Monday, January 31, 2011

Federal popularity and a possible election

However you want to slice, Stephen Harper remains the most popular federal political party leader in Canada.  Other than a few weeks in the late spring of 2009, the Conservatives have been the most popular political choice in all of Canada.  It is this fact that people who hate the Conservatives keep on forgetting.

If one looks at Canada outside of Quebec, the Conservatives have been running at 40% to 45% since early 2006.   The Conservatives are clearly the party the people in outside of Quebec see as the best one to be government.

The problem with any election now is that of the 308 seats in Canada it is fairly clear that around 50 seats will be captured by the Bloc Quebecois.   It means that the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP are fighting over 258 seats in the country and you need 155 to have a majority, the math is a problem because you need to win 60% of the seats in the rest of Canada outside of the separatist seats.

The Bloc, even though it only manages about 10% of the vote in Canada, they have been able to win about 16% of the seats.   It is the skewed result that is making harder for anyone to win a majority.   If the Bloc were a party that was interested in the idea of Canada as a state, the seats they hold would not be as much of a problem, but their primary role in being elected to sit in Ottawa is to ensure that they ultimately gain an independent country.   I have no problem with people wanting to separate but I recognize that their fundamental interests are not ones that will benefit a larger country than their area.

If the new seats had been added the impact of the block of Bloc seats would be lower.

Is it realistic to think that if there is a federal election this spring that there is not going to a large change from the status quo.   That said, an election campaign can have a significant impact.  In 2004 the public shifted enough to deny Martin a majority.  In 2006 Liberal support eroded again in the campaign and Harper was elected.    Finally the Liberals took a nose dive in 2008 during the campaign.   Each of the last three elections have seen the Conservatives out preform the status quo from before the election.   Is this likely to happen again?   I would not bet that it would happen again, but it is the nature of elections that they are different than between elections and they are a time when the majority of people in Canada spend any significant time thinking about politics.

For the Conservatives to win a majority they need to pick up about a dozen seats.  There are a few locations where this might be possible, but my gut reaction is that there are not that many locations left for them to gain many seats.  

There are two possible ways for the Conservatives to gain the seats needed -

  1. pander to the sovereignists enough to win an extra 15-20 seats in Quebec
  2. become the party of English Canada and run an anti-Quebec campaign - this would likely mean the loss of 10 seats in Quebec but could very well mean 10 more seats in the west and another 15 to 20 seats in Ontario.

I doubt that either one will be the focus of a campaign, but I fail to see the sort of ballot question the government can come up with that will win those extra seats.

Are the Liberals really interested in an election?   Or are they just looking tough to negotiate some concessions from the government?
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