Thursday, April 9, 2009

The impact of the Conservatives on the Liberals

The BC Conservatives are talking about running a few more candidates this time around than they have done in a few elections. As of the weekend before the election they have 14 candidates lined up. The last election in which they ran more candidates than this was in 1979. Leader Wilf Hanni is talking about running 20 candidates in total.

So, what will the impact be on the Liberals from this?

Realistically the Conservative candidates will average about 5% of the vote in the ridings where they are running. Wilf Hanni ran for the party in the Vancouver Fairview by-election last October and took just over 4% of the vote. In 2005 the party averaged about 6% for their candidates, but most of that vote came from two candidates in the North Okanagan that did well for the party and pushed the Greens into fourth place.

If we look at the Conservatives and assume that the candidates will get 7% each in the ridings that they run in and all of that vote comes from the BC Liberals and there are no other changes, what is the impact? Here is how that plays out in the 14 seats that have announced Conservative candidates:

  • Boundary Similkameen - NDP win
  • Chilliwack - Liberal hold
  • Kootenay East - NDP win
  • Cowichan Valley - NDP hold
  • Delta North - NDP hold
  • Kamloops South Thompson - Liberal hold
  • Kelowna Lake Country - Liberal hold
  • Kelowna Mission - Liberal hold
  • Nelson Creston - NDP hold
  • North Vancouver Lonsdale - toss up
  • Shuswap - Liberal hold
  • Vernon Monashee - Liberal hold
  • Westside Kelowna - Liberal hold
  • West Vancouver Capilano - Liberal hold
Result is two more NDP wins.

Now I think this is a very simplistic analysis and does not reflect the nuances of what is happening on the ground. I believe that the Conservatives will bring more people to the polls in ridings where they run strong campaigns and not be siphoning off votes from the Liberals as dramatically as my simplistic thought experiment had above.

In 1996 BC Reform did the best in the traditional hardcore right wing areas of BC. Places where the NDP had no hope of winning even with a split right wing vote. Though their impact was high enough to likely have cost the Liberals three to six seats in that election.

Many of the Reform strong holds in 1996 were the core of the areas where Unity BC did well, specifically the North Okanagan.

My estimate is that the Conservatives will cause the Liberals to lose Boundary Similkameen and put Kootenay East at threat. That is it. I do not believe that the NDP is anywhere close to threatening a win in this election, so I see the impact of the Conservatives as minimal on the election outcome. Frankly Vicki Huntingdon is a much bigger threat to the Liberals than the whole Wilf Hanni gang.
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