Sunday, January 4, 2015

Will the work Jack Layton did in making the NDP a serious national party endure?

People remember the surprising results in elections - the Orange Crush of 2011 or the Reform breakthrough in 1993 but most elections are decided by which party is better prepared in each of the ridings.   Having done well to some extent in a past election is useful measure of who things will fare in the next election.   The norm in Canada has been a major right wing party and the Liberals being the primary national forces.   But this may have changed in the last two elections.

As most people know, I have some huge issues with the quality of polling in this country.   I take the current results with a grain of salt and I am not convinced they reflect the likely outcome of the election.   I suspect as the campaign gets serious we will see different results.   There is much more to winning an election that OK polling results 9 and half months in advance of election day.   I think the work the NDP did under Jack Layton will matter and the long term atrophy of the Liberal machine is unlikely to be turned around in one election.

The NDP has gone from being a regional party not really trying in most of the country to one that is now a serious national party.   2011 may  have been the break through for the NDP in Quebec, but the 2008 election was by many measures one of the best for the party.  In  2008 they had more candidates do better than ever before with a record number of New Democrats breaking the 10% mark along and a record number coming either first or second.

When one factors our the Quebec results for the NDP, the party still better than it had ever done and won 44 seats in the rest of the country.   .The Quebec results masked how good the NDP ground work was in the rest of the country.

2011 was the second time the NDP was the second largest party in Canada outside of Quebec, the previous was in 1984 when the NDP won 30 seats outside of Quebec and the Liberals only 23.   The difference between 1984 and 2011 is that in 1984 the NDP simply managed to hold what they already had and the Liberals were slaughtered.    The NDP was not any better prepared to win more seats and this became clear in 1988 when the party did get 11 more seats but the Liberals gained 48 outside of Quebec.  The NDP gains in 1988 were in BC when they benefited from the split on the right between the PCs and Reform.

The NDP of 2015 is a very different creature, it is a party that is a serious factor in 2/3s of the seats outside of Quebec.  

This is table of how many seats and second place finishes each party has had over the last eight elections

     CPC/CA/Ref   Liberal        NDP         Bloc        PC        Other
Elect 1st 2nd tot 1st 2nd tot 1st 2nd tot 1st 2nd tot 1st 2nd tot 1st 2nd
2011  165  65 230  34  76 110 103 121 224  4  42  46   -   -    -  1   4
2008  143  95 238  77 123 200  37  67 104 49  17  66   -   -    -  2   6
2006  124 117 241 103 116 219  29  53  82 51  20  72   -   -    -  1   2
2004   99  90 189 135 145 280  19  51  70 54  19  73   -   -    -  1   3
2000   66 104 168 172 107 279  13  25  38 38  34  72   12  33  45  0   2
1997   60  56 116 155 106 261  21  41  72 44  23  67   20  74  94  1   1
1993   52  79 131 177  91 268   9  23  32 54  21  75    2  79  81  1   2
1988    0   9   9  83 134 217  43  50  93  -   -   -  169 109 278  0   0 

The table shows that before Jack Layton the NDP was not really a national party in the real sense of the word.  At no point could they pass the PCs in total first and seconds even the PCs were no longer a serious national party.  In 2004 and 2006 things improved for the NDP but in most ways it looked little better than the Broadbent era for the party.   2008 on the surface looked like little more than a good result for the NDP, but the deeper data indicated something more was happening. 

What you can also see from the table is that the Conservatives may have managed to get a majority but at the same time they placed third or worse in one quarter of the seats in the country.   It says to me the Conservatives have little room to grow and even less space to have any mistakes.

I think it is important to look at what happened in Quebec.   The last time the Liberals won the majority of the seats in Quebec was 1980.   Even though they never won a majority of the seats from 1984 to 2004 the Liberals were a factor in almost all the seats.  In the last three elections the Liberals have lost a lot ground in Quebec,    Will the NDP remain a major factor in Quebec or not?

         Right     Liberal        NDP        Bloc      
Elect  1st 2nd tot 1st 2nd tot 1st 2nd tot 1st 2nd tot  
2011     5   8  13   7  10  17  59  14  73   4  42  46  
2008    10  24  34  14  30  44   1   4   5  49  17  66   
2006    10  40  50  13  14  27   0   1   1  51  20  72  
2004     0   4   4  21  52  73   0   0   0  54  19  73  
2000     1   3   4  36  38  74   0   0   0  38  34  72  
1997     5  11  16  26  40  66   0   0   0  44  23  67   
1993     1  11  12  19  43  62   0   0   0  54  21  75     
1988    63  12  75  12  56  68   0   7   0   -   -   - 

If then we look at in how many ridings parties managed to get rebates of their election expenses (seats in which a party managed to get more than 10% of the vote)  We can see the rise of the NDP under Jack Layton and how far the Liberals have fallen.   

First number is the number of rebates, the second the number candidates.  I have included the Greens the Independents to show how rare it is for candidates not with the major parties break even 10% of the vote.

    CPC/CA/Ref Liberal    NDP    Bloc    PC     Green   Ind
2011  284/307  217/308  306/308  65/75   -/-    7/304  5/276
2008  300/307  270/307  243/308  71/75   -/-   41/303  5/291
2006  303/308  283/308  214/308  73/75   -/-    7/308  4/302
2004  251/308  307/308  195/308  74/75   -/-    3/308  6/362
2000  182/298  288/301   57/298  69/75  87/291  0/111  2/434
1997  227/161  292/301   87/301  70/75 189/301  0/79   2/388
1993  158/207  284/295   48/294  73/75 148/295  0/79   4/910
1988   11/72   264/294  170/295   -/-  293/295  0/68   1/550

In Quebec the number of NDP rebates rose massively in 2008 to 50, in 2006 it was 8 and 5 in 2004.   Under the last Broadbent election in 1988 it was only 24.  Meanwhile the Liberals in 2011 only managed to get past the 10% mark in 40 of the seats in Quebec.

When you start at below 10% of the vote it is hard to convince people you are a serious threat to win the seat.   The Liberals start with almost a third of the seats where they could not break 10% in 2011.   Winning those seats is unrealistic unless there is a Red Surge.   Even though I hate strategic voting, what will be a serious problem for the Liberals is if there is a strong Anybody But Harper mood.   The obvious choice of who to vote for defeat the Conservatives will be the NDP> In around 116 of the seats that are notional Conservative, it is the NDP that is the number 2.  For the Liberals that number is 89.   

The reality is that the 2015 election is going to be a lot more "interesting" than people expect and I suspect the NDP will do much better than many pundits expect.


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