liberals may be connected to the debates, but it seems to have started earlier. These results point to a Liberal minority that would be stronger than their pre-election position but short of a majority. There has also been some upward movement for Maxime Bernier's People's Party of Canada (PPC) - scroll down the CBC's poll tracker page to see the graphic showing poll shifts over time to see this. While a little of their support comes from elsewhere, most is coming from the Conservatives. One province showing weakness in Conservative support is Alberta, weak enough that the NDP and Liberals could pick up seats. However, polling there in 2019 underestimated the actual Conservative vote by eleven points. In the United States in 2020 there is evidence that small 'c' conservatives did not respond to polls to the same extent as liberals. We should not be surprised to see something along these lines in Canada, although polling firms are now aware of the problem.

The Debate

The debate was atrocious. I did not think they could get any worse but this one did.  The Globe's John Doyle nailed it in his TV column:

What happened across multiple Canadian TV channels was the worst of the worst, an example of utter failure in Canadian television, and a disgraceful insult to the intelligence of viewers and voters.

That was not a debate, it was a farce. The fact that the political leaders even agreed to participate in the format is an indictment of their collective intelligence....

Moderator Shachi Kurl took the view that her job was to stop the leaders from talking. This was a peculiar tack to take. You see, at its best, television coverage isolates and highlights the strengths and flaws of individuals. It goes to the core. It can push aside propaganda and posturing. Politicians and the public know this. It’s why the U.S. debates proceed with deep seriousness. Here, in election debate after election debate, the event has tended to descend into bickering and masquerade.

I agree with all of this. One reform I would like to see (among many) is that there be only one live mike at a time for the politicians. The cross talk and interruptions make the debate extremely confusing for viewers. If only one mike is on at a time, the speaker who has the floor will be heard easily above one who tries to interrupt. As it was in this debate the moderator frequently took the side of the interrupter and told the speaker to stop. It was the worst performance by a debate moderator ever.

The significance of Suburban Toronto

The region where the Conservatives are hoping to make significant gains in Ontario is known as the 905 after its area code and consists of suburbs west, east and north of Toronto.  Half of these constituencies are in the west, a third in the north and a smaller number in the east.

The Conservatives swept this area in 2011, the Liberals in 2019. The top two tables below report the results for 2019 and 2015. The third table gives the comparison. Note that while the Liberals maintained their strength overall in 2019 they slipped a bit in the north and east but actually gained in the west. The suburbs to the west of Toronto include primarily Mississauga, Brampton, and Oakville. The population  there is becoming more diverse, that is, more like Toronto, where Conservative support is weak.

I would look for Conservative gains (if they re-establish their earlier campaign strength) first in York Region, the suburbs north of Toronto. The Conservatives are targeting seats here and were successful in luring a Liberal elected in this region in 2019 to cross the floor, no doubt in part because she sensed Conservative strength here. 

The NDP and Jagmeet Singh

To date the NDP is running ahead of its pace in 2019, and looks set to pick up seats. Leader Jagmeet Singh is polling particularly well in surveys that ask specifically about leadership. A recent Abacus poll found he had the strongest net positives among the leaders. The problem is that leaders are not on the ballot but parties are. Nonetheless, Singh is proving to be an adept campaigner and communicator. 

However, the NDP vote is strongly correlated by age (in the most recent Mainstreet and Nanos they were either tied or ahead in the youngest age cohort) so turnout is exceptionally important. The NDP is quite a bit weaker among older voters who tend to turn out more strongly while younger voters have lower turnout (see this Statistics Canada survey).  It bodes well for the NDP in the longer run. Because the Conservatives did well early on in the campaign they could also lose votes to tactical voters who may prefer the NDP but will nonetheless vote Liberal if they fear the Conservatives.

Normally, one should not expect much movement in the final week of a campaign but this one is close; there are recent shifts that may not be finished. There is higher than normal uncertainty.

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Election Campaign 2021 and the polls

Election 2021 features quite a few polls including daily tracking polls from Nanos and Mainstreet, who were among the most accurate polling firms in 2019. The table below presents calculations of the difference between actual election results and the late campaign provincial & regional subsections of national polls in 2019. I converted the errors into absolute values, added them up and ranked the pollsters. The top three performers in 2019 (seen below with a white background) were Leger, Mainstreet and Nanos.

In my view the polling firms in the middle with the light gray background also did well - Abacus, Research Co and Campaign Research. The others in darker gray below were less accurate.

These pollster performances could look different in 2021.  The pollster with the best record over time is Nanos, the firm doing daily tracking polls for the Globe and Mail/ CTV News.  So far the polls suggest that the Liberals' hoped for majority is a chimera. I hate the term "polls show"; polls are not so unswervingly accurate, so they deserve less declarative language.

The results so far should be regarded as tentative and preliminary.  The arrival of the autumn will bring TV debates in the week following Labour Day. They are likely to be highly influential on the final result. 

Although parties devote much space to detailed policy proposals the public looks at the big picture: it is symbolic politics that are decisive. 

The Liberals popularity declined almost as soon as the writ was dropped. It is likely the Trudeau government was unpopular before writ. Six years of accumulated grievances will do that. However, the Liberals' polling and other public opinion research such as focus groups should have been looking for that and they ought to have found it. Clearly they weren't looking.

The Dishonesty of Erin O'Toole

The Conservatives are running an extremely dishonest, but highly effective campaign, a much more effective campaign than Andrew Scheer mounted in 2019. 

An Andrew Coyne column in the Globe and Mail helps illustrate the nature of the Conservative campaign.
"...So Conservatives must be thrilled to find Erin O’Toole showing promise of the requisite shamelessness. The Conservative leader has not just survived the inevitable Liberal attacks in the campaign’s first week, he has seemed almost to invite them, luring the Grits into wasting valuable rhetorical ammunition on a series of dummy controversies.

On vaccine mandates, on abortion, on health care, Mr. O’Toole has said things that at first sound difficult, controversial, or at least noteworthy, but which on closer examination turn out to mean nothing – nothing, that is, substantively different from Liberal policy, the status quo, or both. Liberal attempts to turn these into wedge issues have accordingly largely fizzled.

Some of this facility had been in evidence even before the Conservative platform was released. The Conservative promise to balance the budget “over the next decade” is a masterpiece of meaninglessness: the latest projections from the Parliamentary Budget Office show the budget will be all but balanced – a deficit of less than 1 per cent of GDP – inside of four years. It would require heroic acts of profligacy to prevent it from balancing in 10."
Coyne is right about this meaningless promise, but it lets the Conservatives appear to be fiscally prudent, when it is probably their intent to run large deficits in budgets, which include big tax cuts for their friends, financed by additional borrowing. It is the symbolism that counts. Quite brilliant, but entirely dishonest. 

More Coyne:
".... On abortion, Mr. O’Toole’s vociferously pro-choice position seemed to deprive the Liberals of a target – until the release of the Conservative platform, with its vow to “protect the conscience rights of health-care professionals” who object to providing services such as abortion or assisted suicide. Again the Liberals pounced, only to find their wedge blunted once again: doctors are not required to provide those services now.

They are required to provide “effective referrals,” something Mr. O’Toole had promised to scrap during his leadership campaign. Would he still? Alas, no, as he later clarified: the promise now is merely to “protect” doctors’ existing conscience rights. The status quo, in other words."
Coyne should ask the rhetorical question if this is no change: why say anything?  Because that rhetoric is a strong symbolic bow towards the anti-abortion crowd within Conservative ranks.  He is saying "I am sympathetic to your feelings. I will try to do something for you." It may not amount to much - public opinion in Canada is strongly pro-choice. Stephen Harper did not try to introduce an abortion law. However, he firmly prohibited Canada's international aid money from being spent on family planning that included access to abortion. In other words he is saying he is with the anti-abortionists in spirit if not in practice.  Again, brilliant but dishonest.

We go through the same thing again on health care. Coyne again:
"By the time the Liberals shifted their focus to health care, they were already looking punched out. Still, did they really think, in 2021, after so much talk of the perils of online misinformation, they could get away with posting a video of Mr. O’Toole saying he would allow provinces to contract with private, for-profit providers, while snipping out the bit about ensuring “universal access remains paramount”?

Again: private provision of services within a system of universal public insurance is common practice now – under the current, i.e. Liberal government. All the Liberal war room achieved by this ham-fisted gambit was to make themselves the issue, rather than their intended target.

Mr. O’Toole’s talent for double-talk may not make for much coherent policy. But as a survival tactic, its merits are undoubted. The point of a wedge issue is to force a party leader to choose between his base and the broader public. It takes some artful duplicity to wriggle out of this trap: to adopt a position of such bottomless vacuity, impenetrable yet suggestive, as to allow each group to take away from it what they prefer.

Again we have to ask why say this. Because O'Toole wants to appeal to the pro-privatization part of the Canadian electorate. This includes many affluent Canadians who want to buy their way to the front of the line, something that would seriously undermine Canada's health care system. However, his rhetorical frame lets him deny it. My impression is that it seems to have worked at the symbolic level, which is the point of the gambit. However, it is remarkably dishonest and suggests to me that O'Toole is further to the right than he is letting on. Coyne seems clueless about all this: symbolic politics have a reality underneath that should not be ignored.

So far I have neglected to mention the NDP. To date they are running a successful (for a third party) 'happy warrior' campaign, and Jagmeet Singh is achieving new heights of personal popularity. More on the NDP in a future post.


Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Is it time for a Liberal majority?

1965 Liberal Campaign Button
A federal election is coming and the widely mooted purpose for this campaign is a desire by the Trudeau government to win a majority of seats in the House of Commons. It brings immediately to mind a similar effort in 1965 when Walter Gordon and Keith Davey persuaded Lester Pearson to call an election for November 8, 1965. 

That particular effort failed, humiliating its sponsors - one of the more notorious political failures in Canadian history, leaving behind a button to remind us of the hubris. A few years later in 1968 Pearson's successor, Pierre Trudeau, called a snap election after winning the Liberal leadership, winning a majority. He would repeat the success in 1974, an election engineered for the same purpose,  following a near death performance in the 1972 election.

The record of minority governments seeking to become majorities is mixed. Probably the most spectacular success was that of John Diefenbaker in 1957 when he called the 1958 election and won one of Canada's largest majorities ever. A year later Manitoba PC Premier Duff Roblin engineered his defeat in the legislature, turning his minority government into a majority in the ensuing election. On the other hand, Stephen Harper was handed a setback when he called the 2008 election not long after legislating a fixed election date law that he promptly ignored. He saw an opportunity for a majority but it faded during the campaign; he wound up with a minority. 

We have seen a pattern of success and failure among provincial governments as well. Bill Davis failed in Ontario in 1977 to attain a majority (seeking to reverse the minority outcome in 1975) , while Manitoba PC Premier Gary Filmon won a snap election in September 1990 following two yars in a minority. Quebec Liberal Premier Jean Charest won a majority the same way in 2008 following being reduced to a minority in 2007. Nova Scotia PC Premier Rodney Macdonald tried for a majority in 2006 but didn't get it, and lost outright to the NDP in 2009. The New Brunswick PC government of Blaine Higgs converted a minority into a majority this year, while John Horgan did the same thing for the NDP last year in BC. There have been others as well.  

One conclusion I reach is that, despite current appearances, a Liberal majority is not a lock. I averaged a few recent polls and the seats projected; the estimate based on that average is a Liberal majority of 177 (101 C, 36 NDP, 24 Bloc and 1 Green) but the dynamics of an election campaign could easily change  that. Indeed, 177 is a marginal majority and by no means certain. The number of previous attempts  by  others nonetheless suggest that the incentive to seek a majority is strong and elections called to win a majority in similar circumstances will continue in the future.

One final point: there is much discussion at the moment about whether there should be an election. Some argue that an unnecessary election (and I agree it is unnecessary) will hurt the Liberals. Some cite the example of David Peterson's early election call in 1990 leading to the victory of Bob Rae's NDP.  I don't think it will be an issue, and it will be forgotten once the campaign is underway. There was a poll early on reporting the Ontario Liberals way ahead in 1990. But there was a great deal of public opiniton research that was not public at the time that suggested the Peterson government was quite unpopular (See the book Not Without Cause: David Peterson's Fall from Grace for details). I think an election will be called on Sunday, August 15 and whatever else may be said, the fact of calling the election will not be a significant election issue.  But Justin Trudeau's majority project, which looks strong now, could fail.