Monday, October 02, 2006

Preliminary look at the Liberal leadership results

I'll post more substantively when the result of ballots are counted, right now we are talking about only 409/469 and who wins Ontario and who finishes third overall is still in the air.

The proportional selection of delegates to the leadership convention is an interesting system and this is the firs time it has really been used for the Liberal Party federally (it was used in 2003 when Martin romped with 90+% of the vote and its effects couldn't really be seen).

This system bares a lot of similarities to the U.S. presidential primary system in some ways. Though technically they are not similar at all (the U.S. system varies radically from state-to-state, in primaries all voters are welcome to vote, in caucuses it is a bit more similar to our system), it is similar enough that I suspect to the media and Canadians-at-large it is perceived as the same.

So, I've made us a neat little map to show the results. In the U.S. it doesn't matter who close you finish in a state. It is all about winning primaries. Howard Dean's campaign took serious blows in Iowa and New Hampshire, but what was really fatal was by the time he got his last stand in Wisconsin he had "failed to win a single state". The media considered John Edwards and Wesley Clark to be ahead of Dean because they had each won a state but, in reality, Dean had the second most elected delegates.

Here, we seem to be hearing similar talk from the media. It is about ability to win nationally and therefore in an election (not a fair comparison which I'll get to) so there seems to be a fair bit of talk about who won which provinces.

So here it is by province:

Ignatieff (5): New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Yukon
Rae (2): Newfoundland & Labrador, Prince Edward Island
Kennedy (1): Alberta
Brison (1): Nova Scotia

The big prizes of BC and Ontario still have a lot of mail-in ballots to come and are close enough that they could go one way or the other. The same rings true for Manitoba and Nunavut.

So, by the logic of some, only the above four can win a province so therefore Dion is not a contender and Brison is. Obviously this is illogical, but this is what you can extract.

A lot of people are arguing that Kennedy did poorly in Quebec (he currently stands in fifth place with 1.7% of delegates) so therefore he cannot be leader. I think this is non sense.

Here is my rationale:

Quebec is not the "Liberal stronghold" - Notwithstanding the comments of many a pundit and Liberal politician, we do not need Quebec to win. In fact, we have not won Quebec in 26 years - since the 1980 election.

Here are the results in Quebec from 1984 onward:

1984 - 17 seats (22.7%)
1988 - 12 seats (16.0%)
1993 - 19 seats (25.3%)
1997 - 26 seats (34.7%)
2000 - 36 seats (48.0%)
2004 - 21 seats (28.0%)
2006 - 13 seats (17.3%)

So, some important factors to note: 1) only once in the past 7 general elections have we even come close to winning a majority of seats in Quebec; 2) having a Quebec leader in 1993, 2004 and 2006 did not help us to make a breakthrough, in fact these are among our worst results.

The Liberal Party is not an accurate measure of the whole population - In Quebec we are probably talking about, at most, the votes of 5000 Liberals. This is insignificant when compared to the population of Quebec which is 7,651,531.

Just because a candidate who got into the race last, too late to secure major organizers in Quebec, and had little or no profile in Quebec leading up to delegate selection does not mean he will not, with the platform of the leadership of a federal party and an election campaign, inspire their hearts and minds.

The race was one of organization, not ideas - If Quebeckers were voting with their hearts, I highly doubt we would have found Joe Volpe placing fourth and Canadiens hero Ken Dryden placing seventh. Kennedy was out organized in Quebec and I salute the Ignatieff, Dion and Rae campaigns for their good work. However, the showing for Dryden proves that this was not a matter of Kennedy being unpopular but simply that of being unorganized.


Now, moving on to other matters, without the final 60 clubs (mail-in folks) counted, here are the results:

Ignatieff 29.83%
Rae 19.82%
Kennedy 16.82%
Dion 16.63%
Dryden 4.62%
Volpe 4.60%
Brison 3.88%
Hall Findlay0.98%
Undecided 2.81%

We admit that Kennedy had no real chance to build an organization in Quebec, had no recognition there before the race and had little chance to compete in the air war not so much due to lack of French as it was due to lack of interest from the French media who were interested in self-annointed frontrunners Ignatieff and Rae and hometown candidate Dion.

Let's look at how he did in the other 9 provinces and 3 territories:

Ignatieff 27.18%
Kennedy 22.02%
Rae 18.60%
Dion 12.29%
Dryden 5.76%
Volpe 5.15%
Brison 4.67%
Hall Findlay1.28%
Undecided 3.04%

That is quite impressive. Kennedy is 3.5% ahead of Rae and only 5% back of Ignatieff in all of Canada save for Quebec where he faced immense challenges.

When we talk about growth, it seems Kennedy is the number two candidate in most of the country. I think that that will prove well when these people are looking around. Moreover, I think Kennedy's policy platform will appeal to the 1073 Quebeckers that actually get a vote at the convention, a group he will have a chance to have air with and talk to.

Those who suggest Kennedy is out of this race are not thinking this thing through.


nuna d. above said...

"The Liberal Party is not an accurate measure of the whole population - In Quebec we are probably talking about, at most, the votes of 5000 Liberals. This is insignificant when compared to the population of Quebec which is 7,651,531."

The same logic wold hold true in Alberta, where Kennedy's good showing has nothing to do with the voting intentions of the general population. The week-end voting shows no one really thinks Kennedy can improve the Liberal party's third place standing in Quebec in time for the next federal election.

Peter said...



conclusion is not what most Liberals are prepared to admit even though the numbers you very well present prove otherwise.

Us old Liberals can only remember Trudeau sweeping Quebec election after election.

Well written and researched.


Peter said...

nuna d. above,

I honestly believe thet the Liberals in Alberta can win with the right leader. In Edmonton and even in Calgary.

Alberta's rapid population growth is not because Albertans are having more children, but because people are moving into Alberta from other provinces (where they are more comfortable voting for Liberals).

nuna d. above said...

Peter, when you take the population growth and divide it up among all the Alberta ridings, it doesn't make that much difference, especially when the Alberta Liberals come in third or fourth in so many ridings.

nbpolitico said...

nuna - It would be illogical for me on one hand to say Kennedy's poor showing in Quebec means nothing while his strong showing in Alberta means the Liberals would turn it red under his leadership.

I am merely saying a poor showing in Quebec for Kennedy among a few thousand Liberals does not mean he would do well or do badly there in a general election.

It means, his organization did not crack through the machines behind Ignatieff, Rae and Dion and nothing else.

Daniel said...

I really don't like the network punditry's apparent "coronation" of Ignatieff (I'm looking at you, CTV), while dismissing Kennedy for not doing well in Quebec.

Honestly: can anyone really see Ignatieff doing that well in Quebec in a federal election? The Libs would do well to maintain the 13 seats they have with him as leader, let alone improve their standings.

Quebecers have somewhat warmed to Harper; the only thing holding him back is his foreign policy position, something that Ignatieff couldn't use against him. Ah, I can see the Bloc attack ads now: members being called to vote on the war in Afghanistan and Ignatieff standing with the Conservatives; quotes from him condoning a "benign American empire"; yeah, Iggy wouldn't fly in Quebec, methinks.

And just because the majority of a party supports a candidate doesn't mean the general public will; heck, Harper won his leadership on the first ballot, and if anyone but Harper was leader of the Conservatives, they'd have a majority right now - well, except maybe Stockwell Day ;)

I honestly think Kennedy, despite his poor Quebec showing, is the most viable candidate available. Iggy, Rae, and to a lesser extent Dion, all seem to have monkeys on their backs, and perceptions and baggage that they would simply have a hard time shaking. Kennedy certainly wouldn't drive any Quebec support away (or, at the very least, would be less offensive than Iggy), and could perhaps pick up some seats in Edmonton or B.C.

I hope the Liberals aren't taking a few recent "controversies" in the Conservative government as a sign that they'd be easily defeated; the "Liberal fortress" no longer exists, and the Conservatives have a whole arsenal ready to exploit the divisions and weak points of the Liberals. The Libs can't use the "scary evil Harper" argument anymore, as I think the general public is over that image (except for the people who wouldn't vote for Conservative anyway).

The Libs have made the mistake of playing all their cards and burning all their bridges these past few years. They'd better hope that they can scrounge something resembling a prepared, unified party before election time, otherwise they may be warming the opposition benches for a while.

nbpolitico said...

daniel - very, very well said

Candace said...

Very interesting analysis & post. I've been wondering about that "stronghold" nonsense for a while, particularly with the Bloc repeatedly taking the majority of the seats.

And Daniel makes some excellent points as well. As a born & raised Albertan that lived on the coast for a while, I can attest to the locals rubbing off on voting patterns (of course, I had to leave the province after willingly voting Liberal as it was too much of a disconnect for my psyche, but that's not my point). Alberta has been growing exponentially over the past few years, I think the past 2 or 3 by 20-25k per month, mainly from migration from other provinces, but still voted the CPC in en masse. Assuming that Liberal voters still want to vote Liberal after a few years outside the stronghold™ of central Canada would be a mistake.

Liberal candidates in Alberta traditionally get minimal to zero support from the national party. Now that Anne McLellan has lost her seat (Paul showed up here, I think, twice, to closed-to-the-public type gatherings with big donors), I don't see that changing drastically. Perhaps a new leader may see it differently, but will the party let him spend money on a lost cause? Especially if fundraising is an issue?