Monday, January 26, 2004

Belinda's Launch

Roy McGregor January 21 in the Globe on Belinda Stronach:

‘Oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear.
"Paris Hilton has as good a chance of becoming prime minister as she has." "Bay Street pie --thin crust. She can't cut it." "All sizzle, no steak." "It would be embarrassing to see her on the world stage speaking." "She doesn't have the depth to do it." "She dropped the ball." "I never thought I'd say this -- but she makes Stephen Harper look pretty good."
All the above are not, believe me, the snide shots of a bitter columnist, but the comments of ordinary listeners to Belinda Stronach's very first media interview on her quest to become leader of the Conservative Party.
It was a disaster. For 20 minutes, on a day so cold even the streetlights froze, the young mother who would be prime minister appeared on Winnipeg radio station CJOB's popular "Adler On Line" and performed in such a manner that the kindest thing station workers could say of her when it was over was that they felt "sad" for her.
It was indeed a sad performance. She had the air of someone who has been so overhandled that she has no idea who she herself is or what she thinks. The result was that she came across as, sorry to have to say this, not very bright.”

On Saturday January 24 in its story on the Ipsos-Reid poll the Globe quoted Darrell Bricker of Ipsos-Reid:

Mr. Bricker said Canadians at least appear ready to take a look at Ms. Stronach. "Belinda Stronach seems to have had as good a launch as one could possibly have to start," he said, but added that most of the good reviews are sparked, so far, by little more than curiosity.
"It's basically buzz, but it's a good place to start," he said.

A good launch? An amazing comment, simply amazing.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

New National Reid Poll

The Ipsos-Reid poll released today gives the Liberals an enormous lead: L – 48%, Cons – 19%, NDP – 16%, BQ – 10% (39% in Quebec) and 8% for others including 4% that is Green.

The poll still reports relatively strong support for the new Conservative party in Atlantic Canada at 37% compared to a PC + CA total of 41.5% in 2000. The new party is much closer to its 2000 total here than nationally where the current Reid national number of 19% is a huge drop from the Canada-wide PC + CA total of 37.7% in the last election.

This result, at first glance, seems counterintuitive. The likely explanation in my view continues to be (see my earlier posting on the December Reid poll) that the Conservative brand name is still strong in the Atlantic provinces, where one suspects many voters have not quite caught on to the idea being expressed widely that the new party is an Alliance takeover. This implies that the poll is overstating Conservative support here.

However, the new party’s numbers in some western provinces, notably B.C. (where they are only at 20%), are very weak, probably reflecting a negative impact from the Conservative brand name.

The Martin tilt to the right does seem to be bringing New Democrats home – after winning 20% in 1988 NDP support more or less collapsed in the 90’s partly as a consequence of weak leadership and unpopular provincial governments in B.C. and Ontario, but also as a consequence of fear of the Reform Party and the Alliance. My impression is that the Martin shift to the right combined with a perception that the new Conservative Party is a weakling is bringing NDP support home. My guess is that the poll overstates Green support and understates NDP support. Reid added the Greens to its ballot question about eighteen months ago for valid reasons (many respondents were volunteering the name), but since then Jack Layton has been busily wooing leading Greens into NDP ranks. The full effects of that strategy, however, won’t become apparent until after an election is called.

Using my forecast model based on the 2000 boundaries, I get the following results.

L – 208
Cons – 39
NDP – 20
BQ – 34

Once I have updated the forecast model with the transposed results I will post the new numbers.

Despite their large gains in popular support compared to the last election, the NDP’s gains are modest and will remain so as long as the Liberals’ popularity remains so strong.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004


Elections Canada has released its transposition of the 2000 election results to the new boundaries. (I will be using soon them to update my forecast model.)

A glance at the results in the new riding of Niagara West-Glamorgan tells us the Liberals would have only won it by 3% over the Alliance with the PC's picking up 12%. It will clearly be a target this year and in the future for the C.P.C.

It is no surprise then that Toni Valeri wants to run in Hamilton East-Stoney Creek. About half the population of his old riding of Stoney Creek falls within the new riding. And because he is part of the Martin team, many local interests in the riding are gravitating his way.

The following excerpt is from the Globe's story on January 17 about the fight:

" "Union leader Joseph Mancinelli prefers to view it as a changing of the guard.

Mr. Mancinelli, president of the 3,000-strong local of the Laborers' International Union of North America, was a Copps supporter in the past, but is backing Mr. Valeri now.

He says Ms. Copps was a politician for a different time. The city needs to develop its inner core.

“Tony Valeri, like Paul Martin, understands these issues,” Mr. Mancinelli said. “Sheila, on the other hand — even though she's been a very loud and effective voice in Canadian politics — is not part of that team. She's not part of the Martin team and does not share in those same philosophies.” "

Valeri's strength comes from the fact that he is in cabinet, making Martin's claim that this is just a local riding fight disingenuous. Copps' public appeal for support made it clear she is dealing from a position of weakness in the on the ground membership battle. But it is one of the few resources she can bring to the bear. And Ms. Copps has the ability to exploit a narrative like this for its public relations value, very effectively.

Her problem is that the Martin strategy of looking for small 'c' conservative votes means he is note likely to see it as in his interest to be seen to be offering her a lifeline. She is no favourite of more conservatively-inclined Canadians.

Monday, January 19, 2004

The Martin Strategy

This year’s federal election features an experimental approach to ideological positioning by Paul Martin and team. Since the days of Mackenzie King (who called the socialists “Liberals in hurry”) the Liberals have traditionally run to the left (and governed from the right say Jack Layton, Ed Broadbent, Tommy Douglas, et al).

This time Martin clearly sees political advantage on the right, and the NDP as a nuisance to be managed, but not a threat to be feared as in earlier decades.

It may suit his natural inclinations, but Martin may also be trying to catch the new C.P.C. at its weakest moment. The tensions surrounding the merger are far from fully resolved and appear to be making a full-blown appearance in the leadership race. There is also a party constitution to be written and coming nomination fights to add to the fun.

The reputation of the merger as an Alliance takeover has been aided and abetted by the defections of Scott Brison from the PC's and Keith Martin from the Alliance ("Stephen has made it very clear that a true Conservative party is one that's a socially conservative party, and that's not an area that I embrace.", Martin is quoted in the Toronto Star as saying, despite having been a Stockwell Day candidate four years ago). The refusniks Clark, Bachand and Herron (and perhaps others to come) make Martin’s case that much easier to advance. In these special circumstances it probably makes more political sense to make a one-time raid on the old PC base than to tilt left in the hopes of hanging on to NDP support.

This explains the western initiative of Martin, apart from the dead obvious fact that the overwhelming majority of C.P.C. seats are west of the Manitoba/Saskatchewan border. The strategy also suggests that his electoral goals are very ambitious: he wants to win a larger majority than any won by Jean Chrétien.

Martin’s western gambit is picking up important local candidates such as Alberta Liberal Leader Ken Nicol who is going to run in Lethbridge. However, the Liberals are so far behind in non-Edmonton Alberta, I fail to see how they are going to make gains outside of the metropolitan region of Edmonton. In fact, the Liberals were relatively successful in the urban west in the nineties, dominating in Vancouver and Winnipeg and holding on to seats in Edmonton and Regina. It is not at all that clear that there is much potential for significant Liberal gains under Martin in western Canada.

And there are hazards from trying to combine a Quebec base with western support. The last leader to do this successfully was Brian Mulroney in 1988, and, in the end, it was a key factor in the PC’s 1993 demise. Note that Martin is trying to walk a fine line on gun control, although he needs to hope it does not become a central issue since he probably can’t manage the Quebec-West differences if it does. Therer are significant differences in political values between the rural west and Quebec, something that he may not be able to overcome if his caucus is well represented in both places.

The Prime Minister would be better advised to pay close attention to Ontario, where the Liberals are exposed to the possibility of substantial losses.

The Sheila Copps - Tony Valeri nomination battle fits into this latter part of the story. More on this one in my next posting.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

New Poll in Quebec

Interesting new poll out in Quebec with paradoxical results.

Here is the report from the Gazette:

Liberal support slips: poll
"KEVIN DOUGHERTY The Gazette Friday, January 16, 2004

A SOM poll, done for Radio-Canada, indicates that seven out of 10 Quebecers are dissatisfied with the Charest government.

While the poll suggests support for Premier Jean Charest's Liberals is slipping, it is Mario Dumont's Action démocratique du Québec that is picking up that support, not the Parti Québécois.

The PQ opposes Charest's "conservative" government, charging Charest is undoing measures adopted by the PQ, such as $5 day care.

The ADQ has accused Charest of stealing its program by allowing more contracting out of work and promising tax cuts.

The PQ won 33.21 per cent of votes cast in last year's election. The SOM poll gives the PQ 35.6-per-cent support.

The increase in support for the PQ is 2.4 per cent, less than the 3.8-per-cent margin of error in the poll, 19 times out of 20. SOM called 1,000 people by telephone Jan. 7-12.

Charest's Liberals won the April 14 election with 45.92 per cent of the vote. The SOM poll places Liberal strength at 27.1 per cent.

The ADQ showing was 28.5 per cent, a jump from their 18.24-per-cent support in the election. Undecided voters were 7.3 per cent."

So we have protests in the streets and other indications of unhappiness with the tilt to the right of the Charest government, but it is manifested in party preferences by a switch to the ADQ, which has similar policies. The explanation I think is that the electorate is still cool on the PQ after eight and a half years in government and is left with only one other outlet to vent its frustrations, however inappropriate that might be.

The real test for Charest will come with the budget, assuming he delivers on tax cuts. Polling suggests this should be popular with Quebecers. Charest has taken government in a new direction and clearly expects that there will be support for his changes to the Quebec model once the other half of his plan in is place.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Seat Forecast based on Environics Poll

It has been radio silence over the past week. However, I have now recalibrated my forecast model to reflect the fact that we now have one party on the right and not two. I calculated a seat outcome based on the recent poll released by Environics.

The result reflects the Martin honeymoon that is still at its peak. The hypothetical seat outcome is Liberals - 221, the new Conservative Party of Canada (which I intend to refer to as the C.P.C.) - 38, NDP - 13, and the Bloc - 29.

I don't think the Liberals will hang on to these numbers for a number of reasons I will explore in future posts. This result should perhaps be remembered as the starting point for this election year.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Layton & Broadbent

There isn't much polling available at the moment on the new Canadian political scene (post Martin and united right), just a Reid and a Leger Poll taken around the time of the creation of the Conservative Party of Canada. Both polls had the Liberals around 60% in Ontario. At that level of support, using my forecast model, we find that the Liberals would sweep most, although not all constituencies - the NDP still win one or two (those being Windsor-St. Clair which they won in 2000 and Trinity-Spadina).

However, the Liberals have registered 60% in polls between elections before and not done as well on election day. If instead we assume that they will win the same level of support as in 2000 when they received 51.5% of the vote in Ontario, and that the NDP receives say 16%, the support actually registered in Ontario in an Environics poll released in October, then we find that the NDP would win 6 seats including both Ottawa Centre, where Ed Broadbent would defeat the Liberal (likely to be Martin insider Richard Mahoney) by 5 percentage points, and Toronto Danforth, where Jack Layton would defeat Liberal Dennis Mills by a narrow margin. This calculus, however, takes no account whatsoever of Broadbent or Layton's drawing power as individuals. It is based on overall shifts of support since the last election.

Although the NDP won neither seat in 2000, their fourth best performance in Ontario that year was in Toronto Danforth, and their sixth best in Ottawa Centre. While the NDP has not won either constituency since the 1980's, both ridings have been relative sources of strength for the NDP over the years. It should not come as any surprise then, that if the NDP picks up 15 or 16% in this year's election (a level close to the NDP's long-term average in Ontario) one should expect to see victories for the party in these two ridings.

I suggest if someone wants to bet some money on the two New Democrats' Liberal opponents, accept the wager - quickly.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Forecast Model and Federal Election Predictions

The past few days have seen predictions about the forthcoming federal election emerging in the media, and on the web. See for example, Chantal Hébert's column here.

I will be using a model I developed that adjusts the results of the last general election based on current polls to make my own predictions, including future posts on the prospects of Jack Layton and Ed Broadbent - whose prospects are evaluated in the Hébert column.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Polls in Canada

One of the things I will be doing over the next few months is tracking the polls in Canada, especially the regional numbers, in the run-up to the federal election. In my view, during the past six months the numbers have not meant much.

We now have two key changes in place: Paul Martin has become Prime Minister, and the Alliance and Progressive Conservatives have merged to form the new Conservative Party of Canada. Even this picture won’t be complete until the new CPC has a leader. (I suspect this is going to be current Alliance leader Stephen Harper.) I think it will still take some weeks until it has penetrated the consciousness of a significant portion of the public that the merger has really happened.

Indeed one of the first polls out of the gate by Ipsos Reid illustrated the significance of party brand name. The new CPC, an apparent Alliance takeover, initially seemed to perform better in Atlantic Canada, the traditionally strong region for the former PC party, than British Columbia, a bastion of Alliance/ Reform support since 1993 (the new Conservatives lead in Alberta). This should sort itself out early this year but for now, except in Alberta, the poll profile of the new party looks more PC than Alliance.