Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Can John Cummins win in Langley?

BC Conservative leader has decided to run in the riding of Langley where he lives against Liberal cabinet minister Mary Polak.   Does he have much chance of winning?  My current best estimate is that he has little or no chance of winning.

General Politics of the Riding:
Langley has been a riding of some sort in BC since 1966 and it has never been won by the NDP.  Social Credit it held it from 1966 to 1991 and since then the BC Liberals have held it.   The NDP have been second in every election except for 2001 when the Greens narrowly passed them.  The NDP did the best in 1972 with almost 38% of the vote.

The nature of the Langley riding has changed over the years.   In the past it really was a rural Fraser Valley type of riding but over the last decade it has become more and more of a suburban riding but this tends not to be good for the NDP.

Federally the riding has been very comfortably in Conservative hands and before that Canadian Alliance, Reform and PCs in various different forms.   This would seem to indicate a BC Conservative should be able to well here.

The general political direction of the riding is right wing enough to give John Cummins a chance.

Impact of the Candidates:
What will matter is the amount of effort by the candidates in the election in terms of campaign teams and money spent.

Mary Polak
Mary Polak does seem to have a track record of being able to campaign on the ground both from her time as School Board Trustee as well as running to an MLA.  She seems have learned a lot from her loss in the 2004 Surrey Panorama Ridge by-election.

On the other hand there have not been any serious challenges to the Liberals in Langley in the last four elections.  We can see proof of this by looking at the spending at past elections.  In 2009 Mary Polak spend a bit more than $80,000 compared to the NDP spending of a bit more than $16,000  In 2005 Mary Polak spent $63,625 compared to $16,832 by the NDP and $4,606 by the Green.

John Cummins
If John Cummins manages to raise $100,000 and find a couple hundred volunteers he could very easily become competitive but I do not know if he can achieve either.  His track record as campaigner has not been stellar.  The only election in which he seemed to do well in raising money was in 2000.  His local Conservative Association had a poor track record in annual fundraising from 2004 to 2011.

My parents had his as their MP for years.  I had a chance to see first hand to see how the campaign played out and it was never impressive.   There was never much of a strong campaign visible on the ground.

Being leader of the party should be a boost in support for John Cummins.   The problem is there is little indication that John Cummins is a good organizer on the ground.   His tenure as leader of the BC Conservatives has not shown any skill at building a strong mass member party.  His troubles in leading up to their 2012 AGM and the low turnout would seem to indicate he really does not have the skills to motivate a lot of people to be active.

John Cummins has been good at self promotion on some issues over the years but I am not sure if this can be translated into an improvement in his results.

Andrew Mercier
There is a chance he might win simply because enough 2009 Liberal supporters will stay home in 2013.

Overall I think that the campaigning strengths of Mary Polak are enough to overcome many of the factors in John Cummins' favour.   I think in the end in Langley the candidate impact will not decide the election.

Voter Turnout:
An interesting thing to look at is voter turnout in the elections and compare the federal elections to the provincial ones
  • 2011 Federal    55,132 
  • 2009 Provincial 48,565
  • 2008 Federal    53,033
  • 2006 Federal    54,357
  • 2005 Provincial 51,191
  • 2004 Federal    51,137
  • 2001 Provincial 46,833
  • 2000 Federal    46,687
What you can see here is that the 2009 provincial election stands out as being lower than the 2008 and 2011 federal elections when in previous elections the federal and provincial vote totals were rather close.   There were about 5,500 people that were voting federally and not provincially.

I am reasonably certain that most of these people that did not vote in the 2009 BC election were social conservatives that voted for the federal Conservative Party.   This is a strong factor for John Cummins

Possible Result:
Starting from the basis of the 2009 election results, it is reasonable to add 3,000 to 5,000 votes to the BCCP from non-voters from 2009, with John Cummins as leader of the party and a former Conservative MP, I would tend towards the higher number so I will give 4,500.

All the polling is indicating the Liberals are less popular now that in 2009, but where are the 2009 Liberal voters going to go?   I think Mary Polak can hold 70% of the 2009 Liberal vote, the other 30% I think will split half as not voting and half going to other parties.   This places the Liberals at 9,300 with 2,000 going to other parties.   How will those votes move?   I think half to the BC Conservatives and the others split between the NDP and Greens.

Where this puts at:
  • Liberals 9,300 35.8%
  • NDP      8,900 34.2%
  • BCCP     5,500 21.2%
  • Green    2,300  8.8%
What this indicates to me is that the odds of John Cummins winning are low because my assumptions so far have been overly favorable in his direction.   He needs 4,000 more votes, can he get to the 9,000 to 10,000 range?

There is nothing about him that convinces me that he can personally boost the voter turnout the sort of dramatic way Elizabeth May did in Saanich and the Islands in the 2011 federal election.   He really can only get the votes by convincing a lot of 2009 Liberal voters to come out and vote for him.  He needs be able to take another 4,000 from Mary Polak and at this time that seems completely unrealistic to me.

For John Cummins to win there would have to be complete collapse of the BC Liberals like happened to Social Credit in 1991.

Here is my estimates of the total realistic range of votes for the parties in Langley:
  • Liberals 8,700 to 10,500
  • NDP 8,000 to 9,200 (I think there is some Green vote the NDP pulled in 2009 they may lose)
  • BCCP 4,000 to 6,000
  • Green 2,000 to 3,000
My current estimate of the outcome
  • Liberal Mary Polak  9,600 37.4%
  • NDP Andrew Mercier  8,600 33.5%
  • BCCP John Cummins   5,000 19.5%
  • Green candidate     2,500 9.7%
My best estimate is that John Cummins will come an noncompetitive third in the riding.   He may in fact convince enough 2009 BC Liberal supporters to vote for him that the NDP has a chance of winning.

History of Langley MLAs
2005 - current - Mary Polak Liberal
1991 - 2005 - Lynn Stephens Liberal
1986 - 1991 - Carol Gran and Daniel Peterson Social Credit - 2 MLAs elected in the 1986 election
1972 - 1986 - Bob McClelland Social Credit
1966 - 1972 - Hunter Bertram Vogel Social Credit

Electoral History of Langley 
2009
Mary Polak        Liberal 13,282 56.55%
Kathleen Stephany NDP      8,411 35.81% (she was the Green candidate in 2005)
Ron Abgrall       Green    1,793  7.64%

2005
Mary Polak        Liberal 12,877 52.18%
Dean Morrison     NDP      8,303 33.64%
Kathleen Stephany Green    3,042 12.33%
others                       458  1.85%

2001
Lynn Stephens     Liberal 14,564 64.85%
Pat Taylor        Green    2,847 12.68%
Paul Latham       NDP      2,720 12.11%
Gordon Nelson     Unity    1,605  7.15%
Mavis Becker      Marijuana  723  3.21%

1996
Lynn Stephens     Liberal  9,277 46.62%
Kim Richter       NDP      5,795 29.12%
Joe Lopushinsky   Reform   3,224 16.20%
Paul Macdonald    PDA      1,195  6.00%
others                       410  2.06%

1991
Lynn Stephens     Liberal  7,149 38.95%
Derrill Thompson  NDP      5,762 31.39%
Carol Gran        Socred   5,201 28.34%

1986 - two members elected
Carol Gran        Socred  17,252 29.27%
Daniel Peterson   Socred  16,848 28.59%
Ken Nowakowski    NDP      9,737 16,52%
Kassandra Hulbert NDP      9,191 15.59%
Linda Carol Banks Liberal  2,333  3.96%
Stephen Ferguson  Liberal  2,029  3.44%
Joe Lopushinsky   Libertas 1,552  2.63%

1983
Bob McClelland    Socred  17,227 58.77%
Michael Watkins   NDP     10,739 36.64%
others                     1,348  4.59%

1979
Bob McClelland    Socred  11,990 54.85%
Stephen Duiguid   NDP      7,984 36.53%
Sherri Anderson   PC       1,885  8.62%

1975
Bob McClelland    Socred  23,402 67.04%
E.J. Paetkau      NDP      9,625 27.58%
Ken Mallison      Liberal  1,879  5.38%

1972
Bob McClleland    Socred  10,243 42.77%
Charles Powell    NDP      9,033 37.72%
Douglas Taylor    PC       2,525 10.54%
Roy James Brown   Liberal  2,146  8.96%

1969
Hunter Vogel      Socred  10,613 58.90%
Glenn Haddrell    NDP      5,454 30.27%
George Preson     Liberal  1,951 10.83%

1966
Hunter Vogel      Socred   7,206 58.28%
Martin Thomas     NDP      3,899 31.53%
Roy McConnell     Liberal  1,260 10.19%

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