Election forecast: dance on a razor’s edge

by Colby Cosh

Are you ready to stay up late May 2? Do you have good coffee and plenty of snacks laid in? This may be the election with the highest quantity of uncertainty in my adult experience. The NDP’s dazzling polling gains simply have no obvious recent precedent. I’m not sure a national party has ever made strides of this magnitude and nature in such a bewilderingly short time.

Think about the questions you have to ask to estimate the impact, in terms of Commons representation, of a shift like this; you have to form ideas about the sincerity of the polling subjects’ intentions, the efficiency of the resulting gains in various regions, and the pure logistical power of the party to get out its vote, all while taking into account the activity and the relative positions of three or four other parties.

And then, as if all that weren’t enough, some old flatfoot comes along and tells some TV guys about Jack Layton getting naked in a place he ought not to have been naking around in. Nobody knows what will happen on May 2—and I don’t mean that in the usual perfunctory way. This time, really, nobody has any idea. Having messed around with election models, I could tell you plausible stories that involve the NDP winning 120 seats; I could tell you stories of roughly equal plausibility that put them at 55.

Of course, there are limits. I am just about ready to rule out a Diefenbaker-like cross-country rampage by the Conservatives. I am just about ready to promise that Michael Ignatieff will not look happy on Monday evening. (Though even then: how stupefyingly low are expectations for him at this point?) What I can tell you is what how I would bet, if I had to bet. I believe, halfway through the weekend, that the Conservative push for a majority will come down to the wire. And I think they are a little more likely to get there than not.

I’ve discussed Quebec already. The Tories will probably lose about a half-dozen seats there, but they have a modest nucleus of three or four where their leads are just too huge to be overcome even by the thirty-point gain that the latest Ipsos poll gives the NDP, relative to the last election. The game will be won or lost in Ontario—and what is hard to appreciate until you do some modelling, some farting around with numbers, is just how good the NDP will be at electing Conservatives there.

It looks to me as though, throughout the 25%-35% range of vote share the pollsters more or less have the Ontario NDP in right now, uniformly-distributed gains in NDP support at the expense of the Liberals yield more Conservative seats than NDP seats. Stop and read that again if you need to. It is kind of troubling and counterintuitive and may even threaten the reader’s childlike faith in democracy, but within that 25-35 band, most of the benefit of each additional NDP vote will end up in the hands of the Tories. If you hold everything else equal at some reasonable level, and push the NDP from 25% to 35% at the Liberals’ expense, you see the Liberals lose something like 25 seats. And the Tories, without gaining or losing an actual vote for themselves, get 14 to 16 of those.

Moreover, for the Tories, the optimum level of NDP vote share in Ontario would appear to be above 35%, and more like 38%. The New Democrats don’t start taking seats away from the Conservatives until the point at which the Liberals are exterminated outright; reduced to zero. Which makes sense on a metaphorical level. The NDP and the Conservatives have to chew through the Liberal centre completely to get at each other.

Is the uniform-swing assumption, the assumption that votes will migrate in the same proportions from riding to riding, a safe one here? It’s never all that safe. But I would venture that it is safer than usual in 2011. The shift to the NDP isn’t a result of appeals to particular economic sectors or social groupings that might vary from riding to riding. It is a personality-driven shift; a true mass movement. It is, in part, surely driven by universal human reactions to Layton’s courage. He is fighting an election he might easily have avoided.

In fact… if you’ll pardon a digression, I am not sure this is fully appreciated, and maybe it should be said by somebody who wouldn’t willingly let Jack Layton handle the Grade Five milk money. Layton faced a choice: fight an election now, which is a squalid and exhausting task for a healthy person, or take time to recover from cancer and a broken hip in relative peace. This was as a free a choice as can be imagined. Nobody on the face of earth would have blamed him for taking a break. He decided not to, and whether he did it for the advantage of the party or for the interests of the country, the decision boils down to “He did a brutally difficult thing because he thought it needed doing”. If you ask me, it’s pretty damn admirable even if he just thought selfishly that this was his best chance at being Prime Minister.

Anyway, we are experiencing, as some have called it, a Layton-Mania. However large it ends up being, it should be fairly similar in magnitude from place to place. That’s not good news for the Liberals. I can’t find much good news for the Liberals anywhere I look.

I think it is natural to suppose that the NDP will disappoint in Quebec, but match or exceed its not-quite-so-absurd polling numbers in Ontario, where the party has a real organization and where most of its candidates are not missing or imaginary or celebrating their 14th birthdays on the Moon. I see no evidence of major surprises anywhere else. Even the minor surprises I can envision would work in favour of the Conservatives. Ralph Goodale slipping on a banana peel in Wascana? The Tories doing unexpectedly well in Newfoundland without “ABC”? Gary Lunn shooing Liz May into the Strait of Juan de Fuca? Linda Duncan losing Alberta’s “orange blob” in Strathcona because of Layton’s oilsands hostility?

I’m not predicting any of those things; the point is that they are conceivable, yet my guess doesn’t depend on any of them. I’ve gone on too long about this already, given the enormous likelihood that I am completely wrong, but I have the Tories at around 160 seats. The NDP? ‘Bout half that. The Liberals? ‘Bout half that half.




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Election forecast: dance on a razor’s edge

  1. 160 seems on the generous side for the Conservatives, but I do think it is a possibility.

    Can it really be true that the NDP need to be at 38% to start hurting the Cons in Ontario? The Cons would be around that level as well. So it does seem hard to believe. I would assume that they would need to be higher than 34, because the Cons beat the Libs 39-34 in Ontario in 2008, so I cannot picture the Cons winning as many seats with the NDP above 34.

    What I will find most interesting is what happens in Ontario, because that seems to be the one place that determines whether we have a Conservative minority or majority, even though the one province that will clearly experience the most seat changes is Quebec.

    By the way, your "captain obvious" tweet was right on the mark. It seems hard to believe that there was a debate amongst journalists whether a politician found naked in a whorehouse by a cop is newsworthy, the very same media that reports on communion wafers and 17-year old audio tapes. But that's the Canadian media for you.

    • If some of that NDP *vote* gain comes at the expense of the Conservatives, then obviously you won't see the Conservatives benefit nearly as strongly from it. That said… where's the evidence that much of this is going to happen? Everything the Tories do is designed to create a rock-solid and motivated base in Ontario. The Conservative mood in the country generally is cranky and vengeful. The Tories are doing fine in the "certain to vote" numbers. You'll presumably see plenty of right-wing Liberals–Bay Streeters who don't want Layton picking the Governor of the Bank of Canada; people still seething at Bob Rae's government–jumping ship toward the Conservatives as the magnitude of the disaster becomes apparent.
      We'll know pretty quickly if I'm an idiot.

      • No, I'm not disputing your judgment of the mood of Ontario. I'm just saying that I think that an NDP vote in Ontario as high as 38% would be doing damage to the Cons (based on nothing more than my own clairvoyance). But I'm be shocked to see the NDP hit 38%. They'll be in the high 20s along with the Liberals in Ontario.

        In fact, my own prediction is along similar lines as yours. I'm not sure if it's been just the last few elections, but there seems to be an incumbent advantage that gives an extra 1-2% nationally than what the polls are saying. Undecideds are more likely to swing to incumbents. Also, I agree that the Cons have more motivated voters and can expect better turnout. Also, the Cons have good turnout due to their better support amongst older voters. And not only that, I think that swing voters, those that have made up their minds just recently (ie half of NDP voters), are less likely to show up (due to the uncertainty in their minds and their lack of resolve), dampening the NDP numbers.

        So that being said, I think the Cons might end up with a couple of extra points in the national vote than what the polls are saying, somewhere around 40%, and because the Cons can expect to reap benefits in Ontario if they hit that number, I'd expect them to land right around the magic 155 seat number and get themselves a very slim majority. However, I'm a conservative, and therefore this prediction may be biased that way.

        • Of 51 Conservative held seats in Ontario at dissolution the only two that strike me as possible NDP gains, under any plausible scenario, are Essex and Oshawa.

          There are also precious few NDP-held Conservative targets: OTOH it's easy to point to +20 where a slight drop in the Liberal vote hands it to the Conservatives.

          Except where the NDP has an existing natural constituency – the unions in SW Ontario, the poor and heavily native North, and ultra-lefty urban accademic enclaves, the NDP simply aren't a player in Ontario. Moreover, given enough time, I suspect an anti-NDP backlash of Liberals fleeing to the Conservatives would more than counteract NDP gains: the anti-NDP feeling in Ontario beyond their base is deep and wide. Ontarians as a rule don't cast protest votes for non-serious protest parties: they vote for responsible national governments.

          • So, the NDP aren't a player in Ontario, except in urban, industrial, middle-class, union, poor, northern and native Ontario. So the NDP aren't a player in Ontario except for in Windsor, Hamilton, Oshawa, Toronto, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Niagara, Timmins, Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie and London.

            That's pretty much ever corner of the province. That's what I would call a 'player'.

            Regarding 'Ontarians don't cast protest votes' – that's simply a conservative talking-point. Ontarians vote protest all of the time – that's how both Harper and Layton made their gains in Ontario over the past decade.

            Harper would not be here and the Conservatives would have never been elected to a minority has the Liberals not been busted on the sponsorship scandal.

            It's sad that even on the internet you can't have a reasoned intelligent debate without having to parse through a bunch of people wasting their time spouting their party's talking points.

          • My point is there's not much room for the NDP to expand at the expense of the *Tories*.

            In the 519 they already dominate rust-belt Windsor, Hamilton, London, etc. Beyond that the suburbs and rural areas are a sea of blue, where the NDP run a distant third. AFAIK the two ridings I listed were the ONLY two ridings in the province where the NDP ran second to the Conservatives!

            Similarly the NDP already own Northern Ontario: the best they can do is hold onto it.

            Only in the 416 do they have room to grow, and here they need to eat through a LOT of Liberal ridings before they butt heads with the Conservatives expanding out of the 506. The 'catch' is that it's still not easy going for the NDP in Toronto (even Olivia just *barely* won her seat last time); the Conservatives placed ahead of the NDP in most 416 ridings, and could easily sweep the 506 and much of the 416.

          • 506 is in New Brunswick. I'll go out on a limb and predict that the vote there will have minimum impact on the seat distribution in Ontario.

          • Haha, sorry, 509 obviously. I've got a 506 number so it's on the brain.

          • Wrong again…try 905.

            Do you make many long distance calls? Just wondering !-)

          • Please excuse my crippling dyslexia ;)

          • Correction: the NDP only managed a close third in Essex in 2008.

          • What you're saying applies to an NDP getting 18% of the Ontario vote, what they had in the last election. It does not apply to an NDP getting 27% of the vote, which is their average over the last 10 polls or so. That additional 9% must go somewhere, and it certainly won't be an even 9% in every single Ontario riding. So I don't think there are only two possible seat gains for them.

        • MSM talking heads that followed this sort of thing in past waves have been saying the Swingers will get themselves their. Perhaps by bicycle like another swinger 15 years ago?

        • Might as well make my prediction:

          CPC: 155
          NDP: 100
          LPC: 27
          Bloc: 25
          Ind: 1

    • This comment was deleted.

      • You confuse libertarianism with anarchy. It's vaguely similar to calling the NDP communists.

        You might also wish to consider the fact that the one of the two main protagonists in the civil war in Somalia have been people who are the complete opposite of libertarians: islamic fascists who wish to impose a religious state run by sharia law.

      • You sound like you admire the NDP's policy on drugs a bit too much.

        • Indeed. Somalia as a Libertarian paradise? That's like calling New Hampshire a bastion of communism. (Unlike Vermont, which actually is a bastion of communism. :) )

    • I know I have caused some discomfort on this site with my statements since the election. I have also made people think about the controlling billionares that are trying to steal our country and control our wealth. I must say this; Our country is at a crossroads right now and our vote has never meant as much as it means today. We must rid ourselves of the Harper dictatorship once and for all and tomorrow we can do that as a united country. The Conservative party of today is not the conservative party of our fathers and grandfathers and it is Harper that is responsivble for that. He must go because we are Canadian and not american and we resent being treated as such. We are not Fox news north nor will we ever be. We live in a country with hundreds of trillions of dollars worth of natural resources and they belong to us, Canadians. Our economy will not suffer under an alternative government other than that of the controlling tories. Vote to save Canada on May 2. Vote ABC. God bless Canada!!!

      • You didn't cause me any discomfort, so no need to apologize.
        What you and others fail to realize is that it matters not who is elected. It is the unions and civil servants who are allowed to run this country into the ground while the politicians, whatever their stripe, attend to the business of being re-elected

  2. I'm sure Graves over at Ekos said there was some evidence that the NDP were eating into both tory and liberal support across the land.
    If this were to happen and libs[ and lefties and greens] start to panic at the thought of an imminent tory majority, we could yet end up with a slim tory minority or even a slim one led by Jack.

    We'll know if it's Laytonomania if he start to sport a rose on monday and starts giving the finger to his detractors.

    Could it be CC is getting just a tad too far ahead of himself at the thought of a liberal deathspiral?

    • I thought I saw Graves saying on twitter that something like 10% of NDP support voted Conservative last election so things may not be as clean as both the NDP and Conservatives needing the Liberals to disappear before they eat into the other's votes.

      Also, what of those Liberal voters who stayed home last election? Obviously, they didn't want Harper. If they show up mostly for the NDP then basing predictions based on last election become even more messy than they already are.

      • Exactly, there is a huge Conservative-NDP swing throughout Canada. How do people think the NDP wins seats in northern Ontario? Those people aren't lefty socialists.

        • Same goes for the interior of B.C. and some other parts of the country.

  3. http://www.ekospolitics.com/index.php/2011/04/fro

    Graves sorta agree with you CC. Some of the comments are interesting to. Particular the guy wgo thought the liberal vote may be largely cratering in uncompetive ridings[ perhaps a stretch?] but it's a thought. If liberals with a good chance and a good incumbent are committed to stopping Harper things may pan out a litttle differently then you surmise.
    Also, aren't you discounting the fact that the voter turnout may increase quite a bit? I don't see that breaking for Harper outside of AB and some parts of BC. But even there they are under threat from the NDP.

    • Naive though it may be, i just wish there had been a little more on the ground contingency planning between the lib/NDP. It would help the centre lefts cause enormously to see some limited, mutual cooperation on strategic voting. How's Jack gonna feel if he's looking across at a tory majority opening day of play? But i guess he'll think one thing at a time. Kill the libs first. Take down Harper later. But what if it doen't work out that way Jack…you more then anyone should know that

  4. I agree with your prediction, Harper will get a majority, they have had great strategy all along and even though their majority won't be as strong as I once thought , they will be able to pull it off.

    Layton had a good strategy also they are well organized, the problem has always been that no one thinks of the NDP in a serious way. He has had some of the best moments in this election and IMHO in canadian politics, loved him when he didn't support the budget, even though I thought it was silly, what a moment!

    Also a I wouldn't want to have a lot of NDP candidates in Parliament, they are truly bunch of bufoons and Jack needs to address that if he or the NDP want a shot at the big job.

    • So you prefer cyphers and folks who don't repect our parliament to buffoons…interesting bit of rationalizing.

      • Oh TA, when you put it that way, it sounds bad : )

        Having said that, once in Government they ALL change their tune, democracy is a schmocracy, that will happen to Iggy and to Layton too, I would love to believe that they can keep their word and make it as transparent and accountable, but is a lot easier to say than get it done, it is a complicated business. It may sound cynical and I am sorry for that but you tell me which PM hasn't pulled a fast one. I adored Chretien and he was a pain in the butt.

        But at least the LPC and Tories have better MP's, I had been following some of these NDP fellows even before Laytonmania started and oh my God, it was painful to see, that's why I think.

        • It's ok Claudia, nothing personal. That's a thoughful reply. I adored Chretien too…and he was a pain in the ass; i also adored Trudeau…another real major pain in the butt. But i'm seriously worried about our democracy now. I don't at all blame Harper for starting this. And he suffered unfairly at the hands of the libs earlier in his career. But he doesn't respect the basic tenents of our democracy, unlike Chretien/Mulroney/trudeau or Diefenbaker and Pearson, despite their faults. I predict we are in for some bad days ahead in this country if he gets a decisive majority. If it was just me, well what the hell do i know? I'm critcizing Harper and i never ran for even dog catcher in my life. But i sense the worry of people who know better. Men like Coyne or Wells and many other perfectly reasonable people. Harper is just laughing at us.

          • I partially agree Harper needs to be more transparent, he doesn't have that many lives left, I still believe he can make some good government, sometimes I want to slap him behind the head and say "snap out of it", haha I mean we are on his side but he needs to follow the rules.

            I feel horrible for Iggy what a blow, bad enough that it came from Harper but Layton, ouch it has to hurt, I just hope the LPC don't see it as the end of the world, they just need to clean house and start from scratch, from ashes the phoenix is reborn.

          • "….LPC don't see it as the end of the world, they just need to clean house and start from scratch, from ashes the phoenix is reborn"

            Not necessarily. Progressive Conservatives probably thought something similar in '93 and party is now gone. More famously, Liberal party in UK – which dominated 19th century Britain – lost a few elections in early 1900s and the party was gone, relegated to third party status for decades and then swallowed to form new party. Libs have good reason to feel anxious.

          • Uff, that would be terrible for them, if it took that long but in a way it was coming to them.

            I always believe that good strategy could put them on top, but I guess we will find out.

            I've always predicted this was going to happen to the Liberals and everybody laughed at me.

          • A good leader would put the Libs back on the road to respectability. Unfortunately, for them and for us, no one with decent leadership credentials will go anywhere near that sinking ship. Manley tried and was rebuffed by a party determined to tilt left-wards. Senor Libs begged and pleaded with McKenna, but apparently he's enjoying his retirement and his various corporate board memberships and his time spent with his grandkids way too much to ever consider a return to political life. That leaves….. Justin Trudeau. I think the Trudeau kid is clever enough to be leader. But does he really have enough substance? I'm sorry to say, but one needs to appeal to more than just the Facebook generation to have any hope of becoming PM.

          • I do like Gerard Kennedy but he might not be reelected apparently , Leblanc goes all Baird on us and that's annoying and Justin Trudeau I sure hope not, so far he has shown no signs of leadership material, shame because he has a wonderful legacy.

            I don't see why is a big rush rebuild it again from scratch and bring good substance and quality individuals on board.

          • Not necessarily; reaching back for 19th c comparisan is absurd.

            The LPC basic problem is that it is a brokerage party without idealogical roots. If it can find a way to survive; and if Harper keeps his word and only grandfathers in the cuts to party funding, there may come a time when Canadians have need once again of a party that is not idealogical. Once they are throughly sick of a CPC that is not conservative at all, and once they're sick of a NDP that doesn't understand that pragmatism is a prerequiste
            for governing and not simply a sell out. All bets are off if the NDP have lnternalized the latter lesson and shifted over to CL…now that would be a coalition i could support.

  5. The hype, oh the hype.

    Watch the NDP only make modest gains, some in Quebec, and a bit elsewhere. The CPC may lose a seat in Que. But not much more there. They will also gain in Atlantic Canada.

    Watch the Liberal vote in Ontario almost completely collapse and go to the CPC.

    The CPC will end up with at least 163. Depending on how much the over hype the unreliable NDP "support" in the polls there is…and there is much…the gains could be much more.

    • Wonder how things will change for the west if the conservative party becomes an Ontario MP dominated one?

      • Better then a Liberal run government. At least we won't be the scapegoat for all the evils of Canada.

      • how would you envision it changing? Has the CPC favored the west in some way?

    • I know Harper just recently predicted holding all his seats in Quebec and even picking some up. I know it's his obvious job to be optimistic, but I wonder if NDP support in some areas of Quebec simply ends up handing over Bloc seats, or potential Bloc seats, to the Conservatives. Cosh seems to have done the analysis and doesn't come to such conclusions, so maybe not. I dunno.

      • I honestly can't see which riding the CPC might pick up a seat in Quebec, even with NDP/BQ vote splitting. I see them, on the other hand, almost certainly losing Pontiac, and quite possibly losing Charlesbourg. There are at least two others that are plausible losses for the CPC also.

        I think vote splitting will be a much bigger factor in ON than QC.

        • Well, you're obviously more familiar with the Quebec political landscape than I am. However, it stands to reason that in ridings where the Bloc and Conservatives were previously one and two, a rise in the NDP would spill more from the Bloc than the Tories, wouldn't it?

          I'll also add that Tory prospects in Quebec are almost always underestimated. They weren't supposed to win any seats in 2006, they won 10. They were supposed to lose seats in 2008, they kept them. They're supposed to lose seats again this time, we'll see what happens.

          • Given the margin of error and the CPC ground game, the only riding I'd be willing project a loss in Quebec is Pontiac. The rest I think they'll probably keep, unless the world goes bonkers.

            The Bloc, on the other hand, are going to have a very rough day tomorrow.

  6. Colby,

    Thanks for your guess. I think you have probably spent too much time in Alberta.

    My guess, from early April, is as follows:

    Conservative: 171, NDP 48; Lib 42, Bloc 47

    It's not very realistic given the ebb and flow since, but I'm sticking with the numbers that brung me.

    By the way. In the style of AC I'd like to announce my endorsement for SH as PM here. Exclusively on Macleans.

  7. Also,

    Graves is leaking, via twitter, that his last rollup poll of the election is spelling a potential victory for the NDP.

    Leaving aside the unprofessional giddy "look at me…look at me" manner in which he has been leaking his preliminary results on twitter,

    I am also predicting that Graves' credibility will be seriously, and perhaps irreparably, eroded after this election.

    • thst seems like a bit of vote influencing to me and not altogether professional. Have you seen the margins of errors on these polls? Anyone could guess the results within the same margins.

    • Graves has stated that he thinks it's more likely that the NDP would get a minority government than that the CPC would get a majority government, but that the most plausible scenario is a CPC minority.

      I doubt his numbers are far from the truth, but it all depends on turnout.

      • Have you seen the CPC voter verification and turnout system? Which is manned, literally by hundreds?

        Now imagine those ridings where the NDP didn't even know they had a real race until a week ago, and led by adolecents, and I think your "it depends on turnout" question.

        That, and at least 5% of the NDP polling numbers is pure phantom polling. Those polled: the "youth", the detached and dissaffected who invariably (in name at least) favour the NDP, will never make sure they attend to the polls and go vote.

        Take 5 points off the NDP and look and the numbers now.

        • I know, I know, the ground game definitely works in the CPC's favour. However, the NDP is so far ahead of the BQ and CPC in Quebec that I'd be shocked to see Cannon back in Ottawa. After a 10% difference the ground game there is irrelevant. And we've got no public riding-level polls for Ontario, so it's impossible to know what's in play and what isn't from the cheap seats. However, we can surmise, given the desperate appeals from the CPC camp over the past few days, that their internal polling isn't showing a runaway majority, or they'd never be making such a ridiculous appeal to LPC voters.

        • Can you show evidence that the NDP polling and election night results were that different?

          • That's not his business. Not at all.

          • Watch tomorrow.

            Watch tomorrow.

          • I think everyone is going to be watching tomorrow, chet. And, as a few of our hosts have pointed out, I'm pretty sure everyone is going to be just a little disappointed.

          • You gave up to soon chet. Looking at 2008 results. NDP was polling 2-3% higher than the actual result of 18%. What… 10-15% loss of their last poll data?

          • It's more a function of the makeup of the NDP population than the polling per se.

            As the farthest left party for voters to choose, it attracts the "youth" the dissaffected, the very poor, people on the "down and outs". A statistically significant portion within that group simply does not get out the vote.

            Combine that with a lack of voting infrastructure and there will be a lot of dissappointed NDP supporters tomorrow.

            Don't get me wrong. They will do far better than they ever have done, but they will be close to the Liberals in seat totals by the end of the night.

          • Well you're suggesting those groups have increased? They haven't? They are mostly Liberal voters switching. Simply the stop Harper moved to the NDP.. IMO.

  8. http://contrarian.ca/tag/theo-moudakis/

    Some interesting stuff here for those so inclined. The Graves interview is interesting as are the Coyne twitter feeds…i particularly liked the cartoon…first time i've seen it.

  9. Will someone at Macleans please teach Cash how to use the continue or jump feature. I get tired of having to scroll down through all garbage I have no intention of reading.

  10. At the beginning of the campaign I thought Layton would do better than most thought he would, because of his campaigning and the sympathy vote.
    And I did say 3 weeks ago that I thought the Conservatives would get 160 seats and the opposition parties would all get between 45 and 55 seats.
    With the NDP surge it looked like they might get many more seats then the LPC and Bloc, but on election day their numbers will fall..
    So I`ll stay with my original numbers and see what happens.

  11. For me, the best precedent for this election was the 1991 British Columbia General Election. The BC Liberals were hovering around 5-10% of the polls and then Gordon Wilson caught lightning in a bottle and all those people who were going to vote Socred holding their nose (or NDP with the same reaction) had an outlet that they could do enthusiastically. The Liberals ended up with 33% of the vote, all from mid-campaign on.

    My 2 cents is that enthusiasm in an election campaign is worth far more than a good ground game (ask the BC Socreds…. if you can find one)

    • A fair observation and the BC example probably describes the current voter flux in QC. My recollection was that Mike Harcourt spent so much of the debate trying to work his Visa card/health card gimmick into the debate that when it finally came off, it came cross as lame and contrived. Rita Johnston spent the entre debate counter-punching Harcourt and wund up coming off shrill and defensive (not that the polls were going her way). By contrast Gordon Wilson appeared as the voice of reason even pointing to the other two as an example of what's wrong in with politics. Depending on how you dice the numbers it can be argued that Wilson's performance allowed him to pick up most, if not all, of the disgruntled Socred vote. That pretty much describes what happening in QC. The Dippers are eating away at the BQ vote fairly well.

      • Unfortunately for Jack, that QC surge doesnt carry well. A nattional boost may pick up a few seats the Dippers won before (Dartmouth, Winnipeg North) but the rest of the prairies appears to be fallow ground (even Sask). As for Ontario, well Jack is very well known in TO, which has never helped the party there. As for the rest of the province, Bob Rae's victory came when the vote splits let him turn ridngs that had always voted Tory into NDP ridings. Those places are solidly Tory again. If the Liberal vote dips as much as expected, Ontario should return to a vote distribution Bill Davis would have recognised, lots of Tories, a lot fewer Grits and Dippers. Its a hard truth but in Ontario, post-Rae, an NDP surge invariable helps Conservatives.

  12. "Having messed around with election models, I could tell you plausible stories that involve the NDP winning 120 seats; I could tell you stories of roughly equal plausibility that put them at 55."

    " …. but I have the Tories at around 160 seats. The NDP? ‘Bout half that. The Liberals? ‘Bout half that half."

    I reckon political junkies trying to figure out election pool numbers are experiencing cognitive dissonance today. NDP poll numbers are out of this world, don't really make sense, have hard time believing them.

    Have not decided final numbers yet but I am about where you are. Cons gain a few seats and Libs/NDP switch.

    " ….. how stupefyingly low are expectations for him at this point?"

    Poor Iggy. Thos expectations were not low when election started – in fact we were told Iggy was colossal who was going to conquer all before him even tho he had dire party and personal numbers. Iggy is going to get blamed an awful lot for poor showing on Monday, some of it deserved, most of it not.
    "

    • I'd say Iggy deserves a lot if it.

      I read a recent comment from someone who turned from the Libs after seeing Iggy's recent support of Guergis (because she opposed Harper), which was a 180 degree turn from his call for her ousting when she was turfed. Opposition for the sake of opposing is not a winning formula.

      I think Iggy deserves plenty of the blame. http://www2.macleans.ca/2011/04/22/commies-leadin

      • Facts change. Smart people change their minds.The commenter was a real deep thinker.? Give Iggy a break. He's the rock of Gibralter compared to Harper on ethics.

        • No he's not. For you to make such a claim, you'd need some form of evidence. Iggy's "I was for the Iraq war but now that it's over I'm against it" is not exactly what I'd call a rock-solid position, nor was his Guergis position, nor his position on anything. He's a windvane, just like most other Liberals, and that extends to ethics as well. The only consistent principle he holds is that he should be in power.

  13. Cosh calls CPC majority, principally on the basis of an even more split non-Tory vote in Ontario than in prior elections.

    Could happen. And boy will a lot MORE Canadians be PO'd with FPTP on May 3rd than are now…

    • I would be surprised if the Liberals have enough support to split the vote.

    • I have no doubt that, if Conservatives get a majority based mainly on how the votes split between their opposition – so, for example, they get the same popular vote as last time, but way more seats – then there will be calls for PR all over the place. Whether that would end up ballooning into a full-blown campaign for a referendum, or even a win for the PR side, is doubtful. I suspect we'll keep our current system for the foreseeable future.

    • It won't happen. Sure there's a split, but it isn't like the Chretien split. Chretien was at around 50% in Ontario, while the PC's and Reform/Alliance split about 30%. This time around, Harper is maybe 5-10 points ahead of either the Liberals or NDP in Ontario – possibly less. With a 5 point lead he'll win about as many seats as in 2008, with a 10 point lead, not that many more – certainly not enough to offset the losses in BC and Quebec.

  14. NDP surge is not based on a protest vote, or statistical anomaly. I live in AB and there a lot of people sick of the closed door government of the Provincial Tories (See bill 36, and the Raj Sherman Affair-have a look at how personal property rights have been eroded in this province all to benefit big oil and the politicians that support it), and do not want that anymore from the Federal Conservatives. Yes much of the Province will be blue. But much of Red Edmonton will turn Orange. Once again, it is not a protest vote, it is not a statistical anomaly. If you noticed that house prices have gone up 3-fold in the last 15 years while wages have regressed : if you noticed that the recession has NOT affected the upper-class and their political friends: if you are working two jobs to pay a mortgage: if you are looking one year or less into the future rather than 20 years-planning for your retirement: if you have waited in the ER for more than 10 hours: if you notices how jobs have leaked from our country and outsourced to burgeoning economies (thank you Harper-thank you Mulroney, thank you Chretien, thank you Martin–your neoliberal/neoconservative policies of a borderless economy have leaked good jobs out of this country so that your rich friends–which you gave tax breaks to-can make more money on the future of your fellow countrymen. If you noticed any of these things or more then you know why the NDP has the support it has. This was something missed by the media (e.g. look at Andrew Coyne with his over-earnest constipated look on the CBC @issue panel–a lot of smart talk, but he really doesn't say anything–he doesn't know much about what it is going on—out of touch, to Rex Murphy-no matter what he talks about he is self-engrandizing–out of touch) and by the 2 other parties all are out of touch. The NDP when the election was called was prepared, and they came out swinging and they have connected–Layton asking what happened to Harper, Layton questioning Iggy's parliamentary participation on live T.V. Layton and the NDP have connected alright, and they have connected where it matters most–with the working class.

    • Those seat projections are a vindication for Colby's view. If the NDP can close to 35-33 nationally and the Tories still GAIN seats, then an excellent day by the NDP (say 31%) should give us a Tory majority and (as pointed out above) an extremely pissed-off electorate.

  15. Only one question … Why does Ol' Shark Eyes feel he has to spend the 2nd last day
    of the campaign in the Maritimes ? The Maritimes fergawdssake …

    • He's gotta be somewhere. Not that he's likely to find a big audience here. Some of the Conservative support here sees him as the road block, not the saviour. Culture of defeat my arse.

    • PM Harper started out his day in PEI—He is in London, ON. right now, then he is off to B.C. for the evening and returning to Alberta for the night.

      Like any good leader he takes advantage of our time zones to spend a long day throughout the country.

    • The leader's campaign doesn't matter anyways – if it did, odds on Ignatieff winning over 20% of the vote wouldn't be 50-50. Maybe Harper wanted to get one last free surf and turf out of being PM.

      • Don`t you think the campaign of the NDP leader mattered ?
        Do you think if the NDP was being led by Audrey McLaughlin they would be 30+ % ?

        • These are two different things. The leader matters, but the leader's campaign (all those rallies) doesn't matter. The leader matters insofar as they are a marketable feature of a party, but they matter a lot more in venues where they speak to millions (eg. ads, debates) than venues in which they speak to hundreds (eg. rallies).

          Layton has been leader for four elections, but only took off this time. What changed most dramatically was his platform (embracing decentralization). That gave him the Quebec breakthrough he needed and turned the race around in the ROC.

  16. Where do I go for conspiracy theories about Ignatief? Isn't he the great-great-grandson of Flashman's diabolically gotch-eyed Tsarist superspy?

    • If the Romanovs had a top-secret plan to lose the Canadian election 94 years in the future, why would they ensure that they lost the election to a left-leaning guy that resembles Lenin?

      • Maybe that's exactly what they were aiming for all along!!!

  17. To better reflect the article and the conclusion, shouldn't the title be: dance on Occam's razor's edge?

  18. Velvet Touch – A Community Clinic – Who Knew???
    Olivia Chow was quick to release a written statement, that husband Jack Layton indeed did attend a "registered massage clinic" and she was well aware of it and he "needed a massage" late in the evening.
    Jack Layton, later at a rally in Burnaby, was quick to point out and clarify Olivia's comment, that in fact it was a "community clinic" (Velvet Touch) where he obtained his services. In trying to protect his political career, and in tune with the NDP philosophy, he felt it very important to stress it was a "community clinic" not to be confused with a private clinic. It was essential in the middle of this election, to inform Canadians, in order to solicit their support, he wouldn't be caught dead at a private clinic, where illegal, underage, Asian sex workers, would be employed by rip off artists, in the Canadian health care field – it would have to be a community clinic he patronizes – there should be no confusion. A good leader leads by example.
    I wonder if Canadians becoming more aware of the fine details of the NDP health care platform and of Layton's expansion of health care services to include these "community clinics", help explain the surge in support for the NDP in this current election. Does anybody in the main street media have a better explanation for the NDP surge and why are they reluctant to discuss this NDP expansion of Canada's health services?
    Why and how could the Toronto city police confuse a community clinic with a bawdy house?

    • The real scandal is that this story – and not the NDP platform – is what is occupying the headlines (or at least voter's minds) as we go into election. Musing about ending central bank independence, opening the constitution, raising corporate taxes by a third, using cap and trade as a piggy bank, and an un-costed budget – its the NDP platform that got caught with its pants down. Instead Jack Layton looks like a victim… just before he becomes our next Prime Minister.

  19. I will never again decry that an election is pointless due to it's unlikelihood to enact change.

    • I'd hold off until at least tomorrow before saying "never"!

  20. In the spirit of non-partisanship, every candidate should lead a march down to the nearest massage establishment and get one for Jack's sake. Base purveyors of innuendo and smear, damnable muckrakers, and dirt dossier dealers have no place in our democracy and should be shunned.

    If they are coming for Jack, they'll be around for you later.

  21. Harper's in the maritimes and not protecting his bastions because the internals are saying the NDP polling will not translate into seats, at least not against the CPC.

    Libs are being decimated in the splits. They may run the Table in PEI, are surging in Ontario.

    CPC seat total tomorrow,

    at least 163.

    • Harper just spent all day yesterday in Ontario protecting his bastions. Even his messaging was projecting weakness by reaching out to the Liberal party. Were you off for the day yesterday?

      • Wanting to poach voters from an imploding party is "weakness"?

        Actually, most rational observers would call that common sense.

        Watch tomorrow.

    • I agree with 163

    • OOps thumb down you by accident : ) But I guess we are used by not we don't get any loving around here : (

  22. Graves has his Ekos poll showing the NDP within the margin of error on the CPC.

    Get that everyone,

    Graves is saying there is now very real statistically significant probability of the NDP gaining power.

    Remember that when the results come out tomorrow.

    • No – Graves is saying that the NDP has a significant chance of receiving the same number of votes as the Cons. Big difference. Due to our antiquated electoral system (designed in th 15th century or so, for gawds sake) we only imprecisely translate number of votes into number of seats. So don't judge Frank Graves on seat count, just on numbers.

  23. Perhaps the Liberals believed the fiction that "800,000 Liberals stayed home in 2008". They didn't, and you need but look at the Canadian Election Study data. Only 8.7% of Martin voters stayed home in 2008.

    Good analysis…but is this a slip? I don't entirely agree. The voter turnout was down for both the CPC/LPC – but more for Dion, right?

    Now the tough question. If you're correct – does Jack pull the plug on Harper as Harper said would happen all along? And will he stand for it?

    • Voter turnout was down for everybody – but you can't figure out the number of Liberals that "didn't show up" by subtracting the 2006 results from the 2008 results. Some of that gap – in fact the majority of that gap – occurred because 2006 Liberals voted Tory or NDP. The Liberals lost about 390,000 voters to lower voter turnout, not 800,000.

      Of course Jack is going to vote no confidence – why wouldn't he? The question is whether Jack will need the Bloc (but obviously he has few qualms about working with them), and whether whoever replaces Ignatieff will be on board. And if Harper loses on a VONC and is replaced as PM there is nothing he can do. He will request an election, and will be denied by the governor-general – assuming Harper doesn't have pictures of the governor-general killing a hooker. He'll complain, but there is nothing he can do – he won't be Prime Minister. He'll resign and in 2-3 years, when whatever NDP-Liberal (I have to get used to writing NDP first) arrangement they work out expires we'll have another election.

      • mmm so the libs would need to pull back votes from the tories and the dippers…say no more. 20% for the libs at the very best?

        Time to get busy rebuliding or merge…mmmm

        Personally i'd wait to see if Jack falls on his face in a year or two.

      • The day the Liberals are the junior partner in a NDP PM's coalition is the day the Liberals die. On that day, the Liberals, already #3, see a big chunk of the its left move to the NDP, now that the NDP's proven it can form a government. At the same time, a bunch of centrist Grits recoil in horror at the idea that a vote for a liberal is a vote for an NDP PM, and turn blue. The result is that the Liberals don't crack 10% the next election after the provide the votes for an NDP PM.

        • Very true, but it is also true that if the Liberals support the Tories, they will be viewed as hypocrites. The few remaining Liberals are fairly anti-Harper – in terms of second choice preferences, 13.2% favour the Tories while 53.9% favour the NDP. The Liberals truly are stuck between a rock and a hard place in the upcoming legislative session.

  24. If you hold everything else equal at some reasonable level, and push the NDP from 25% to 35% at the Liberals' expense, you see the Liberals lose something like 25 seats. And the Tories, without gaining or losing an actual vote for themselves, get 14 to 16 of those.

    And this is why I love FPTP! The system in which a right-wing party might finally win a majority of the power (with a minority of the electorate's support) after two previous failed attempts to do so, but only if enough of the citizenry decides that it's time for the country to move to the left. I don't understand why anyone would complain about a system through which a significant shift of the electorate to the left can result in a significant shift of the legislature to the right.

    A system in which the nation's legislature actually reflected the will of the people would be SO BORING!!!

    • So you'd prefer the country to bow to the voting whims of three or four major centres?
      A smaller government with fewer seats would achieve better representation than a mass of nameless MP's whipped by by their respective Party's. They've become more expendable with each seat added.

      • I'd prefer that the legislature that results from an election reflect the results of the election, nothing more than that. I don't think it's too controversial to not love a system in which it's possible for the electorate to move in one direction, which then results in the legislature moving in the exact opposite direction.

        Whether blue wins or orange wins is beside the point. I just don't like a system where it's possible to end one Parliament, have an election in which blue loses votes and orange gains votes, but that nonetheless when the election's over and the new Parliament sits the blue's have gone from a minority to a majority. I don't think we should keep a system where ANY party can improve their standing in the legislature even if their standing among the citizens goes down. Or where the citizens can indicate through their franchise that maybe they'd like the country to move left, and this is then translated by the system into moving the government to the right.

  25. Everyone on these boards is making predictions on vote percentage or seats.

    I restate my prediction at the beginning of the campaign: in the 2008 election, the Conservatives got 5,208,796 votes nationwide.

    This election, the Tories will do worse. To the extent they may gain seats, it will be due to vote splitting and suppressing the Liberal vote.

    • that's the way Chretien got his majorities. Fair enough

  26. CPC 160
    NDP 55
    Lib 50
    Bloc 42
    Independent 1

  27. The NDP and the Conservatives have to chew through the Liberal centre completely to get at each other.

    That made ma laugh out loud – not sure why – but I did. :)

  28. I think a big factor are the TV ads. The NDP ad is a masterpiece. Well edited, on message and the transition from voiceover to Jack announcing he's "won't stop fighting" is seamless and leave him looking like an energized leader and almost regal. As a former card carrying member of the CPC, the Harper ad is an embarrassment. When you see Harper in the ad emerge from around the corner he looks up and seems pale and slow moving and it's poor quality video. The narrative flow seems weak and then the brain trust transitions to Harper looking ill-at-ease and awkwardly patting a guy on the shoulder at a rally. If you were making a parody ad of Harper that is the clip you would use. WTF people? I can only hope the split the left vote scenarios turn out to be true and Coyne's contention that it is a demographic shift by the boomers to get their hands on the next generations money turn out to be overstated.

  29. Great theory, except the swing in Ontario isn't uniform … if you look at the riding by riding analysis and who is even in the race, in a number of ridings, vote changing from Lib to NDP doesn't create a split – with Cons up the middle, just shift – with Cons not in it at all, both before and after the shift.

    Many of the projections show some Liberal ridings in Ontario that are going to go Con, and even that the Cons won't lose any to the Liberals. But, these are and already were Lib/Con races, and the problem is, there isn't enough of them, at least not enough for a majority.

    The math isn't there and so I'd put your majority prediction in the category of hypothetical/wishful thinking.

  30. The NY Times just published a very timely reminder of the Liberal Democrats rise in the polls in last year's British elections. They hit 29% in the last polls before the election, then fell back to 23.2% on election day, getting fewer seats than they did the last time. The conventional wisdom says that the polls tended to oversample the younger voters who leaned LibDem, combined with the fact that some of that new LibDem support ended up being very soft – it either didn't show up, or it went back to Labour. Like Labour in Great Britain, the Liberal Party here has a number of well entrenched incumbents with good local organizations. The NDP, meanwhile, has little to no organization in the areas where they are growing.

    Now, I still think the NDP will improve substantially on their 2008 performance, but if they fall short of what the polls predicted, just remember Nick Clegg a year ago.

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