Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bleed Red, Not Orange

There's a lot of talk these days about a possible Liberal-NDP coalition. Mr. Rae has given new life to the talk by waxing poetic about his days propping up David Peterson in the 80's. I remain staunchly opposed to any sort of coalition deal with the NDP. It isn't treason as some Tories would have you believe, but it would be a grave error in judgment. 1985 provides few instructive lessons for us. The Tory dynasty in Ontario was coming to an end in 85 and Rae's decision to back Peterson only expedited that process. One could argue that they were merely making up for the inertia which had allowed Frank Miller to retain power in that election. Mr. Rae as future events indicate was always a bit of right wing NDPer to begin with. The current federal scene has none of these characteristics.

Jack Layton remains a fringe voice in Canadian politics. The NDP is a party stuck in the past supporting policies that would violate Canada's commitments to the WTO (check out #5), reopen NAFTA, institute massive corporate tax hikes in the midst of a fragile recovery and put the brakes on the burgeoning oil sands. These are not modern Liberal principles. The NDP is a party of ideology completely inconsistent with a successful Liberal Party of Canada. Honestly, in an era where many of the major social fights (abortion, same-sex marriage etc.) are behind us, there is a lot more similarity between the Liberals and Tories than there is between the NDP and the Liberals. I don't really believe Michael Ignatieff would ever pursue a deal with the socialists and it is some consolation as the Grits remain trapped in the 20's in the polls.

We must remember that the UK coalition is between the Lib-Dems and the Tories not the Lib-Dems and Labour. In fact, many European countries find themselves governed by centre-right coalitions. The key difference is that in Europe, Liberal parties are weak also-rans not prime contenders for power. It is always easier for the leading party to find a deal with the third or fourth party than it is for the two largest parties to get into bed together. The reason we don't have coalition governments in Canada is because our third and fourth parties are not serious coalition partners.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Local Power Outage

Pundit's Guide has found the news hiding in plain sight (okay, slightly wonky Elections Canada tables). It seems a whole bunch of riding associations have failed to keep up with their paperwork and have been deregistered. In reality none of these riding associations were all that likely to elect anybody anyway. Only the Grits in Timmins -- James Bay could even be called competitive. Still, there's definitely some egg on some faces. Here are the guilty associations with their projected vote share as of May 13th:

Timmins -- James Bay (LIB) 25.84%
Esquimalt -- Juan de Fuca (GRN) 12.57%
Alfred Pellan (CON) 12.25%
St Catharine's (GRN) 9.9%
Don Valley East (GRN) 9.84
Chatham - Kent -- Essex (GRN) 9.68%
Windsor Tecumseh (GRN) 9.43%
Charlottetown (GRN) 8.26%
Crowfoot (LIB) 7.97%
Vegreville -- Wainwright (LIB) 7.45%

One of the reasons that we can't have local control over candidates is that local riding associations do stuff (or more accurately don't do stuff) like this. I wonder what Andrew Coyne and the protectors of the local voice would say should be done in ridings where there is no local riding association to nominate a candidate. Pundit's Guide has the overall number of registered EDA's with the NDP missing just one riding (Nunavut), the Grits short just the three above, the Tories short a shocking (for a governing party) 27, and the Greens missing 74 including all of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Projection Update: What Scandal Edition

While the Guergis melodrama captivates everyone within a 5cm radius of Parliament Hill, the rest of the country could care less. At least, that's the conclusion I have to draw from my latest seat projections. The numbers:

National Picture:

CPC 129
LPC 89
BQ 55
NDP 35

Province-by-Province

BC: CPC 19, NDP 11, LPC 6
AB: CPC 28
SK: CPC 13, LPC 1
MB: CPC 7, LPC 4, NDP 3
North: CPC 1, LPC 1, NDP 1
ON: CPC 55, LPC 45, NDP 16
QC: BQ 55, LPC 14, CPC 6
NB: CPC 5, LPC 4, NDP 1
PE: LPC 4
NS: LPC 5, CPC 4, NDP 2
NL: LPC 5, CPC 1, NDP 1

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

It's Not The Economy, Stupid?

The Economist thinks were cool again. Okay, no cover story with a sunglasses-toting moose but still the Economist praises Canada for its economic resiliency. The Economist is right. The Canadian economy appears, pending more debt-crises in Europe, to be recovering well. This is unreservedly good news for our country. The recovery is not just occurring on corporate balance sheets as the economy unexpectedly added 109,000 jobs in April. While a lot of that work was part-time, it's better than a kick in the teeth. To put it in perspective, the Americans were positively giddy about adding 290,000 jobs in a country ten times our size. All this good news presents a challenge to Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal Party of Canada.

You can criticize me for making such a cynical statement but it is true. For the past eighteen months it has been fairly obvious what the major issue would be for the LPC should another election occur. The YouTube clips that appeared last year demonstrated the fodder the LPC would have in going after the Tories on financial and fiscal mismanagement. A picture of a government being on the one hand disconnected from economic reality and on the other hand squandering hard earned Liberal surpluses would have made for a great narrative. The question now, is what is the new narrative the LPC is going to craft between now and the time of the next election (at most 30 months away). Fiscal mismanagement is still an issue. The Tories ran a deficit prior to the economic meltdown of 2008 and their plans to get out of the whole they've dug is laughable. However, if this kind of job growth is sustained, the government coffers will have more money in them than would have been previously anticipated. More importantly, in order to criticize the Tory deficit plan, we would need our own real deficit plan. A real plan would involve either tax hikes (GST anyone?) or spending cuts neither of which the Liberals would want to run an election on.

Mr. Ignatieff faces the Afghan detainee document question this week in the House of Commons. It probably isn't the kind of thing you go to the polls on. It just isn't a coffee table issue. Going back to social issues is, as was infamously pointed out, good political ground for the LPC but it isn't without hazards. Many of the issues which break the LPC's way (abortion, gay marriage etc.) are, in the mind of most Canadians, settled questions. There's no currency to it. Harper's justice legislation is poor policy but once again mostly poor political fodder. Although I could see "Stephen Harper wants to put your child behind bars" coming out in a late campaign attack ad. None of these issues have really grabbed the Canadian public even if they have angered some people in the chattering classes. In general, the Tory government is not all that enthused about passing controversial legislation or really any legislation, which even in a majority government, presents some challenges to the opposition.

Ignatieff has piecemeal policy proposals which are supposed to be close to being a platform. That may be an even tougher road to hoe as Canadian opposition parties are rarely elected because they are merely preferable. Usually, the case has to be made that the other guys are incompetent, corrupt or both AND that the opposition is preferable. If the economic recovery continues, Michael Ignatieff is left with the unenviable task of making that case to the Canadian public without his economic trump card. Maybe that's why the Prince of Darkness decided he'd be better off helping defend Dalton McGuinty.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Clegg Looks For Coalition With Socialists and Separatists

The resignation this afternoon of Gordon Brown as Labour leader has fueled speculation that a deal may be possible which would see the Labour Party remain in government in coalition with Nick Clegg and the support of presumably one or more nationalist parties. Of course it is possible that Clegg is opening up negotiations with Labour in the hopes of winning concessions on what appear to be shockingly small stumbling blocks in a deal with the Tories. How exactly a Lib-Con coalition would vote on any sort of EU-related question is completely unimaginable.

Friday, May 07, 2010

UK Votes: The Last Shall Be First

Nick Clegg had an absolutely abysmal night last night as Lib-Dem support evaporated into thin air. The Tories of David Cameron are likely to form a government with their large plurality. However, that is dependent on Clegg agreeing to support the Tories at least in the near term. So, through the magic of minority government Mr. Clegg gets a considerable amount of power today. Unsurprisingly, the Lib-Dems want more minority governments - or as the Brits call them hung parliaments - like this one so they can continue to be the kingmaker. So, the question is what would parliament look like under PR? I decided to run a quick and dirty PR projection. Two assumptions: 1. Each nation (England, Scotland, Wales, N. Ireland) is administered separately. 2. The minimum threshold is a fairly average 5% of the vote in the given nation. Here we go:

Conservatives: 251
Labour: 203
Liberal-Democrats: 161
SNP: 12
Plaid Cymru: 5
DUP: 5
Sinn Fein: 5
SDLP: 3
UCU: 3
Alliance: 2

Interesting to note that the Green Party which won a seat in Brighton last night would be shut out of a PR based parliament for getting only 1% of the vote. Likewise, the independent winner in Northern Ireland would be out. If you lowered the threshold to 3% UKIP would have won seats in England. While this parliament would give Gordon Brown a better shot of staying on, it isn't all that much more functional than the one that was actually elected.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Helena Guergis and Canadian Nominations

Andrew Coyne has weighed in on the fight brewing in Simcoe-Grey over the CPC's ousting of Helena Guergis as the nominated candidate for the next election. Mr. Coyne, as is so often the case, has decided to stand on principle in the face of reality. The principle is that local constituents should decide who is their next candidate for election. There's nothing wrong with that idea in theory. In fact, it becomes an absolute mess. Political parties are very strange entities in Canada. While heavily regulated, they remain at their core private clubs working in the public spheres. Mr. Coyne points to the requirement of candidates to receive the written endorsement of a party leader in order to stand for election as an affront to local democracy. It's not. The regulation doesn't come from any of the political parties but rather from Elections Canada. The reason is pretty simple: during a federal election, Elections Canada doesn't have the time to monitor the nomination process of the local Marijuana Party. Thus, they ask any candidate who claims to be the Marijuana Party candidate to receive the endorsement of his or her leader proving that they are the real candidate and not just trying to use the party's name to advance their cause or confuse voters. That way they know the candidate is actually nominated.

Now, this rule can be used by party leaders to veto unwanted candidates. It's not why the rule exists, but it can be used that way. While I agree that local members should have the power in nominating candidates, there has to be a limit. Political parties need to be able to remove candidates who have ceased to represent the best interest of the party. In the course of a federal election, speed is crucial. If a candidate is embarrassing the party, they need to be removed in short order. It may not be possible to schedule, announce and hold a new nomination meeting in order to get that candidate approved. When Sir John A. was the Conservative Party candidate (in numerous ridings at once), the media in Halifax wasn't reporting what his candidate in Vancouver said at a community meeting that morning. There wasn't video on the internet showing his candidate in Windsor making a fool of himself (or Sir John A. debating drunk off his rear-end). The media cannot expect perfect discipline from political parties and expect free-for-all nomination processes. They are mutually exclusive. Likewise, in a system with short election periods which may occur at any time, you cannot have an American style open nomination process.

Canadian political parties are very small clubs and they operate as such. However, our system allows for the election of independent candidates. If people in Simcoe-Grey want Helena Guergis to continue to serve as their MP after the next election, I wholeheartedly encourage them to start working on an independent campaign. Bill Casey and Chuck Cadman have both done it successfully after falling out with the Tories. Our first-past-the-post system allows independent candidates to win election and serve their constituents in the House of Commons. The party leader only controls his or her caucus members if they don't feel they can be elected without the party banner at their back.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Projection Update: May Edition

It's been a significant amount of time since I've done a projection update. They take longer when I haven't been keeping my polling aggregate up to date with the latest polls and that tends to put a bit of inertia in the works when I haven't put one out in a while. At any rate, I finally bit the bullet and got it done. This is based on 9 national polls taken in the last 30 days. Significant changes from my last update a couple months ago see the Tories re-open a wide margin with most of the gains coming in Ontario. The numbers follow:

National Picture

CPC 128
LPC 89
BQ 55
NDP 36

Province-by-Province

British Columbia: CPC 19, NDP 11, LPC 6
Alberta: CPC 28
Saskatchewan: CPC 13, LPC 1
Manitoba: CPC 7, LPC 4, NDP 3
North: CPC 1, LPC 1, NDP 1
Ontario: CPC 45, LPC 44, NDP 17
Qu├ębec: BQ 55, LPC 14, CPC 6
New Brunswick: CPC 5, LPC 4, NDP 1
PEI: LPC 4
Nova Scotia: LPC 5, CPC 4, NDP 2
Newfoundland and Labrador: LPC 6, NDP 1

Riding -by- Riding

Seat Projection - May 3

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Upcoming By-Election Projections

A full projection update is on its way tomorrow. I thought I'd post my projection for the newly vacated riding of Winnipeg North and the possibly soon to be vacated riding of Vaughan. First the NDP stronghold of Winnipeg North:

Winnipeg North:

NDP 57.19%
LPC 17.26%
CPC 14.44%
GPC 9.79%

Vaughan:

LPC 51.33%
CPC 27.79%
GPC 10.74%
NDP 8.33%

Also, if the Tories are polling in embattled Helena Guergis' riding of Simcoe-Grey, here's what they should have been finding in terms of party preference if it wasn't for the scandal:

CPC 48.68%
LPC 24.18
GPC 13.04
NDP 10.21%

This might move to the near the top of my list if I were the Green Party of Canada trying to find winnable ridings. Southwestern Ontario has been fertile turf for the party and this sort of scandal is the kind of thing which drives people to the Greens.
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