Saturday, April 23, 2011

The East is Orange

It is becoming clearer that there is an NDP wave not confined to Quebec. Comparing polls in Atlantic Canada released from April 15 to17 (shortly after the debates held April 12 & 13) to those released on April 21 & 22, we see an average NDP gain of ten points, most of it coming at the expense of the Liberals:

CPC Liberal NDP Green Other
April 15-17 36.0 38.6 17.0 4.4 4.1
April 21-22 36.7 30.7 27.6 4.2 0.9

This is the point in the campaign where a clear direction is established.  The story of the campaign has been the NDP's growing wave of support in Quebec, with a parallel move happening in Atlantic Canada.

This commentary by former CBC Ottawa bureau chief Elly Alboim captures the significance of the moment:
More often than not, these sorts of break outs cannot be reversed. They represent a collective decision making process that sometimes builds on mounting evidence or sometimes catches media by surprise after events or debates — although this would represent a very slow reaction to a debate. There are notable exceptions like the PC’s beating back the resurgent Liberals in 1988 but they are rare.

Often, the final results overshoot the initial wave. Momentum builds and begins to sweep into ridings that most think are not in play. I’ve been involved in dozens of CBC projection meetings where seasoned political reporters said that it was inconceivable that certain ridings and personalities were lost. And yet they were. Canada is littered with former cabinet ministers who never should have lost.
There have been some small NDP gains in provinces west of the Ottawa River, but so far they lag the progress Mr. Layton's party is making in the east. Conservative support so far is holding but not growing.  Here is another table comparing early national polls to the last few days:

CPC Liberal NDP Bloc Green Other
March 24-28 38.8 25.0 18.0 9.7 7.5 0.9
April 21-22 38.0 24.7 23.5 6.7 4.9 2.0

The Conservatives' hoped for majority remains elusive but possible. Vote-splitting by the opposition may help. The open question is: how far can the NDP go?