Monday, February 24, 2014

Whither the People's Alliance?

This is my latest assessment of where the five parties stand a good chance of winning in 2014. First, I assessed the general leanings of each of the new 49 ridings for the two main parties, then I looked at the NDP's best shots, and then the Greens. Now I turn to the People's Alliance.


In some ways, the People's Alliance provides the most difficult task for objective analysis. The NDP has been on the ballot for decades, so it is easy to look for trends and consistent pockets of strength. For the Greens, though they too have only fought one election, there are at least federal election results where the Greens have had consistent campaigns and trends going back to 2004.

The People's Alliance has no federal counterpart and has no provincial electoral history. And even in 2010, they only contested 14 of 55 ridings. How might they have done in the other 41 ridings had they been on the ballot? It is nearly impossible to say.

However, there is one other dataset at which we can look. That is the results for the Confederation of Regions party in the 1991 and 1995 elections. The People's Alliance does not seem to welcome comparisons to CoR. However, they are both populist parties made up principally of right-of-centre individuals with a skepticism towards at least some aspects of official bilingualism. Even if PANB is not a successor to CoR, they would seem to compete for the same universe of voters.

It is not likely a coincidence that the leader and deputy leader of the party both hail from areas where CoR won seats in 1991.

It is easy to write off the People's Alliance as a fringe party after they got only 1.2% of the vote in 2010. However, that does not tell the whole story. The People's Alliance only contested a small subset of ridings, PANB got 4.9% of the vote in the 14 ridings where they actually ran candidates.

Compare this to the Greens who took 5.0% in the 49 ridings they contested. When one looks at the potential for these two parties, they must be treated at least as equals. Indeed, the Alliance vote was more "efficient" in that their best riding saw their candidate take almost 50% more of the vote share than in the Greens' best riding.

Curiously, the People's Alliance ran in only 2 of the 9 ridings in Central New Brunswick which had been CoR's strongest region in 1991. This suggests there was untapped potential for the party in 2010. Indeed, with the PCs almost certain to lose some of their vote from 2010 (when they scored their second highest popular vote in modern history), the PANB is well positioned to capture right-of-centre voters who would not consider the Liberals, NDP or Greens.

Taking a look back to CoR's 1991 results, they won 8 ridings. I'll lay them out here and explain how they relate to current ridings:

  • Fredericton North: The current Fredericton North falls completely within the boundaries of this old riding, but significant portions of the old Fredericton North can also be found in Fredericton-York and Fredericton-Grand Lake
  • York North: This old riding is distributed almost evenly between Fredericton-York and York
  • York South: Most of this old riding can be found in York and Fredericton-Hanwell, small portions of it can be found in New Maryland-Sunbury and Charlotte-Campobello
  • Sunbury: This riding is split roughly in three between Fredericton-Grand Lake, Oromocto-Lincoln and New Maryland-Sunbury
  • Oromocto: This riding is wholly contained in the new riding of Oromocto-Lincoln
  • Southwest Miramichi: This riding is almost wholly contained in the new riding of Southwest Miramichi-Bay du Vin, small pieces of it are in Miramichi Bay-Neguac
  • Riverview: Most of this riding is still found in the modern riding of Riverview, with pieces of it in Albert
  • Albert: This riding is almost wholly contained within the new, larger Albert riding; a small piece of it can be found in Sussex-Fundy-St. Martins

One of the advantages that CoR had in 1991 which they won't in 2014, is that there were no PC incumbents. Right-of-centre voters had no sitting MLAs where they were naturally aligned. This probably allowed them to get higher vote totals than they might have otherwise. For this reason, PANB may want to target opportunities where there is no PC incumbent, such as New Maryland-Sunbury.

First Tier Targets

These are ridings where PANB has nominated candidates early, the candidate has some profile, and the riding has shown a sympathy for the party. All of these are key factors in a potential breakthrough.

Fredericton-Grand Lake

Party leader Kris Austin will run here. He scored an impressive 20% of the vote in the old Grand Lake-Gagetown riding in 2010. Even though there was no People's Alliance candidate on the ballot in Fredericton-Fort Nashwaak in that election, the redistributed boundaries give Austin a starting base of 15%. This is because Austin took a whooping 30% of the vote within the Grand Lake-Gagetown polls that move into this new district.


This was the Alliance's second best seat in 2010, where St. Andrews mayor John Craig took nearly 7% of the vote. They have again nominated a candidate here with a high profile and by nominating her early that should give them an organizational edge. Working against them is the fact that this was not a strong area for CoR in 1991, when they placed third in both Charlotte West and St. Stephen-Milltown. However, this riding brings in polls from the McAdam area which gave CoR 54% of the vote in 1991. This is also a riding where the NDP has the potential to do well, so if the Alliance can make a good run here, it could become a four-way race which could be won with less than 30% of the vote.

Southwest Miramichi-Bay du Vin

CoR won the Southwest Miramichi part of this riding by a slim margin in 1991, while doing very poorly in the Bay du Vin portion of the riding. In 2010, Wes Gullison got 5% of the vote here - roughly mirroring the average PANB received in ridings where they stood candidates. Therefore, on paper this does not really look like a great riding for the People's Alliance. However, Gullison is already renominated and should have the advantage of an early start. This combined with his profile as deputy leader of the party, should give him a slight edge.

Second Tier Targets

These are ridings where either COR did well in 1991 or the People's Alliance did well in 2010 and where there is either no incumbent, or where the incumbent running has not represented the majority of the new riding previously.

New Maryland-Sunbury

This would have been a very strong riding for CoR in 1991 and has the advantage of being one of the few ridings where the People's Alliance can realistically compete where there is no PC incumbent on the ballot. They would be wise to nominate a candidate here soon.


York North was the Alliance's third best riding in 2010, and it is from that riding that the new York draws most of its population. Carl Urquhart, PC incumbent from the old York riding, has prepsented less than 20% of this new territory. The PANB's 2010 candidate was former Nackawic mayor Steven Hawkes. He did very well despite being nominated late. Nackawic finds itself in the centre of this new riding, while it was on the outer-edge of York North with some of its closest neighbours, including Hawkes' hometown of Canterbury in another district. Were Hawkes to run again and be nominated early, the stars are fairly well aligned for him, relatively speaking.


CoR would have won or nearly won this riding in 1991. The PC incumbent from Grand Lake-Gagetown has represented a minority of the riding.

Third Tier Targets

These are ridings where CoR did well in 1991 or the People's Alliance did well in 2010, but are represented by strong PC incumbents.


MLA Kirk MacDonald has served since 1999 and has won all elections easily, except for 2003 when he won by only 101 votes. The new Fredericton-York riding draws just under 50% of its population from MacDonald's current York North riding, however when one takes territory he currently represents as well as territory from the old pre-2006 riding of Mactaquac, MacDonald has represented a solid majority of this area. While this riding would have gone for CoR in 1991, it would have done so against first-term incumbent Liberal backbenchers, far easier targets for a conservative-populist than a four-term Conservative.


Unlike Fredericton-York, this riding is in fact largely unchanged from when CoR won it in 1991 (it has added a bit of Riverview and the village of Salisbury). However, as with York North and Fredericton North (the 'ancestors' of Fredericton-York), then the CoR candidate defeated a one-term Liberal backbencher. Defeating a four-term Conservative like Wayne Steeves is a far taller order.

Fourth Tier Targets

These are ridings where CoR did well in 1991 but the People's Alliance did not contest in 2010. They are also ridings where demographic changes mean CoR would not likely have done as well today as they did 20 years ago and thus the Alliance is less likely to find them attractive targets.

  • Oromocto-Lincoln
  • Fredericton West-Hanwell
  • Fredericton North
  • Riverview

The People's Alliance are likely longshots to win any seats if current polling trends hold. However, if they can manage to capture a significant slice of declining PC support and concentrate that in the Fredericton area as CoR did in 1991, it is not unrealistic for them to see a win. Kris Austin starts with a base of 30% in his home turf, if he can take 30% across the whole of his new riding then he would be very well positioned to win. It is not hard to imagine 35% of the vote being enough to carry Fredericton-Grand Lake in this election. I would say Austin's odds at winning are similar to the odds of Greens leader David Coon.

Overall, I would say that the People's Alliance are more likely to wind up as the fourth party in the legislature than the Greens. That, however, remains an unlikely scenario.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Whither the Greens?

This is the third post in my series on the upcoming New Brunswick general election. The first looked at New Brunswick's newly redrawn ridings. The second looked at where the NDP might breakthrough.

This post looks at places for a possible Green breakthrough, something that is far less likely than a breakthrough for the NDP. Next will come a look at potential breakthroughs for the People's Alliance.

Unlike the PCs, Liberals and NDP, the Greens (and PANB) have little electoral history to look at to judge where they might do well, as they have only contested one previous election. With only one dataset, it is impossible to know which areas of strength were due to a natural affection for the Green Party and its positions, and which were due to unique circumstances, like the strength of the local Green candidate, the weakness of other parties' candidates, a fleeting local issue, etc.

That being the case, this analysis should be taken with several grains of thoughts (even more than my usual observations).


The Greens seem to be stuck at sub-5% in the opinion polls. This would suggest that they are unlikely to win a seat under our first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system. However, it is not impossible. If their efforts are very specifically focused, they could succeed. One needs look no further than the example of federal Green leader Elizabeth May who won a seat in the last federal election with a nationwide popular vote of 3.9%. Other examples of success with this level of support would be the BC Progressive Democrats (1 seat on 5.7% in 1996), the Alberta Representative Party (2 seats on 5.1% in 1986), the Manitoba Liberals (1 seat on 7.5% in 2011), Quebec Solidaire (1 seat on 3.8% in 2008), the Quebec Action Democratique (1 seat on 6.5% in 1994), the PEI NDP (1 seat on 7.8% in 1996), and the Newfoundland NDP (1 seat on 4.5% in 1996).

When one looks at the data, the first thing that stands out is that the Green strength is found Moncton and southeastern New Brunswick. In 2010, 6 of the Greens' 8 best ridings were in the Moncton area; as were 10 of their 14 best. This aligns with the other data source we can consider: federal elections. Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe and Beauséjour have generally been the Greens best federal ridings since their breakthrough election of 2004.

In the 2010 election, under the new boundaries the Greens would have had 7 ridings where their vote more than doubled their provincewide popular vote. It is in these ridings that I'll focus my analysis.

Fredericton South

This would have been the Greens' strongest riding, scoring nearly 14% of the vote - well over 3 times their provincewide popular vote. It is therefore no surprise that Green leader David Coon is running in this riding. Adding to Coon's chances here is not only the strong Green base, but also the fact that this is the only riding in the province likely to see a 4-way race, which means someone could conceivably win the seat with less than 30% of the vote.


This would have been the Greens' next best riding. In fact, under the old boundaries Tantramar was the best riding for the Greens in 2010. Boundary changes make this area a bit weaker and Fredericton South a bit stronger. Like Fredericton South, there is a chance of a four-way race here, though it is somewhat less likely. The Liberals and NDP have not shown major strength here since there was a three-way PC/Liberal/NDP race in a 1998 by-election with each taking more han 30% of the vote.

Moncton South, Fredericton North and Moncton Centre

The Green Party would have taken more than 10% of the vote in each of these ridings in 2010. But without a four-way race, or a huge surge in Green support it is difficult to imagine the Greens taking any of these ridings. Fredericton North may be an outlier in this group as much of the Green strength here can be attributed to then party leader Jack MacDougall who is not expected to reoffer.

Moncton East and Moncton Northwest

The Green Party would have taken more than 9% of the vote in both of these ridings in 2010, which is better than double their provincewide share. Again, there is not much chance of four-way races here which is really what the Greens need to breakthrough at their current levels of support. In Moncton Northwest, a Tory stronghold, there is an outside chance of a moral victory for the Greens as they could place a distant second here under the right circumstances. That is highly unlikely however if the Liberals maintain the strong standing they've seen in recent polls.


At 5% of the popular vote, it would be a reach for the Greens to win any seats. However, there are 2 unique opportunities for the Greens. In Fredericton South and Memramcook-Tantramar the Greens have ridings which are both areas where they have a support base on which to build and potential four-way races that could allow them to sneak up the middle. The Greens would be well served to focus all of their resources on these two seats.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

More fun with maps

I really can't shake the maps bug I caught a few days ago.

So here is another one I've been working on. Suppose Canada and the United States merged and each of the 10 provinces became states. The result would be a 60-state United States. There would now be 120 U.S. Senators (2 for each state) and the 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives would have to be reapportioned among the 60 states. In presidential elections, each state would have the same number of electors as they have members of both houses of congress (so a minimum of 3, 2 senators + 1 congressman).

The territories, as is U.S. practice, would lose their representation in the Senate, get a non-voting delegate to the House and have no say in presidential elections.

Here is what the new U.S. electoral map would look like:

New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Saskatchewan would all get the minimum 3 electoral votes in presidential elections, meaning that they would have one at-large congressman representing the entire province state, but 2 senators, the same as big states like California, Texas, Florida, New York, Ontario, Illinois and Ohio.

American states have to sacrifice 44 seats in the House of Representatives to make room for the 10 new ex-Canadian states. And their relative share of representation in the Senate drops from two percent to one-and-two-thirds percent. Specifically, the following states would lose representation under the current U.S. congressional apportionment formula to make way for Canadian seats in the House of Representatives:

  • California -6
  • Texas -4
  • Florida -3
  • New York -3
  • Georgia -2
  • Illinois -2
  • Michigan -2
  • Pennsylvania -2
  • Alabama -1
  • Arizona -1
  • Colorado -1
  • Indiana -1
  • Iowa -1
  • Kentucky -1
  • Maryland -1
  • Massachusetts -1
  • Minnesota -1
  • Nebraska -1
  • Nevada -1
  • New Jersey -1
  • North Carolina -1
  • Rhode Island -1
  • South Carolina -1
  • Tennessee -1
  • Virginia -1
  • Washington -1
  • West Virginia -1
  • Wisconsin -1

To win a presidential election 280 electoral votes would be required (up from 270), due to the electoral college growing by 20 due to new senators.

It would be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win the presidency. Polls suggest Democrats would be the heavy favourites in all provinces in presidential elections, even winning Alberta by about 40 percentage points. If one is generous, we could say the provinces would become 9 blue states and 1 swing state.

This would mean the Democrat would start with 259 electoral votes in the bag, to 173 for the Republican, with 126 swing votes. If one gives Democrats credit for Pennsylvania, a state they've not lost since 1988, they start with 277 votes and the Republican would have to win every single swing state in order to carry the election.

I sure do love fun with maps.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Fun with maps

On Saturday afternoon, the CBC's Dan McHardie tweeted out a cool map on Twitter. I went into fun-with-maps overdrive...

I haven't quite shaken the bug. Here are a couple more which I find highly interesting.

First Canadian provinces as American states with comparable GDP (PEI and the territories have economies far smaller than any U.S. state so they're not labeled):

Then Canadian provinces as American states with comparable GDP-per-capita ratios. This one was fascinating. Six of the 13 provinces and territories are at about the same level or richer than Delaware, the richest American state (as measured by GDP-per-capita). Even Canada's "poor" provinces New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI hold up pretty well. New Brunswick lines up with California. Nova Scotians and P.E. Islanders are on average richer than Texans.

Fun with maps is almost as fun as fun with numbers!

Here is a revised version of the first map, with an explanation of what it is in case it finds itself floating in the internet without its explanatory tweet: