Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Federal By-Elections

Yesterday there were by-elections in Vancouver Quadra, Desnethe - Missinippi - Churchill River, Toronto Centre and Willowdale. The raw result is that the Liberals were defending four seats and won three of them. The governing Conservatives picked up one seat. Federally this means that the Conservatives are now at 127 MPs versus the Liberals at 97. On election day the result was 124 Cons to 103 Liberals. Over the course of a bit more than 2 years the government has a 9 seat advantage over the official opposition. Incumbency helps people get re-elected.

Vancouver Quadra
I had hoped that the Conservatives would win in Vancouver Quadra, but I knew that was a long shot. Though once the count was in, Joyce Murray only defeated the Conservative by 151 votes. This result puts this riding fully back into play. Whereas the Liberals assumed that this had become a safe riding, the result says that it is not and will be a battleground when the next election happens. It is very bad for Dion that another riding that should be seen as safely Liberal is now in the swing category.

The NDP did as well has could be expected, though in the next election the Liberals will push for all the NDP voters to back Joyce Murray, and interesting task given she was a BC Liberal cabinet minister. Think about it, Ujjal Dosanjh and Joyce Murray will be caucus colleagues in Ottawa.

The Greens showed that they really are a party that can pull votes. Dan Grice almost passed the NDP into third place. His is 13.5% of the vote is significant and has to be something the other three parties need to pay attention to.

Martha Hall Findlay is now an MP and the riding remains solidly Liberal. The Conservative managed respectable 30% of the vote, a small increase over the 2006 election. The NDP did not do well here at all, they dropped to less than 5% of the vote and finished behind the Greens.

With Layton as leader of the NDP, the party should be doing much better in the Toronto region, but he does not seem to be able to give the party any boost at all.

Toronto Centre
Bob Rae wins easily win a result of close to 60%. This riding was the worst result for the Conservatives on the night. The party came fourth with a dismal 12.5% of the vote. But worse than this is that this was a riding the Conservatives held from 1978 to 1993. Clearly the government is not managing to get the urban affluent to support it.

The Greens a third place finish and were within a handful of votes of coming second. They are still unlikely to be winning an seats, but they look like they will be able to realistically get 8 to 10% of the vote in the next election and place second in many ridings.

Desnethe - Missinippi - Churchill River
It is unfortunate that the Liberals were having to defend this riding, clearly this is not one that they have any natural ability to win. In 2006 the Liberal Gary Merasty barely managed to defeat the sitting Conservative MP. The Liberals had won this riding in 2000 because the sitting NDP MP crossed the floor to them. The Conservative win is not any surprise.

What is a surprise is the death of the NDP as a factor in the riding. They won in 1997 but have been seeing their vote drop since then. Saskatchewan should be providing the NDP with seats in Ottawa, but it is not. In 1993 the NDP finished the election with only 9 seats, but 5 of those were in Saskatchewan. Before 1993 the could count on somewhere around 40% of the vote and 4 to 10 seats. Now the party seems to be at less than 25% and not in danger of winning seats in the province.

The NDP also need to be concerned about their polling numbers. They are averaging close to 2 percentage points below where they finished in 2006, in other words about 15% of NDP voters from the last election are looking elsewhere. The NDP also tends to poll higher than they get on election day. In 2006 the NDP vote was about 1 percentage point lower than the polling in the two weeks before election day. I suspect there were people saying they would vote NDP that then voted Liberal on election day as the election day results for the Liberals up from what the polls very predicting.

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