Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Undecideds (Part I)

As promised yesterday, here come the first few undecided analyses.

I'll start with Fredericton-Silverwood which I think is where the NDP will have their best showing (or very near to it) this election and where they have a very outside chance of winning.

The NDP candidate is Dennis Atchison who is strong. He was mentioned as a possible leadership candidate for the NDP last year and I think had he run and won we'd be looking at far, far different prospects for the NDP. He is charismatic and he is a moderate (by NDP standards) and could really appeal to the average voter. When one considers that voters seem underwhelmed by both Lord and Graham, a charasmatic NDP leader could lead the NDP to historic gains. If Atchison were leader, I wouldn't be surprised if I was projecting 10 seats for the NDP right now.
But, alas, it wasn't meant to be. According to Wikipedia Atchison was mentioned as a candidate but never explained why he didn't run.

Atchison was the NDP candidate in Fredericton North in 2003 and won an impressive 16% of the vote. Considering that Fredericton North is probably the most conservative of the Fredericton ridings that is very well done indeed. The NDP got 7% in Fredericton North in 1999 and 12% in 1995. Thus, Atchison beat the average of the previous two elections by 6.5%.

Atchison is a good candidate in a riding which gave the NDP over 20% the last go around. I think how he does in the race, whether he finishes first, second or third, will be the key factor in deciding the winner in Fredericton-Silverwood.

If you remove the four polls that were transfered from Fredericton South to Fredericton-Lincoln in creating Fredericton-Silverwood here are your results:

PC 41.9%, Lib 35.6%, NDP 22.5%

(there was also a poll added from New Maryland but not all of it came over so I can't tabulate that, so these results are not an exact reflection of the redistribution but very close)

In 2003, the Liberals had a very weak candidate here in Misty McLaughlin. She went on to work for the Liberals in opposition, was fired, and then was caught writing letters to the editor of provincial papers blasting the Liberals using a false name.

The NDP candidate was Nan Luke, who went on to successfully manage Allison Brewer's leadership campaign. I am not sure why she didn't end up as a candidate anywhere. She did well, but was very soft spoken and I don't think she milked as much votes for the NDP as was possible.

The riding was historically (i.e. pre-1987) a Tory strong hold. Though it went Liberal in 1987 (like every other riding), it was won by again by the Liberals in 1991 thanks to a PC/CoR vote split. The Liberals won quite handily in 1995, with 51% (the PCs finished with 24%, the NDP with 13% and CoR just under 10%).

The riding returned to the Conservatives when Brad Green barely won a by-election in 1998 45% to 41%. In a re-match against the same candidate less than a year later in 1999, Green trounced the Liberal 51% to 31%. The NDP had their best showing to date with 17%.

So if you look at this riding historically, it looks like it has a lot of NDP potential. While NDP support has been flat province wide (9.7% in 1995, 8.8% in 1999 and 9.7% in 2003), over the same period in Fredericton South it grew from 13% to 17% to 23%.

Consider that this was not the trend in Fredericton North (the NDP share actually dropped markedly between 1995 and 1999) and Atchison boosted it considerably. I think he brings an extra 6.5% of the vote with him when he walks through the door. So, this gives Atchison a starting point of 29%. Not too shabby at all in a three-way race.

If you consider that the NDP growth here was 4% and then 6% and that that is a consistent trend and then Atchison should stand between 33% and 35%. In that range, he could easily be the victor.

Now, what does Atchison have working against him?

  • Is he a northsider? I am not sure what his exact background is, but he is in a totally different riding this time. Why? I am not sure and he doesn't have a bio up on the NDP website so it is hard to tell.

  • What is the Brewer factor? She is right next door, if she does poorly (as some suspect) on the provincial campaign, do negative coattails hurt him? And do they hurt him worse due to his proximity to her?

  • Regardless or whether or not Brewer does well, is he hurt by her being nearby anyway simply by virtue of the leader's campaign drawing all of the area's volunteer support?
On the other side, Health Minister Brad Green is probably the strongest member left in Lord's cabinet now that Elvy Robichaud and Peter Mesheau are retiring. Despite his compotence as a minister however, he lacks charisma. His monotone voice could put most anyone to sleep. Moreover, his poor showing (only a 6% margin or 512 votes) over a very weak Liberal candidate in 2003 tells me he is vunerable.

The Liberal candidate is Rick Miles. Miles is a bit of a mystery to me. I had heard all kinds of rumours about this guy who beat Anne Bertrand, who was supposed to be a Liberal star candidate, for the nomination. At one point I was told he was in his early 20s and was just running as something of a joke. However, despite his baby face, he is actually 37. According to his bio on the Liberal site he is a life long resident of Fredericton and his wife seems to be the more political of the family. It is true that his father is a prominent businessman, whether this is helpful or not is hard to say. In any event, Miles is not as weak as a candidate as I had been led to believe.

In my mind, I think that this riding will stay with Green if the government stays, but abandon him if the riding changes.

Notwithstanding that, he is likely to slip at least a little bit as civil servants are here and I understand that they are pretty unhappy with the Lord administration.

I have not convinced myself either way so I am going to try to do something arbitrarily.

I'll try to work backwards here. I will say that Atchison is getting at least 29% of the vote. He has to get 6.5% from some where and we'll say 4% comes from the Liberal and 2.5% from the Tory.

That puts the results at PC 39.9%, Lib 31.6%, NDP 29%.

Now let's say that the Tories lose 5% due to an unhappy bureaucracy. Due to Atchison's strong candidacy and the fact that these are union folk, we'll split it 50-50 between the Liberal and the New Democrat.

That puts the results at PC 34.9%, Lib 34.1%, NDP 31.5%.

OUCH. Talk about close to call.

So right now, I am going to put Fredericton-Silverwood down as leans PC but we are talking about the slimest of slim leads. Watch for this riding to move again. I understand CBC is doing a profile on this riding tomorrow night so hopefully I can gain more insight from that.

UPDATE: I watched the CBC profile and the clip showed Rick Miles trying the federal Liberal trick that voting NDP was like voting Conservative because it blocks a Liberal win.

He was saying this to NDP candidate Dennis Atchison's face and you should have seen Atchison's shock and reaction! Classic.

Brad Green didn't get a lot of voice time but a fair bit of face time.

Political Science prof suspects the riding to follow provincial trends. I don't agree and the clip didn't really do anything by reinforce my view that Atchison is a very strong candidate. His pitch seems to be that he may well be the only New Democrat to make it to the legislature and that that is important. Not a bad pitch.



This riding is largely the same as Western Charlotte which was a considerably new riding in 1995. It was a virtual whole merger of Charlotte West and St. Stephen-Milltown, two ridings which had become very under populated.

Both of the predecessor districts had been Liberal in 1987 and 1991 while both had been PC strongholds prior to 1987.

Incumbent Tony Huntjens first ran here as the CoR candidate in 1995 (he was actually the party president at the time) and finished third with 24% of the vote - the second best CoR showing in the province. He soared to victory under the PC banner in '99 but had a tough ride in 2003.

Huntjens was then added to the cabinet and, despite being a minister, admitted publicly that he failed to convince his colleagues to not make cuts to the St. Stephen hospital. He then left the cabinet and, despite Lord promising he would be returned, he was not due to Brenda Fowlie apparently blackmailing her way into his place. Then Lord promised him the speakership and Lord again pushed him aside to allow for Tanker Malley's turn at blackmail.

In 2003, Huntjens faced Madeline Drummie, a very intelligent former federal bureaucrat who, though married to a local St. Andrew's man, was relatively new to the area. She made a few gaffes (i.e. mixing up place and road names) and though up to speed on her files, did not have the passion of a politician.

2006 Liberal candidate Robert Tinker was EA to the former MLA/minister and has served on St. Stephen council since 2001. In 2004, he was returned with an amazing 74.8% of the vote (roughly - it is unclear how many ballots for councillor were cast, he received 1222 votes for councillor and there were 1634 mayoral ballots cast so I am using that as a total). Though voters can cast ballots for 6 councillors and Tinker voters also voted for others, it is pretty amazing that he was approved by 3/4s of the electorate.

In my estimation Huntjens is a weaker candidate in 2006 than he was in 2003. The Liberal candidate is stronger in 2006 than in 2003. The 2003 margin for Huntjens was only 192 votes. Thus, I am going to say this one leans Liberal.

Moncton West

Ok, I think I may have jumped the gun here. The other day I broke my own rules by moving this two spots at once - all the way from strong Tory, skipping lean Tory, and then to too close to call. The unanimous message I am hearing is that Devereux is not as strong of a candidate as I thought he was and that he isn't really campaigning that hard anyway.

I still think this seat is in play, but unless there is a yet-to-be-seen Liberal surge in Moncton, this seat leans PC.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you that Fredericton-Silverwood will deliver the best result for the NDP on election day, by far actually. To answer one of your questions: Atchison has lived on the southside for about three years.

Alex said...

Brad Green is safe in Fredericton-Silverwood.

I think the Liberals may have been able to give him a run, but then Graham started talking about bringing in Superbureaucrats from outside the province to run the Government and moving civil service jobs from the capital (it’s even the official policy of the Liberal party). In fact, this scheme has also made T.J. Bourque’s re-election in doubt and put the other Fredericton ridings in play.

As for the NDP, redistribution disadvantages them. The new riding lost much of the downtown area where their support is strongest and picked-up outlying areas, where support is weakest. However, this may help Brewer in Fredericton Lincoln.

That, along with Green’s strong performance and ability to deliver for the city, will ensure he returns to the Legislature

nbpolitico said...

Alex -

I assume that you are refering to T.J. Burke? ;)

You are right that some good NDP polls were moved from Fred South/Silverwood to Fred-Lincoln but I accounted for that in my numbers, the actual results in Fred South were 23.1%, when you withdraw those polls the result slips to 22.5%. Not as big of a difference as you seem to think.

As for the bureaucrats being mad a Graham's proposal, I see the opposite. He is talking about moving less than 20 bureaucrats to Saint John and hiring more than that to do his new initiatives.

The "supercrats" you talk about is a cabinet secretariat that the federal government and most provinces use to provide a clear multi-departmental direction to government. NB actually had this under Richard Hatfield. The civil servants love this idea because it will allow them to do more coordinated work that is more likely to be accepted into public policy. It empowers them.

Anonymous said...

What civil servants have you talked to? This is not what I've heard around the water cooler.

Also, when did he mention he would increase the size of the civil service to do his initiatives? Did I miss this? I heard about the "supercrat" announcement and details were vague other than they were going to "guide the agenda".

nbpolitico said...

The "supercrats" were going to be a cabinet secretariat that is what the announcement was. The mandate and functioning of a cabinet secretariat is fairly standard so if you need detailed analysis you can find it anywhere on the internet.

As for the jobs being made up, you'll find that in the news articles after Brad Woodside compained about it. Graham said there would be no net loss of jobs in Fredericton as a result of the Department of Energy moving to Saint John.

Anonymous said...

Okay - so the jobs from the Department of Energy will be offset from the the cabinet secretariat (and I understand a Cabinet secretariat but I don't recall the Liberals using this term). (from Transcript --
Graham said he explained to the mayor that the department is small - only 15 to 20 jobs would be involved - and the job losses to Fredericton would be offset by a new level of government bureaucracy he would also create if he forms the next government.)

But if the mandate of this new level of bureaucracy is to guide the agenda as Shawn Graham has said then who is going to do all the work that he is promising?

From the same Transcript article --

If elected, Graham said he has already secured the services of a person - not yet identified - to act a recruiter to bring in "some of the best and brightest minds in the world" to retool the provincial civil service.

Graham said the recruiter would bring in "seven to 10" individuals who would be paid higher salaries than departmental deputy ministers - whose salaries are currently capped - to help revitalize the entire provincial bureaucracy...
(goes on to talk about a 3 year degree program so that people won't be as much in debt and can start having families earlier)..

Graham said hasn't yet finalized his plan.

"I don't want to get into the minutiae today of creating a whole new civil service structure because it's an important issue," said Graham, "though my first priority is the election if one is called."

This is what has the bureaucrats I know not running with open arms to the Liberal party.

nbpolitico said...

As I recall, the term cabinet secretariat was in the Telegraph-Journal story following Graham's editorial board meeting with them.

I would paste i but I do not have access to it

Alex said...

Burke, right. Must be the Acadian influence.

There already is a cabinet secretariat – it’s called the Executive Council Office.

As for moving jobs, the Liberal party passed the following resolution at their AGM last Fall, less than a year ago:

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Liberal Party of New Brunswick support a provincial initiative to maximize the decentralization of government offices and positions to regions outside Fredericton”

Seems pretty clear to me.

nbpolitico said...

Motions passed at a party conference do not necessarily make it into the platform.

Graham is on the record saying that only the Energy jobs will be leaving Fredericton.

Brent said...

So they're saying, "elect us because we will ignore our party's policies?"

Sound strategy, for sure.

nbpolitico said...

No Brent, I would say they are saying, we will present you a sound and costed out platform that doesn't include every single idea brought forward by our party, particularly those ideas which sound good on paper but are not well thought out.