Monday, October 22, 2012

Could enough federal by-elections happen to drop Harper to a minority

I have heard some people muse about enough seats changing hands so that Stephen Harper no longer has a majority.   I think this is highly unlikely and here is why:

Right now the standings in the Federal Parliament

  • Conservatives - 163
  • NDP - 100
  • Liberals - 35
  • Bloc - 4
  • Green - 1
  • Independent - 2 (one is clearly pro government and one is clearly against the government)

This means:

  • Government - 163
  • Opposition - 141
  • Speaker - 1
  • Government majority of 22


There are three by-elections currently underway with a vote on November 26th.   It seems unlikely that any of them will change hands which would lead to:

  • Government - 165
  • Opposition - 142
  • Speaker - 1
  • Government majority of 23.

For there Stephen Harper to be reduced to a minority,  which 153 MPs supporting the government and one for the speaker, it would take losing 12 by-elections.   That is a large number to lose and in general a large number of by-elections.

The number of by-elections per Parliament:

  • 41st - 4 of which 3  are currently underway
  • 40th - 7 - 3 more were planned but cancelled due to the 2011 general election
  • 39th  - 9 - 4 more were planned but cancelled due to the 2008 general election 
  • 38th - 1
  • 37th - 12
  • 36th - 10
  • 35th - 10

by year

  • 2012 - 4, 3 currently underway
  • 2011 - 0, though 3 were planned
  • 2010 - 3
  • 2009 - 4
  • 2008 - 4 and 4 more were planned
  • 2007 - 3
  • 2006 - 2
  • 2005 - 1
  • 2004 - 0
  • 2003 - 3
  • 2002 - 9
  • 2001 - 0
  • 2000 - 3
  • 1999 - 5
  • 1998 - 2
  • 1997 - 0
  • 1996 - 7
  • 1995 - 3
  • 1994 - 0

I think we could realistically see as many as four to five by-elections in 2013, 2014 and 2015 for a total of 12 to 15 by-elections.   I think the most we would see are six in 2013,  nine in 2014, five in 2015 for a total of 20.   So the most by-elections we are likely to have is 20.

These by-elections would then have to occur in Conservative held seats for the government to lose their majority.  Based on the past it would seem unrealistic to see much more than half the by-elections happen in government held seats.   Upper limit would seem to be 12 Conservatives stepping down if we have 20 more by-elections.   The government would have to lose all of the by-elections in the seats they held.   The current track record is that the party that held the seat before the by-election wins 2/3s of the time.  

Realistically even in the most extreme scenario it would seem unrealistic that by-elections would reduce the Conservatives by more than four seats.

Alice Funke at Punditsguide tries to think ahead at possible by-elections are in the next year and gets to five more, three Conservative and 2 opposition.   Though there are always surprises of people that choose to step down.

I thought I would go through and look at the MPs most likely to step down.  The MPs that I think might retire - either  they are over the age of 69 or have served for more than 15 years.

  • Loius Plamondon - Bloc - 28 years - age 69
  • Jim Karyginannis - Liberal - 24 years - age 57
  • Lawerence MacAuley - Liberal - 24 years - age 66
  • Ralph Goodale - Liberal - 24 years - first elected in 1974 then again in 1993 - age 63
  • Diane Ablonczy - Conservative  - 19 years - age 63
  • Mauril Belanger - Liberal - 19 years - age 57
  • Leon Earl Benoit - Conservative - 19 years - age 62
  • Garry Breitkreuz Conservative - 19 years - age 67
  • Wayne Easter - Liberal - 19 years - age 63
  • Hedy Fry - Liberal - 19 years - age 71
  • Richard Harris - Conservative - 19 years - age 68
  • Rob Nicholson - Conservative - 17 years - 1984 - 1993 and since 2004 - age 60
  • Stephane Dion - Liberal - 16 years - age 57
  • John Duncan - Conservative - 16 years - first elected in 1993 but was out from 2006 to 2008 - age 63
  • Ray Boughen - Conservative -  age 75 first elected in 2008
  • Gordon O'Connor - Conservative - age 73 first elected in 2004
  • Lise St-Denis - Liberal - age 72 first elected in 2011
  • Irwin Cotler - Liberal - age 72 first elected in 1999 - has said he will not run again
  • Joe Oliver - Conservative - age 72 first elected in 2008
  • David Tilson - Conservative - age 71 first elected in 2004
  • Julian Fantino - Conservative - age 70 first elected in 2010
  • Nycole Turmel - NDP - age 70 first elected in 2011
  • Peter Kent - Conservative - age 69 first elected in 2008
  • Gary Schellenberger - Conservative - age 69 first elected in 2003

I think that it is realistic for us to see some of these 24 MPs step down before the next election.

The odds of seats coming open due to a death are not high, of the 50 by-elections since the 1993 federal election only five have been held because the sitting MP died.



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