Sunday, June 07, 2009

New Democrats to cruise to victory

If polls are to believed the NDP will have a convincing win on Tuesday night in Nova Scotia.

My previous post predicted the NDP would be on the cusp of a majority (winning 26 seats in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly gives you a majority if there is an opposition speaker and a minority with a government one) when the votes are counted.

Since there have been two new polls.

A CRA poll showed that in the last two weeks of May, the NDP surged substantially. Numbers from their early May poll and degree of change are in brackets:

NDP 44 (+7 from 37)
Lib 28 (-3 from 31)
PC 26 (-2 from 28)

An Angus Reid poll issued a few days later shows the NDP at an incredible 47, the Liberals at 26 and the PCs at 23.

If the NDP really are at 47%, things would be huge. If we were to assume the NDP was at 70% in the HRM, they would still be running at 35% everywhere else (higher than they ever have before). A more realistic number for the NDP would be 55% in the HRM (compared to 46.5% last time), which would give them nearly 43% in the rest of Nova Scotia.

Therefore, my revised prediction would be as follows:

NDP 36
Lib 10
PC 6

So the final results were NDP 31, Lib 11, PC 10. Things actually turned out pretty well as I expected, except the Liberals did better in the HRM than I thought at the expense of the NDP and the PCs did better in Cape Breton than I thought at the expense of the Liberals.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The problem with wide appeal

I was in Nova Scotia last week and was starkly reminded that the only party with support all across the province is the Progressive Conservative Party.

In Cumberland County, you'd have to search a long time to find a Liberal sign. While in the western most parts of the Annapolis Valley, NDP signs were nowhere to be found.

The most recent poll showed the NDP at 37%, the Liberals at 31% and the PCs at 28%. If that PC support is spread relatively evenly across the province (the poll suggests it gets up to 35% in rural, mainland Nova Scotia) they could risk running second in virtually every riding in the province and get a share of seats that is far less than their numbers suggest. With Liberal support concentrated in the Valley/French Shore and Cape Breton, they're likely looking at a near sweep of those regions with 31%.

I am going to make the following seat prediction one weektwo weeks out:

NDP 26
Lib 17
PC 9

Whoops, I was originally thinking voting day was June 2, but it is actually June 9.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

New Brunswick blogs and Nova Scotia votes

It is with some regret that I noticed today that the third of the three New Brunswick blogs I follow has stopped posting. Spink About It and now The Independent have both formally raised white flags, while Countering The Nanny State has been largely silent for months, with the last post early in the New Year.

I have never formally thrown in the towel and do plan to continue to post occasionally on non-political topics and on political topics I can't resist, as I have for the past while. One of those topics is elections, so expect a handful of posts over the next few weeks on the recently called Nova Scotia election.

This should be an interesting one. Barring a game-changer (certainly possible), I would almost certainly expect the NDP to win a plurality of seats. That doesn't make for a lack of excitement, however.

Does the NDP win the most seats, but not a majority? This seems most likely to me and, if so, who comes second? Logic suggests that the PCs should come second, but they only held their plurality last time thanks to favourite son Rodney MacDonald's unusually strong PC showing on Cape Breton Island. Should the Liberals hold their seats elsewhere and reclaim Cape Breton, they could come second.

Another issue is how big of a plurality will the NDP win, if at all? Their support is very heavily concentrated in the HRM, where they already hold virtually all of the seats. If their vote share continues to rise there, they'll get more and more popular votes but their seat total will remain steady. Where is their room to grow? They had some breakthroughs in rural Nova Scotia in 2006 - can they hold these and grow them? Will a likely lowering of PC support on Cape Breton break their way at all or is it all destined for the Liberals?

The other big question is, if the NDP doesn't win a majority, who will form a government? A lot of people misunderstand how our system works. Individual candidates are defeated in elections, not governments. Should the Tories win fewer seats than the NDP, they continue to be the government until they are defeated or resign. If the NDP wins a majority, by tradition the Tory government would resign. However, if the NDP wins a plurality but not a majority, the PCs would have the right to face the House and try to maintain confidence (as W.L.M. King did in 1925), something that could easily be successful either through a coalition government (done as recently as 1999 in Saskatchewan) or a confidence agreement (such as the one between the second and third party in Ontario in 1985) with the Liberals.

All of this makes for an interesting campaign, one I'll watch closely.

See also a post from a while back where I hypothesized the possibility of a Liberal government. The most recent opinion poll showed NDP 36, Lib 31, PC 30 - so anything could happen...

Saturday, March 28, 2009


How not to seem more in touch with the everyday Canadian:
Mimi, the Ignatieffs' four-month-old Burmese kitten. She recently moved into Stornoway after being personally escorted to Ottawa by Liberal MP Keith Martin, who represents the Vancouver Island riding where Mimi's breeder lives. It was an effort but Dr. Martin found a way - WestJet let him take the kitten on board with him - and delivered her to the Opposition Leader's official residence at 1 a.m. last Thursday.

A purebred kitten will cost you between $300 and $500, + vaccinations + spaying.

The Harpers also have cats but of less glamorous breeds - they foster cats through the Ottawa Humane Society's Foster Program.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

More thoughts on PR

The Commission on Legislative Democracy recommended in 2005 that we move to a variety of proportional representation (PR) styled New Brunswick Mixed-Member Proportional (NB MMP). The system would have had 56 MLAs, 36 of which would be elected from traditional single-member first-past-the-post (FPTP) districts and 20, of which would be selected for 4 five-member districts using the additional member method (compared to 55 MLAs presently, all elected to single member ridings).

The multi-member district seats would not be selected based on the share of the votes the party received in those areas, but to compensate for the non-proportionality of the results therein. (Explained in the addtional member article linked above)

For example: Each region would have 9 ridings, each electing one member. Thereafter, the region would have 5 more members selected to represent the whole region. If Party A won 8 of 9 ridings with only 55% of the vote (i.e. they barely won each of eight, and barely lost one) and Party B had received only one seat on 45% of the vote, then Party B would receive all 5 of the regional members to compensate for having won only one traditional seat on 45% of the votes.

In order to presuppose the structure of the ridings, we'll have to overlay the existing 55 ridings into each of the regions suggested by the commission. That means 14 single member ridings will have to be transposed onto 3 of the regions and 13 will have to go into a final region. We'll place the Moncton-area districts into the 13 seat region, because those districts are the most overpopulated in the province.

The Commission recommended the following regions: North, Central, Southwest, Southeast. I will assign our current electoral districts to these regions as follows:
Grand Falls-Drummond-St. André, Restigouche-La-Vallée, Edmundston-Saint-Basile, Madawaska-Les-Lacs, Campbellton-Restigouche Centre, Dalhousie-Restigouche East, Nigadoo-Chaleur, Bathurst, Nepisiguit, Caraquet, Lamèque-Shippagan-Miscou, Centre-Péninsule-Saint-Sauveur, Tracadie-Sheila, Miramichi Bay-Neguac

Victoria-Tobique, Carleton, Woodstock, York North, Fredericton-Nashwaaksis, Fredericton-Fort Nashwaak, Fredericton-Lincoln, Fredericton-Silverwood, New Maryland-Sunbury West, Oromocto, Grand Lake-Gagetown, Southwest Miramichi, Miramichi Centre, Miramichi-Bay du Vin

York, Charlotte-Campobello, Charlotte-The Isles, Fundy-River Valley, Quispamsis, Rothesay, Saint John East, Saint John Harbour, Saint John Portland, Saint John Lancaster, Saint John-Fundy, Hampton-Kings, Kings East, Albert

Petitcodiac, Dieppe Centre-Lewisville, Moncton East, Moncton West, Moncton North, Moncton Crescent, Riverview, Memramcook-Lakeville-Dieppe, Tantramar, Shediac-Cap-Pelé, Kent South, Kent, Rogersville-Kouchibouguac
A lot of these regions are less than ideal but this is the unfortunate result that can happen when you have to carve the province up into four equal-sized regions. Presumably when boundaries for ridings would have been redrawn, some would have been combined and others split in a fashion that would try to avoid this.

So now let's try to re-run the 2006 election under NB MMP. In each region, we'll take the actual results from 2006 in terms of seats, then scale that down to 9 ridings, then apply the NB MMP method to each set of regional seats.

2006 actual resultsProjected NB MMP seats
Seats% voteRidingRegionalTotal

I am not sure if this is the result that PR proponets would have been looking for. The right-of-centre party, which won a bare plurality of votes (47.5%) would win a majority government, while left-of-centre parties who received 52.2% of the votes would be in the minority. The NDP, despite winning 5.1% of the vote would remain unrepresented in the legislature. The Liberals, despite winning a plurarilty of the vote in 3 of 4 regions, will have split the seats evenly in each of those regions, which seems somewhat unfair.

As I said in a comment to the last post on this, "the problem with the electoral reform debate in Canada (is that e)veryone seems to see it as black and white, when in fact there are countless models to choose from."

Using the model that was proposed by the Commission on Legislative Democracy would not have improved, in my view, the results of the last election. Regions with an odd number of members would likely have worked better, or perhaps the top up could have been done on a province-wide scale which would have allowed the NDP to get seats. Or we could have moved wholly to multi-member ridings (which our province used from pre-confederation to 1974 anyway) using the single transferable vote. Or we could have gone to countless other varieties of options.

As I said, that is the problem with the PR debate. When it is the status quo vs. the nearly infinite number of alternatives, change is quite popular. But when it is the status quo vs. one particular PR model, then these tend to fail (as votes in BC, Ontario and PEI have shown).

I suspect that most members of the NDP support PR in principle. I doubt many would favour the NB MMP model if they knew it would have meant they would still have been shut out of the legislature, and that a conservative government would have been re-elected with a larger majority in the last election.

This is why I've always prefered a gradual electoral reform. Canada was born out of evolution as opposed to revolution and it has served us well. We should do the same with any changes to our electoral system. A move from FPTP to a the preferential vote would be a relatively simple change that wouldn't turn our system on its head, and wouldn't confuse voters, but would answer many of the legitimate grievances of electoral reform proponents. Thereafter, if our objectives haven't been met, we could move further down the road.

Doesn't this seem more reasonable than totally replacing a system that, though imperfect, has served this country for well over a hundred years?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The drawbacks of proportional representation

Many Canadians have become frustrated, according to polls, with the fact that we had a federal election in 2004, 2006 and 2008 and could well have another in 2009 or 2010. At the same time, many have expressed dismay at the fact that the Green Party got 6.8% of the vote and won zero seats, while the Bloc Québécois got 10% of the vote and 16% of the seats.

Unfortunately, these two frustrations are largely incompatible. Though we might see the Greens win a seat or two with instant runoff voting (a model I support), it would not result in proportionality between votes and seats.

The reason we have had all of these elections is because of minority governments. With a system of proportional representation, the last time we would have seen a majority government at the federal level in Canada would have been 1984 when Brian Mulroney won 50.03% of the vote and before that 1958 when John Diefenbaker won 53.66%. Not even Pierre Trudeau's big sweep of 1968 won a majority of votes - he scored 45.37%.

The situation in Israel today is not dissimilar to that which we saw in Germany in 2005. The votes are spread so widely and the two "major" parties are so small and close to each other in size that the only option for government is a grand coalition of the major parties, which are forced to govern with a narrow set of objectives based on the few policy areas where those parties can agree to compromise.

This is no way to govern a country. We must have either majority governments, coalitions of like-minded parties or minority governments with a commitment from other parties to keep them in office for some time to have stable, effective government. If you ever think we could make all of our problems go away by bringing in PR, I would direct you to look at those countries who already "enjoy" that system of election. Based on the reaction of Canadians to the coalition proposal that came forward late last year, I would think that a system of PR would lead to a massive case of buyers remorse immediately following its first election.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

130 teams on frozen pond

In a few weeks, Plaster Rock, New Brunswick will host players and fans from around the globe for the 8th annual World Pond Hockey Championships.

There will be 130 teams, representing 12 countries and four continents. It is quite an amazing feat for a small milltown struggling with the downturn in the forestry sector.
  • There are 76 teams from Canada, including 37 from New Brunswick.
  • There are 43 teams from the USA, including teams from as far away as Arizona, Oregon and Puerto Rico.
  • There are 6 teams from Europe and three from the Caribbean (including Puerto Rico).
  • Egypt's team represents Africa and Brazil represents South America.
Be there, or be square. February 19-22, 2009, featuring the Stanley Cup on the 19th.

For more information:
WPHC website
A great 2004 profile from the New York Times