Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The by-election results mean a Liberal majority

At least that is my conclusion considering how hard several of the critics of the Liberals tried to take the results of Monday night and turn them into bad news for the Liberals.

Editorials in the National Post, The Globe and Mail, several other Western newspapers, Greg Weston and Chantal Hebert all used very twisted logic today to try to argue that Monday's results were just short of a disaster for the Liberals and Mr. Dion.

Of course, to those uneducated in the minute details of politics a story where the Liberals won three of four contests would seem to mean they had a good night. So critics of the Liberals have to change that perception somehow and the ones I mentioned above used some pretty interesting logic to attempt just that.

Of course they focused on the results in BC and Saskatchewan and they either did not mention the Toronto ridings or they dismissed them. Rather intellectually dishonest if you ask me. But of course they were not going for intellectual honesty they were going for spin.

So lets take a look at the results of ALL of the by-elections and analyze what they mean for the next general election.

First of all, the Liberals crushed their opponents in the Ontario by-elections. That would seem to indicate that they have gained a great deal of momentum in Ontario. In addition both the Conservatives and the NDP did very poorly, with their vote being taken by the Greens. If we extrapolate, there is a very strong possibility that the Liberals are poised to garner at least 50% of the vote in Ontario. As well, when we factor in the rise of the Greens and their hijacking of the Conservative and NDP vote that creates the perfect conditions for many favourable splits. The result is probably a minimum of 90 seats for the Liberals and possibly a sweep of Chretien proportions. (100+).

Now lets take a look at the Maritimes. The Liberal support there is at the level where they are poised to take 30 of the 32 seats. So that is an additional 30 seats.

In Quebec the Liberal support is now at the level where they will double their seat count at a minimum. However, the Conservative strategy is to go after the same voters as the Bloc (soft nationalists) so they will be beating each other over the head. There are about a dozen ridings in Quebec were the Federalist and the Nationalists are pretty evenly split. So the division of the Nationalist vote between the Conservatives and the Bloc will allow the Liberals to come up the middle in many of those ridings. As a conservative estimate the Liberals will capture 30 seats.

So conservatively that is 90+30+30=150 seats. (Possibly 160+) So getting back to the "analysis" of the folks I mentioned above the Liberals are in a little trouble in the West. No one is suggesting that they are going to be shut out but they are suggesting that they will have difficulties. Looking at the by-election results the Liberals did lose support but they managed to hang on to half of the seats contested. Again extrapolating that to the whole of the West the Liberals will be able to pick up the seven seats necessary to get their majority (probably more). And even if they do not the results from Monday night would seem to indicate a breakthrough for the Greens so they could pick up enough seats to make the Liberals and Greens a majority in Parliament. That would present the Liberals and the Greens with the chance to form a formal coalition government. Ms. May and Mr. Dion have struck an informal alliance so I do not see it as a stretch for them to formalize it. Minister of the Environment, Elizabeth May. Just the thought of that is probably enough to make Stephen Harper blow a gasket.

So there you go folks. Looking at the results of Monday night as a whole the Liberals are poised to win at least a slim majority and possibly a comfortable one.

Of course the whole analysis above is unalterated BS. It is spin.

However, the assumptions I made to come up with it are just as valid as the assumptions of the folks I mentioned at the beginning of this post. There is as much truth in my spin as theirs.

As I stated in my last post, by-elections cannot be used to predict the voting patterns of the electorate in a general election. General elections and by-elections are like apples and oranges. They do not compare. Of course that fact does not stop people from trying but that does not mean you should take any of it seriously. (Including mine)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Liberals win 3 out of 4, what does it all mean?

Well, I guess it depends on what you believed going into these by-elections.

I have had some time to digest the reaction to the by-elections and the thing that stands out for me is most analysts, both the professionals in the MSM and the amateurs in the blogsphere, are using their results to reinforce their preconceptions.

Many, including some Liberal bloggers are using it to continue to flog that old horse about the leadership of the party while others are using it to flog the idea that the Liberals are now sitting pretty and victory is now assured.

As well, many are coming up with all sorts of reasons for the results coming to all sorts of conclusions, which again are usually along the lines of their preconceptions.

I have to admit they are all interesting. My favourite was the instant analysis by the NDP representative on CPAC last night. She stated that if Mr. Dion did not win all four by-elections his leadership would be in trouble. It was such a silly statement in light the thrashing the NDP took last night. I noticed that Peter VanDusan did not ask her too many questions after she laid that egg.

However, in any analysis of the results two truths have to be kept in mind. One, voter turnout for by-elections is always much less than for general elections. Two, the voters that bother to vote can do so secure in the knowledge that they are not going to cause any great upheaval in the grand scheme of things. Therefore, they can cast a protest vote with impunity.

Keeping those two truths in mind let's take a look at the four ridings.

The two Toronto ridings: Much has been made of the margins of victory and much crowing from Liberals has resulted. However, what needs to be kept in mind is both Liberal candidates were strong, high profile candidates. As well, both were former Liberal leadership contenders who have their own electoral machines. As a result they had the apparatus to pull the Liberal vote. That combined with the usual voter turnout in by-elections is probably the biggest reason why they won by so much.

It is premature for Liberals to be jumping to conclusions about the levels of support for the Conservatives and the NDP based on these results. In all likelyhood most of their supporters saw a no-win situation and stayed home. Things will probably be different during a general election. Not that the Liberals will lose either riding but their margins of victory will be much smaller.

The Saskatchewan Riding: This riding was won by the Liberals by 67 votes the last time and by most accounts it was the result of an extraordinary aboriginal vote. This makes sense since the last general election took place on the heals of the signing of the Kelowna Accords. Those Accords were very popular with Aboriginal Canadians so they came out in droves to support the party that supported them. This by-election did not have the same dynamic so voter turnout amongst First Canadians reverted to past patterns.

That is the most likely reason for the Liberal loss in this riding. All of that other stuff blaming the Liberal leadership is just spin.

The Vancouver Riding: It is interesting that Liberal support went to the Green Party instead of the Conservatives. I believe this is a classic case of voters voting for an alternative to the established parties knowing that it would have no grand effect on the greater scheme of things. In all likelyhood, such a dynamic will not happen in a general election.

What is most interesting about this riding is the Conservatives actually put alot of effort into winning it. From Mr. Kenney's efforts with the Chinese community to the resources they pored into the riding to pull the vote last night it is interesting that they could not increase their support in that riding. That should be of concern to the Conservatives.

All-in-all it was not a night of surprises. The Liberals hung on to their three strongholds and they lost the one seat they only won by a whisker in 2006.

Now we get to see what happens over the next few weeks or months leading to a general election. How that turns out is anybody's guess right now but I can virtually guarantee that last nights results are less useful in predicting the results than Tarot Cards and tea leaves.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

By Golly, It Happened Again

Four years ago my wife and I went down South to escape the Ottawa winter and just days before we left Sheila Fraser released the report that began Adscam. It had barely begun when we left but it was going strong when we returned a week later.

Fast-forward to this year and the Cadman Scandal (Cadscam?) broke just days before we headed South again (first time since 2004) and when I returned early this morning (To a freaking snow storm!!!) I notice it was still going.

Maybe I should let sitting governments know about this apparent effect. Perhaps my not leaving the country to head south in the winter is worth some money to them.

With regard to the scandal itself I cannot add much more than what I have already mentioned before I left and what has been written by others in the last week. However, I will say that this scandal does appear to have some legs and the fact Stephen Harper is directly implicated does not bode well for the Conservatives.

I noticed that several Liberal bloggers have talked about some recent polls and how the scandal has hit the Conservatives but the Liberals have not really benefitted. I would remind them that when Sheila Fraser broke Adscam the Liberals dropped about 8 points but the Conservatives barely budged. Most of those 8 points wound up in the undecided column. So the fact we are seeing a similar pattern with this scandal is not a cause for concern and it has nothing to do with what the Liberals are doing.

As well, within weeks the Liberals had recovered and indeed were firmly in majority territory when the writ was dropped in 2004. So do not be surprised and do not overreact when the Conservatives recover in the coming weeks. It has nothing to do with what the Liberals or Conservatives are doing. It will be a function of the fact the story will be off the front pages by then and nothing more.

Of course, when the election campaign starts and all of these nice eggs that the Conservatives have laid in the last couple of weeks begin to hatch it should be interesting to see what will be the dynamics.

I could not be more happy that the NDP has decided to give the Conservatives a pass on this scandal. This scandal has the potential to lift all of the opposition parties but the fact the NDP has decided to support the Conservatives virtually guarantees they will receive no benefit. In fact, there are about 20 NDP seats that will be close battles between them and the Liberals and at the local level NDP support of the Conservatives will be a potent weapon against the NDP candidates. I have been waiting a long time for Jack Layton's obsession with the Liberals to trip him up and it finally has. It will be fun to see his face during the next election when he sees his party reduced, perhaps to the point of losing official party status.

This scandal is manna from heaven for the Bloc. They will now be able to campaign on the idea that the only honest federal party in Quebec is the Bloc. The rest are crooks they will claim. It could work in some of those ridings where they are in close battles with the Conservatives.

Finally, to those who believe this scandal creates the conditions for an election I would say: Are you out of your freaking mind?

An old political adage comes to mind. When your political opponent is making a big mistake just get out of the way.

Liberals want Canadians and the MSM to be talking and thinking about this scandal. They want this scandal and its implications to sink in and sink in deep. That will take time.

As well, the Conservatives want the exact opposite. They want to change the channel and they want it changed yesterday. The Liberals forcing an election at this time would do exactly that. They would be doing a huge favour to Stephen Harper.

The Conservatives have laid the eggs of their electoral defeat and their actions and words since this scandal has broken is only incubating those eggs. However, they are not ready to hatch just yet. That will take time and the Liberals are right to buy that time.